Line 1 At its heart, a genuine food culture is an affinity between people and the land that feeds them. Our family set out to find ourselves a real culture of food by deliberately eating food produced in the same place where
Line 5 we worked, loved our neighbors, drank the water, and breathed the air. It’s not at all necessary to live on a food- producing farm to participate in this culture. But it is necessary to know such farms exist, understand something of what they do, and consider oneself basically in their
Line 10 court. Will our single-family decision to eat only food that does not need to travel thousands of miles give a big black eye to the petroleum-hungry behemoth? Similar choices have been made by many other families. A lot of people at
Line 15 once are waking up to a troublesome truth about cheap fossil fuels: we are going to run out of them. Our jet-age dependence on petroleum to feed our faces is a limited- time-only proposition. Dozens or even hundreds of fossil- fuel calories are needed to supply every food calorie we
Line 20 presently eat. By the time my children are my age, that version of dinnertime will surely be an unthinkable extravagance. I enjoy denial as much as the next person, but this isn’t rocket science: our kids will eventually have to make food
Line 25 differently. They could be assisted by some familiarity with how vegetables grow from seeds, how animals grow on pasture, and how whole ingredients can be made into meals, gee whiz, right in our kitchen. My husband and I decided our children would not grow up without knowing
Line 30 a potato has a plant part. We would take a food sabbatical, getting our hands dirty in some of the actual dying arts of food production. We hoped to prove—at least to ourselves —that a family living on or near green land need not depend for its life on food produced on a massive scale. We
Line 35 also hoped that a year away from such food would taste so good, we might actually enjoy it. Doing the right thing, in this case, is not about throwing out bread, tightening your belt, or dragging around feeling righteous and gloomy. Food is the rare moral arena in which the ethical choice
Line 40 is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure.
Passage 2 As a society, we should resist the urge to panic over our dislocation from agricultural life. Consider, for example, the stock eulogy for the wholesome farming life: the claim
Line 45 that legions of modern children have never seen a cow. In a typical example, Illinois Congresswoman Ruth Hanna McCormick noisily donated one of her cattle to the Chicago Zoo, saying, “It’s for the kids who have never seen one. Thousands . . . have seen a rhinoceros and a giraffe but
Line 50 have never seen a cow.” That was in 1929. In perhaps a more accurate survey, a recent chat group on the Internet asked, “Who’s never seen a cow in real life?” The mostly young, urban, and technologically astute members alternately rolled their eyes or expressed horror at the
Line 55 question. “That is such a weird concept,” wrote Becca G. “Are there really people out there who have never seen a cow?” Yet there is a reality behind the anxiety. The United States has lost two-thirds of its farms since 1920;
Line 60 industrialization accounts for one-half of the farms lost. And the nature of farming has changed just as radically. Commercial fertilizer use has more than doubled since World War II. The use of pesticides and herbicides has increased dramatically. Where once North America’s farms
Line 65 were home to traditional barnyard animals, few are today. The change is quantifiable: for example, just four percent of American farms today keep chickens. “The early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song,” wrote Rachel Carson in
Line 70 1962, of wild songbirds. On the modern farm, the strange silence is dawn without the rooster’s crow. What made us drift away? In 1920 the rural and urban populations of both the United States and Canada were evenly split. Movement toward the cities rapidly
Line 75 accelerated with the boom after World War II. The rural customs—self-sufficiency, buying products from people you know, shopping catalogs for a few trusted products— could not hold. In the cities, hundreds of brands competed with powerful advertising, while emerging chain stores
Line 80 deployed tactics like selling certain items at a loss to break shoppers’ old loyalties. There was no going back to the farm. Last year, a United Nations commission reported that half of the world’s 6.5 billion people will live in cities in 2007. Most of them, I suspect, will still have seen a cow.
Line 85 Fewer and fewer, however, will have touched one, cared for one, watched one give birth, or seen a cow give milk for our sustenance.
The author of Passage 1 would probably consider which aspect of the shopping patterns described in lines 76-77, Passage 2 (“self-sufficiency . . . products”), as most significant?
(A) They involved minimal transportation across large distances.
(B) They worked equally well for urban and rural populations.
(C) They included most family members in purchasing decisions.
(D) They limited opportunities for changes in products.
(E) They discouraged farmers from expanding their businesses.
Choice (A) is correct. The author of Passage 1 is concerned primarily with the fact that a lot of food travels “thousands of miles,” using scarce “fossil fuels,” before arriving at our local supermarkets. This author explains that her family has made a decision to “eat only food that does not need to travel.” Given that concern, if the author of Passage 1 were to read the description in Passage 2 of “rural customs” such as “self-sufficiency, buying products from people you know,” and “shopping catalogs for a few trusted products,” she would probably focus on the relative lack of transportation involved. Clearly, if people were to grow their own food or purchase it from local farmers and limit their orders of non-local products, they would not be as dependent on petroleum and other fossil fuels required to carry food long distances. It is for this very reason that the author of Passage 1 takes her “food sabbatical”—because, in her opinion, “we are going to run out of” fossil fuels and will need to return to locally grown food.