Monday, July 13, 2009

Local Food

Local food and sustainable production are topics that are being touched on several places I participate in around the web. I think about these issues a lot. Solving them for my small farm is what I spend most of my time working on. Here are some thoughts from my experience for people and groups also working on these issues.

Barriers to local food systems -

1. Regulations.- Most locations with larger populations prohibit any kind of “farming, particularly livestock” within their jurisdiction. Keeping chickens, goats, meat rabbits, or having a market garden in the city or the suburbs is prohibited more places than not. If the production can’t be close, it isn’t local.

2. Costs - Land in or near the city is expensive. Setting up processing facilities, buying equipment, paying laborers for the first few start up years all costs money. Many of the people with the passion and skills to be local producers don’t have and can’t get the money to do it. In many ways we are like a third world country when it comes to developing local economies. There is a vast need, no infrastructure, and no one with money to do it. Micro loan programs, co-ops, and other micro scale development efforts that have worked in the third world should be applied to local programs here.

3. Knowledge - there is no organized education or mentoring aimed at developing and enhancing the skills needed in a local economy.

4. Market - Locally produced food is not cheaper. Especially starting out it could even cost more. If producers can’t make a living doing what they do they will do something else. Educating the consumers, supporting marketing, building incentives will help.

5. Eco-warriors - There are many activist types who think doing battle with the government or big business must be a part of this kind of effort. Resources get wasted trying to fix an unfixable system. We need to start building a new system rather than wasting time, energy, and money on the broken one.

This conversation is happening lots of places. Get involved in your area. Explore ways to live more locally and share your experiences with as many others as you can.
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