Time to be truthful – which do you find more appetizing, the tossed salad pictured to the left, or the vegetable smoothie featured below? They both likely contain similar levels of vitamins and nutrients, probably many of the same ingredients (although it’s impossible to tell exactly what’s in that smoothie, apart from it being predominantly yellow-ish). Both are undoubtedly good for you. The flavour? Well, again, we can predict relatively well what each bite of the salad will taste like; the only thing we can say about the smoothie is that it will all be the same, and will most likely taste, um, green. (Not that I don’t like smoothies – they’re a great way to intake a whole bunch of good stuff in a short time.)
What’s this got to do with agricultural diversity? I’ve been making a lot of attempts lately to bridge the divide between different types of agriculture, as well as objecting to blatant attempts by some types of farmers to demean or denigrate other types of farmers. Through my own blog posts and by sharing those of others, I’ve tried to point out the common ground that farmers of all stripes share.
But some people try to take it too far, in my opinion. They’d prefer to turn of all agriculture into one homogeneous mass – an agri-food smoothie, if you will. Any attempts at product differentiation or niche marketing are regarded as “anti-agriculture” or “farmer-bashing” (begging the question of who raises these niche products – aliens?)
Pretending that we’re all exactly the same is obviously untrue – it’s not an accurate portrayal. More importantly, it denies consumer choice. Which is the better message to send to consumers – “Buy whatever’s in front you, it’s all the same, so just be quiet and appreciate it’s there,” or “You have these concerns, those preferences? Well guess what, you’re in luck – there’s a farmer out there who will provide you with exactly what you’re looking for!”
Our diversity is our strength, and it’s time to celebrate it. The smoothie is an illusion – grab the salad. Sure, you may not like all the vegetables you find in there, but try to bring yourself to appreciate the colour they add. If you don’t like the taste of something, leave it on your plate (or pass it to a friend!), but don’t falsely claim that it’s rotten. OK, so there may be a few nuts in there, too, but if you’re going to have a strong negative reaction, maybe just slide them over to the edge! Recognize that you may find organic cherry tomatoes alongside kernels of genetically-modified sweet corn, but don’t freak out – neither is going to poison you. And if someone decides to extol the many virtues of the red peppers, please don’t take it as a mortal attack on the presence of the yellow peppers, or the cucumbers.
Maybe all I’m asking for is some basic table manners?