The future of food continues to evolve from the basic sustenance of nourishment for human life to the consumer’s desire for a personal involvement in the food supply.

Consumers today want personal exposure to plant and animal production, says Lowell Catlett, agricultural economist, futurist, and dean of New Mexico State University’s College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences.

Consumers’ hunger for agriculture follows multiple generations of people who no longer farm. Long gone for many are their grandpas and grandmas who worked the land.

Catlett pointed to consumer interest in New Mexico’s chile pepper industry. Red and green chile vegetables add a spicy flavor when cooked with other foods. Pepper ristras, arrangements of drying pepper pods, are often hung from the eves of homes as an exclamation of the New Mexico lifestyle.

This type of mental conversion – from food for nourishment to a hands-on experience – is what Catlett calls “dream space.”

Raising chickens is an example of what consumers want relating to a personal experience with plants and animals. In 2008, 60 percent of the towns and municipalities in America considered ordinances to allow raising chickens in urban areas. Catlett says about 30 percent of those entities approved the measures.

“Some people want to raise chickens on balconies in New York (City),” Catlett said with a smirk. “I think it’s a phenomenal thing for agriculture. Consumers will have to haul a lot of food (feed) up the elevators and then haul a lot of other ‘stuff’ (manure) back down. They will learn how hard it is to produce a safe and abundant food system.”