Monday, April 9, 2012

Local Food

As discussed in the "Sustainability of Harper's Choice" post, there is currently little to no connection in the Village of Harper's choice to the local food system. What does this mean and why does this matter?

In recognition of the destructive social, environmental and economic impacts of the global industrial food system, a movement is growing to return to traditional, local food systems in which food is produced for local and regional consumption. The local food movement is a "collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies, in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place (Feenstra, 2002)."  It is part of the concept of local economies; a preference to buy locally produced goods and services rather than those produced by corporatized institutions. 

There are numerous benefits to supporting local food producers, which tend to be smaller and increasingly environmentally aware farmers. By buying local: “food miles” are relatively small, which substantially reduces fossil fuel use and pollution; farmers are able to diversify, which creates many niches on the farm for biodiversity to flourish; soil erosion is diminished along with the lesser reliance on heavy machinery; and organic methods are more likely to be adopted given the greater resilience of polycultures.  From an economic perspective, local foods systems driven by small diversified farms can help reinvigorate entire economies because most of the money spent on food goes to the farmer and small farms employ more people per acre than large monocultures. Local food is almost by definition fresher and less processed than global food, making it more nutritious.  Food security would also be dramatically improved if people depended more on local foods. Instead of being concentrated in a handful of corporations, control over food would be dispersed and decentralized. As this is a brief overview of local foods and the associated benefits, a length list of resources has been provided at the end of this post. 

Broad and lasting transition to local food systems will require changes at the level of trade treaties, national policies, and governmental subsidies to prioritize domestic and local capabilities instead of transnational corporations.  However, the good news is that there are a number of things that can be done to help Harper's Choice become a community of locavores - people who are interested in eating food that is locally produced rather than moved long distances to market. 

From a Village Center Perspective:

  • Reach out to local farmers offering CSAs and encourage them to have the community center, Kahler Hall, be a drop off point. Advertise any resulting CSA opportunities to the community through the newsletter and at Kahler Hall. 
  • Cultivate a weekly farmers market to be held in Joseph Square
  • Work with the Columbia Association to establish a community garden on some of their open land, either around Joseph Square or near the Sports Park.
  • Cultivate citizen interest to petition Kimco, the retail property owner, to encourage/select new merchants that are locally owned and source food from local producers. Similarly, petition and work with Safeway and the existing locally owned restaurants to encourage them to source local, seasonal food and fair trade food where local isn't possible.
  • Create educational opportunities for Village Center residents about the value of local foods.
At the individual level, people can be encouraged to:

-Shop at Farmers Markets
-Participate in community supported agriculture (CSAs)
-Start a small garden, even if it is herbs in window boxes or planters 
-Eat whole foods and avoid food-like products

-Read food labels; buy things with few (and pronouncable) ingredients
-Look for fair trade certified labels
-Learn how to can, dry, and freeze local foods purchased at their peak for use in "off" seasons
-Compost food waste and use the resulting soil in your garden

Local food resources:

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