I don’t know about you, but I never really thought about food. I thought about being hungry, and I thought about eating to stave off that feeling. As a child I would stand in front of the pantry looking for a snack, waiting for my mom to show up and say, “If you don’t see anything there you like, then you can’t be that hungry.” It was her retort to my youthful exclusion of veggies and fruit from the snack-dictionary. Food was any collection of edible objects that tasted good and filled my stomach. There wasn’t much more to it for me.
Enter GrowHaus Executive Director, and Green Anthropologist Coby Gould. He’ll tell you that you can’t spell agriculture without culture, and he doesn’t just mean it to be clever. For Coby, the way we grow our food, the way we process and prepare our food, and the way we eat our food are integral to how we define ourselves. Food means far, far more to human beings than simple sustenance. Consider the classical vision of the “American Family,” perhaps as captured by Norman Rockwell. It’s a smiling group around a table with an assortment of shared food. Dinner was big in my house, it was the meal we always took together as a family. Rockwell never painted a family on the couch, gorging on cheese-flavored corn chips in front of the television... but that’s a bit of our culture too.
That’s part of the culture Coby aims to repair. Through education, health, community and finding the best ways to infuse good food and good living into the cultures around the GrowHaus, he’s working to ensure that the food culture that has for so long united people to talk, share, love, and eat together never dies. In the process, he’s making strides to make people healthier too because, it turns out, that the quality of fuel you put into your body actually does affect how well it performs. It even affects individual happiness.
Coby thinks about food differently. He wants each of us to think about it too. It’s philosophy. It’s humanity. It’s all of us. And Coby teaches us that we have direct control over it. We’re the culture in agriculture. We can pick our poisons, so to speak. And he’s leading the charge, alongside Adam Brock, to preserve the society of food we need and deserve. By putting food back in our hands, working to free us from the systems that hold control of our food, the way we eat it, and the way we understand it, he’s one damn heroic Anthropologist. And never an apologist.