Food Connects Us All

Have you noticed the Zen meal prayer above the front counter of the cafe? “Innumerable measures bring us this food, we should know how it comes to us.” It’s our mantra around here; a daily reminder to be grateful for every farmer, distributor and partner we source from, to honor these relationships and the incredible effort it takes to bring our “Good Real Food” to the table.

Zen Meal Prayer

The Good Real Food we serve travels from the soil, to our kitchen, to YOU by passing through many hands: hands that plant, sow, harvest, clean, transport, prepare, serve, clear, and finally, compost to start the cycle over again—truly innumerable measures! I know that without the hands of our hardworking farmers; our passionate, creative chefs and bakers; our friendly servers; and our dedicated dishwashers we could not bring you Good Real Food. Without you, our customers, we would not even exist! I give such great thanks to our amazing community of diners, employees, and farmers, and to the interdependence of these relationships that manifest to make the Birchwood Cafe possible.

Connecting to where our food comes from reveals how connected we are to the land, the animals, the environment, and, ultimately, to each other. What affects one of us, affects us all, and our food choices DO have an impact—either in support of the existing corporate-controlled, discrimanatory system or in the creation of a new, transparent, fair, and equitable one. To me, the practice of gratitude goes hand-in-hand with recognizing the need for change, and as a global good food citizen, Birchwood is committed to speaking out on issues that impact our community. I invite all of you to “be the change” with us!

Bringing Good Real Food’s mission to the Capitol

Last month, I traveled to Washington, D.C. with one of our famers, Jim Riddle of Blue Fruit Farm, as part of a multi-state delegation working for the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, or GMOs. Alongside organic and conventional farmers, the Center for Food Safety, the Environmental Working Group, and Just Label It campaign, we spoke with state senators in advance of the Senate’s Ag Committee Hearing on Biotechnology and Genetically Engineered Foods­­—the first of its kind in over 10 years! We delivered the message that WE, the People, have the Right to Know what’s in our food and how it is produced.

Unfortunately, the hearing was not a debate over the merits and pitfalls of GMOs. Instead it was just more rubber-stamping of the status quo. The overall message from the EPA, the FDA, the USDA (the so-called coordinated regulatory framework for GMOs) was that GMOs in our food are perfectly safe and that our calls are mere consumer curiosity that does not warrant government regulation or mandatory labeling. Let’s be clear: We’re not simply “curious” about what’s in our food. We believe we have the RIGHT to know and, given the mounting peer reviewed studies that show both human and environmental harm from the toxic chemicals used in GMO agriculture, we NEED to know to make the best choices for ourselves and our families.

The only hopeful part in the entire hearing was the acknowledgement of the power of consumers and social media. This means they are hearing us! Let’s keep the pressure on! Please take a moment and call Senator Al Franken (202-224-5641) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (202-224-3244). Tell your elected officicals what kind of GMO regulations you’d like to see: pre-market safety testing, mandatory GMO labeling, and protection for non-GMO crops from GMO contamination. Buying organic and QR codes for smart phones are not the answer to provide EVERYONE with the consumer information we need!

Showing up for racial justice in Minnesota

At the Birchwood, we truly believe that when one person in our community is harmed, we all suffer, and that racism, in all its forms, robs us of our common humanity. This holiday, I’m reminded of where I was last Thanksgiving, following the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri. As friends and family gathered around turkey dinners, many of us debated our country’s reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown. At the same time, the organization Black Lives Matter grew larger, and at the cafe, we continue to consider our place in the social justice conversation.

In 2015, we reached out to Appetite for Change, SURJ-MN (Showing Up for Racial Justice in Minnesota), Neighborhoods Organizing for Change & others in support of creating new narratives and real change. We are commited to strengthening these connections in an ongoing & incredibly important conversation. Just as monocultures threaten the sustainability of our agricultural environment, a lack of diversity weakens our community. We welcome you to join our commitment to cultivate a more equitable, healthy, and just food system for us all. Stay tuned!

This holiday season, may we all find a moment to reflect on our deeply connected place in this world. Together we’ll continue to strengthen our community, reveal connections, and inspire gratitude by seeing how food connects us all!

With love & gratitude,
Tracy & the Birchwood Cafe crew