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the inefficiency of local food

Prepare to be pissed off.

This kind of narrow viewpoint is absolutely infuriating. Even more so because it reflects the status quo of our current economic system when it comes to food. 

The line “high crop yields and low costs reflect gains from specialization and trade” particularly made me prickle. It should read lobbying and subsidization. Give me a break. I’m no economist, but I’m not an idiot, either.

Sometimes I think we need a whole new school of economics. One grounded in reality, not pie-in-the-sky, offload-all-your-costs-onto-some-poor-sucker-who-can’t-do-jack-about-it methods of accounting.

Efficiency. What a crock of shit. Do they really think we still buy that line?

He also seems to assume that a system rooted in local economies will require pounds of chemicals. WTF??? I’d dare to wager that most folks involved in local food movements do so to get that crap OUT of our food system, not put more in.

He also says:

My conservative estimates are that under the pseudo-locavore system, corn acreage increases 27 percent or 22 million acres, and soybean acres increase 18 percent or 14 million acres. Fertilizer use would increase at least 35 percent for corn, and 54 percent for soybeans, while fuel use would climb 23 percent and 34 percent, for corn and soybeans, respectively. Chemical demand would grow 23 percent and 20 percent for the two crops, respectively.

Who says we WANT or NEED to grow all that crap??

He’s making a host of assumptions with this one ridiculous statement. A sustainable food system has to kick a lot of that crap to the curb. If we don’t have confinement animal opperations or all this processed junk food, we won’t need nearly the amount of these crops as we do now.

I’m so tired of nay-sayers to the new food movement using the industrial food system as a benchmark to judge us by. Everything has to change, not just our food miles.

Innovative, sustainable food models use a variety of techniques that look nothing like industrial farming, so how can we even compare them?

We’re using smaller farms, more hand-labour, smaller machines, intensive grazing, tons of compost, mindful integration of livestock, unused land, micro-farms, SPIN farming, rooftop urban gardens, school gardens, community spaces, heritage breeds, open pollinated seeds, endangered crops and animals, aquaculture, permaculture, deep-organic systems, intercropping, stacked systems . . . I could go on and on and on.

Industrial agriculture and economists like to measure success in tons per acre. This is also a false comparison. None of them will tell you about the declining nutritional quality, or increased chance of contamination. How do you measure that? Or the abuses of worker’s rights? Where does that factor in in our discussion of efficiencies?

Now, before someone lectures me about efficiencies, let me say again – I am not an idiot. 

I am also not interested in a life without chocolate. 

Trade and specialization has a place in a locally-rooted food system. There is no reason why we shouldn’t continue to trade speciality products. I would like to continue to enjoy coffee and olive oil and pepper and a host of other lovely foods that can only come from elsewhere.

That said, I don’t think we fall victim to the inevitable conclusion of the other side of the coin, which is seeing first world countries buy up vast tracks of farmland in the third world, either. 

I will not allow the current lack of imagination in the industrial food system scare me into accepting an inherently destructive and unjust system for fear we won’t be able to feed to world.

There is no reason, economically, agriculturally, socially or otherwise, why we cannot have a food system that is primarily local, then regional, then global. 

I’ve got news for this guy, and the rest of the grads from his economics class.

A healthy, sane locally-based food system is already in the works. It is productive, responsible, sustainable and vibrant. It is creative and resourceful and is already solving the problems you say can’t be solved by local, organic methods.

We aren’t going to get rich, but by God, we’ll eat well.

Put THAT on your ledger.

3 thoughts on “the inefficiency of local food

  1. Pingback: food advocacy goals : decentralizing our food-system | The Slow Foods Mama

  2. Pingback: 7 reasons why food miles matter | The Slow Foods Mama

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