You don’t hear words like leverage coming out of many of the artisans’ mouths, and at a time when we’re learning about the “pink slime” used as filler in public-school hamburgers, you can’t resist applauding the impulse to reject the industrial status quo—to make fresher, healthier, better-tasting food, to take entrepreneurial risks and seek meaning in one’s work. But it’s equally hard to avoid the sense that the new Brooklyn economy is moss growth in the shade of larger corporate forces. Plutocrats of a certain stripe like their baubles to come with meaningful, brow-furrowing backstories, and the artisans, with their small-scale production and deliberate inefficiencies and expensive ingredients, need the postindustrial wealthy to buy their $14 pickles and $10 granola. The buyer of $9 jam, after all, isn’t another maker of $9 jam. It’s the guy whose multinational robotic assembly line spits out jars of $1 jam. Or it’s his trustafarian son, the Global Jam Logistics heir. Or it’s the private-equity guy who just offshored GJL to a sweatshop in Bangalore.
I love the sustainability publication I edit every day and being involved in the discussion. But if it were all about this, I’d want nothing but gas-guzzlers and coal power.