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Now more than ever, we need local food

June 22, 2010

The slow, slow progress of this growing season is difficult to accept.  The salad greens are wonderful, but we’re craving the brighter colors we associate with summer, and the latest news is more delay.  We’ll have strawberries in the store this week (and hooray for that!), but we’ve been told we must wait a bit longer for blueberries and cherries.

It’s the other news, however, that really strikes a chill.  Oil in the Gulf of Mexico may be a thousand miles and more away, but the impact of the disaster is staining everyone’s beach.  Oil and food are all too closely related.  Read The End of Food by Paul Roberts, for example, or Eating Fossil Fuels by Dale Allen Pfeiffer for a fuller understanding of this sober situation, but be aware, at least, of the single fact that 90% of what it takes to bring “regular” food from the globalized food system to the table is fossil energy, oil gas and coal involved in every phase of food production and delivery.  One outcome of the tragedy is certain.  Future deepwater drilling in the Gulf will be far more costly (if it happens at all), and those costs will be immediately reflected in the cost of food.  It is more and more widely accepted now that worldwide peak oil production is already behind us, and so the catastrophic Gulf oil event will only exacerbate the problems of declining oil supplies, all too soon to be reflected in declining food supplies.

Meanwhile, in the Arctic, polar sea ice extent has been melting at a faster rate this spring than it did in 2007, when ice surface set an all time low record, air temperatures around the polar region have been running 4 to 9 degrees above average, and ice volume (reflecting the thinning of the polar ice layer) is down drastically, 32% below the 30 year May average.  These are strong predictors of accelerating global warming, and all the negative impacts that is sure to have on food supplies.

So here we are, wanting our cherries and tomatoes because we know how wonderful they are, and having to wait considerably longer than we would like for them, but also needing our local food because we can see that the time is coming when the globalized food system will let us down.

We don’t have nearly enough farms and farmers in Kitsap County to feed our population.  Somehow, we need to convince more of our neighbors to produce food, and we must support them when they do.  FreshLocal, along with farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA’s), are here for that reason, to make the local connection and start building the strength we’ll need in the tougher times to come.

Our local farmers are having a really tough time this year.  They have planted crops that failed, and they’ve had to replant.  They’ve lost sales of the failed crops and had to pony up extra expense for the new ones.  Farming is hard work anyway, even when the sun shines, but this spring it’s been tough to keep spirits up.  Now is the time for the community to step up with strong support.  It will take years of sustained effort to create the food supply we need to sustain us in the future,  and this is a really good time to rally round.

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