Posted by: Mahdi Ebrahimi | April 20, 2008

Food security can begin with planting local gardens

It is certainly time to address federal agriculture subsidies — whether or not they will be cut, they should certainly be redistributed.

Farming has become an industry dependent on petroleum products, and food is no longer food but a product, a commodity. The extractive practice of mono-cropping and chemical fertilization is ruining the biodiversity of our land and causing losses in topsoil. It is time to not only to look at agriculture subsidies but also to critique the entire industry and transition into a sustainable system.

The way we are presently feeding ourselves is not sustainable. As each passing year results in another handful of small farmers losing their land and livelihoods, a handful of large corporations accumulate greater wealth. Our food security is no longer in the hands of farmers on the land but executives in boardrooms. The subsidies intended to assist in the production of food are predominately used to grow grains for export, which force farmers in developing countries to lose their land and livelihoods.

Due to dependence on petroleum products for transport and fertilizers, rising oil prices contribute significantly to rising food costs worldwide, resulting in the “food riots” we are watching in the developing world. Since the food products on our grocery shelves have traveled on average about 1,500 miles before they reach the aisles, imagine what might happen in our nation if our truckers were to strike in protest of high prices for fuel.

Fixing the farm bill is crucial to low-income households that depend upon food stamps and nutrition programs and free or reduced meal programs in schools. But food security can also be remedied with a shift in the way we think about our food.

We should voice our preference for locally grown foods and support farmers and new farmers in our region. We should also shift the way we look at organic agriculture and insist on affordability and increased access rather than settling for the pricey trendy fad that organics have become.

Locally grown, fresh organic produce should be available to all. It’s not just food — but JUST food!

In the meantime, to offset rising food prices, we should garden in our yards by removing lawn and raising vegetables. We can start community gardens on vacant land in our neighborhoods, particularly in the center-city. It is amazing how much food can be grown for the kitchen on less than 100 square feet.



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