Uncharted Roots: Why asking where your food comes from can make a big difference

by | Jan 23, 2023

Recently, a participant of our SEED Skills youth program asked the question, “Where does our food come from?” Without missing a beat, another participant replied, “the store.” Asking them to dig a little deeper, we pressed, “but where does the store get their food?” Reflecting for a moment, she answered matter-of-factly, “from the back.” And that was where their thread of understanding ended.

Trellis is dedicated to creating learning experiences for youth of all ages to improve their relationship with themselves, their communities, and the world around them. A significant component of our work is taking a close look at the systems we interact with daily. Particularly when it comes to our food system, we’re asking questions about how those systems work (or don’t), and where we can take steps to effect positive change.

Before you bemoan the fate or state of “kids these days,” I would put the same question to you: Do you know where your food comes from? Not merely naming the many parts of the system that work together to keep you fed, but holistically – down at the level where roots spread their fingers in the soil. Do you know?


Do you know the fields that grow your wheat or corn, the groves and orchards the grow your nuts and fruit, the farms or factories that nurtured or confined the animals whose lives nurture ours? Do you know the hands that tended your sustenance, or the names of their owners? Does it matter?

For millennia, the answers to these questions came to us easily – backyards, neighboring farms, family members, small grocers bringing together locally produced food – people you encountered with frequency, whose names and faces you knew. In recent generations, we’ve moved away from this type of community-based food system and into a system that has created numerous, unseen realities that have both positive and negative impacts our world.

If you’re reading this, you are the beneficiary of this globalized food system in at least one, but more likely in many ways. Resolving to grow our understanding of where our food comes from holds the promise of benefits for everyone and our planet.

When you begin with a determination to cultivate new understanding and a simple question, you will find yourself on a path to new questions – How far has my food traveled? How does that path impact the environment? Were the farmers treated fairly? Did the animals see sunlight and breathe fresh air? Further, how do the answers to these questions affect me, my family, and my community?

Because of our Core Values (learn more here), we believe that each of us has a role to play in the healing of our world, that we all can grow in new ways, and that working in partnership we can see things improve during our stewardship of our time together on this planet we all share. We hope you will join us!

David is a staff member of Trellis for Tomorrow. As Senior Programs Manager, he comes to us with 15 years of experience in community building, social justice work, and organic agriculture. When he’s not at Trellis, you might find him tending the crops for his local tea company or supporting other efforts for a more equitable and sustainable food system.

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