Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

No Farms No Food? a Response to Baylen Linnekin

Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

No Farms No Food? a Response to Baylen Linnekin

Article excerpt

Introduction                                                      1141   I.  What is Foraging, Really?                                   1142  II.  Idolizing and Idealizing Everything We Eat                  1145 III.  El-EAT-ism                                                  1147  IV.  The Political Consensus Around Foraging Is Too Good to Be       True                                                        1148   V.  Less Government, More Government Land                       1150  VI.  Foraging Isn't Perfect                                      1151 Conclusion: On Dog Pee and Hog Poop                               1153 


You have likely seen the bumper sticker, bold white text on a green background, reading "No Farms No Food." The sticker is a product of, and in fact a tagline for, the American Farmland Trust. (1) On the one hand, the point is obvious: As American Farmland Trust puts it, "[e]very meal on our plates [c]ontains ingredients grown on a farm. We all need farms to survive." (2) On the other hand, what seems like a plain statement on its face, "no farms no food," is not so simple. Farms produce affordable food, they produce vast quantities of food, they produce healthy and not so healthy food, but they are not the only source of food. Hunting is another obvious source of food. Foraging is a less obvious example.

In his writing on foraging, Baylen Linnekin reiterates this point about the diversity of food sourcing and offers the possibility of a food system more robust and welcoming than the system that dominates today. (3) Foraging is a source of food with an even longer historical shadow than traditional agriculture. Like the plain and simple promise that without farms we would have no food, the plain and simple appeal of foraging also masks important nuances, many of which Linnekin uncovers in his work, including the complexity of defining foraging at all, the potential ecological impacts of foraging, and the types of properties on which foraging takes place. Despite Linnekin's effort, some nuance remains.

This Response will evaluate the same issues that Linnekin's work addresses, in an attempt to add some additional insight. This Response will also highlight several complexities within foraging law and policy that deserve further attention. Part I will focus on the importance of a precise definition for foraging. Part II will consider society's essentialist approach to food and agriculture. Part III will then consider the way foraging, despite its populist overtones, may succumb to elitism. Part IV will dissect the apparent political and ideological consensus around the benefits of foraging. Part V will examine the property rights issues that are part and parcel of foraging. Finally, Part VI will look more closely at potential ecological issues that can arise from increased foraging. This Response will conclude by offering an alternative regulatory regime that borrows from Linnekin's proposal but combines it with other successful environmental regulatory strategies.


The first nuance is the very definition of foraging. As is the case with almost any environmental issue, a definition becomes even more challenging when it references dynamic environmental baselines. "Foraging," writes Linnekin, "refers to the harvest of foods which are not cultivated by man but that grow spontaneously in the wild, regardless of whether the 'wild' is an urban, suburban, rural, or wilderness area." (4) Linnekin is careful to point out that foraging is not hunting, trapping, or fishing, insofar as foraging does not involve chase or capture. (5) Foraging is not collecting food from cultivated fields such as a pick-your-own-apple trip to the orchard, nor is foraging the gathering of discarded food products known as dumpster diving. (6) Foraging is essentially collecting food that grows without human intervention.

However, it may be improper to assume there is no human intervention in the wild foods that people forage. …

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