Local Food, Jobs and Health
Nowhere is the Western Foothills region more fossil fuel dependent and reliant on others than in our food supply. In a century and a half, the region has gone from food self sufficiency, and even exporting food to our neighbors, to becoming almost entirely reliant on food imported from the far reaches of this continent and beyond; food that is almost exclusively grown and transported with petroleum-based fuels, fertilizers and pesticides. It is estimated that the average meal from the supermarket has traveled 1500–2000 miles and requires over 10 calories of fossil fuel inputs to grow 1 calorie of food. It is becoming increasingly clear that the food that sustains us is derived from an untenable situation.
A burgeoning local food movement is working to change this paradigm and supply our communities with superior food produced with a far lower carbon footprint, but we have a long way to go before we can rest with any semblance of food security. Our area has thousands of acres of prime farmland of statewide significance. Much of this land is under-utilized, either growing hay or returning to forest. By some estimates this is enough land to feed half of our population a healthy, diverse diet. Other degraded farmland and areas with marginal soils can be revitalized and brought into optimum productivity. Indeed, much of the intensive food production that is supplying our newly developed farmers’ markets is coming from marginal lands that are being willed into productivity by determined growers.
While any future food system might still have farmers working tracts of a hundred acres or more (still tiny by industrial agriculture standards), the bulk of a new food economy will be generated on human-scale farms and market gardens ranging from an acre or two or ten. Rather than relying heavily on machinery and cheap oil, these mini-farms of the future will be worked by a new generation of skilled gardeners and farmers inspired and trained by our growing community and school gardening movement, as well as evolving university programs in sustainable agriculture. These future farmers will need to be supported by the community and will utilize rapidly evolving tools and techniques. Thoughtful design, and an inspired, well-supported agricultural workforce will replace the brute force of fossil fuel on which our food system is now tenuously based. The result will be a healthier community that has rediscovered the joys of working the land together and the profound pleasures of sharing real food. A goal of 80% regional food self reliance, creating 1000–1500 new jobs by 2025 is possible, but we need to start now.
The average meal from the supermarket has traveled 1500–2000 miles.
Our area has 40 thousands of acres of prime farmland of statewide significance.
Rather than relying heavily on machinery and cheap oil, these mini-farms of the future will be worked by a new generation of skilled gardeners and farmers.
80% BY 2025
A goal of 80% regional food self reliance, creating 1000–1500 new jobs by 2025 is possible.
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