At Atticus, author touts eating with a conscience

On Tuesday night, about 20 Yale students, local residents and local farmers listened to Cynthia Barstow explain the joys of eating food with soul.

The author of “The Eco-Foods Guide: What’s Good for the Earth is Good for You” spoke at Atticus Bookstore and Cafe last night about her campaign to teach the importance of eating with a conscience. Barstow, a professor at the University of Massachusetts and an environmental and sustainable agriculture marketing consultant and speaker, talked about her personal connection to organic and locally grown food. Yale student representatives from Food from the Earth and the freshman orientation program Harvest, along with local organic farmers, joined Barstow.

Every consumer can change the food system, Barstow said in her talk, which she said she hoped would motivate those in attendance to think before they eat.

“It will be up to us to change the food system, one day at a time, one meal at a time, one morsel at a time, one shopping trip at a time,” Barstow said.

While Barstow said she was optimistic that educated consumers would eventually make the decision to buy organic food, she mentioned various challenges the movement has faced and cited battles between the small organic food community and larger, better funded opposition. However, she added, what the small organic consumer community and local farmers lack in funds, they make up for in passion.

“We don’t have the money, but we have passion and enthusiasm and word of mouth,” Barstow said.

Barstow said she is spreading the organic food message not only because organic food is healthy, good for the environment and the local farming economy, but also because she values the experience of preparing and eating food.

“We can eat food nonstop and not really feel fulfilled,” Barstow said. “But when you eat food that is alive and fresh, you just feel better about yourself. It’s something very visceral.”

Barstow is not the only one who feels strongly about organic food. The organic food industry has increased by 20 to 21 percent a year, which local organic farmer Peter Rothenberg said is unheard of in the food industry. The growing awareness of the benefits of organic food has spread to the Yale campus, with Berkeley College’s organic dining program in its year of study.

“It feels good to know that you’re tied to the place you live,” said Josh Viertel, who is involved in the organic project in Berkeley and also in the creation of a Yale farm.

The Yale students at the talk, including representatives from Food from the Earth and Harvest, said they felt strongly about organic food and supporting local farmers. Louise Levi ’05, who will be the student coordinator of Harvest this summer, said college is a perfect opportunity to explore the world of organic food.

In her talk, Barstow said it is important to spread the message of local farm appreciation on a larger scale. Jude Joffe-Block ’04, who is involved in the Berkeley dining hall project, said she hopes Berkeley is just the beginning.

“Yale [can] start the wheel turning for a greater New England effort toward local organic farming,” Joffe-Block said.

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