A year and a half ago, on the occasion of this magazine’s 10th anniversary, I decided to change the tagline below our logo on our cover. One impulse for doing so was to clarify for people outside our region which one of the world’s watery bays our community lies to the east of.
I also wondered about the scope of that original tagline: “Celebrating the abundance of local foods, season by season.” The East Bay offers much to celebrate, but what goes into creating that abundance, and who actually gets to share in it? What are the facts about our reliance on food produced in nearby regions and around the world? And what are our responsibilities toward sharing our abundance?
Those questions were on my mind as we put this issue together under the cloud of the transfer of power in Washington. Now more than ever, the stories of who we are and what we eat are strengthened by the recognition of our plurality, our relationships to peoples around the world, and our responsibilities to the planet. I hope that this issue represents some small steps toward fact-based and valuable reporting on food-related businesses and projects that respect the health of workers, consumers, and the planet. As people living in abundance, I hope that we keep our sights on being a force for good in the world throughout the coming year and beyond.
The problems associated with The Wall and isolationism in general have been weighing on me, as have the realities of climate change. How can we address any of our challenges if we do not acknowledge our global responsibilities, given that we are such heavy consumers of the world’s resources?
California is among the top 10 world economies, and food plays a significant part in that. We supply over a third of our nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts (according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture). How can we count on good harvests if climate change and environmental degradation ruin our farming ecosystems? And how can we count on having adequate labor to produce those harvests if we deport half of our agricultural workforce? According to a 2016 report from UC Davis, 90% of farm workers hired in California are Mexican-born and 60% of those are not authorized to work in the United States.
USDA research tells us that imports in 2013 accounted for 19% of food consumed in the U.S. It’s a fact that we rely heavily on food produced in Mexico for our tables throughout the winter, and imports are comprising an increasing share of the food Americans consume. How will our favorite items like coffee, chocolate, mangos, coconuts, and bananas be available if we alienate our trading partners who produce them? Those things don’t come from Russia.
Simple answers to our challenges do not exist. Much hard work lies ahead, and I know from so many conversations these days that the idea of nourishing ourselves so that we might have the strength to meet those challenges is in ascendance. Perhaps the recipes and stories in this issue can provide some of that nourishment. 2
A tu salud,
Cheryl Angelina Koehler
Artichoke leaf illustration by Helen Krayenhoff.
California produces nearly 100% of the nation’s supply of artichokes.