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Our Veggie Gardens Won’t Feed us in a Real Crisis

Our Veggie Gardens Won’t Feed us in a Real Crisis

A haul from the Author’s urban farming operation in Portland, Sept. 15, 2007 (Photo C.H.White)

Massive flooding and heavier than normal precipitation across the US Midwest this year delayed or entirely prevented the planting of many crops. The situation was sufficiently widespread that it was visible from space. The trouble isn’t over yet: Hotter-than-normal temperatures predicted to follow could adversely affect corn pollination. Projections of lower yields have already stimulated higher prices in UN grain indexes and US ethanol. Additionally, the USDA is expecting harvests to be of inferior quality. Furthermore, the effects of this year could bleed into 2020; late planting leads to late harvesting which delays fall tilling, potentially until next spring, when who knows what Mother Nature will deliver. 

Accuweather’s characterization of this as a “one-of-a-kind growing season” is literally true only in terms of its exact circumstances (given increasingly chaotic events) but not in its intensity (which will surely be exceeded). Prudence would dictate that we heed this year’s events as a warning and get serious about making preparations for worse years. Literal cycles of “feast or famine” have marked agriculture since its birth and sooner or later we will experience significant shortages here in the US, if not from the weather, than from war or lack of resources.

The Midwest floods and their possible repercussions for the food supply got some attention in the news (though not enough). One of the most common suggestions I saw on social media was: “Plant a garden!” 

If only it were that simple.

I used to be a small-scale organic farmer so take it from me: totally feeding yourself from your own efforts is very, very challenging. Though some friends and I tried over multiple seasons, we never succeeded, or even came anywhere close. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Unlike a Globalized Food System, Local Food Won’t Destroy the Environment

Unlike a Globalized Food System, Local Food Won’t Destroy the Environment

If you’re seeking some good news during these troubled times, look at the ecologically sound ways of producing food that have percolated up from the grassroots in recent years. Small farmers, environmentalists, academic researchers and food and farming activists have given us agroecology, holistic resource management, permaculture, regenerative agricultureand other methods that can alleviate or perhaps even eliminate the global food system’s worst impacts: biodiversity loss, energy depletion, toxic pollution, food insecurity and massive carbon emissions.

These inspiring testaments to human ingenuity and goodwill have two things in common: They involve smaller-scale farms adapted to local conditions, and they depend more on human attention and care than on energy and technology. In other words, they are the opposite of industrial monocultures — huge farms that grow just one crop.

But to significantly reduce the many negative impacts of the food system, these small-scale initiatives need to spread all over the world. Unfortunately, this has not happened, because the transformation of farming requires shifting not just how food is produced, but also how it is marketed and distributed. The food system is inextricably linked to an economic system that, for decades, has been fundamentally biased against the kinds of changes we need.

Put simply, economic policies almost everywhere have systematically promoted ever-larger scale and monocultural production. Those policies include:

  • Massive subsidies for globally traded commodities. Most farm subsidies in the US, for example, go to just five commodities — corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice — that are the centerpieces of global food trade. At the same time, government programs — like the US Market Access Program — provide hundreds of millions of dollars to expand international markets for agriculture products.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

How Does Your Local Food Grow?

HOW DOES YOUR LOCAL FOOD GROW?

CAN WE BUILD A LOCAL FOOD WEB INSTEAD OF A GLOBAL AGRI-CHAIN?

Wayne Roberts looks at all the ways local food webs are already growing, ready to become the Next Big Thing in creative disruption.

Several weeks ago, I went to and wrote about an exciting international conference in Montpelier, France, on sustainable “agrichains” — which is geekspeak for food supply chains that are socially, economically and environmentally responsible.

I now want to propose the idea of going beyond the one-way and linear supply chain thinking of agribusiness, and make the case instead for civic food webs — based on partnerships among local governments, local public and community institutions (universities and co-ops, for example), social movements, citizen groups (such as the marvelous Equiterre of Montreal), community-oriented businesses, neighborhood groups, and engaged individuals and families.

Eaters of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your food chains!!

First, let me outline how I think we got to where we are now.

MORE THAN ONE WAY TO FILL A VACUUM

Nature abhors a vacuum, but global corporations seize upon them.

There was a food infrastructure vacuum in the cities of the 1800s and 1900s. It arose most obviously in Europe as a result of the lack of organic or community-based connections between city food consumers seeking to buy foods from around the world and food producers seeking to sell to them. Technologies, such as refrigerator ships, trains and trucks, were available to move food huge distances. As well, technologies, such a sewers and electrical utilities, were available to make large cities livable and attractive. But in the absence of community-based or government-based mechanisms to sponsor the necessary logistics, what were then called multinational corporations took over this “middleman” infrastructure function of bring food producers and consumers together.

food chains stop & start, but the life cycle doesn’t

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Got Food? How Local Food Systems Can Build Resilience for Turbulent Times

Got Food? How Local Food Systems Can Build Resilience for Turbulent Times

Corey Templeton
The Deering Oaks farmers’ market, held every Wednesday and Saturday in Portland, Maine.

