–by Kelly Sanderbeck, Annual Fund Manager & Story Catcher
Most people are not aware that even if they buy locally-raised meat, it often needs to be sent hundreds of miles away to be processed, which adds stress on the animals and a larger carbon footprint. With that in mind, the local food movement is looking to expand local processing. Meat raised and processed locally doesn’t require huge feedlots or necessitate the over-use of antibiotics, which has become a public health issue. The Union of Concerned Scientists and the American Academy of Pediatrics assert that such farming practices endanger people who grow ill from resistant bacteria but cannot be treated with standard antibiotic therapies. Consumer Reports also finds that a majority of Americans want meat raised without antibiotics to be sold at local supermarkets.
Eating less meat can also help tackle climate change. At Terra Madre, the Slow Food International Convention, some proposed that eating 20% less meat and having it cost 20% more would allow small farmers to have a secure livelihood, generate less carbon emissions, and create a healthier populace. “The primary threat to food security remains the consumption of resource-intensive food by wealthy nations, such as meat,” says Professor Ian Roberts of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
On to the people behind our food, where the United States isn’t the only country facing the graying of farmers. In our country the average age of a farmer is 58, but in Japan it’s 66. This statistic is even more alarming as only 12% of Japan’s land is farmable and they currently import 60% of their food. Not only is food security at stake, but the loss of a culture and a way of life are threatened.
In brighter news, innovations and new media are encouraging children of farmers to leave the city and go back to the farm. Similar efforts are occurring in the states, as in the case of the Greenhorns and the National Young Farmers Coalition.
According to a recent survey, 78% of new farmers ranked lack of capital and 68% ranked land access as top challenges for beginners, although leasing land continues to be an option for farmers without the money or interest to own their own farm.
Young Washington State farmer Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm describes the draw of farming this way: “The rush of independence and accomplishment the soil returns, be it lamb chop or fresh cut of kale, is the most wonderfully visceral thing I have yet to experience. Everyone has to eat, and never before has eating healthy food been more important.”
Also check out this GoodFood World article, about our own PCC Natural Markets, the largest food co-op in the country, who walks its talk day after day, doing the work of vetting products for us and engendering trust with every item we buy.
“The participatory nature of local food systems holds tremendous power; not merely to secure and understand the cycle and source of our nourishment, but to reawaken a sense of responsibility for and toward the communities in which we live. To assume accountability for our food is to assume accountability for our lives.” –Ben Hewitt, The Town that Food Saved