If the trucks stopped coming to the grocery stores, where would you get your food? I’m sure many of you already grow some of your food and maybe you even grow a substantial amount, but very few people grow ALL the food they consume. When I taught at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, imagining the trucks would stop coming and you would have to source all of your food from farms and gardens within a 100 mile radius was a project I assigned students in my Four Season Food Production class. The students received extra credit if they brought in a highway map pinpointing where they lived with circles showing 25, 50, 75, and 100 miles from that spot. It is very enlightening making a map like this. You should try it.
At first the students thought about what they ate now and anticipated they would try to find that. This project was a real eye-opener to the students who ate mostly processed food. Preparing and eating food as it comes from a farm or garden is a much different experience. They soon learned that it would be better to see what was available and plan their meals around that. You could say that they could plan gardens to feed themselves, but it was September and the expected closing of the grocery stores was January 1. Not much time to grow a complete diet, even if they knew how, which they didn’t. That’s what they were taking my classes to learn. So, to get started they would have to visit farmers markets, meet the farmers, and find out what was being offered. There are more options for local food besides farmers markets. Some farmers sell directly from the farm; there are CSAs offering a set amount of food to their members each week; and some restaurants specialize in local cuisine. You can find sources of food local to you by checking www.LocalHarvest.org.
A real awakening came when they realized that if the trucks did stop coming, there wouldn’t be enough local food to serve everyone and it would be a community-wide problem. So, besides making sure they could find enough food to make it through the winter, they began to plan what it would take to grow their own food. This was a group project and I would hear discussions of who could keep a cow, who could store enough potatoes for the group, how much of this or that would they need for a year, etc. You can find out more about this project at Homeplace Earth.
Not enough local food is a community problem. As much as we gardeners like to think how self-sufficient we are, we need to keep in mind that there is a whole community that needs to be fed. It can mean opportunity to those who are just getting into selling what they grow. Instead of going for microgreens, heirloom tomatoes, or whatever the current hot crop is, working through a project such as the 100 Mile Food Plan could identify what is missing locally and a grower could seek to fill that niche. Of course, until the trucks actually do stop coming, more work needs to be done to educate the public on how to prepare and eat complete meals made of only locally produced ingredients. What part can you play in developing a community-wide local food system?
Learn more about Cindy Conner and what she’s up to at www.HomeplaceEarth.Wordpress.com.