Less Noise, More Green: Food security can start in our own backyards

Monday, March 3, 2014

Food security can start in our own backyards

Local food production, urban farming

Do you worry about food security where you live?

Last week there was an article in our statewide paper, the Providence Journal, about a report by the US Department of Agriculture on the state of agriculture in Rhode Island. Bear with these statistics, I do have a point!

local food production, urban farming, Rhode Island farming

The number of farms in Rhode Island has doubled in the last decade, while the national number has fallen. Rhode Island farms are small, the average size being just 56 acres, with a third of the farms being under nine acres.  A third of our farmers have less than ten years experience and only 4%  of farms in Rhode Island gross $250,000 or more annually. The picture painted is of an emerging new generation of farmers who are producing on a small scale for a local market. Farmland prices are very high in Rhode Island and that does factor into the small size of the farms.

local food production, urban farming, Rhode Island farming
Treasures from a local farmer's market.
Rhode Island has a growing local food movement fueled by a network of farmers markets, CSAs and a farm to restaurant ethic. We have a state dairy farm co-op producing milk, a seafood industry,  growing pastured meat sector and a flourishing interest in urban agriculture with growing numbers of community gardens in Rhode Island cities. Local Grants are available to farmers for all types of programs and local government is considering bills to legalize the sale of raw milk in Rhode Island and a law requiring all foods to be labelled if they contain GMOs.

local food production, urban farming, RI farming
Apple picking at a local farm.

All this makes it sound like Rhode Island is a model for the local food movement, right? Well, in many ways it is a good example, but here's the kicker - according to the same report, even after all of the above  indicators of a growing farm industry and signs of a healthy local food economy, Rhode Island is producing only one percent of the food that Rhode Islander's eat. One percent! We have no food security.

Last year I grew peanuts and made  my own peanut butter

When we look at the current climate problems our nation is facing, with drought in California and frosts and freezing in Florida and the Mid West, and the impact this will have on our national food supply this year, we can see that our national agricultural system is flawed. Reliance on food from other parts of the country ( let alone the world) leaves us vulnerable.

The bottom line is we need more local food production and we need a local economic environment that makes farming attractive and viable.

Preserving food for the winter is one way to increase food security.

As a home grower working to make my urban property productive and sustainable, this report encourages and inspires me to continue with my efforts. There are many reasons for us to be involved in producing our own food. This winter has highlighted for me the fact that our food security is very fragile. The more self-sufficient we are, the less dependent we will be on an unpredictable national food supply. We all need to grow what we can, support our local farmers and let our representatives know our thoughts on local government support for local food production.

Are you able to buy food directly from farms? Do you think your local government is supportive of local food production?


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