BY JIM EMBRY
“When I read about California experiencing a water emergency because of severe drought conditions I wonder which planet Mayor Newberry and his select committee live on because 90 percent of our food comes from California — and like Detroit — the ride of our destructive, unhealthy food system is over.”
On Earth Day, we remind ourselves of the sacred relationships between human beings and the entire Earth community that are woven into a web of interconnectedness and interdependence. The sustainability movement allows us, human beings, the opportunity to restore our sacred connections with Mother Earth and all of her children while enhancing the manifestation of our own deeper humanity. The restoration and practice of our sacred connections to the Earth is the Great Work of our time ala Thomas and Wendell Berry.
Building a local sustainable Food System
In reading the stimulus package proposals that Mayor Jim Newberry and his local team formulated and which was designed to provide a listing of “shovel ready” projects, I found interesting the absence of any projects having to do with local food production. There were no new projects listed to support local farmers and producers short of a farmer’s market pavilion.
There was no mention of money to build much needed food processing plants. Where was the mention of supporting the shovel-ready community gardening movement with green houses, fulltime staff, or hiring youth green corps members, aquaculture projects like Will Allen’s work in Growing Power in Milwaukee and Chicago? This exclusion left me wondering what planet do they live on? Don’t they understand that the food system is the foundation of all other human systems. Can’t they see that not only is the financial system —or better called capitalistic Greed System —in disarray and melting down, but our food system has been melting down for years now? The food system meltdown has been caused by the same people—greedy globalized gangsters or food system “bankers”and “investors.” They have “invested” in such schemes as: creating toxic chemicals that poison the Earth thus producing a very unhealthy ecosystem; hijacking local community food systems and “gifting” us with a globalized food system that moves people off the land, destroys forests, creates deserts, and produces poor quality “food,” unhealthy human beings, unhealthy soil that was once fertile lands and polluted air and water that all wind up in our bodies.
In Kentucky, we don’t have to wait until the food system melts down before we restore our sanity and health. When I read about California experiencing a water emergency because of severe drought conditions I wonder which planet the mayor and his select committee live on because 90 percent of our food comes from California — and like Detroit — the ride of our destructive, unhealthy food system is over.
While in Kansas City in January attending Breaking the Silence-Building Sustainable Earth Community conference, I learned that the Ogallala aquafier which stretches from South Dakota to Texas (remember the US Breadbasket?) is ALSO drying up and creating all sorts of tensions between farmers and cities. These drought conditions in the US are just a small example of similar drought conditions around the world.
These acute conditions should be seen as a national security issue and a local security issue. At last fall’s Governor’s Conference on the Environmental there was not one workshop or speaker that discussed our agricultural system. Is not growing food connected to the environment? It’s about time that Mayor Newberry and the Governor start thinking out of the box and into the garden to get our state food system house in order … and for goodness sake get a team of advisors who understand the critical need for a quantum approach to food systems.
I encourage them to call for a statewide effort around victory gardens, develop a food security master plan, establish food policy councils, finance food processing plants and distribution centers, get local foods in schools, restaurants, hospitals, get gardens in every school in KY, gardens in all parks, all community centers all government office buildings AND support the hell … well the health … out of our breadbasket … our Kentucky farmers and producers!
Key Aspects of community food system
Four aspects that distinguish community food systems from the globalized food system that typifies the source of most food Americans eat:
• Food security is a key goal of community food systems. While food security traditionally focuses on individual and household food needs, community food security addresses food access within a community context, especially for low-income households. It has a simultaneous goal of developing local food systems.
• Proximity refers to the distance between various components of the food system. In community food systems such distances are generally shorter than those in the dominant or global food system. This proximity increases the likelihood that enduring relationships will form between different stakeholders in the food system — farmers, processors, retailers, restaurateurs, consumers, etc.
• Self-reliance refers to the degree to which a community meets its own food needs. While the aim of community food systems is not total self-sufficiency (where all food is produced, processed, marketed and consumed within a defined boundary), increasing the degree of self-reliance for food, to be determined by a community partnership, is an important aspect of a community food system.
• Sustainability refers to following agricultural and food system practices that do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their food needs. Sustainability includes environmental protection, profitability, ethical treatment of food system workers, and community development.
Sustainability of the food and agriculture system is increased when a diversified agriculture exists near strong and thriving markets, when non-renewable inputs required for every step in the food system are reduced, when farming systems rely less on agri-chemical fertilization and pest control, and when citizen participation in
food system decision-making is enhanced.
The CommonHEALTH of Kentucky, by Jim Embry, Ace, March 2007
Taking responsibility for growing our own food and medicine in our own neighborhood is the easiest and most effective way of guaranteeing our own health and that of our particular patch of biosphere.
Community gardening involves people learning how to live and work
together for the common health and can serve as both a catalyst and a framework
for reinventing ourselves and reestablishing our sacred connection
with the earth community.
Community gardening literally roots us in a common Truth, a Truth
born of Nature, a Truth born of Interconnectedness. Perhaps this observation was what prompted Thomas Jefferson, in the autumn of his years, to observe, “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, no culture comparable to that of the garden, and though an old man I am but a young gardener.” ■
From Food for Thought, by Jim Embry, ACE Weekly March 2007