By Nala Walla


Today I beheld a bag of pretzels, boldly waving its banner:

Farm to Bag???!!!! Call me crazy, but doesn’t this sentiment drastically miss the point?

The whole idea behind the farm-to-table movement is that processing, packaging and transportation–and let’s include advertising, shall we?–the whole unsustainable chain that divorces people from direct involvement with food is short-circuited in favor of a simpler, smaller and more local experience of eating. If your granny braids up some homemade pretzels, with grain from her neighbor which she lovingly grinded, kneaded and baked into little treats, then yes, pretzels could qualify as slow-food. But there is simply nothing about a bag of vacuum-sealed, mass produced pretzels, where the grain was grown in three different states, the sweetner imported from Paraguay, flown to a processing facility in Idaho, put into thousands of hi-tech mirror-plastic bags in Vermont, loaded into pallets, then shipped by truck to a coop in Port Townsend, that qualifies for a Slow-Food Seal. Dress the pretzels up in all your gluten-free fancy or organically grown garb, and still, this will never, and can never, be local, slow-food.

This baldface attempt to greenwash yet another puffy bag of chips on the junkfood aisle, reminds me of one of those flimsy plastic shopping bags I once saw printed with the word PHOTODEGRADABLE in large type.


Are they trying to paint “photodegradable” as virtue?!  Or does displaying your most disgusting side pass for “putting your best foot forward” these days?

This unconscionable marketing ploy panders to public ignorance around the issue of biodegradability, assuming (perhaps correctly, perhaps not) that the word “DEGRADABLE” will soothe people’s conscience about using plastics. “Well, I guess it does degrade. Maybe I was wrong about plastic.”

The fact that plastic photodegrades is precisely what makes it so dastardly. It cannot breakdown via any organic pathways–which is to say, it is so toxic to that the animals, bacteria and fungus that are crucial to the cycling of nutrients on our planet will not eat it—at least not intentionally. The plastic bag will just sit around indefinitely, being exposed to light, heating and cooling, becoming more brittle over time, and crumbling into smaller and smaller pieces until it settles into the soils or waters, where the microplastic bits are accidentally ingested by birds and worms and bacteria…and, of course, humans. When plastic is incorporated into our bodies, it makes us all sicken and die. And even after death, as our bodies breakdown around it, the plastic bits will still be there, photodegraded, but not biodegraded. After decades of better living through chemistry, plastic is literally everywhere. And it’s not going anywhere, irregardless of the fact that we bury our heads in the sand and continue to make it by the hundreds of millions of tons.

The co-optation by marketers and ad-men of the local, organic, eco-friendly imperative is wrong–especially when it is used to hawk products that are the epitome of unsustainable, like thousands of plastic “farm to bag” pretzels.  This co-optation of legitimate movements of concerned citizens is putting life on earth in jeopardy.  Disposable bags have thankfully been outlawed in many counties, thanks to strong grass-roots movements of hardworking citizens.   And there are thousands of similar hardworking people committed to the Farm to Table movement, plugging away daily to help schoolchildren have a hand–and a say–in what’s served on their lunchroom tables. The daily grinding labors of these people is weakened and diluted by usurpation of their brand, and style and branding by companies who want to ride the Farm To Table wave to fortune.

Stop. Just stop. If you wanna sell millions of pretzels in plastic for profit, Mister Quinn, fine.  Just don’t do it in Our Name. Stop polluting and diluting the farm-to-table style just as it gains momentum in healing our precious planet.