Growing Locally - Now More Important Than Ever
by Elizabeth Wolf, Grant Coordinator
The local foods movement is growing, and not a moment too soon. As gasoline and food prices skyrocket, flooding and climate change threaten food production, and factory farming and GMOs decrease the nutritional value of our food, growing and buying where we live is now more important than ever. As Caryl Guisinger, of Central Nebraska Concerned Citizens, recently noted in the Grand Island Independent, the typical distance from farm to table - known as "food miles" - now exceeds 1,100 miles. Our food often comes from such far-off countries as Kenya, China, New Zealand, and South Africa. "Add to this a devalued U.S. dollar, decline of small and family farms, the explosive growth of global factory farming, proliferation of genetically modified seeds and foods, decreased food production due to drought and global climate change, an ever-increasing reliance upon imported food and we have a recipe for disaster just waiting to happen," Guisinger writes.
Growing locally not only averts potential disaster but also enhances our individual and collective well being on multiple levels. Guisinger again: "Growing locally connects us to the land. Growing locally connects us to our neighbors and community. Growing locally rewards consumers with exceptional taste and freshness. Growing locally saves money by not paying increasingly higher costs for 'food miles.' Growing locally reduces the environmental impact. Growing locally strengthens the local economy by keeping your dollars circulating in your community. Growing locally builds relationships with farmers and neighbors who produce your food. And last but not least, growing locally raises our food security by not only knowing where your food comes from, but most importantly, knowing what exactly is in your food." Indeed, the Soil Association found that organic food has significantly higher levels of all 21 nutrients.
Fortunately, Americans' own past offers a model for local, smallscale production: the "Victory Gardens" of World Wars I and II. With commercial food supplies earmarked for soldiers overseas, citizens had to grow their own vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens to feed their families. In response to a call by the U.S. government, some 20 million Americans produced 8 million tons of food in 1943 alone, Guisinger reports. Here in Nebraska that same year, 53 percent of city families planted Victory Gardens, according to the State Historical Society.