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Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket (The Worldwatch Environmental Alert Series) Paperback – November 17, 2004
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Some people may ask, "whats wrong with getting my food from some distant land, if the food is cheap and the system works?" The point Halweil, a senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, makes throughout this book is that those prices are artificially low, and the system is actually broken. Halweils writing is journalistic in its reliance on interviews with farmers and activists, but the books abundant statistics, graphs and suggestions for action lend it the tone of a policy paperone that is, nonetheless, impassioned and accessible. Halweil gives readers reasons for pessimism (the thousands of gallons of fossil fuel used to ship fresh greens around the world; unprecedented risks of contaminated food) and optimism (the spread of "farm shops" across Europe; the Vermont diner thats thriving by using almost entirely local food); fortunately, his optimism usually prevails. Following each chapter is a short success story, such as that of David Cole, who jumpstarted Hawaiis cattle-raising and crop-raising business. Halweil makes a strong argument that a system dominated by "globe-trotting food" sold in impersonal megastores is bad for the health of economies and people alike, while "eating local" and encouraging regional self-sufficiency is good for both the environment and the human race. Besides highlighting projects already underway, which will inspire and encourage farmers and activists everywhere, Halweil offers ideas for the individual consumer (such as hosting a "harvest party" at your home or in your community). Even when describing the decline of local agriculture, his tone remains upbeat. An essential read for those interested in the sustainable agriculture movement, this book may also appeal to general foodies and those who are concerned about the land and the environment.
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“An insightful and timely book indicating just how important food, farms and rural cultures are.”
- Jules Pretty, author of Agri-Culture: Reconnecting People, Land, and Nature
“Now it is up to the rest of us to do something with this amazing gift of a book.”
- Mark Ritchie, President of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis
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Top customer reviews
In the first part of the book, author Brian Halweil clearly identifies the many failures of our current way of eating. The long distance transport of food is a major contributor to climate change. Instead of the tastiest fruits and vegetables, supermarkets stock those most amenable to shipping. Family farms are disappearing at an alarming rate, killing rural communities in the process. Water supplies and fisheries are contaminated by agribusinesses whose poor crop rotation practices ensure that much of the fertilizer they apply cannot be absorbed into the soil. The list goes on.
Halweil then lays out a cogent plan for remaking the system. The key for him is rebuilding markets for local food, and he suggests a partnership between consumers and local farmers to achieve this. The first step is for consumers to start demanding local food with their voices and their dollars. This argument, in my view, is "Eat Here's" biggest strength, for it emphasizes that consumers, who often see themselves as anonymous actors in a macroeconomic world, can be powerful agents of change. For those concerned about the money cost of food (that is, nearly everyone in these tough economic times), Halweil makes two important points. First, many local products are cheaper than their national counterpart is because local farming usually cuts out the middleman and fuel costs. Second, if consumers start demanding local products, even goods that are more expensive than their national counterpart will become cheaper as more suppliers enter the market.
Halweil then turns his attention to farmers. He argues that to ensure their viability, small farmers must start seeing themselves as entrepreneurs and seize the sizable post-harvest profits available in their food. (The most astonishing fact in the book is that for every dollar spent on bread in the U.S., farmers get 6 cents, the same amount as the company that makes the wrapper. The rest is going to firms up the distribution chain.) The money in agriculture is in what happens after a product leaves the farm, and Halweil offers suggestions to farmers on how to capture this money. In short, the answer lies beyond the farmer's market in farmer-owned facilities to process, distribute, and sell agricultural products.
"Eat Here" is a thoughtful take on a very important problem. Even those who already take their food seriously would benefit from reading it.