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  • Gregory Denton


Anyone keeping up on our climate emergency has very likely read many articles on the benefits of small local farms, their healthy produce, low carbon delivery, soil regeneration, good jobs, and more. We have written posts about the terrific farms on Whidbey Island and the importance of our farmers and local food support workers.

However, the global food crisis, which is to say, the urgency of everyone needing access to food grown locally, is vastly under-reported. Our attention is arrested at the horror of each reported climate-fueled disaster whether melting ice shelves or the latest flood in California. Not reported is the connection to deteriorated ecosystems' impact on food supplies. Globalized food systems are both harmful and fragile, and one of the rare articles that enumerates the dangers foresees a looming global famine.

Tying together the many threads of food security, farming, farmers, globalization, and the need to go local is Helena Norberg-Hodge and the organization she founded, Local Futures. Norberg-Hodge helped bring to light the oppressive nature of the extra-legal contracts contained in global trade agreements, which place the rights of multinational corporations above sovereign states and their citizens. In a moving essay from Local Future's recent newsletter (reprinted with permission), she makes the case for a transition from industrial to local farming:

Food and farming is in crisis, and farmers are right to protest.

In countries like the UK and Germany, farmers now make up a measly 1 or 2% of the working population. And while supermarkets gouge consumers with high prices, farmers often receive 5% or less of that money.

Meanwhile, the global food system as a whole is the single biggest contributor to climate breakdown; the source of well over a third of all greenhouse gas emissions.

While farmers fight to hang on to their diesel subsidies, those of us concerned with human and ecological health need to uphold the bigger picture.

For generations, farmers in the industrialized world have been forced to 'get big or get out'. Through subsidies, taxes and regulations, small farms have been disenfranchised, and those left have been cornered into fossil-fuel dependent agriculture.

The way forward is not to continue with subsidies for fossil fuels and toxic chemicals, but nor is it to destroy those remaining few farmers. Rather, we must demand that policy makers support the farmers – with shifts in subsidies, taxes and regulations – that favor healthy, diversified, more localized food systems.

Healthy, diversified, more localized food systems… can they feed us? Can they really support farmers' profits? Of course! Not only can diversified farms produce 3-5x more food than industrial monocultures, they also provide many more livelihoods. They reduce the unrestrained profiteering of corporate middlemen, putting farmers and communities back in control of their production and pricing.

We're not going to localize overnight, but we need to join with farmers and call on policymakers at the national [ed: and local! see below] level to begin the shift.

Our vision is one of real food security, lasting sustainability, and healthier rural communities. At this precipitous point in the history of food and farming, I encourage everyone to raise their voices.

INCREASE local food!

Here are a few examples of what YOU can do:

GROW Farmers!

GROW Farms!

GROW Food!


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