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Local food for local people

Tom Carey

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Tom Carey

Columnist Tom Carey

Everyone has to eat. Of the three basic needs of food, shelter and clothing, a lack of food will bring on social chaos quicker than any governing body would care to admit. With the abundance of arable land available for food production in North America, we take for granted a stable food supply for our populations.

The foundation of any nation's economy is based upon the intelligence of its people and the production of food, energy and minerals derived from its land. Food supply production in our county requires 3 percent of our workforce, when only a century ago that number was closer to 30 percent. Other statistics point to the chasm between huge industrial farms (modern plantations), employing only a few non-owner laborers producing tons of subsidized commodity crops and the myriad of small, local market gardeners growing limited quantities of fresh, healthy food. Think of how many people could find employment providing local food if policy were changed to bump the statistics of farmers from 3 percent to maybe 7 percent of our workforce.

Food costs, artificially the lowest in human history, restrict the profitability of local agriculture. The true price of food, if all the real costs of production were to be applied, would be much higher than any public official could tolerate for re-election. Much of this savings is achieved through deficit spending, creating additional expenses of interest on borrowed money. If our national farm policy favoring large commodity farms really is so successful, then why do so many people need food stamps and assistance, suffer chronic dietary problems such as obesity, and behold severe environmental damage based on industrial, chemical farming practices?

Only during the last 100 years of human existence has the majority of our food supply been derived from sources further than 100 miles from home. Finding local food is not as easy as it should be. With the low-cost convenience of big box shopping on every corner, planting a garden or trooping out to the local U-Pick farm takes time and effort.

The thin veneer of healthy food reliability may make us feel uneasy, but old and new solutions abound. Luckily, the market for food is changing as we speak. New options for procuring food appear everyday. From a very young age, I was taught never to complain without offering a solution. In the next column, I'll discuss the many local food alternatives to the routine of shopping at the internationally incorporated grocery supermarket.