From Farmer to Freezer
St. Olaf College
Since the mid-20th century, the structure from which we acquire our food has undergone dramatic changes. The concept of "farm-fresh" gave way to a new era, that of mass production. The numbers of farmers dwindled as the fence line of local farms expanded to such an extent that their locality began to lose meaning. Crops were shipped away, while others were transported in, and all to serve the same purpose — to feed the people.
But the advantages were clear, a greater centralization of the food distributors meant they had greater purchasing power, and could more easily dictate the value of food. This translated into lower prices for the consumer; fewer people were forced into the labor intensive lifestyle that farming required. However, with this food commodification came a change in the ideals of food production. No longer was it about producing healthy food for you community, instead it was about simply producing as much food as your fields could handle. Agricultural practices were becoming more industrialized as yields continued to grow, now with help of agricultural inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
The disadvantages, on the other hand, were not so clear. As the production and distribution of food became increasingly centralized, so did its wealth. Farmers that chose to maintain traditional farming methods found it difficult to compete with the larger agribusinesses. Local economies, particularly in rural regions, began to notice the effects of the diminishing role that farming had in their communities. As fields continued to be used for intensive agriculture, farmers were realizing that larger quantities of inputs were required to continue a high yield production. Simply put, the land they farm was being overworked. Crops were becoming increasingly reliant on inputs to grow, and the inputs began showing up in areas beyond the farmer's field.
This web page seeks to provide insight into how this change in agricultural practices has affected the Northfield Food System through three of its retail grocers: Econofoods, Cub Foods, and Just Food. With farm bought foods giving way to frozen foods, the average consumer cannot help but lose their sense of place in the food system. It is no longer apparent where your food was grown and what was put into it. This web page will seek to discover how Northfield has responded to the loss of its rural identity, and whether a sense of locality has been retained through its food system.