Is Farm-to-Table Just Reversion to the Mean?

Cooking, I found, gives us the opportunity, so rare in modern life, to work directly in our own support, and in the support of the people we feed. If this is not “making a living,” I don’t know what is. In the calculus of economics, doing so may not always be the most efficient use of an amateur cook’s time, but in the calculus of human emotion it is beautiful even so. For is there any more practice less selfish, any labour less alienated, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?

Michael Pollen, Cooked

In finance, there’s this theory called mean reversion. This theory, oft-quoted by economists and investors around the world, suggests that prices and returns eventually find their way back to average after a period of excessive highs or lows.

In other words, they revert to the mean.

The concept of mean reversion has been observed time and time again. Take, for example, stock market crashes. While the recovery period may vary from one event to the next, these markets, eventually and over the long-term, have found their way back to average.

But what if we took this theory outside of finance?

Perhaps that we, as a society, are exhibiting exactly this when it comes to ourselves and our food. After having gone from farming to industrialization in just a few decades, it appears that we’re collectively seeking to work our way backwards.

While industrialization brought us many advantages, it also came with excess and reduced much of what was once natural. It may have even removed us from the very essence of preparing our meals. And the result is that now we’re yearning for it more than ever before.

Despite busy schedules, we’re demanding that our system turn back the wheel to give us healthier, more authentic food choices. We’re turning away from pesticides, GMOs and antibiotics. We’re asking for traditional farming. We’re looking for seasonal produce. We’re cooking again.

Maybe this movement is just a trend. Maybe it won’t last. South Beach, Atkins, Zone, you name it, are diets that have come and gone in the blink of an eye. But I’m not convinced.

This seems to be more than a fad or a trend.

Maybe we’re just going back to who we are.