Amid numerous stories about the industrial-food complex and its pitfalls, freelance writer and change.org blogger Gustafson seeks examples of what “a better food system” would resemble, traveling across America to find alternatives.
In four parts—“Local is as Local Does,” “Green Thumbs,” “Growing Empowerment” and “How Does Your Garden Grow?”—the author chronicles her experiences with, among others, organic farmers and locavores; a Montana co-op; universities with dining programs that partner with community resources; a hospital with its own garden; online grassroots efforts; agricultural programs that encourage the next generation of farmers; and coordinators of urban greenhouses. Gustafson discovered that such projects, despite enthusiasm, were sometimes beleaguered by logistical problems, and that practical motivations, such as job creation, could also play as significant a role as more idealistic environmental, social-justice and lifestyle concerns. Readers who are familiar with works such as Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006) will appreciate how Gustafson does not examine the darker aspects of getting food from farm to table. Though the examples she provides are not intended as groundbreaking solutions, they present an overview of what is possible. Gustafson’s personable approach to a sometimes-controversial topic results in a modulated argument for a food economy that is neither anti-corporate nor solely in favor of small businesses. This is a work of realistic assessments, featuring moments of inspiring optimism. As the author notes about one self-proclaimed “change agent,” “when you do what you love with fervor and even ferocity, the universe responds.”
Recommended for an informed, general audience intrigued by but perhaps just beginning to explore sustainability.