“Everyone is buying toilet paper and food and we just bought a batch of chickens: 50 birds are coming my way!” This is what my friend said to me the other day as we talked about canceling a trip to the farm for her homeschool class. I made a mental note to order some chickens of my own; if shit’s going to hit the fan, we might as well have eggs to eat.
When I think about our country’s lack of local food security and resilience – when I think about the obstacles facing small farms that are trying to feed their communities and stay in business to do so again tomorrow – I am struck both by the abundance of food that we can produce locally as well as the obstacles that farmers have to overcome in order to sell it to their customers. Throw a pandemic into the mix and everything gets compounded; farmers markets get cancelled, supply chains are disrupted, restaurants close and cancel their orders, and ultimately a lot of fresh produce gets wasted.
Local is not just a movement that tree huggers promote to reduce carbon emissions, save our top soil, preserve and/or improve ecological systems, increase nutrition and flavor, reduce packaging, and promote good feeling (though it can do all these things!); it is also a movement that strives to create the conditions to allow communities to survive independently, regardless of what is happening outside of town, state, or country. It preserves our food sovereignty so that we as a community can maintain control over an extremely important resource.
"Food sovereignty" asserts that the people who produce, distribute, and consume food should control the mechanisms and policies of food production and distribution. This stands in contrast to the present corporate food regime, in which corporations and market institutions dominate the global food system. It also encompasses the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.
Buying bulk foods is a great strategy for the short term, but investing in our local food systems, in our own food sovereignty, is the key to our resiliency through this pandemic and the next great challenges that come our way. Instead of investing your money in frozen pizza, invest in a CSA share and receive nourishing food every week of the season. Think about buying half a hog or a quarter of a cow for your freezer from a local farm. Feed your family immunity-boosting meals while also ensuring that these farms continue on; be a part of building the foundation of a resilient food shed.
When our president talks of the country coming together in times of trial, I think of the victory gardens our grandparents and great grandparents planted. I think of neighbors and communities finding ways to feed themselves so they could have the energy and drive to fight a war, provide for the war effort, and support those on the front lines while keeping this country moving forward. Not everyone has a garden anymore, in fact, many people have never gardened in their lives, nor have any connection to the farmers who grow their food. This is why building and investing in local producers is so important; so that our communities can continue to thrive, even in challenging times.
No, I’m not saying that this pandemic is as challenging as World War Two was (only a “very stable genius” might say that), but no one can live without food; and the better and more plentiful the food, the better equipped we all are to solve big problems and to provide for our families and our communities.
Food is life. Farmers grow food.
Local farms are driven to provide healthy and healing food to their communities.
Please do your part to help them, for your future, for theirs, and for the larger community’s