I used to like the hashtag #foodindependence, but I’ve revised my thinking. While food independence generally means unhooking the individual and community supply chain from dependence on corporate agribusiness, the concept sounds a little too aligned with the myth of “rugged individualism,” which sells a romanticized (apocalyptic) lie that we’re in this world alone, that we don’t need each other, and that’s wrong. I need other people. I need my family, my friends, my community, and a well-cared for environment. I need other gardeners. I need local farmers, and I need a new hashtag. “Food independence” just doesn’t capture my experience as a gardener.
I can grow tomatoes. Hundreds and hundreds of tomatoes. Strawberries, raspberries, garlic, shallots, and onions too. But not corn. I get a few measly ears each year–pretty, but mealy, bland, and inedible–and without other gardeners and farmers, I’d have to go without. That means I am not corn-independent (haha). I am corn-interdependent, and I think interdependence is a better way to think about community and individual food security. It isn’t about growing enough for you and yours. It’s about growing enough for you and yours and sharing what you can when you can.
Interdependence is the radical idea that people need one another. We each have knowledge, skills, and even garden produce, that can fill in the gaps we ourselves can’t fill alone. It’s about asking for help and offering it. It’s about care and concern for individual and community well-being, including the lands we live on, and it’s a means to a better life because interdependence considers the whole: individual, community, environment.
But perhaps what’s critical here, and particularly relevant at this moment in history, is that interdependence, as opposed to codependence, means we can express our vulnerabilities and our needs mutually without also sacrificing our identities and our values. While it emphasizes connection between people, the individual is not sacrificed. Interdependence allows for differences, and in fact, sees difference as a strength, not a weakness, because differences provide a means to explore new perspectives and possibilities that a person might not find on their own.
That’s the beauty of it, and it has the benefit of not reifying the costly, damaging, and apocalyptic myth of the “rugged individual” we’ve been force-fed in this culture as a measure of success. Also, thanks to farmers who are part of my interdependent community, I get to have my corn, even if I do accidentally set it on fire on the grill.