SGT April Book Club: Fair Food by Oran Hesterman

This month, the book club gets ambitious with Oran Hesterman's Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All. I say this because if you know anything about Hesterman and his Fair Food movement, it is no small deal. He is out to change the whole system. Well, perhaps not even change, but start over and build something new. When something is as dysfunctional as the American food system, indeed, it makes very little sense to try and fix it from within. There are times when something should just be thrown on the scrap heap...according to Hesterman, this is the time for action, our food system isn't going to fix itself.


The book is very well researched and put together, starting with the facts about our broken system, from the problem of big Ag, environmental distruction, food deserts and our diet, it is all clearly laid out with stats and really stories about the problems and how they show up in our country. He then moves on to paint a picture of what a fair food system might look like. From there, Hesterman starts to get specific with some of his major points, focusing on what would be necessary in a new fair food system.


Diversity is a big issue for Hesterman and really, it should be for all of us. It is truly time to ditch the idea of big Ag monoculture farming. As pointed out in the book, it does a disservice to us, to the Earth and is really potentially very dangerous as regards the future of farming. From there, he expands on the idea of nurturing the land. It makes sense that in a whole systems way of looking at things, that we feed those things that feed us. And not with chemicals, but in a way that is in balance with the natural order of the world, including the cessation of our dependence on fossil fuels. 


The next couple of topics speak to the individual and their role in activism and building a strong economic connection to those organizations that support a fair food system. This call to action seems very common sense, but it is true that so many of us can still love the idea of a fair food system for all, but then forget to take any action regarding where we spend our dollars. Hesterman not only has the right idea here, but also has a lot of concrete, real life examples of not only how a green economy can work, but why and where as well. The book finishes on this path, taking it from the individual to the institutional level and then into what looks like policy change. 


All in all, the picture that Hesterman creates is an ambitious and optimistic one, but I think perhaps it is the only one that makes any real sense. I am in agreement that trying to change our current food system piece by piece would either take too long or happen in a convoluted way that would still not get us to "fair for all". This especially rings true to me in the policy realms. It just seems like food matters never really make it to the top of the list and if they do, we are left with nothing but small, moral victories. However, when we choose to remake the system ourselves and realize that the power lies in the consumer's hands, things may actually begin to change. 


Pick up this book to begin learning how we can create a fair food system, then get on board. And come to one of our book club's for what will prove to be an interesting discussion.


Minneapolis: Wednesday, April 25 6:30-8:30 Linden Hills Coop Community Room

In Bemidji, our group will be meeting at Harmony Natural Food Co-op in downtown Bemidji, Thursday, April 26 at 5:30. For information, call 218-766-8926

The New Ulm SGT book group will be meeting Thursday, April 26th from 6:30-8:30 at Lola's Larkspur Market.  For more information go to, or contact:



A host of books and films in recent years have documented the dangers of our current food system, from chemical runoff to soaring rates of diet-related illness to inhumane treatment of workers and animals. But advice on what to do about it largely begins and ends with the admonition to "eat local or "eat organic."

Fair Food is an enlightening and inspiring guide to changing not only what we eat, but how food is grown, packaged, delivered, marketed, and sold. Oran B. Hesterman shows how our system's dysfunctions are unintended consequences of our emphasis on efficiency, centralization, higher yields, profit, and convenience--and defines the new principles, as well as the concrete steps, necessary to restructuring it. Along the way, he introduces people and organizations across the country who are already doing this work in a number of creative ways, from bringing fresh food to inner cities to fighting for farm workers' rights to putting cows back on the pastures where they belong. He provides a wealth of practical information for readers who want to get more involved.



Lawrence Black is a writer and editor at 
Simple, Good and Tasty.  He can be reached at He has already been digging in the dirt and compost, so his mind may be with the worms.