Friday, September 23, 2011

The savior of agriculture is...Chipotle?

From Harrisonburg, VA
Consider the following...

This video is brilliant. It works on me at so many levels, it's almost kind of creepy. (Indeed it is creepy, stick with me.)

First of all, I grew up in a small farm town in Iowa. And while I didn't grow up on a farm, and thus didn't experience the hard labor many of my classmates did, agriculture was a significant part of my world. I also grew up at a time of rapid change in Midwestern agriculture: the death of the family farm at the hands of the corporate farm. If you watch the "Story of Stuff"-like video above, that's exactly the story it's telling.

Finally, for maximum and surgeon-like sentimental impact, the video has Willie Nelson covering a Coldplay song, "The Scientist." I love Willie Nelson and Coldplay AND "The Scientist"! What could be better than combining all three?! I literally got tears in my eyes as Willie utters "I'm going' back to the start," and the steel guitars swell as gray industrialized landscape gives way to lush green, open pastures with free-ranging livestock and a happy farm family! This is country boy cocaine, make no mistake!

Then my rational faculties came crashing back into my body: This entire production was leading in linear fashion directly into the back of a Chipotle truck. WTF? It remains unclear to me how major corporations will "cultivate a better world," as the sign says after the truck pulls away to deliver non-industrially-processed meat to a chain restaurant that started its life as part of McDonald's investment portfolio.

To be fair, the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, which is the benefactor of sales from the Willie Nelson/Coldplay cover (which I will most certainly purchase...D'OH!) does seem to be committed to a noble vision of a "sustainable, healthful and equitable food future." I want that, too! As I opined recently, the very existence of corporate philanthropy strikes me as odd. If economic conditions are not such that corporations can support such ventures - and indeed times are tough these days - what then?

So while I'm not opposed to this kind of thing, it's important to remember a few things in this particular instance: 1) The power of sentimentality in media (I'm still listening to that song!), and 2) not pretending in our emotional euphoria that Chipotle is going to solve the challenges facing the small family farm and food security in the 21st century. The logic of globalization seems to cast such claims in doubt, in my view...

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