Why Does Food Bring People Together? - Food Dialogues

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Why Does Food Bring People Together?

The Wall Street Journal’s Anne Marie Chaker recently wrote an article called ‘The Hottest Social Scene in Town Isn’t the Singles’ Bar. It’s the Supermarket,’ and discussed “As traditional community hangouts shrink, supermarkets are becoming the place where people meet to socialize – and even fall in love.”

The article explains how supermarkets are adding elements to make them more conducive to hanging out, such as communal tables, bingo games, wine and cheese tastings, and in-house cafes.

Even though the idea of hanging out at the grocery store might be new, the idea of gathering around food is a familiar concept.  But what is it about food that brings people together?

In chatting with a Virginia poultry farmer, Lauren Arbogast, she shared, “I think food is a natural choice to gather around. Although food is something we all have to eat, it’s really more than that. No matter what food choices you make, food is powerful because it invokes relationships and emotions.  The smells and tastes can even take you back to a certain time or place.”

Arbogast farms with her husband Brian and two sons in Rockingham County, Virginia.  They have five houses of chickens (broilers), a 450 head cow/calf herd, a calf backgrounding site of 400, and crops.  She also works as a relations specialist at the Farm Credit Knowledge Center and blogs at Paint the Town Ag.  She recently spoke with consumers about food and farming at the SXSW (South by Southwest) Conference in Austin, Texas, as a Face of Farming & Ranching for the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance.

“When I spoke with conference attendees about being a farmer, we saw a lot of emotions.  People expressed everything from joy and gratitude – to fear and anger – about how food is being grown and raised.  Even though we’re not all coming to the table with the same opinions, we do need to have respectful conversations,” she said.

While at the conference, Arbogast got a variety of reactions when she said she’s a farmer.

“Many of them stop, pause, and say, “I’ve been meaning to ask this … what does this mean to you as a farmer?  Many people have been interested in having big picture discussions about food production, inequality, food waste.  Others have an agenda, and they aren’t open to anything that challenges their previously-held beliefs.  The most important part is that we’re able to have these conversations – farmers to consumers.”

Even though Lauren and Brian Arbogast didn’t start their relationship in a supermarket, food did have a way of bringing them together.  On their first date, Brian had a problem at work, and invited Lauren to ride with him in the tractor to go fix it.  When they were at the county fair, Brian planned on proposing to her.

“I wanted a funnel cake, and he wanted to go on the Ferris wheel,” Arbogast said.  ”He had everything planned – the announcer was going to broadcast the news over the whole fair, the Ferris wheel operator was going to stop our car at the top … I didn’t want to go, because I wanted a funnel cake.  So, he was happy when FINALLY I agreed to go with him.  I got my funnel cake right after that – with a ring to go with it.”

Whether you’re at the grocery store, the county fair, or around your own family table, food brings us together in wonderful ways.

Carla and her husband Kris own Evergreen Dairy in St. Johns, Michigan.  She is the sixth generation to be farming on her family’s farm where they milk 400 cows and grow crops to feed their cattle on 850 acres of corn, alfalfa and pasture. To learn more about Carla’s farm, you can visit her blog at Truthordairy.blogspot.com or find her on Facebook or Twitter.