“If you eat, you are involved in agriculture” is a popular saying among agrarian and alternative food advocates. It is often attributed to the American poet and farmer Wendell Berry who wanted to draw attention to the way eaters are intimately connected with growers.
“By thinking of eating as an agricultural act, Berry believes eaters will join with growers to help co-create a more just food system that respects the environment, farm workers, animals and planetary health.
Understanding the connection between eating and growing food is a pressing issue today. But what about the past? Both eaters and growers are often ignorant of the entanglement of agriculture and settler-colonial violence. As Patrick Wolfe observed, agriculture “progressively eats into Indigenous territory” for the reproduction of the settler population, while simultaneously curtailing “the reproduction of Indigenous modes of production” and justifying violent dispossession.
If eating implicates one in agriculture, and agriculture is implicated in colonial violence, then eaters, not just farmers and graziers, are implicated in this history.
“If you eat, you are involved in settler-colonialism”. How should we respond to this claim? What does food justice look like that recognises past injustices associated with agriculture? How would such food justice be enacted in urban farms and gardens of inner-city Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane or Perth? What would it look like in our kitchens, restaurants and supermarket aisles? Or to borrow a question from Indigenous food sovereignty scholar, Michelle Daigle, “what do everyday practices of responsibility and accountability look like for settler food actors as they live and work on contested and occupied Indigenous lands?”