So, What is a Local Sustainable Food System?

Because our focus here at Southern Soil is all about local, sustainable food, it's probably a good idea to clarify what we mean by those terms. After all, it's hard to have a discussion about an issue that's not clearly defined.

Let's start with "local". Local food is defined by the USDA as "the direct or intermediated marketing of food to consumers that is produced and distributed in a limited geographic area. There is no pre-determined distance to define what consumers consider 'local,' but a set number of miles from a center point or state/local boundaries is often used.  More importantly, local food systems connect farms and consumers at the point of sale."

It continues, "Consumers, schools, hospitals and other institutions purchase from farms or buy farm products that originate from known, local farms that preserve the identity of the farm for each item. Each of these varied marketing techniques joins farmers and consumers in the local food system. Common sales points are: Farmers markets, pick-your-own farms, farm stands, community supported agriculture (CSA) partnerships."

For the purposes of this magazine, our local food system includes the area of Georgia that is South and East of Milledgeville. From the heart of Georgia to the Golden Isles, Savannah, Statesboro, Waynesboro, Dublin, Vidalia, Waycross, Louisville and all points in between.

While this is a broader area than each individual's own local food system, it is defined narrowly enough so that readers within Southeast Georgia could reasonably visit or attain food from any of the farms and businesses featured.

However, we aim to provide sufficient coverage of the area that you will always be able to find out more about food that is within 50 miles of where you live, work and play. No matter where in Southeast Georgia you live.

Just like "local", "sustainable" is also a word with some ambiguity to the definition and is also somewhat subjective. 

For the purposes of this magazine, "sustainable" means that the farms and or businesses producing our local food are engaging in practices that look to the long-term health of the land. Put succinctly, sustainability is the ability to meet our current needs while not impairing the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

In terms of agriculture and food production, this means that methods are used which take more than just the bottom line into consideration. Practices that build good soil instead of simply supplementing it with chemical additives, integrated pest control that allow for a balanced ecology, water management and conservation that makes the best use of a precious resource, using the synergistic relationship between animals and the land for the best health of both. These are the kinds of practices and approaches to agriculture that we at Southern Soil aim to promote.

"Organic" has become one of the latest buzz words in consumerism and it is certainly a good thing. But far too often, products that are labeled "organic" can be seen as superior even if they originated in China or arrive on your plate via a can.

We happen to think that even though a green bean grown right here locally may not have jumped through the right hoops to obtain the "organic" label, if it was grown locally and grown by people who make an effort not to use chemicals and those people are more than happy to answer your questions about what went into growing that green bean, including inviting you over to see one in the field... then by golly, that fresh green bean that was just picked this morning, is a better option than the one with an "organic" label sitting in a can on a shelf at the grocery store.

And when it comes to meat, well that's a subject that merits it's very own post, but you just can't find better meat than what comes from an animal that was allowed to live out its life the way nature intended.

Supporting your local sustainable farmers here in Southeast Georgia means so much more than just putting some great food on your table. It means that you're doing your part to leave a better world for the next generation, you're making an impact on animal welfare, and you're supporting the local economy!