Local Food - Local Farms Advocacy:
Making Connections with the Local Food System

Jon Greenstone

I would like to invite you to consider the value and meaning of the food that we eat. Many of us have become more conscious about the food that we eat because we are increasingly concerned about our health. Some of the our concern stems from worries about where our food is coming from, how it is being produced, and who is in control of the overall food system we participate in? 

The questioning can go deeper as we inquire how it came to be that our food now comes to us from an average distance of 1500 miles or more? This then leads us into considering the nutritional value as well as caloric value of this food verses the energy expended to produce and transport it from such great distances.

By studying the current food system we may become convinced that the current pattern of food system development is not healthy either from a human health perspective or from an environmental or energy conservation point of view. We will also discover that the current direction of mainline agriculture is not healthy from a societal point of view. The latter conclusion requires engaging in an in-depth thought process in which we consider the historical development of an agrarian culture and the establishment of social capital that expresses itself in a given community.

Thinking about our cities, towns, or villages as "home" invites us to ask what it is that brings lasting value to this place -- what are the assets that connect people one to another or to the land where we reside -- why does a specific geographical location become worthy of the title "home?" Perhaps it is that the physical entity (the place) along with its societal assets (the people and their culture) contain ideals that offer benefits to both the human and the biological beings in this environment. When there is mutuality between human and natural components in a given region there is lasting value.

A localized food system based on sustainable agricultural principles must be a central component to this place I have described as "home." Here is a place that we would want to protect and guard from corruption. Thus, there is the need for laws, a constitution, and a regulating body to enforce these ideals and thereby have a means to maintain the "home's" citizens and creatures such that the harmony would be preserved or possibly further enhanced.

Please consider these thoughts as introductory to the following research essay entitled: CONSOLIDATION IN THE FOOD AND AGRICULTURE SYSTEM by Bill Heffernan, Missouri State University.

The importance of Heffernan's research essay is that he is discussing an issue of relevance for all people: FOOD - after all, we all have to eat! Secondary values, of no less importance to all, are freedom and democracy, which are fundamental to human happiness and fulfillment. As you read Heffernan's essay be mindful of the history and development (or disassembly) of the food system in your own place that you call home. Where did the farms go? Are those that remain serving your local community? Why or why not? Do you buy locally produced foods and what would need to change in order for you to do so? Finally, what would be the outcome if more people (farmers and consumers) participated in a local food system?

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