One of the regular article features in each issue of Southern Soil is Table Talk. In those articles, I have conversations with individuals involved in the local food system to discuss issues related to sustainability and how we can do better. I provide their perspectives for readers to view, but I keep my own side of the conversation out of it.
In this blog series, I’ll be addressing those issues myself. This is the third blog post in this series. In the previous post, I described our current food system here in Southeast Georgia - as I see it.
In this post, I’ll answer the question: what should the food system look like here in Southeast Georgia?
So, in this post I’m going to lay out my own personal utopian food system. This is my world and anything goes, but I will try to keep it within the actual realm of possibility. I mean, ideally, gardens would weed themselves and birds wouldn’t beat me to my ripe blueberries; but we all know that’s never going to happen!
First of all, I think that our local food system should be really, really local. Like, it should start in each every home with each and every individual. Every yard should have a fruit tree or two, maybe a couple blueberry bushes and a blackberry vine. Every patio could have a small fruit tree or a pot of herbs and a few veggies.
Gardens would be even better. But I’m not unrealistic… I get that not everyone has time or the talent to tend to a garden - heck, I don’t plant one every season - but adding fruit trees and berry bushes are a relatively inexpensive way to take part in your own food production.
It’s very possible for people, en masse, to decide to take part in their own food system and to do it effectively! During World War II, all US citizens were encouraged to plant “victory gardens” as their patriotic duty to support the war effort. And they did so! On a grand scale. 20 MILLION home gardens were planted: everything from 1/4 acre lots down to window boxes, people did what they were able to produce as much for themselves and their neighbors as they could. At its peak, the victory garden movement produced 40% of the vegetables grown in the US.
We have proven when properly motivated, our food systems can become VERY local.
Expanding out from the individuals and the homes, my utopian food system would also include gardens at every school, every church, every community center. As with individual “gardens” these could be sized and planned according to resources available. However small the involvement and contribution, it would still be impactful.
But imagine how cool it would be if every school here in Southeast Georgia had its own organic garden. Not only are gardens a wonderful teaching tool, but they could also be a great source for healthier school lunches (and study after study has shown that kids who grow veggies, eat veggies!). What if churches could send parishioners home with fresh picked blueberries or ripe tomatoes? What difference might it make for senior citizens if they were able to help tend a garden and then enjoy the fruits of their labor?
But of course, we can’t all be self-sufficient (and I’m not even suggesting that anyone try). So in our local food systems, there needs to be plenty of farmers who are willing and able to meet growing demand.
In my ideal world, I would be able to go to down the street to a grocery store in my own community and buy local foods produced within 100 miles of my front door. I know for a fact that if I were able to do that, I would have a wealth of high quality, healthy foods to choose from. (How we make that happen is far too complicated to go into while I’m on my utopian dream world high… I’ll address some of those ideas in the next post.)
What should our local food system look like here in Southeast Georgia? It should be a cornucopia of sustainable foods grown right here in our own backyards, communities and farms. Local food should be readily available and just as convenient to buy as conventional foods currently are (and on a more equal footing in price - I’ll get into that more later as well).
How do we bridge the gap from where we are to where we could be? Ahhhh… wouldn’t we all like to know! I’ll do my best to explain some of my own ideas on that topic in my next post. Spoiler alert: it won’t be easy and it will take a united effort from all of us who understand how important this issue is.