Taking Inspiration from Alice Waters

Tonight I had the pleasure of hearing Alice Waters speak at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the exciting experience of participating in the Planet Indy networking event following the talk. The Indy Winter Farmers Market (IWFM) was one of 25 information tables related to food education, local food advocacy and sustainable living. I met some wonderful people who were new to me and the market, and saw many folks familiar to IWFM – both our grower/producer vendors and patrons. Alice Waters talk was inspiring as always, and standing in a room full of hundreds of people sharing a passionate belief in our local food culture and economy was hugely encouraging and inspiring. Other participants included Slow Food Indy, our own Seldom Seen Farm, Traders Point Creamery, other local producers, the Indy Food Coop, elementary schools, chefs in training, Indy Living Green Magazine, Green Piece & Endangered Species Chocolate (coming to market for the first time this week), the recycling coalition, the Hoosier Environmental Council, and many more. Many thanks to the IMA and Planet Indy for putting on this important event.

I wanted to share a few notes that I scribbled down while Alice was speaking. If you don’t know anything about Alice Waters or the work she does look her up and be inspired.

  • She spoke of living in France during her junior year abroad, where she made friends with French people, for whom “everyday was puncuated by food related decisions” – in a positive way. People built the day around getting to the right shops for fresh, local food items, and meeting friends for long, relaxed, truly social meals, and making meals at home. I wish that for every one.
  • She noted that food which you can eat directly (as in from the garden or the tree) puts you “in harmony with the natural world.” I believe this to be true, and again wish it for everyone.
  • On the other hand, food that has been mass produced and shipped from far away truly engenders a sense of alienation, often suffered with no awareness of this relationship.
  • As a yoga teacher myself, I could feel what she was saying when she expressed the pleasure of watching patrons in her restaurant, Chez Panisse, transform from stressed out diners to happy eaters. I believe I have experienced myself and witnessed in others something similar in folks at farmers markets. Just the closeness to real food and the people who grow it can be for some of us very soothing.
  • Alice Waters has taken up the charge to “bring values of good food” to society, largely through advocating a national commitment to an edible education. She has successfully established a working model for edible schoolyards, and believes this is possible not only of the Berkley, CA school system, but for every school in the nation. Not only do school lunches then become an interactive growing and learning experience, but making food bridges students (and indeed all of us) to exploring cultures different from our own, local & international history, biodiversity, even biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics can all be easily and interestingly taught in relation to real life examples in growing, producing, preparing and eating food.
  • She quoted a bummersticker that reads, “If I am what I eat, then I’m fast, cheap and easy.” Sure, it is cleaver and makes us laugh, but she asked, do we want to raise children who are “fast, cheap and easy?” Is that what we want for ourselves, our friends, our families, our nation?
  • She encouraged us that the goal is not just to build gardens for show, but to integrate our relationship to food into the educational system, and in doing so, to revive, strengthen, and grow our local economies. Hundreds of small family farms are lost every year, (while 17,000 new mass, industrially produced products hit grocery stores YEARLY). We can SAVE farms that are growing real, sustainable, natural, directly edible foods – good & clean by Slow Food standards, by paying fair prices to bring their products into our homes, schools, restaurants, museums, work places, churches, grocery stores! and everywhere else we eat.
  • In closing she unapologetically avowed that “What we are feeding our children is immoral.” Of course I know that if you are reading this and coming to the market, this probably does not apply to you. However, she is asking us to take responsibility not only for our ‘own,’ but for actively working to bring (and be) the change we want to see. It should not only be a handful of children who get to enjoy the pleasures of good food now, and good health as a result, but all children, all people.

So, while we have worked hard to bring growers and producers with food that is “Good, Clean & Fair,” to the Indy Winter Farmers Market, I know our work is not done.

  • It is our goal to make accessible to you – the consumer – growers and producers who set the standard for “good, clean & fair” in our area.
  • It is our goal to encourage vendors who do not meet this standard to make the necessary changes so that they too can participate.
  • It is our goal to provide a our growers and producers with patrons who understand the difference, and are willing to pay fairly to support them.
  • It is our goal to support growers, producers, patrons, and ourselves in standing firm, not compromising to foods that do not meet the standard or promise of sustainable change for our future.
  • It is our goal that this food and this future will be accessible to all people, not just a select few.


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