"They want things like farmer's markets to be seen as just one of many different choices for American families and for us to turn a blind eye to their regulatory capture and monopoly activities that have essentially gutted any agricultural infrastructure that's not conducive to their own interests."

Agribusiness And The Grassroots Food Movement

When I lived in NYC I was a member of a food swap group. The mission of the group was "To build community by sharing and trading homemade foods, recipes and tips." It involved bringing your homemade pickles or cookies or whatever you made and swapping it for someone else's homemade goodies. One of the people who runs it, Meg Paska, now runs a small farm. The group of people was very rich in people who had strong ties to grassroots food movements from people who helped organize farmer's markets to rooftop beekeepers. 

When I moved to Chicago I was eager to find such a group and did find there is a similar group here. I attended one and it was nice, though I noticed a lot more focus on sponsorship and giveaways from food companies. It all started to make sense when I realized the founder is a Brand Ambassador for Illinois Farm Families. Now that's one of several groups created to promote the interest of agribusiness that's named very intentionally in order to emphasize "traditional values." The notion is that families are so good and the people who help run agribusiness have families and therefore everything they do is good and must be supported and not criticized. Because when you are criticizing things like antibiotic overuse on farms, you are criticizing a family, and that's bad. Since I went to ag school I have a fair amount of acquaintances who work in agribusiness and see the things they share on Facebook, which are almost always along the lines of "we are nice people, we swear, we like brunch and cute dogs too!" which is intentionally or not to paint critics as if they are attacking nice people rather than the actions of a profit-seeking corporation or interest group. The first picture on the Discover Monsanto site show people at a nice on-farm dinner. I'm personally not saying all agribusiness is bad, though as a whole the things agribusiness interest groups promote are not good for people, animals, or the environment. 

The narrative this particular food swap organizer espouses is that they are just sharing information to let people know more about how food is produced. Sure, they are sharing information. Incredibly biased information.

They want to find a way to spread this biased information because they are very much aware that Americans have a negative view of intensive animal operations and have seen the impact that the grass-roots food movement has had. That through it people have become aware that they can have good, healthy, affordable food that doesn't involve agribusiness. And that really threatens them, because part of their narrative is that they do the things they do because they are responsible for producing America's food and American's just don't understand. So now their newest tactic seems to be to try to incorporate elements of the grassroots food movement into their own narrative to further emphasize that they are all about families and home cooking and other quaint things with positive associations.  

Case in point- "Our Year Without Groceries". It checks all the boxes. Emphasis on family, pictures of idyllic farms, pictures of home cooking. But it's on Chick Fil A's website. The active outdoor chickens in the farm pictures are not exactly living the lives of the chickens served up at Chick Fil A. It's also an idea that was started by people from the grass-roots food movement who have been blogging about this kind of thing for years. But for the original bloggers it was tied to a political act of building alternative food infrastructure. Working in food writing, I'm now getting press releases for "Farmer's markets" organized by large industrial food companies. 

By incorporating these kind of things into the agribusiness narrative, they can portray them as cute, fun activities that are in no way a replacement for what agribusiness can provide and certainly not tied in any way to activism. They want things like farmer's markets to be seen as just one of many different choices for American families and for us to turn a blind eye to their regulatory capture and monopoly activities that have essentially gutted any agricultural infrastructure that's not conducive to their own interests.