As I alluded to in my email to you last week, the drought in California continues to be pressing, and urgent. California grows a significant portion, more than half, of the US’s field crops and the financial impacts of the prolonged drought are starting to be seen. When you consider too, how damaging the greening disease has been in Florida to the citrus crop, driving orange and citrus prices skywards too, and also that fire blight is gaining traction in some orchards, you start to get the sense of how fragile our food system really is, and how much we take it for granted.
Having been born in a country where food security is a luxury, along with running water and shelter, food always held great value. We were chastised for not finishing a meal, leaving food out to spoil, or throwing it away. My gran in particular, who also lived through the some trying global economic times, wasted nothing. Food was sacred, and every bit from peel to core was used for something, and then used again in repurposed left over dishes like casseroles and soups. Bubble and squeak was a regular, end-of-week dish in which the refrigerator was emptied into a grand pot and simmered with stock for the humans, or plain water for the dogs. Every morsel was used.
Sometimes I like to play a game of ‘what if’ . . . a game my aunt invented to keep us entertained in the car on long trips, or when we had long waits in lines at banks. What if . . . it rained jelly tots and custard? That was how it usually started, imaginary situations and outlandish ideas. But recently I have found myself playing the game with graver outcomes. What if the drought in California isn’t resolved in the next few years? What if Florida continues to lose orange crops? I can tell you from where I sit, with a window into the world of how food moves, we are in serious trouble – and I haven’t even introduced declining bee populations, mono-cropping, GMO’s, receding top soil, or any other myriad of issues circling around.
It is so easy to feel overwhelmed, like there is nothing you can do, it’s out of your control, or to not think of it at all, the grocery stores are always stocked after all. How many of us grab our cart and stop to imagine empty shelves in the fresh food aisle? It’s not something we’ve ever had to consider, although it happens elsewhere in the world regularly. How lucky are we? Darn lucky! And I hope we never ever have that experience, none of us, nor our children. Part of ensuring that is the case is doing exactly what we are doing, you and me. We have to build more regional food systems. We should not be relying on Florida for 80% of our citrus, and we should not be relying on California for 80% of our field crops. Just like we should not put the fate of almost all our commodity crops in the hands of a few big Ag companies and their GMO seed. It’s a terrible strategy, and a very risky one.
No, we are far, far better off creating regions rich in local food products, supporting our nearby farmers and food artisans. We create more genetic diversity in our food crops, we grow more resilient food that responds to regional climate and insect pressures, we spread the risk, we generate wealth, we eat better, excesses can feed families who have fallen on hard times, and we have better food cultures in our communities. . . the list of benefits goes on and on. In fact, I can’t think of one reason why it is a bad idea to do this, can you?
So further to my email of last week, I just wanted to validate you, and thank you. We will often think of this person or that as a food hero for all they do for the local food platform. Truthfully though, any person making any local food purchasing decision on a regular basis is a hero in my book. You are the people that are slowly bringing about change, and it’s a commitment, I know because I live it too. But you do it anyway, because you know it’s important, and it is what is best, for you, for our children, for our communities, for everybody. We have deep gratitude every day for your participation, and we think we have the coolest jobs in the world, we get to draw the dots and connect you to your farmer, to your community, and to change.