Can one person really make a difference, especially in today’s over-hyped, conflicting informational overload, technologically paced world? The real question is to whom do we want to make that difference- the world at large, the major international agribusinesses, or to our own community- however we define it? We are talking about our food system, by the way! That question and the following responses will hold true for just about any difference in any area you care to mention.
On a larger scale, most individual people will not be able to influence the status quo in any system. We don’t really work that way anyway, we work in smaller groups, or communities- at work, at home, with our circle of friends, our neighbors, social or church groups, etc. This is how we as humans really work and interact, as we have for tens of thousands of years. Large corporations also work in smaller groups- the board of directors, senior management and marketing are all much smaller groups of the corporate body. They simply have much more reach to a broader audience from a pre-supposed position of authority and power than most individuals do.
We all know stories of how a single person has changed their community by their actions. These usually happen over some period of time by continuing their actions to affect positive changes, educating and empowering others to help and being the example to everyone. Do you know of a similar story where you are, someone who has made a difference around you? This is one of the single most powerful examples of how we can make the difference we seek come to be. The benefit of technology today is that this can happen in many different geographical locations simultaneously, while at the same time being within a community both locally and virtually. Look at how the Farmer’s Market concept has spread and grown. In 2009-2010 there was a 16% growth in the number of operating Farmer’s Markets in the US. This is the result of not only dedicated and self-educated people locally, but online as well. Ideas were shared from completely different markets and approaches, and integrated into other ideas that helped the whole grow much faster than just the sum of the parts. One of the other main reasons for the sustained growth is the focus is positive- better, local food instead of shutting down big Agribusiness.
Now, take this to another level. Use this principle to its fullest. Get to know more about your local food pathways. Get to know your food better. Your relationship with your food should be significantly shorter than the 1200 miles that most food travels from the grower to your plate, yet significantly longer than the fork traveling 12 inches or so from the plate to your mouth. Many people’s sole relationship with their food is via their fork. Deepen your relationship with your food. After all, it is the third most important ingredient in your life, behind air and water! The local Farmer’s Market is only the starting point. You will find things, people, groups and opportunities that you didn’t know existed. It’s not like this is something entirely new, as most of you involved with local food, Farmer’s Markets, CSA’s, community gardening, and farm share programs have already spent considerable time reading, searching and learning how to find better, fresher, more healthy and nutritious food. As you search deeper and make more connections, you become the difference!
Once you get to know your local farmer, beyond the weekly visit to the farmer’s market, you will be amazed at the doors that open up. We offered to make pasta sauce and salsa for our friends Cory and Shanti at Whipstone Farm in Paulden, AZ. This came about from a visit to him at his Saturday Farmer’s Market stand, and seeing a sign for blemished tomatoes by the flat for a good price. After we said that we wanted to make pasta sauce and salsa, he stated that he didn’t have time, as the farm was way too busy. I offered to make the sauce for him, and he gave us the produce and let us keep half of what we made! If we hadn’t spent the time to talk with him, to engage with him, this win-win situation would have never come about.
Learn all you can about what you’re interested in, how it works and why it is good. As you gain knowledge, assume responsibility for that new knowledge and make the changes in your life that need to be made. Remember that actions speak much, much louder than words! After you have gained some experience, share that with others in your communities, both local and online. Few like to be preached at, so temper your enthusiasm with brevity. Give your experiences, as they are real and cannot be denied. Share positive impacts, as most people are interested in improving their lives and becoming part of a vibrant community. Create an interest in them to learn more. Gently introduce them to your community, and share some learning resources.
This is how strong communities are forged, lifelong friendships are started and how one person can truly make a profoundly positive and lasting difference in the world today. Start with where and who you are and move forward!