We recently wrapped up our September book, Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love. Catch the Twitter chat Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4 recaps at the preceding links. Gracie and Laura’s thoughts on the book were published in the AgBookClub feature on AGDAILY.
AgBookClub was established to start a conversation about ag- and food-themed literature available in a bookstore near you. The ideas on those pages were strong enough to get past a number of reviewers and editors, so we figure they must have some merit. Because of that, we didn’t want to just give you an article with our opinions (we’ve already done that), but we did want to give you a few thought-starters to mull over as you read the book.
Wondering if this book is for you? Here’s a quick summary:
Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love, by Simran Sethi, is a self-proclaimed book about love. It covers five foods we crave — wine, chocolate, coffee, beer, and bread — and explores how each of those end up in our cup or on our plate. Sethi doesn’t hold back on including her thoughts and opinions as she visits farms where these foods originate nor when she brings up social, scientific, and economic issues related to each one.
- This book touches the topic of biodiversity a lot. Is this an issue in agriculture today? If it is, what’s the solution? Who’s responsible for ensuring biodiversity?
- [Wine section] Most crops can be grown anywhere, but they move from just growing to thriving in some areas over other areas. U.S. agriculture is generally set up in alignment with the “thrive” concept described. Is it more important that crops are grown in areas best suited to their development (thriving) or in areas where they are close to the people consuming them (growing)? What are the economic and environmental implications of either situation?
- [Cacao section] Commodity crops are set up on a payment system that favors weight/volume over rewarding exceptional quality attributes. Corn, cotton, wheat, and even cacao are set up this way. How would our food system be different if foods currently supplied as commodities were treated the same way as more specialized crops, such as wine grapes? How would the cost of food change for the consumer? Income for the farmer?
- [Cacao/coffee sections] As agriculturalists, we often pride ourselves in knowing how to successfully raise many types of ornamental plants and food crops. Are there any foods you don’t know the origin (ingredients, how they’re grown, where they’re grown, how they’re processed)?
- [Cacao/coffee sections] How can we make the case to grow anything other than what returns the most abundant yield if there’s no compelling financial reason? (see page 121)
- [Cacao/coffee sections] Coffee farmers earn 10% of coffee’s retail value. Cacao farmers earn 6.4% of retail value. The same is true for many other crops. Is the farmer’s share fair? Processing is all about preparing the raw commodity for consumption and adding value to the product – don’t the processors also deserve a portion of the retail dollar? What needs to happen to increase the farmer’s share?
- [Cacao/coffee sections] Many farmers desire crop varieties that will help them in the fight against pest and weather pressures, which often results in higher yields. Is this where breeding emphasis needs to be? Should crop breeders be spending more time on other crop attributes, such as taste or nutrition profiles?
- [Bread section] Many consumers today demand heirloom varieties. Why do they want those varieties? Why did our ancestors move away from those heirloom varieties in favor of the varieties we have today? Does “heirloom” = “biodiversity”?
- You’ve now read about wine, chocolate, coffee, beer, and bread. Is there anything you would add to the book?
What did you think about the book? Were these thought starters helpful? Drop a comment below!
The #AgBookClub Twitter chat takes place on Wednesdays at 8pm CT. View our book list to see what we’re reading now and feel free to jump right in next Wednesday!