Though this article will seem elementary to anyone in the Transition movement and others who have been thinking for a long time about how to prepare ourselves and our communities for resilience in the face of the twin crises of Peak Oil (peak everything) and climate change, the economic meltdown that began to surface in 2008 has made this kind of thinking, and especially acting, both inevitable and utterly necessary.
I am grateful to be living in the midwest heartland of Bloomington, Indiana, where we’ve been a Transition Town for over two years. One look at all the food-related links on our Transition website will give you an idea of how diverse and intricately laced our local food movement has become. As of 2010, our Farmer’s Market now runs all year long (except for the two Saturday’s near Christmas and New Years), setting up inside a school gymnasium from December through March.
And now we’re ramping up further. See our visionary, community-wide Trillium Horticultural Park project’s new website.
Three years ago, realizing that we need to localize food and regenerate a sense of community, I started the Green Acres Neighborhood Garden on my own property as a new kind of private/public template for other neighborhoods, as an educational site for permaculture, and as a community food commons.
You might view this article as a kind of primer to give to your family, neighbors and friends. The hour is late, there is much to do, and, best of all, it could be fun! Let’s go!
1.) Strengthening the local economy . This is economics 101 here”a dollar that stays in the local economy becomes worth more than a dollar as it circulates. It creates cash flow for businesses, its builds businesses, it helps community members to invest in each other. Please read this short article about Portland, Maine
2.) Casting a vote . When you spend money you are casting a vote. You are voting with your money, saying, “this is a product that I desire and I support the creation of.” When you buy local food, you are demanding a future of healthy, Maine food”you are “creating demand,” and this is what drives local business. This means you are voting for a whole list of things: fresh food, local food, independence from oil (transportation of food), revitalizing local economies, future policy-making that supports small farms, public policy attention to consumer dollars (which means policy change), healthy farming practices, (small, Maine family farms do not cause the environmental pollution and destruction caused by corporate farming) and real food security in your community.
3.) Food Security . There is a surplus of food in the world, and most food shortages are artificially created for a variety of political reasons. Food growing in your local farmer’s field means real food security for you.
4.) Food Safety . Despite scare-tactics and propaganda used to pass regulatory policies, history shows that most cases of food poisoning originate in factory-farmed and factory-processed foods, rather than small farms. The few cases that have originated from small farms affect one or two people, while the many cases that originate from factory farms affect thousands. Although factory farms are the source of widespread illness due to poor safety procedures, the fingers get pointed at small family farms. Why? Because lobbyists for Big Business get paid a big wad of money to confuse and seduce (bribe) government officials into creating policies that shut-down small farms and champion factory farms, and one of the main ways lobbyists do this is by creating lies and propaganda about food safety.
5.) Strengthening the local economy . This is economics 101 here”a dollar that stays in the local economy becomes worth more than a dollar as it circulates. It creates cash flow for businesses, its builds businesses, it helps community members to invest in each other.
6.) Externalized costs. The average consumer pays more than double the sticker price of cheap price of food we buy from the grocery store. Why? Big Business gets big by “externalizing costs.” This means that they do not take fiscal (or ethical) responsibility for the effects of their production, but the consumer does. As taxpayers, we pay for environmental programs to attempt to fix polluted land and water caused by factory farming. We pay into healthcare for the increasing physical and mental illness caused by poor nutrition. We pay for “food safety” measures to regulate the unsanitary chaos created in factory meatpacking facilities. And, worst of all, our taxpayer money goes into subsidizing factory farms to make this entire, unsustainable process limp along. Its basically a daily bailout for the factory farms that are slowly killing us.
Knowing these benefits, and knowing that the majority of the readers know about the evils of corporatization, what could be some of the issues that get in the way of growing our own and supporting local businesses? The fact is Wall Street is going to battle the localization movement. It is going to battle it because it competes with large factory farms, megalithic retail outlets, and genetic engineering firms such as Monsanto (an article in and of itself, research this company). For example, read the following article by Christine Lepisto that describes a nightmare dinner at a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) celebration that was raided by police: http://parentables.howstuffworks.com/health-wellness/fighting-local-food-after-health-department-dumps-bleach-farm-dinner.html
While that scenario ultimately has a happy ending, the battle between the likes of Monsanto, Cargill, and DeCosta and small, localized farmers is not going to stop. It’s the “little guy” that is the major competitor to these megalithic Wall Street giants.
What people in Maine are trying to do in response is develop local legislation in their various districts to help kindle the development of localized local food systems and businesses. A copy of this legislation is given at http://savingseeds.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/localfoodlocalrules-ordinance-template.pdf
This legislation is important. For example, there have been horror stories reported where small food gardens are being raided due to so-called health problems. Furthermore, some communities may have restrictions against growing your own food. This too is another way to keep people buying into large corporate food systems. Then there are the horror stories of organizations like the Agent Orange turned Food Producer Monsanto that will work towards disempowering small farmers and garden growers, who they see as their real competition. The most famous case that actually helped to expose Monsanto as a corporate criminal is that of Percy Schmeiser, who was sued when some of Monsanto’s seeds blew over into his field. You can read more on this at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percy_Schmeiser
The point is, like the French Revolution, the issue boils down to food. Marie Antoinette’s supposed statement; “let them eat cake” became a battle cry of primarily women that unfortunately led to the rule of Napoleon (meet the new boss, same as the old). Even Henry Kissinger appeared to know the importance of food with his “Control the oil and you control the nations, control the food, you control the people” comment. However, if we take history as our teacher, we must not allow for another Napolean (or Lenin or Stalin or Bush-Obama). The deep question becomes how do we REALLY change? This is not an easy question to answer for we have at least 5 thousand years of conditioning to contend with. Yet, the only way REAL change is going to happen is through us. We need to change how we live, where we receive support in getting our needs met and so on. We must grow our own foods in our communities, utilize practices such as CSA’s and develop strong local economies. Yes, there will be issues that arise, but those issues can and will be worked out. We simply can’t continue using the old ways of governance. This is one of the gifts the Occupy movements have given us with their utilization of consensus styles of decision making. But, this is a whole other discussion”one we all must have. How do we govern? My view is that we begin in our own backyards.