Getting Other People’s Hands Dirty

As we linked to in this morning’s FYI, if you’re a “lazy locavore” — totally up for being involved with you food, not so up for getting dirt on your $425 organic-cotton Rogan anorak — there are folks who will let you pay them to do the work for you, and The New York Times has rounded them up for you. From a “community supported kitchen” in Berkeley to a private chef in the Hamptons, there’s plenty of more-virtuous-by-proxy-than-thou to be had in our great nation, and seemingly endless amounts of fun to poke at those with more eco-dollars than eco-sense.

But. There’s always a but. The gently mocking tone in the article (“what won’t these rich people pay people to do?!”) nagged at something in the back of our mind, and we weren’t sure quite what it was until we ran across this op-ed in The Food Section. Here’s the thing: what, essentially, is the difference between hiring an organic backyard vegetable garden consultant (which we are happy to make fun of) and, say, hiring a landscape designer and the requisite team of college students on break in order to lay out and mulch your zinnias (which we accept as totally okay)? Where’s the real difference between buying a share in a CSA and asking The Fruit Guys to add you to their roster?

Because as much as we’re inclined to make fun of the folks who contract out their contributions to sustainable agriculture, we can’t really look past the fact that (a) we are not exactly out there getting our hands dirty ourself, and (b) we spent a good portion of our lunch hour today discussing how terrific it is to send our laundry out to a wash-n-fold service despite the fact that we have a completely free washing machine literally three feet from our bedroom, simply because it is so much more convenient to have someone else do it for us.

If we’re willing to contract out our laundry for eighty-five cents a pound, to no ultimate global benefit, who are we to smirk at someone who allocates a portion of their disposable income to increase the demand for local produce, ethically-raised meat, and seasonal deployment of ingredients? Not to mention the jobs that it creates (and sustains): gardeners, small-scale farmers, responsible restauranteurs and chefs. And let’s not forget that the people with enough money to outsource their virtuousness are the same people with enough money to subsidize community gardens, greenmarkets, food pantries, and get-kids-to-eat-their-veggies initiatives — all good things, all things we wish we spent more time working to further, but don’t. Quite possibly because we are so lazy we can’t even be bothered to fold our own t-shirts.

So, um, where exactly was that part worth mocking, again?

A Locally Grown Diet With Fuss but No Muss [NYT]
Op Ed: Is Eating Local Earnest or Elitist? [The Food Section]

[Photo: CSA crop, via mikaela_’s Flickr]

Getting Other People’s Hands Dirty