Monday, October 27, 2008

Food industry expert says...

...relocalization and sustainability should be on the next president's mind.

Citiwire.net [hat tip: Planetizen.com]
A ‘Farmer-in-Chief?’ — Time’s Never Been Riper
For Release Sunday, October 26, 2008
© 2008 Washington Post Writers Group
Neal Peirce By Neal Peirce

The next president should take farming seriously and personally, according to Neal Pierce, who writes that rethinking the scale of food production is smart for regions, the environment and the economy.

..."The idea of the president as “first farmer” is surely audacious. But food-industry expert Michael Pollan used it artfully in the Oct. 12 New York Times Magazine. Pollan’s goal: to urge (and have us urge) the next president to inspire a sweeping food revolution, back to greater local and regional self-sufficiency."

"Why a revolution?"

"First, energy prices are bound to rise for years to come. The American food machine guzzles fossil fuels from start to finish–for farm machinery, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, mass production processing and packaging, and transporting foods over thousands of miles. The toll is 19 percent of the country’s fossil fuel use, a big shadow over our hopes for energy independence."

"Second, climate change. The fossil fuels we burn for food contribute to our seriously high carbon emissions. Plus, wherever land is cleared for large industrial-scale agriculture, major amounts of carbon dioxide get released into the air."


Third, economics. But you already know that.

Yesterday was the last day for the farmer's market we usually attend. However, several of the local farms have Winter CSA programs to join. In these, the winter crops, which usually aren't as prolific as summer ones, obviously, are divided among a set number of members who join, and are delivered to your door or you meet the farm's representative at a pre-arranged drop site every week to receive your share of the vegetables. Winter fresh vegetables include various greens and root crops, which will be distributed to the participants in the program throughout November and early December (program dates will vary according to your area's climate. Here we don't usually start getting "real" winter weather until late December.). Many programs have chickens and sell fresh eggs each week or include them as part of your produce box.

Most farms start up again with similar programs in early March - and some farms with large greenhouse operations go right through the winter months. Call around your area and see what's available - or try an internet search. CSA (or Community Sustained Farming) is one keyword to try. Try also Farm Sharing or Farm Co-op. You will pay a flat fee for the program either up front or weekly as you pick up. If some share owners are a no-show and the drop and you hang around, you can often buy their box, too, or have it given to you for free(!) if the boxes are prepaid - getting twice as much fresh locally grown produce. Most people are in a hurry to leave, but I've found hanging around until the end to be quite advantageous, since the farmer does not want to take any of the stuff back home with them, in most cases.

These programs serve several purposes - one, they provide you with fresh, locally grown produce that is in-season. Two, it allows you to support local farmers. Three, it cuts down on the petroleum usage of your household (your so-called "carbon footprint") because the vast majority of these farms have found they need to use old-fashioned sustainable and organic farming practices or their customers will just go to the grocery store instead. People want naturally grown food. They won't go out of their way to buy conventionally grown agribusiness style chemicalized and GMO junk.

I imagine that similar co-ops could be set up for animal-based farms. Many of the produce CSA programs also at certain times of year slaughter and sell-off the excess chickens and goats. Some programs are set up specifically for larger beef and bison farms. A sheep farm could, in addition to selling wool to local persons who make clothes and household items from locally dyed yarns, could also do similarly with sheep and lamb meat when they cull their herds, instead of selling them to giant agribusiness firms who will only mistreat them and take the profit away from the community.

Dairy operations are another excellent choice for a CSA, guaranteeing your family local humanely raised cows producing milk which is then made into cream, butter, cheeses, yoghurts and ice creams, lotions and bath products. Some local farms have bee-keeping operations and offer not just plain honey but wonderful soaps and lotions and balms made right there in your area.

You get the idea. These CSA farms are springing up all over the place, and there's no reason why some of them should not be organic and sustainable kosher farms run by members of our own communities. But if the Jews of your area are allergic to gainful employment and honest labour, then support local non-Jewish farms. Any local farm products are better than none at all. Being a member of one or more CSA programs now means you'll already have a share when internationally shipped products for whatever reason become scarce or unaffordable. Then everybody will want to join, but the slots will already be taken. Make sure you get the ones you want now.

Or better yet, start your own local business. If you don't have enough acres for a mini-farm, be one of the persons who makes the lotions and balms, knits the sweaters, dyes the wool, makes jams or jellies, or dries the herbs. The only thing better than spending money for the benefit of your community and your family is to also make money while you're at it.

If nothing else, planning ahead is never a bad thing. Neither is self-sufficiency.

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