Ancient Grains At Good Foods Festival Looks Fabulous/ Do Not Miss A Chance To Hear Fred Kirschenmann
Years ago Jack Erisman (one of Illinois' most enduring and successful organic grain farmers) told me "If you ever have a chance to hear Fred Kirschenmann and John Ikerd, take it because they're two of the best that you are ever gonna hear". And, he was spot on.
What a cool idea the Good Foods People have come up with in their sessions on Ancient Grains: Bring Fred Kirschenmann to Chicago and have him talk about where heirloom grains fit and where they might go in a new food system:
This is a key event to understand what a new and more sustainable regional food system might look like because at a very deep level human history is the history of grain. Tell me what grain a civilization runs on and I'll tell you a great deal about how that civilization runs. They don't call wheat the staff of life in Europe or refer to an iron rice bowl in China for nothing. On a deep and primal level we know as a species that for now and all time after our basic survival is tied to grain, and this was never more true than for the Midwest. It's not an accident that the North American food system runs on number two yellow corn or that we farm and live the way we do. It is a matter of intention, design and 150 years of unceasing effort to establish and dominate a global market in yellow corn.
This all reflects a basic human truth that human food systems are really all about the grain because the grain is what mostly sustains human existence. Sure we need produce, dairy and processed food, but grain is what ultimately has produced most of human calories for the last 10,000 years or so. The grain or grain crops are what goes into the meat animals and what often goes into the dairy animals and for much of the world is what humans eat every day. In the Christian tradition, the prayer is not give me daily vegetable or milk, it is give me my daily bread.
So, if a food system is going to look different it really begins and ends with grain production looking different. Produce and dairy are very important but produce and diary did not make the Midwest or make modern industrial global agriculture and industrialized society--abundant grain did. Grain and grain trading is what made Chicago the capital city of the agricultural parts of the U.S., and for good or ill, it was corn that made modern industrial production agriculture what it is today. It's grain that sustains animal production and makes the corn sweetener and the eggs and the pork.
So if you want to understand the food system you have to understand grain, and if you want to understand grain, there's nobody better than John Ikerdt or Fred Kirschemann. Because if you don't understand grain, you don't really understand the Midwest or American food.