Think Globally - Act Locally

Think Globally – Act Locally.  Yeah, sure, it’s a bumper sticker slogan, but even so those four simple words are packed with insight and wisdom.  This is particularly true when applied to the sourcing of food.

In contrast with the industrial agri-business model, local and sustainable farms at their best compliment, benefit and work with, not against, the natural world. 

Consider the following:

Consider the following:

Energy -  Locally produced food uses far less fuel in transportation, as it usually is sourced within a 200 mile radius - often much less - (while the Big Ag model averages about 1,300 miles from field to plate.)  This proximity to its markets also lowers overall energy use, as the need for refrigeration, storage and processing is negligible.  This is very significant since the burning of fossil fuels are the number one cause of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Biodiversity- Small scale, local, sustainable farmers, especially those practicing permaculture, enhance biodiversity.  They cultivate a wide variety of plants, including hundreds of heirloom strains (unlike Industrial Ag, which emphasizes about a dozen crops, with particular dominance given to the Big Five; corn, soybeans, wheat, sugar beets and cotton.)  This insures a wide diversity of plants as heirloom seed stocks are saved and preserved.  Instead of the wide spectrum application of insecticides to deal with potential pests (which kills all insects indiscriminately), biological methods are used, which enhances beneficial insects, such as pollinators, and provides food for a variety of bird species.

Water- Big Ag intensively uses pesticides, herbicides, insecticides fungicides and natural gas based fertilizers (which results in chemical laden run-off  into streams, rivers, lakes and ponds contributing to eutrophication of those waterways, as well the ocean dead zones, like that in the Gulf of Mexico; not to mention the host of harmful effects of oil and natural gas extraction,) while sustainable farming uses biological methods of pest and disease control and eschews synthetic fertilizers in favor of animal manures, composting and nitrogen-fixing covercrops.  Industrial Agri-business is also an extremely water intensive endeavour, with its water usage increasing on a continual basis.  Planting water hungry crops in dry environments greatly increases the need for irrigation, salinizing the land and reducing once mighty rivers to a trickle, some no longer even reaching their ocean outlets.  Small scale, sustainable farms, on the other hand, use varied means to deal with water needs.  Rainwater catchments, gray-water recycling and mulching are among these enviro-friendly methods.     

GMOs- Monsanto's genetically-modified organisms, with no regard for the precautionary principle, have been unleashed in the fields of North America, and indeed, around the world (90% of soybeans are now GMO, Round-Up ready creations) threatening the genetic purity of wild grasses and non-GMO plants, as well as local food sovreignty and security.  Sustainable, organic, local farmers around the globe are are strongly resisting this potential domination of the food supply.

Livestock -  Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) have become the modus operandi of the Industrial Ag machine. Thousands upon thousands of animals, bred for faster weight gain, are cramped together in small areas, some never seeing the light of day, fed fattening diets they are not adapted for, pumped full of antibiotics to prevent disease, which such "living"conditions breed and treated as mere production units, instead of the living, breathing animals they are.  In contrast, small, sustainable farms raise free range, grass-fed animals, grown at natural rates, without growth hormones or antibiotics.   The end result is healthier animals, meat, poultry,dairy and eggs.  CAFOs also generate enormous quantities of animal waste which is difficult to deal with.  It releases excessive amounts of methane into the atmosphere (a GHG 22 times more potent than CO2), pollutes waterways and increases E-coli contamination.  Pasture raised animals, when optimally rotated to mimic natural prairie/grassland relationships, fertilize the soil and create carbon sinks instead of emissions. Small scale, sustainable farms tend to raise heirloom and/or heritage breeds, increasing the biodiversity of livestock.

Soil Conservation - Whereas Big Ag still practices heavy tillage, which leads to loss of millions of tons of topsoil per year, uses heavy machinery, which leads to soil compaction and extracts every ounce of nutrients from the earth, creating the need for ever increasing fertilizers; small, local sustainable farming does the exact opposite.  Utilizing no-till, low-till, composting, ground covers, animal manures and allowing some ground to lay fallow, not only prevents erosion, but, in fact, nourishes the soil.

When you support local foods, not only are you choosing to build a healthier, more resilient community, you are also choosing to restore, nourish and heal the earth.  And as this movement grows, the ripples of those choices will radiate out into the wide world.
Perhaps our bumper sticker could do with a slight rewrite:  Act Locally - Impact Globally!

by Tim Wilson, member and board member

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