Local Food: Transforming Our Food System

The numbers don’t lie: CSA programs, farmers markets and community gardens are booming as Americans shun the industrial food system in favor of local, sustainable alternatives.

| October/November 2013

Local Food

Thousands of ordinary people across the country are launching community-supported agriculture programs, farmers markets and neighborhood gardens — and remaking their communities as they do so.

Photo By Fotolia/princess57

All across this country, ordinary people are remaking the food system. They’re turning away in droves from industrial agriculture toward sustainable and local alternatives.

Driven by concerns about food safety and quality, as well as disgust with inhumane treatment of livestock, people are queuing up to join community-supported agriculture (CSA) ventures — or to start their own farms. They’re launching farmers markets as well as schoolyard and community gardens by the thousands. And they’re revitalizing communities as they do so, getting to know their neighbors and reinvesting in the places where they live.

Steven McFadden, author of The Call of the Land: An Agrarian Primer for the 21st Century, estimates that 6,000 to 6,500 CSA programs are now operating in the United States. Considering that the first two such enterprises were founded in 1986, that’s some significant growth. (To find a CSA program near you, visit Local Harvest.)

Hundreds of beginning farmers are learning their vocation through programs such as Community CROPS (Combining Resources, Opportunities, and People for Sustainability) in Lincoln, Neb., and Farm Beginnings in Illinois, Minnesota and other states. These new farmers are often remarkably creative at finding land to work. Kate Canney, for example, farms two-thirds of an acre spread out over six backyards in her town of Needham, Mass., as well as a 3-acre field that’s part of another farm.

The Edible Schoolyard Project has helped launch more than 2,195 gardens since its creation in 1996. Rooftop gardens are sprouting in many cities, while organizations such as Urban Patchwork, a nonprofit farm network in Austin, Texas, are helping neighborhoods produce quality food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has tracked a 364 percent increase in the number of farmers markets in less than two decades — from 1,755 in 1994 to 8,144 in 2013!

10/22/2013 9:58:24 AM

Thank you for the excellent article on local foods! For more information on the Farm Beginnings program mentioned above, see Angelic Organics Learning Center's website at www.learngrowconnect.org. The Learning Center also facilitates the Upper Midwest CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) Program. The Learning Center is a leader in the local food movement in Northern Illinois with urban farming partnerships in Rockford and Chicago, Farmer Training, On Farm Programs at Angelic Organics CSA Farm, and Civic Engagement to help shape food and farming policies. We can build a sustainable & humane food system together!

10/18/2013 7:18:23 AM

A great update. Our state is voting on the labeling of genetically engineered food. The big GMO companies are sweating because they know they're going to lose in a very big way. What's most troubling is the FDA okayed it's use without We The People's approval which leads me to the question of who got the most money out of their dirty deal......the FDA or the Whitehouse?! I sincerely wish WTP could sue these companies and their government lackeys into the very, very below poverty line.

10/3/2013 3:08:23 AM

This is more than good. With all the GE foods that people have been unknowingly eating and states now wanting them to be clearly labeled on their products. This IS a wake up call to the "big business" food growers. This IS telling them that they've substituted healthy foods for higher profits and we're taking a stand. I love this and, it's long over due. They've driven the small farmer out of business but, now We The People will bring it all back to what America is suppose to be. A much healthier America.

9/30/2013 9:17:08 AM

I am pleased to hear news like this. America cannot wait for the FDA or corporate America to make decosions about the health of our nations families--they're motivation is tainted by profit margins. This is work that has to begin in our neighborhoods!

9/27/2013 8:14:30 AM

Interesting..!! I like this idea of transforming this food system. http://www.selogerneuf.com/immobilier/tout/immo-marseille-13/

9/23/2013 11:28:36 PM

This study of the food system spans multiple subjects, including environmental science, biology and social studies. It can help prepare learners for careers in public health, policy, nutrition, agriculture and a variety of other fields. http://garciniatruth.com/

9/18/2013 12:41:55 PM

I grow local (in my own backyard) or buy local every chance I get. Luckily, it's getting easier all the time because of many like-minded people in my community. We want to know what we're eating, and to enjoy the best-testing and healthiest foods we possibly can.

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