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Regional Food Usage and Security was NYTimes.com Article: Arkansas Rice Farmers Run Dry, and U.S. Remedy ...

  • Subject: [cg] Regional Food Usage and Security was NYTimes.com Article: Arkansas Rice Farmers Run Dry, and U.S. Remedy ...
  • From: "Sharon Gordon" gordonse@one.net
  • Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 17:58:51 -0500

Adam asked...
> The questions: What can community gardeners do to fight hunger in this
> country? How can community gardeners best support sustainable agriculture?
> How can we best use our power as consumers and our votes as citizens to
> ends?

For starters, community gardeners can continue on the path they are already
on and invite more people to join them.

But if we could have our wildest dreams, here are a bunch of things I love
to see:

***Wild Dream Mode On***
1A) A group of people consisting of community gardeners, grocers,
restauranteurs, urban planners, farmers, home gardeners, Slow Food members,
sustainability experts, local value added food producers, woodlot managers,
forestry experts, reforesters, Soup Kitchen patrons, ecologists, etc. who
would look at what is produced in the region and what comes from outside?
Also what is being transported outside the region?

Then for this group to ask what could be grown/produced here that we don't
have enough of?  Then to enlist people to learn how to grow it, and to help
set up whatever is needed to grow it in a sustainable
organic/biointensive/permaculture way, and to distribute/sell it locally.
(I am compressing a lot of steps here, as it would be possible to write a
book on doing just this topic.) To set progressive goals for food, fuel,
fiber, construction, etc. security, reuse, recycling, composting .  I'd love
to see every  region producing at least 90% of what they use.

1B) Improving on 1A by applying the concept of Mile Square Living.  Mile
Square Living is where you locate your house on the map.  Then you mark
points 1 mile to North, West, East, and South.  Then you draw a square with
one of these 4 points as the midpoint of each side.  The result is a square
which is 2 miles on each side, or a block of 4 square miles.  Cliffs or
rivers not withstanding, most any point is less than a 20 minute walk from
your house.

The object then of Mile Square Living is to try to meet all your needs for
food, shelter, recreation, friendship, work, education, etc within your
square.  What's available in your square?  What's missing?  If you look at
your block as the center rather than your house, are other people missing
the same thing you are?  If so are there people who might create, provide,
or sell it who would be willing to?

Or can you redefine what you need?  For example, instead of paying $200 a
semester and driving your kids across town for soccer league, could you
reserve a school field every wednesday afternoon and let the kids play a
pickup game, with the teams changing every week and the older ones coaching
the younger ones? Everyone can walk/bike, and only 1 or 2 parents would be
needed on a rotating basis for safety/supervising/insurance requirements.

2) To have grocers label food according to its place of origin. Perhaps by
the county for the county you are in and any adjacent counties, the rest by
state or country.  And along with with this I'd like to see an educational
campaign explaining why local is better(nutrition, ecology, security,
investment in local workers...).  Although I have no problem with
encouraging state pride, depending on where you are located, reasonably
close food could be in the next state. Consider for example the situations
of Rhode Island vs Houston, TX and what might be a close region for each.

3) Extensive use of Eliot Coleman's 4 Season Harvest system.  Extending the
use of Coleman's method.  Can his method be used to grow oranges and bananas
in NC for example.  Does it work to do the reverse of his method and  use
shade cloth, and natural earth cooling to create an Alpine type house to
grow cabbages in Arizona?

4) Using more local public and private land to grow what is needed locally.
For Permaculture/biointensive/One Circle/heirloom Garden of Eden(or insert
other culturally appropriate idealized garden here) style plantings to be
the norm for every home yard, new Habitat for Humanity house, school,
resort, camp, business and nonwild portions of planted parks.

New construction designed to grow food and other useful plants on all roofs,
and balconies, while still supporting maximum snow loads.  For training in
this and relevant other skills to be steadily taught all through school and
offered to adults in the community as well.

To encourage people to Plant a Row (or More) for the Hungry and donate to
the Food Bank, Soup Kitchens,  Kid's Cafes, or to seniors who are no longer
able to garden.

To have more things incorporated into community gardens such as space for
weddings, meetings, ampitheaters, playgrounds in center for plot holders'
kids, chicken coops/tractors on plots, beekeeping on plots.

To have bigger community garden plots (standard UK plot is about 30x100 feet
and most allow fruit trees to be grown on part of the plot and have room for
small sheds/chickens/bees/small ponds--can you tell I have plot envy? :-) ).

5) Encouragement and education in seasonal eating.  In the process in item
#1 to make sure there is good variety to make this possible.  Revaluing
time, or perhaps reprioritizing tasks so that gardening and cooking a
nutritious dinner is seen as more valuable than watching a rerun on TV.
Traditional cooking skills are slipping so much that many people would need
training in how to do much of the cooking from natural fresh foods.

The current state of affairs is perhaps most humorously/sadly exemplified by
a conversation relayed to me by a woman I will call Natural Food Sister.
Her sister, Fast Food Sister, was over visiting and it got close to dinner
time.  They were trying to decide what to do for dinner.
NFS: What would you like for dinner?
FFS: I dunno.  Whatcha got?
NFS: Have a look around and see what you might like.
FFS: (Looks in cabinets and fridge, and turns around with look of puzzled
disgust.) There's nothing to eat in here.  All you've got is...is a bunch of
INGREDIENTS! Let's go out and get something.

6) Community canning kitchens available for preservation of some of the
food.  For people to learn to make and use solar dryers.  Training and
recipes for making your own value added food for home use or local sales.
However, if planning, 4 season harvest techniques, and seasonal eating are
going well, not as much will need to be preserved as much more will be
available fresh.  But it's useful to have a stockpile from a security
standpoint.  Some communities might enjoy reviving the community bread oven.

7) If all of the above are going well there is likely to be a significant
reduction in nonreusable packaging.  At this point though, it could be
helpful to ask, "Are things being thrown away? What are they? What could be
used instead that is reusable or recyclable?"   And then do a planning
process as in item #1 to make these improvements to the local system.

8) Training in solar cooking and rocket stoves.

9) More regional heirloom seed/plant/scion saving/exchange.  Training in
seed saving, grafting, breeding.

10) To evaluate and reevaluate the region's social needs and desires.  To
some degree, this needs to be done along with Item #1AB in order for
anything to else to work.  But once Items #1-8 are well under way, many
people will have a different view of what they want, and their region will
have changed.  So another opportunity for community brainstorming could be
very fruitful.

Now that the making a living part is in better shape, people can devote more
time to making the living worthwhile, though hopefully a significant part of
that is already built in. This is the time to ask things like:

Does everyone who wants/needs employment have it?
Does everyone have a safe, pleasant place to live?
Now that we don't need our soup kitchen anymore, can we turn it into a teen
coffee/dance house?
Are we still paying for people to give us fun or have we figured out ways to
create our own?
What skills would we like to learn that would add joy/value to our lives?
Is there anyone still substituting drugs for a real life?  If so what sort
of things might be offered to help them gain a real life?
How much time are we spending watching people pretend to have a life on TV
or are we enjoying having a real life ourselves?
What sort of projects can we offer to help with that are needed/wanted in
our region--gardening or house repair for partially disabled seniors at
their houses, Habitat houses, Big Brother/Sister, preserving local history
through oral/video history interviews, classes for new community
gardeners... ?
How can we encourage more people to participate in creating music and art
rather than only listening to it or viewing it?

11) Repeating Items 1AB and 10 on a regular basis to fine tune what is
needed accomplished, and created in the region.

***Wild Dream Mode Off***

Ingrediently yours,
Teach a person to garden and s/he will have a delicious life.

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