The importance of local food ways

Here is a sobering statistic for you: only 2% of the U.S. population is involved in farming. A lot of those people that make up that 2% are nearing retirement age too so it’s a mystery who is going to grow the food your family eats everyday. If Monsanto had their way, they’d be growing everything you eat. Shudder at that though. Another reality check comes from the state of California, where an abundance of fruits and vegetables are grown and then shipped all over the nation. They are in the midst of a drought of near Biblical proportions. According to the CA Department of Agriculture, that state provides a whopping 15% of ALL fruits and vegetables grown in the country. That’s a big chunk from one state. If something doesn’t change weather wise, all those fruits, nuts, and vegetables will have to come from somewhere else. The prices will have to go up to make up for the lost acreage and poor harvests. That will of course mean that Americans will have to stop buying so much useless crap or entertaining themselves quite so much.

Food security is far more important than the types of security that the politicians in their slick suits are always babbling on about. They speak of national security (translation -global dominance), economic security (translation-we consume, they can’t), and perhaps energy security (we use the oil, not them). None of those things matter at all if people are not eating. As Bob Marley sang, “a hungry man is an angry man”. Revolutions often start when people get hungry and the politicians promises do nothing to feed them.

The solutions to this problem range from the remarkably simple to more complex. One of them is to grow as much of one’s own food as possible. During World War II the U.S. government made a big propaganda push to have people grow “Victory Gardens” in their yards or on land in their communities. It was an enormous success. People from all walks of life felt like they were actively contributing to the war effort by growing their own vegetables. As a nation, we must needs get back to this type of smaller scale production. Putting all our eggs in one proverbial basket (in this case large corporate farms) is a recipe for disaster. As a permaculturist, I know how imperative it is to grow food in zone one (the area closest to my home) and that is why I talked my land-lady into letting me dig up the front yard here in Branford to put in five garden beds planted with polycultures of vegetables, herbs, and beneficial plants to attract pollinators and deter pests. When my wife and I move back home to Lancaster, PA I will be gardening there as well.

Another simple solution is to support local farmers, particularly those who use organic, biodynamic, or permaculture methods. After all these farmers are growing where you live and it should be of utmost importance to local residents  that no poisons are being put into the food, water, and soil in one’s proverbial back yard. Farmer’s markets are a great resource. It is a great way to meet producers and develop a relationship with them. One must ensure though that the people who are selling are actually growing the produce they sell rather than getting it from an unknown source and reselling it. Check out a farmer’s market in your local area to see if anyone there is selling organic food. If not, ask them to consider it. The market for organics is growing exponentially and our farm land is being destroyed by chemical agricultural methods. There are several really good websites that list local farms and what types of food they produce from fruits and veggies to dairy, meat, and eggs. I’ve provided a couple of links at the bottom of the page for readers to find their own locally sourced food.

Along those same lines is the renewal of interest in the younger generations getting back to the land and farming themselves. For fruits and vegetables in particular it takes only a small plot of land to get started. For someone just getting started an acre is more than enough land. Smaller scale projects are great too. For instance, in Portland , OR there is now a program where city residents are putting up signs to have other people  come”Farm their yards”. There is an abundance of under utilized land in America that could be put into production to meet the needs of the local populous. Often times, older farmers have no one to pass on their land or knowledge to. Many states have some sort of Young Farmer program. Check with your state’s department of agriculture if you are interested in farming. Suburbs are RIPE for turning mono-cropped lawns into market gardens and small farms as well.  The more people on the local level grow their own food or grow food for sale, the less control the agribusiness conglomerates like Monsanto will have.

A more complicated, yet just as vital, aspect of creating local food ways is to increase the carrying capacity of wild or marginal lands. This is done by restoring them to health if degraded and re-introducing perennial edible plants, tubers, fungi and indigenous fruit and nut bearing trees to them. Brown sites (former industrial sites) can be bio-remediated  to clean up toxins and then planted with appropriate trees, shrubs, understory plants and pioneer species that would in turn provide local food for years to come. Similar things can be done with park lands, riparian areas, golf courses, fallow land, and farm land that is out of production or needs to be restored to ecological health due to poor farming practices. This type of localized production is the idea behind the ReWilding School’s Foragers Co-op that I am working on now and will be helping to run once we get back to Lancaster, PA. I hope this will become a working model that people in other areas can emulate to restore land in their areas to more productivity for ALL life with perennial foods and medicines.

Food security is real security. Build and be a part of the local food movement where ever you are. You’ll eat better, feel better,  the local economy will be better, and the ecosystems around you will be better.


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