Consider, for a moment, that lettuce leaf on your plate. It probably traveled a long way to get there—about 1,500 miles, on average.1 In fact, your dinner has probably seen more of the world than you have: the average American meal contains ingredients from at least five countries outside the United States.2

The complex, globalized system that puts food on our plates is a technical and logistical marvel, delivering unprecedented quantities of food at historically low prices.3,4

But that system is surprisingly fragile. Its globe-spanning supply chains are easily disrupted and its vast monocultures are vulnerable to drought and disease.5,6 And, because the system is entirely dependent on fossil fuels, it is subject to the shortages and price swings that afflict those commodities.7

New Yorkers got a firsthand look at the fragility of the food system when Superstorm Sandy pummeled the city in 2012. Days after the storm, trucks were still stranded on roadsides, unable to make deliveries. Some grocery stores saw their stocks destroyed by the storm surge; others lost power and trashed their perishable goods. Thanks to “just-in-time” supply chains that kept inventories to a minimum, shortages set in quickly.8 As a result, hungry New Yorkers stood in line for hours, waiting for emergency supplies of food and water.9

Most New Yorkers weathered those shortages, and a massive crisis was averted. Still, Sandy should serve as a wake-up call. In the era of climate change, our cities will face more monster storms, floods, and other extreme weather events.10 At the same time, a wide range of natural and human-made crises—from epidemics to terrorism—have the potential to bring our food system to its knees.11

In these turbulent times, we need to make our food supply systems more resilient. Producing and distributing food on the local level could help us weather disruptions of all kinds.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Why Preppers Need to Focus on Local Food for Self-Reliance

Why Preppers Need to Focus on Local Food for Self-Reliance

Years ago, I was reading the book Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs. (Great book that I highly recommend!) The premise of the book is that our future economic woes will be based on the scarcity of oil.

The author, Wendy Brown, makes an excellent case regarding our dependency on oil, but the thing that really stood out in my mind was how she had changed her family’s diet well in advance of this economic crisis. She focused her efforts on local food for self-reliance in the long run.

She discussed at length the fact that on her suburban property, in her particular climate, there were things she could produce, and things she could not. Taking it a step further, there were many things that were not available within a 100 miles of her area.  So why, she asked, would she want to base her family’s diet on foods that might not be readily available in the future? Why would she want her children to have to endure yet another drastic change should things all go to heck? Instead of rice, they focused on potatoes, for example, because that was realistic for a long-term diet in her location in rural Maine.

Eating locally means stepping away from the Standard American Diet

Eating locally is something we personally focus on. Of course, I also prep, and most of the preparedness calculators recommend things that don’t grow in any type of abundance in my area. And by “things” I mean hundreds of pounds of grains.

Several months ago we swore off grains as a family due to some health issues with my daughter, and we haven’t looked back.  I think it’s entirely possible that many of the chronic health problems being experienced in our country could be related to the exceptionally high grain-and-carbohydrate intake of the average American. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

 

 

Food and Agriculture Play Significant Role in City of Los Angeles Sustainability pLAn

Food and Agriculture Play Significant Role in City of Los Angeles Sustainability pLAn

Los Angeles, known for its extensive freeway system and broad boulevards, fast food, car culture, lawn-filled suburbs and smog, is getting serious about sustainability—and the effort includes local and sustainable food and agriculture.

When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took office, he created a Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and appointed Matt Petersen as the city’s first chief sustainability officer. Now, Los Angeles has a comprehensive sustainabilitypLAn. Many factors, including water conservation, livable neighborhoods and waste management, naturally intersect with food and agriculture objectives.

“How can we improve our city today, and ensure future generations enjoy a place that is environmentally healthy, economically prosperous, and equitable in opportunity for all?” asked Garcetti in the pLAn’s introduction. “It is important to emphasize that the pLAn is not just an environmental vision—by addressing the environment, economy, and equity together, we will move toward a truly sustainable future.”

In a city that used to be home to many orange groves and other farming operations, agriculture will have a strong role in the city’s sustainability resurgence. Los Angeles will make land at its public facilities (including the Los Angeles Public Library) available for urban agriculture as well as convert unused lots to gardening spots. Future plans include a pilot hydroponics and aquaponics program.

The pLAn aims to encourage Los Angeles residents to purchase locally-grown food from farmers’ markets, and another one of the city’s objectives is to support a Good Food Purchasing Program to assist institutions such as hospitals and universities in sourcing locally grown fruits and vegetables. Other goals include expanding urban agriculture in the city’s Promise Zone (this land is federally designated) and spurring more urban farming efforts through the city compost giveaway program.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Hudson Valley Harvest: Transparency is Key to Scaling Local Food

Hudson Valley Harvest: Transparency is Key to Scaling Local Food

Hudson Valley Harvest is bringing local food to larger markets through its network of small farmers.
The Hudson Valley of New York has a long, rich history of agriculture, and currently boasts more than 5,000 farms that generate upwards of US$500 million in annual revenue. However, despite the regional growth of direct-to-consumer models such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and farmers markets, small farmers may still struggle to bring their products to larger buyers, such as restaurants, schools, and other institutions.

Hudson Valley Harvest, the leading local food company in the tristate area (New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey), has grown to fill this niche. Paul Alward, a farmer of 10 years, co-founded the company in 2011 with three friends who met at farmers markets in New York. According to Alward, now the chief executive officer of Hudson Valley Harvest, the company “grew organically from the market system.” Embracing transparency, traceability, and sustainability, Hudson Valley Harvest serves food stores such as Whole Foods Market and FreshDirect, and universities such as The New School in New York City.

When asked what a good food system looks like, Alward says, “I think it’s one filled with information. The most effective tool is information. Let the consumers decide.” To this end, the company emphasizes transparent labeling that not only identifies both product and producer, but also includes information on proximity and processing.

Hudson Valley Harvest has grown from about 10 partnerships with farmer friends to more than 50 farms harvesting more than 6,000 acres. Seasonality and year-round availability were big challenges at first, but by embracing technology for frozen foods and reinventing infrastructure, the company has scaled their business model and achieved greater operating efficiency. “We found very early on that, as a start-up, we weren’t built for mainstream stores right away,” says Alward. “[We therefore] went to small independent stores where the owners were present.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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