By Michael Brownlee
The local food shift is gaining significant traction in Boulder County, growing well beyond the euphoric early adopter stage into early majority territory. It is unfolding so rapidly and so unpredictably that it could well be called a revolution.
If it hasn’t already, the issue of local food is about to land on the desks of public officials and political candidates, perhaps even in unexpected ways. One candidate, aware of this shift, contacted Transition Colorado and requested “talking points” on this important issue. What follows here is a very preliminary and incomplete briefing intended to help all officials and candidates quickly bone up on some of the major issues and prepare to deal with the challenges that are coming their way.
Since our current food-related laws and policies were created — and most public officials were elected or appointed — long before the local food shift began to take hold, familiarity with these issues could be crucial not only to candidates’ political future, but also the well-being of the communities they serve.
Roots of the local food shift
The essence of this nascent movement is food localization — shifting from the globalized, industrialized food system on which we all are dependent for our food needs to a resilient and self-reliant locally based food supply system, where communities are able to provision their own essential food needs by relying on bio-intensive production methods that restore soil, rekindle connection with the land and rebuild community.
The upcoming EAT LOCAL! Week (Aug. 27 through Sept. 4), organized by Boulder-based Transition Colorado, could be seen as an early cultural expression of the local food shift in Boulder County, combining a community celebration of local food and farming, an experiential connection with the local culture that is emerging around local food, and the recognition of new food and farming enterprises that may presage a new era in the local economy.
What it all portends is that many people in Boulder County are making the local food shift in earnest.
The significant benefits of food localization are well known and worth repeating:
Health: Returning to a seasonal, mostly organic local diet will significantly improve the health of our communities, especially our children, and dramatically reduce health care costs.
Environment: Shrinking our “foodshed,” which now stretches around the globe, will not only reduce food-miles, but bio-intensive cultivation methods will also sequester carbon in the soil, making food localization one of the most effective approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Economy: Rebuilding our local food system is one of the most important strategies for strengthening our local economy; food localization can create new jobs and generate hundreds of millions in new economic activity.
It should be said that this local food shift is not the reincarnation of the “back to the land” movement, nor a nostalgic return to an imagined past. While the movement occasionally draws upon ancient and even indigenous knowledge, its roots are much more recent.
Demand for access
For many, the local food shift appears to have emerged spontaneously over the past several years from a demand among our citizens for increased access to fresh, organic, healthy food grown close to where we live, preferably by people we know and trust — maybe even by ourselves. It was what we wanted for our children, for our families, for our own bodies and for our own well-being.
Inspired and informed by authors and speakers like Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, Joel Salatin and Will Allen, and jarred awake by such films as Food Inc. and The World According to Monsanto, many people saw something new appearing in our troubled society, an inspiring cultural shift. Long before anyone was calling it a movement, there was something wholesome about this local food shift. And there was a strong undercurrent of joyfulness, even fun, as we began to rediscover our connection with land and neighbors and food.
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