Weekend Meditation: Free-Range Trust
We put our trust in so much when we enter the kitchen and start to cook. We trust in the quality and safety of the raw ingredients we’ve just purchased, that the recipe we’re cooking for the first time was well-orchestrated and proofed for errors, that our appliances are safe and sturdy. We trust that when we flip a switch, our lights will go on, or the burner will ignite. Or that our food supply is not only safe but abundant, and that it will be that way again tomorrow.
And it’s also true that this trust can be exploited and betrayed. The food industry is full of examples where the truth has been stretched and manipulated in order to convince us to purchase something. Even the so-called natural foods movement isn’t without blame: What does free-range really mean and does it line up with what we think it means, what we hope it means?
I think part of the reason that farmer’s markets are so popular these days is that we want to be able to trust our food (and by extension each other) again. When we buy directly from the farmer and look him straight in the eye, we believe that we are engaging in a more honest and trustworthy exchange. We believe that we can ask him the details of how he manages his farm and that he will reply truthfully.
Is this a naive notion? Well, yes and no. A farmer is just as susceptible to corruption and dishonesty as a multi-national agribusiness. We’ve all heard about a farm inspection that revealed dishonest practices, or even that the ‘farm’ consists of a pick-up truck and a contact at the wholesalers. And big businesses aren’t always the bully. Indeed, some argue that big business produces a safer, more affordable product.
Still, some of us feel we stand a better chance with the individual farmer than with an anonymous corporation. That it’s possible to hold each other accountable through contact and relationship and that this engagement is more possible when your face to face and eye to eye.
I think it’s important to recognize how much we rely on everyone around us to be upright and honest and that most of the time, they are. Bridges and tall buildings almost always don’t collapse thanks to competent engineers and builders. As a rule, cars come to a stop at a red light and pasture-raised eggs are usually brought to market by well-meaning people who are proud of their product.
For me, recognition of this trust leads to gratitude. I know that to be able to trust the world around me is a precious thing, a privilege that not everyone on this planet enjoys. So it’s my intention this season to pay attention to how much and often I trust and when appropriate, express my gratitude for that trust as openly and profusely as possible. This can be as simple as nod and a thank you, or by encouraging everyone I know to buy their eggs from that little stall in the back of the farmer’s market.
It feels good to trust, and it feels good to express gratitude. (Gratitude for the gratitude.) Try thinking about it for a minute: what do you trust? Can you list the things you reply on and does that list ever end? What would your life be like without those things that you trust and believe in?