The Future of Food is Local

Michael Brownlee in Lincoln (author photo)

Michael Brownlee in Lincoln
(author photo)

Michael Brownlee stopped in Lincoln, Nebraska on Monday evening and gave a talk about local food. Detailing the systemic weaknesses in the juggernaut of industrial agriculture, which now provides about 98% of our food, he commented: ”food is the one area where we are all most vulnerable, and where the need is most urgent.”

Brownlee and his partners at Local Food Shift are out to catalyze the national movement in local food helping to take it to the next level — from a culture of consumers, to a culture of contributors. He considers their efforts in the Front Range of Colorado to be a Whole Systems Demonstration Project.

“The way we feed ourselves is the most important social, environmental, health and economic undertaking of our times,” he said. “Food is going to come soon to the forefront of emerging human calamities.”

Brownlee cited the draft report leaked earlier this month from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In blunt language, that report spells out the trend: “climate change will seriously damage the world’s ability to feed itself in the coming decades. The report confirms previous studies’ findings that climate change could exacerbate poverty, strain water supplies, make extreme weather more common and increase conflict around the world.

Local food is a core response to impending catastrophes, accentuated by climate change. The world’s agricultural areas will shift, causing an overall decline in agricultural production. The movement toward local food comes at the juncture of a troubling array of global environmental and economic crises, he said, and responds to them in a healthy and positive way.

The Local Food Shift campaign is designed to empower communities to marshal their efforts in beginning to shift their food systems towards the local. They are creating and making available tools and processes to empower the local food movement.

“The global food system is now teetering on the edge of collapse,” Brownlee asserted. “The future of food is local – as close to home as possible. Local food production helps to reverse the wide spiral of damage caused by industrial agriculture and the industrial growth society.”

Brownlee concluded his talk with a quote from economist Herman Daly, author of several books, including For the Common Good (1994).  “If economics is reconceived in the service of community, it will begin with a concern for agriculture and specifically for the production of food. This is because a healthy community will be a relatively self-sufficient one…The most fundamental requirement for survival is food. Hence, how and where food is grown is foundational to an economics for community.”

4 thoughts on “The Future of Food is Local

  1. proyectocaminover de Manuel Castrillo

    Vision of the importance that will take the food issue in the world. Many of the hopes that were held at the Warsaw Summit were truncated by Governments that are not willing to give up in the interests of influential political power groups. Being thus landscape, worth try sustainable cities and communities, with the information and tools necessary for the future of food and the provision of other vital resources. The impact of climatic phenomena and ecosystems, will inevitably vary to the availability of resources, so it is in own hands and in vulnerable groups take action today, to a future as safe as possible.

    Manuel Castrillo
    Proyecto Camino Verde
    Costa Rica


  2. Pingback: The Future of Food is Local | FarmStart

  3. Tammy

    Steve, I’d saved this post to read when I had more time – today. I hear the rising concern in the message and it pains me but what I don’t know or see is a practicum of how to or how to try to move our communities local. I’d like to know more about the Whole Systems Demonstration Project. If this is good work, then we need to be able to expand it to other communities. I recognize that there are a whole host of issues from awareness raising to politics but it would be so beneficial to have a diagnostic framework for assessment and action. Thoughts?


    1. Steven McFadden Post author

      Thanks for your comments Tammy. There are hundreds of groups across the USA and Canada working on the challenge of local food, in dozens of creative ways. I wrote The Call of the Land, and keep blogging on the theme, because the “call” is in fact so urgent — and the many positive responses so encouraging. I would definitely encourage you to check out the Local Food Shift pages as a resource, for they have many good ideas, some of which may be applicable to your local area and situation. Here in Nebraska we are off to a slow start, but a start nonetheless. As I have opportunity to participate, contribute, and cooperate with the others in my community, it gives me true hope and encouragement. I think being involved local, clean sustainable food and farms — no matter in what way — is one of the most life-affirming things any one of us can be doing at this time. Best wishes for a Happy New Year, S.



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