A Local food system “describes a method of food production and distribution that is geographically localized, rather than national and/or international...In general, local or regional food systems are associated with sustainable agriculture, while the global industrial food system is reliant upon industrial agriculture.”
“Is a collaborative network that integrates sustainable food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste management in order to enhance the environmental, economic, and social health of a particular area”
So why is this important?
It is clear that not is all well in our food and farming systems and often our food is causing harm rather than nourishment. We are eating a disproportionate amount of highly processed foods and we have lost any real connection to food production. Mostly we see food as coming from large supermarkets with our food choices being manipulated by advertising and big business. Farmers and the environment are bearing the cost of Coles and Woolies so called 'cheap food'
Let’s look at some basic facts about the current food production system based on industrial agriculture and global food empires. According to information from the FAO (United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation) Global food empires control 80% of world agriculture and promotes monoculture farming. Industrial agriculture is:
Local food systems and local food economies are about changing these appalling statistics
How can we help create this change?
We need to recognise that there is no such thing as cheap food. Up until the 1960’s a farmers received 90% of the $ value of the food produced; today the farmer gets 10%. This has to change. Another economic viewpoint is possible and necessary. It is time to reconsider our role as consumers. We need to go beyond the passive role of consuming and take an interest in those who produce our food; how they produce it; and the problems they face in doing so. In actively supporting food producers, we become part of the production process. The term co-producer was coined by Slow Food to highlight how collectively our consumer choices can bring great change to how food is cultivated, produced and distributed.
As co-producers we do have the power and ability to create change.
A co-producer relationship is one of mutual support and commitment between farmers “consumers” . When “consumers” obtain food from local farmers, they are directly supporting sustainable agriculture in their community as well as receiving the freshest available produce. This relationship between producers and consumers can underpin the kind of understanding that leads to long-term commitment and tolerance amongst consumers. It can also encourage consumers to consider their wider behaviour and practices, perhaps leading to more radical changes to production–consumption relationships. Through our food choices we can collectively influence how food is cultivated, produced and distributed, and as a result bring about great change.
Next week (part 2) I will look at the role Farmers Markets have in (re)developing, sustainable and local food systems.
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm