Food is the foundation for our families and communities. Once fed, a person can work on whatever else it takes to secure a home and general well-being. Yet how much do we know about how food comes to us? How secure are our supplies? How nutritious is our food? Can everyone afford what they need? For some, abundance comes easily, less so for others. How might food security change if one's job is lost, pension reduced or the price of fuel rises?
In this community, Food Core LGL (Leeds, Grenville, Lanark) is an initiative to establish a Food Charter for the region. Other communities have already developed such charters. What can and should our food system deliver? Samples of such Charters can be seen at: http://www.foodcorelgl.ca/
There is a tradition in some societies whenever decisions are being made, to consider the interests of the next seven generations. For the modern world to do the same would mark our passage to maturity. As a modest start let's consider the life time of today's children. Nobody, who has looked at the supply statistics, expects abundant cheap energy to be available for another 70 years. Food grown thousand of miles away will be expensive, and long-distance transport has always challenged nutritional quality. A secure local food system could be a better insurance and retirement plan than traditional plans, which require the economic system to grow forever.
The Giving Harvest is a local initiative aiming to establish such insurance by engaging the local community in various aspects of the food system. Similar efforts can be made anywhere. One step will be to harvest and distribute fruit from untended trees. During planting season, The Giving Harvest will make young trees available to expand the area's food forest. Much more can follow.
In a cold climate, a home built without a heating system would be seen as incomplete. As transport fuels become expensive, a home built without a food system will be considered equally incomplete. Such domestic ecosystems can be built for individual homes, for towns and even cities. Shanghai with over ten million people has a long tradition of being fed by "Wet Markets" where each morning, local area farmers bring in the city's daily food needs.
Local food security doesn't mean cutting bananas and oranges out of our diets. It involves learning how to supply those nutritional needs locally so that, if such foods do become scarce, we can still thrive.
Fortunately, in most inhabited areas, everything that we need to grow and maintain healthy bodies and strong minds can be grown close to home.
Local food systems provide local jobs and opportunities for people to grow their own food. Among the factors that determine health, having a job – an opportunity to contribute in exchange for what one needs – is as critical as quality nutrition, secure housing, close family and friends and self-determination.
Agriculture is a living process. Where human attention and effort are applied to growing food, rather than using machines and chemicals, yield per acre goes up, as does soil quality.
It takes time to learn how to grow, harvest and preserve food crops and to develop the distribution systems to feed a community well. Most communities are fortunate to have local growers already pioneering mature food systems. "Local Flavour" and other such initiatives are emerging in many places and would benefit from your encouragement.
The same sort of thinking that brings us local food could go on to fix up our homes so that they keep warm with the power of sunshine and cool with natural shade, reducing further the need for expensive, imported energy. But that's for another article.