Jolley: Five Minutes with Michele Payn-Knoper and the food fight
The public has been reciting a ridiculous litany of late. The words have been written by “Food, Inc. Foodopoly. Fast Food Nation. The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Meatrix. Super Size Me.” The message is consistent; food is generally bad for you and agriculture is the enabler. Farm animals are almost always abused and the food we grow is merely processed to make us fat.
Books and movies that harangue the way we grow our food and the way we eat are hot properties. The press promotes them and the public seems to (forgive me) eat them up. They are the modern creators of pop culture and they’re responsible for the way millions of people perceive what farmers and ranchers do.
So, who’s talking back? Who is trying to sit the record straight by speaking rationally and encouraging dialogue instead of the all too insane monologues we’ve witnessed in to many books and movies?
Michele Payn-Knoper Michele Payn-Knoper is taking that first step with her book No More Food Fights! She’s been a leader in introducing the ag community to the power of social media. One of North America’s leading farm and food advocates and a resource for people interested in agriculture and food, she speaks around the country about community building programs.
The book doesn’t take an antagonistic approach, instead it encourages people on both sides of American culture – rural and urban – to connect with each other by developing an understanding of “hot buttons,” those things that are important to each group and might lead to a meaningful dialogue.
Could this book reach the critical mass of something written bythe likes of Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser? It should but she bypasses the usual sensationalism which helped propel their books to best seller lists. Let’s hope there is room and an audience for quiet discourse.
Q. Michele, let’s talk about the difference between talking with others as opposed to talking at others. The discussion about where our food comes from and how it should be prepared/processed/cooked/delivered to the consumer seems to be disintegrating into the same kind of name-calling and recriminations we witnessed during the recent presidential election. What has caused this very wide division between producer and consumer?
A. The name-calling and blatant divide in the food plate motivated me to finally write No More Food Fights! after 11 years of working in farm and food advocacy. The lack of trust and decorum around today's hot issues reminds me of people throwing rotten vegetables, so the title seemed like a natural. Food is quickly becoming the new religion or politics—a topic not to be discussed, for fear of offending someone. We all eat. I believe food should be celebrated.