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Introduction - An Excerpt from Rebuilding the Foodshed by Philip Ackerman-Leist

Introduction - An Excerpt from Rebuilding the Foodshed by Philip Ackerman-Leist

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Droves of people have turned to local food as a way to retreat from our broken industrial food system. From rural outposts to city streets, they are sowing, growing, selling, and eating food produced close to home—and they are crying out for agricultural reform. All this has made "local food" into everything from a movement buzzword to the newest darling of food trendsters. But now it's time to take the conversation to the next level. That's exactly what Philip Ackerman-Leist does in Rebuilding the Foodshed, in which he refocuses the local-food lens on the broad issue of rebuilding regional food systems that can replace the destructive aspects of industrial agriculture, meet food demands affordably and sustainably, and be resilient enough to endure potentially rough times ahead.

Droves of people have turned to local food as a way to retreat from our broken industrial food system. From rural outposts to city streets, they are sowing, growing, selling, and eating food produced close to home—and they are crying out for agricultural reform. All this has made "local food" into everything from a movement buzzword to the newest darling of food trendsters. But now it's time to take the conversation to the next level. That's exactly what Philip Ackerman-Leist does in Rebuilding the Foodshed, in which he refocuses the local-food lens on the broad issue of rebuilding regional food systems that can replace the destructive aspects of industrial agriculture, meet food demands affordably and sustainably, and be resilient enough to endure potentially rough times ahead.

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Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing on Jan 11, 2013
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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09/17/2013

 
Introduction
Going local. It all seemed so easy. But how do you dene “local ood? Well, you can just start with an imaginary string. Select a point—the center o theamily table—and stretch the string rom there to the point at which “local”ends and something else begins, using the string as a radius to circumscribethe “local” circle.No, no, that doesn’t quite work. It’s just a dierent kind o circular reason-ing. Hmmm. Maybe “local” should be a given distance, a town boundary,a county boundary, a state boundary, a culturally distinctive area, a water-shed, or even a unky “oodshed”? Tidy, perhaps, but probably too simple.Okay, so let’s try “ood miles”—that makes it less arbitrary. Stretch thestring rom point A, the center o your table, to point B, the arm. Hmmm . . . but the ood product went rom the arm to a processing acility to a storagewarehouse to a distribution center and then to the grocery store, to where you had to drive to pick it up. Or at least you chose to drive, even though youcould have easily ridden a bicycle. Oh, heck, orget it. Let’s just all start using the same gure o “the average ood item in the United States travels approxi-mately 1,500 miles to get to your table.” Problem solved. Temporarily, at least.Meanwhile, there’s a split screen displayed on the nearby computer, show-ing Webster’s online dictionary on the let so you can look or denitionso “local” and Google Maps on the right so you can see what a 1,500-mile-radius rom your home address looks like. Suddenly, a headline fashesacross your computer screen as a news alert: “Local Trumps Organic.” As you stare into the screen, pondering the complexities o it all, a tweet romOprah abruptly appears, inorming you that she is now at her avorite arm-ers’ market buying Chioggia beets (“Oh, the splash o color they’ll make ona salad with those concentric circles o red and white!”). No sooner has yourattention been diverted by Oprah’s digitized epiphany than a beep rom your computer indicates that a new word has just been added to the Englishlexicon, providing a much-welcomed (and somewhat sel-congratulatory)label: “I’m a
locavore
!” At last, sel-actualization with a community fair! Butwait, is that new word spelled with or without a second
l
?
 
xxvi |
 Rebuilding the Foodshed
Thinking about our local ood radius isn’t an exercise in circular reason-ing. It is, in act, an important starting point or thinking about the roleo local oods in our daily lives and our communities. But we can’t stopthere. The ultimate goal is or us as individuals and as communities tothink more complexly about community-based ood
systems
. Part o thatthinking involves cultivating our imaginations and seeding our aspirationswith relevant examples—some o them rom nearby, others imported romdistant lands and eras. The stories o these examples serve as touchstonesand springboards; they are tales o hope and, on occasion, o caution.The good news in the renaissance o more localized ood systems is thathope and appropriate scale tend to be close allies. Individuals and commu-nities discover empowerment through the promise o even the smallesto intentions, and small successes pave the way to even bigger dreams.Yet there is a curious irony in the act that the drivers o this hopeulnessrequent the downside o so many dierent bell curves. We ace shortageso oil, water, ertilizers, productive land, agricultural biodiversity, and evenarmers. Then, as i agriculture isn’t already challenging enough, we nd theweather and the climate becoming increasingly volatile and unpredictable.Despite these challenges, a pragmatic optimism is rising among advocatesor more sustainable and localized ood systems.Naive? I don’t think so. The rapid rise o environmental constraints thatchallenge a sae and reliable ood supply requires that we intensiy thequest or sustainable ood production, particularly in our home regions.The social inequities and health problems so evident in the United Statesorce us to reexamine the links between our national ood system and theproblematic aspects o our individual diets. And the economy is like theweather, volatile and unpredictable, requiring us to seek and create shelterin the security o the amiliar—our local communities.Probability and possibility intersect here. The probability that all o these challenges—environmental, social, and economic—will increase involume and velocity brings us to the brink o possibilities, both positive andnegative. The deault response—a response but by no means a solution—isto maintain the status quo. In contrast, one critical and creative response(albeit not a panacea) is the rebuilding o community-based ood systems.The work involved in developing these local ood systems requires that we

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