Since 2009, Slow Money has held annual gatherings on food, investing, and culture. Featured has been a broad line-up of some of the most influential entrepreneurs of our time who think outside the box of conventional economic infrastructure. Over the next three days, authors, activists, farmers, and food producers will gather at the Kentucky Center for Performing Arts to discuss a new direction for our food economy. As a guest blogger and recipient of IDEAS 40203 ArtPlace America grant, gardener and baker Sarah Owens will bring highlights of Slow Money to Creative Innovation Zone as a reflection of her 2015 Louisville-based project.
November 10, 2014
Key note speakers Douglas Gayeton, co-founder of The Lexicon of Sustainability and farmer-author Joel Salatin, opened the conference by proposing innovative answers to thoughtful questions. The query that resonated?
What is the true cost of cheap food?
As a baker of naturally leavened bread with locally grown and milled New York flour, I came to this craft from a place of necessity. My body had been rejecting whole grains with acute severity before I found the beneficial process of sourdough fermentation. Once I began using this method to produce not only digestible but delectable breads, I began to realize what has derailed grain as a nutritious staple of our diets. Mostly, this boils down to the industrial mechanization of what was once a wholesome, stone ground, and ordinarily hand made product. By using roller mills to mass produce flour as well as machines and additives to expedite the leavening of bread, the nutritional integrity of grain has been traded for longer shelf life of an inexpensive product. As a result, we have seen a destructive increase in intolerance for wheat and an unfortunate demonization of bread. This is the cost of cheap food.
Douglas Gayeton set the tone of the conference with the notion that our food system is opaque. To steady our vision, we need a language that can empower us to make informed decisions, shifting centralized production that compromises our health from economies of scale to economies of community. As an artisan producing naturally leavened whole grain breads, I must act as educator and community builder as much as a craftsman. Through a Community Supported Bread (CSB) subscription, I have developed an educational language of baking and nutrition through the willful participation of my audience. But what about building a broader community to include the farmer and miller whose influence are equally described by these semantics? In order to do so, we need a model of agricultural sustainability that looks quite different than our current industrialized scale.
Joel Salatin expounded on these relationships in his keynote address with ten Benchmarks of Truth. Among other principles, he proposed that a successful model of agriculture should allow easy entry of a new generation who wishes to sustain their livelihood without enslavement to infrastructure. No more high interest loans from banks purchasing depreciating equipment when we can invest in more appreciating methods. Why bow down to requirements of regulation when we can nurture a system of faith instead of fear? We can scale our consumption to value face certification more than faceless regulatory bodies. We can consume live foods rather than empty sterilized calories. And it is possible to leverage equity from community.
The true cost of cheap food over the last century is inarguably apparent in our rising healthcare expenses, degradation of land, and cultural deterioration – gloomy realities indeed. The energized messages from these two speakers however kicked off the Slow Money event with the joyful reminder that we can change this through the willful participation of like-minded economic innovators.