But Is It Sustainable?

This past week the fellows took a field trip to Lancaster, PA to learn about different ways our food is both grown and distributed. We first visited a live produce auction, where those who sell meet those who grow in your typical auction style. The presence of face-to-face human interaction in this establishment, was refreshing, especially since we have seen so much of how the food system has become more and more impersonal with mass production. After the auction, we hurried over to an Amish farm, where we met the farmer Aaron and his wife. Aaron grows organically, and on a fairly small scale. He is struggling with a new decision of whether or not he will break away from the way things have always been done, and seek farm help outside of the Amish community. This, I’m sure, puts Aaron in a difficult position. He wants his business to grow, however, it must be daunting to trust outsiders to help sustain his business, when he has never relied on outside help before. Aaron spoke of his only help coming from his sons and the neighbor’s boy, but in a growing organic market Aaron’s current business model of employment is not sustainable for growth.
After stopping at a goat creamery for some delicious goat cheese and raw goat milk, (okay I’ll admit, I didn’t have the guts to try the milk), we went to lunch at the Commonwealth on Queen, a café in Lancaster City which prides itself on being a farm to fork restaurant. A farm to fork restaurant works to keep food local. From the cheese, to the meat, to the produce, to the bread, nothing comes farther than Philadelphia to feed people from the Commonwealth’s kitchen. It is an amazing business model that truly stimulates the local economy, while serving fresh and healthy foods to its customers. In fact the business is also promoting environmental sustainability in its use of solely local and seasonal produce. I do question, however, if this restaurant could face expansion? Could this farm to fork model work on a larger scale while still maintaining its integrity? I have trouble picturing it. So my question then, is how can we work to make eating like this, highly localized and seasonal, a reality or at least an option for the remaining restaurants and homes in our country? Is it possible to sustain communities simply with what is produced locally? It once was. People ate what was around them. That to me is just what makes sense. How do we return to that? And how could we sustain it through population growth? I’m not sure, but I think it is definitely an issue we need to start contemplating a little more, because our food system is out of whack and we need to start fixing it.

Alyce Norcross ’17