June 16, 2018
Tales from A Not So Average Bus
They pop up throughout the countryside and even in hip, downtown city streets, such as Omaha’s old market, and sweep in with the arrival of summer. Farmers’ markets not only bring fresh fruit, vegetables, and a multitude of homemade items to locals, but they invoke a feeling of community and good old family values to those who attend. Writer and editor, Katherine Gustafson, in the first chapter of her book, Change Comes to Dinner: How Vertical Farmers, Urban Growers, and Other Innovators Are Revolutionizing How America Eats, remembers an exhausting, day-long adventure through the remote Virginia countryside with a man named Mark Lilly in search of farm to table goods. “School Bus Farmers’ Market” is Gustafson’s way of appealing to many different people in hopes to spread awareness about the way people see local farmers and the benefits of the healthy foods that are within just a few miles of their bustling, suburban homes, instead of buying and eating the processed foods that are imported in from other places. Through the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos, Gustafson successfully portrays how the movement towards sustainable farming is growing and how it benefits more than just the people that are doing it.
Gustafson uses the rhetorical appeal of ethos to convince readers that she is a credible and reliable source in her ability to write about the sustainable food movement in the United States. We learn right away, from the introduction of the selection, that she is an accomplished writer and editor, having written many articles for major venues such as The Huffington Post, among others. She is also a published author of the book mentioned previously in the introductory paragraph of this analysis, which the selection “School Bus Farmers’ Market” was taken from. This gives the audience some comfort in knowing when they are reading this excerpt that it is researched and composed by someone who knows the subject. With her use of understandable words such as “local, community, and fresh,” she uses ethos further because she is using language that supports the core ideas of what the sustainable food movement is all about and how it is being accomplished. The wording used throughout leads people to the possibility that eating “cleaner” and getting it from sources that do not contain preservatives and chemicals may be an obtainable goal, even if it may cost them just a bit more to buy. Also, using larger words and terms in the selection that pertain to sustainable farming, such as locavorism, carbon footprint, and bucolic, it lets the reader know that she is knowledgeable and has a certain level of expertise regarding this topic. These words also hold the reader’s attention and I think make them want to learn more about what sustainable farming really is. Helping the reader understand these terms is also successful when Gustafson references outside sources, such as the USDA website and a couple of documentaries about large agribusiness and locavorism.
This leads into the second rhetorical appeal of how Gustafson uses logos throughout the reading. Not only does she use examples of those outside sources, like the “Food, Inc.” and “The Omnivore Dilemma” documentaries, but she also conveys facts, figures, and statistics to back up her points about why a consumer would want to really consider getting their food through the farmers’ market or a local farmer.
When she is on the bus with Mark, one of the stops they visit is Polyface Farm. This is a well-known organic farm in Virginia (Lundford 657) that is featured in both documentaries mentioned above. The owner of Polyface Farm, Joel Salatin, has become the literal face of innovative farming and an imagineer for sustainable food advocates. (Lunsford 665) Gustafson looks to him as being an authority on the subject of raising more ecologically friendly foods and animals. Salatin is also knowledgeable about the effects on the environment, the animals, and the people employed by large agribusinesses. Gustafson uses the knowledge of Salatin to help readers fully understand logos and the importance of researching and really understanding how sustainable farming can be achieved if given the right atmosphere. Reading about Polyface Farm and is owner draws the reader further in to the possibility of obtaining and eating better and if the reader watches the documentaries mentioned, I’m sure it will turn them off completely to buying anything that comes from the large agribusinesses that are sold in major grocery stores and fast food places where most of the processed, chemicalized, and added preservatives foods are shipped to. Gustafson also presents facts regarding the USDA website and reports the recalls of hundreds of food products every year, most stemming from posing a “possible health risk” to consumers. (Lunsford 662) She uses words like salmonella, E. coli, and listeria, to describe the different types of bacteria that have been found in those recalls that cause people to become very ill. My evaluation of this would be that if these facts don’t trigger someone to turn to a more natural, safer way of getting and consuming foods, I am not sure what would work to change someone’s thinking. I would rather eat foods and meat that I have raised, killed, and properly handled and processed so I know that it is safe to consume.
Speaking of changing someone’s mind, the last rhetorical appeal of pathos intends to do just that. When Gustafson evokes and stirs up the readers emotions, it gets them really thinking about why heading towards sustainable farming and buying these products is very beneficial for everyone, both for the farmers and the consumers.
Right out of the gate, Gustafson appeals to the audience by recalling how she found herself sitting at a dining room table in a cozy house…eating a bowl of yogurt criss-crossed with a drizzle of maple syrup. (Lunsford 660) She speaks of Mark’s wife wearing a “eat local” t-shirt and of the room which she stayed in, smelling sweet, being crimson-colored, and full of antique furniture. These descriptions of what life on a farm may be has the reader recalling a simpler, more primitive time when life was lived at a slower pace. Further into her travels with Mark, the two come across the Mountain View Dairy Farm. Imaging the proprietor’s daughter running blissfully thorough the yard without a care, picking up a baby bottle of water, and then kneeling beside a baby lamb uses meaningful language and immerses the reader on an emotional journey, one of nostalgia and a safe, picturesque, and pastoral yesteryear. (Lunsford 663) It reaches the part of the brain where the reader can imagine and envision they are right there riding along with Gustafson and Mark and experiencing all that they are seeing and doing. Another use of pathos is when Mark starts reminiscing about other roving food vendors that came around when he was a young child. Remembering times when milk was delivered by a milk man and you had someone that delivered fresh meat right to your door step. It brings up memories for not only Mark, but the reader, as the experience and interaction with these vendors gives a feeling of a warmness and a close-knit community where everyone knew one another and knew where to get the best product from the local farmers.
These emotion evoking events and stories further prove how getting the reader right where it means the most, their heart, is how Gustafson really reels them in on convincing the reader that sustainable farming and fresh-food farmers’ markets are really all together better for the farmers, consumers, and the communities they serve. I know I have stopped eating out as much, especially after watching “Food, Inc,” and being that my mother is a nurse she knows just what chemicals and pesticides can do to the human body when consumed. Let’s just say it’s the big “C” word that no one wants to talk about, especially when it comes to the link between processed, preservative-filled foods and the possibility of it causing cancers.
To wrap this analysis up and conclude whether or not Gustafson really made the reader lean one way or another with her use of rhetorical appeals, I must, myself, look at how it has affected my thoughts on this topic. I feel that sustainable farming is an achievable thing, but it may not be achievable on such a large, global scale as what Gustafson wants it to be. She did convince me that on a small scale, such as the bus, it would be attainable and easy to do, even though it is hard business to compete in. I believe readers would agree that her points and appeals give a good foundation of maybe where to start if someone would be looking into this as a business venture. It may not become a country-wide phenomenon overnight, but wouldn’t every little market that pops up gave its’ best and fought against the large agribusinesses for the good of the people?
Lunsford, Andrea A., et al. Everything’s an Argument: with Readings. Bedford/St. Martins, A Macmillan Education Imprint, 2016.