The United States was once home to a wealth of local food systems that supplied most of the food people needed from relatively nearby.
In a process that continues today, those locally adapted systems have been steadily dismantled in favor of a centralized model that requires large-scale monocultures, massive chemical inputs, fewer farmers and ever more transport.
This shift is now a worldwide phenomenon that benefits agribusiness and supermarket corporations that increasingly control the food supply. For local communities, economies and ecosystems, this process has been disastrous. There is an urgent need to strengthen local food economies, thereby providing a cascade of benefits for consumers, farmers and the environment.
If you want to create a more sustainable society, a good place to start is by helping rebuild your local food economy. Everyone everywhere needs food every day, which means that even relatively small changes in the way it is produced and marketed can have immense effects.
In recent years, many individuals and organizations have devoted themselves to addressing problems in Kentucky’s food system. Though victories have been won, the overall picture continues to deteriorate. The food system remains heavily dependent on toxic agricultural chemicals, fossil fuels and food crops with an extremely narrow genetic base. Irradiated and genetically engineered foods line supermarket shelves, even though neither technology has been proven safe. The number of small and medium-sized farms continues to decline, and farm workers are still impoverished, their working conditions abysmal. Despite an obesity epidemic, many Kentuckians are unable to put enough food on the table.
We must take back the food system and get involved in what Will Allen of Growing Power calls the “Good Food Revolution.” The re-localization of our food economies would protect small farms, businesses and local jobs; allow food to be produced in ways that nurture rather than destroy the land and provide food that is healthful and nutritious.
“Local food systems enable producers to capture more of the food dollar and offer consumers access to fresher, more nutritious foods,”
Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer
For more information go to sustainlex.org, email email@example.com,
or call (859) 379-9046.
Jim Embry is director of the Sustainable Communities Network in Lexington.