Is Local Farming America's Only Choice?
In a simple word, Yes. The problem is too big to be changed overnight. If you care about the environment, the local economy, and having a solid supply chain that can help prevent empty shelves, it's in our best interest to give this a real thought.
Is this a new problem?
Again simple answer is yes. In Transparency-one, Cecile Camerlynck said, "Fifty years ago, about 70 percent of the produce found in grocery stores was grown, produced, or processed within 100 miles. Today, the food Americans consume has traveled, on average, 1,500 miles before reaching the plate."
This statistic is only tracking the produce. Some food like chicken gets even crazier. In 2014 Sen. Sherrod Brown, chairman of the Congressional-Executive Committee on China at the time, said, "The USDA declared that China is eligible to export processed, cooked chicken to the United States, paving the way for chicken sourced in the United States to be shipped to China for processing and then sold back to American consumers," according to CNSNews. This practice has been happening for almost ten years now.
The long travel is damaging to the environment regularly, but when a black swan event happens like a pandemic or war, it's devastating. We've seen both of these recently, and the store shelves have shown us this is a problem. When we have a global food supply, if anything along the way between China and your plate in Kansas City, Missouri, isn't working perfectly, your food doesn't show up on time. So, what's the answer?
We can't just shut everything down that we have. But a transition to a local food supply can start with each family across America and the world.
2 Types Of People In A Local Food Supply
The Grower: This is the most crucial part. Someone needs to produce the food. We can't all grow everything, but we can all grow something. If you are in an apartment, you can raise a couple
of plants on your balcony. I lived in an apartment where a few of my neighbors had 20 plus plants growing on their balconies. If you need help with ideas, this HomeBNC article will give you some. If you have a house with land, how much you can grow will depend on a few things.
- Do you want to grow anything?
- How much time are you willing to commit?
- Do you want to raise animals or plants? (Research cost of each and time commitment)
We all have a role in a local food supply because we can't or don't want to do all parts of this Local Supply Chain. Do what you can to grow anything you can.
The Consumer: If you don't want to or can't grow or make a particular product, that puts you on the consumer side. If we care about our Local Food Supply, we need to search out local options. Local farms and businesses compete with Wall Street and Silicon Valley for your attention. They are trying, but if you could
help them, that's truly doing your part. Search out your local CSA for your Produce. Search your local farmer to get your meat. Search Facebook in groups, Instagram by hashtags, and Google with "Near Me" Searches.
All of us are consumers. We have to pay attention to where we are spending our money. Before my family goes to spend money, our first thought is who owns this business. Most of the time, if a local entrepreneur owns that business, they employ local people to run it and probably source the materials closer to home.
Another Necessary Change
In most places, people live today; if they have access to water, they can raise some food. The significant change we need to make is to understand Seasonal Eating. The University of Maryland Medical System says, "Seasonal eating is simply eating the food that was recently harvested by the farmers. By rotating your diet to eat the vegetables and fruits in season throughout the year, you gain variety in both taste and nutrition.
Why is it important? Studies have shown that the fresher the produce, the healthier it is to eat. Fruits and vegetables that are allowed to ripen naturally and are consumed shortly after harvesting contain higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which protect against cancer and other serious diseases, than produce that has traveled long distances and has to sit on grocery store shelves for long periods. Fresh fruits and vegetables usually have a fuller flavor than food allowed to sit on shelves or in freezers at the supermarket."
The downside of this is that maybe you don't get certain foods at some times of the year, and at others, you have a surplus. In a free market, supply and demand would make strawberries cheaper in the warmer months and more expensive in the cold months. But if you want your strawberries bad enough, someone will build a greenhouse and raise them all winter for the right price.
Governments Not The Answer
No politician can solve this problem; it's up to the Growers and the Consumers. In America, we have a free economy. We need the government out of the way and to remove the middlemen. Getting the growers and consumers that want to leave the world a better place is when everything can happen. Chance Gonnam, owner of Gonnam Ranch Regenerative Beef out of Missouri, said recently, "Our vision here at Gonnam Ranch is to grow to a high level where
we can reclaim land, turn it into high-quality pasture for wildlife and livestock. We can heal the environment as we do it. As we implement regenerative
grazing practices, we heal the environment by collecting carbon in the soil, which helps plants need to grow and takes it out of the atmosphere. It's a win-win. So our goal is to be able to raise as many acres of high-quality regeneratively raised meat as we can."
Gonnam Ranch is like many smaller operations doing the little things right to heal the land while growing great local food. Another thing that removing the middlemen does is getting all the essential questions answered by the person raising your nutrition to feel more confident in the quality of the product you are receiving.
Local's Not Perfect It's Just Better
When it comes to making this change, it won't be some big-government agenda that saves us. The answer is that we need to decide what's essential for our families and our communities. Starting to grow what you can and keeping your dollars local is a great start.
Suppose you don't have a local beef supply Gonnam Ranch ships to all the lower 48 states for free. We would be happy to be your local farmer. What will best suit your family's needs?