Monday, April 1, 2013

Continuing Thoughts

I don't think the city really cares about food issues.”
Danny Mayer of North of Center

I, on the other hand, am sure that this city's residents do not feel that there are any real food issues to care about. As a whole, this city believes that food availability will be provided as it has through history, yet history is a poor prognosticator of future events.

Reading further in Danny's comments, it becomes crystal clear that he is wanting some action from out City government to compel food production for the poor or, at least, publicly purchased food to be distributed at little or no cost to the poor. I find this to be against even our Founding Fathers' concepts for our country.
I know that people in Lexington do not concern themselves with the possible long-term effects of global warming/climate change or the idea of Peak Oil. Private enterprise has always solved these problems and will do so again – but at what cost and to whom? It is what they think that our country was founded upon.

Private enterprise in America at the time of the Revolution was of the small, family owned variety and not the large multi-national corporations of today, especially when it came to food production. Government saw no need to force or limit food production until the large corporations got into the act. What was necessary was the freedom of farmers to farm and production was naturally limited by what they could sell. Frugal farmers would not expend the energy to produce more than a small portion above that distributed.

Today, our small, family owned farms are producing more than enough for themselves and a growing following of CSA members and loyal, farmers market enthusiasts. Many of them do it organically or with a minimum of chemical additives. Most of this food is priced accordingly and above corporately produced food. Most obvious of all is that these small farms cannot feed all of Lexington, regardless of ability to pay.

During the Second World War, small backyard and neighborhood “Victory” gardens were touted as a way to aide the war effort and stave off starvation. That time also saw the wide-spread use of family owned neighborhood grocers. It may well be that these two elements were the vital parts which enabled the country to get through that time. I worry what will happen if there is a next time, when these elements are missing.

I see some opportunities to create some of these neighborhood gardening locations (without impinging on public parkland) and locating some “pop-up” style markets within short reach of our residential areas. I think that more opportunities need to be thought of and allowed.

Now is the time to prepare. I do not think that we are prepared so I can only echo Danny. 

“I don't think the city (or the country) really cares about food issues.”

1 comment:

danny said...

I was hoping some of these food advocates would add their voice--but I guess it'll have to be left to you and me, eh, Sweeper?

I think we agree that there's not much being done here in the city about food issues, but I think you misread my statements here and elsewhere as being "crystal clear that [I am] wanting some action from out City government to compel food production for the poor or, at least, publicly purchased food to be distributed at little or no cost to the poor."

What I have said, I think (or mean to say), is that locally sourced food production has mostly been approached as something geared toward a particular, generally wealthy, class of people: it's something to eat along with a $4 microbeer, or it's something that people with cars arrive at during the farmer's market months, or it's a feature in some culinary up-and-comer's downtown restaurant. I think you generally agree with this sentiment and, like me, want to change that.

Somewhere below is where I think we diverge:

Both in terms of ownership and consumers, local food requires money. And right now, those who have sufficient capital are the ones allowed access to the local food market (or they have created businesses geared towards those who have the capital to pay for its premium).

What I would prefer my city to do is to stimulate local (food) businesses by subsidizing the industry. It can do this by providing more market spaces, by providing space to grow food (either our homes or our parks, or even better, both--remember, most people are not owners of their homes), by being a bully pulpit, and by otherwise opening up the access to local food production and consumption. Though I love seeing them proliferate, this isn't gonna just happen by expanding our community gardens--for one, nobody makes money off of them, so they are not the most efficient things. My model is Havana, Cuba.

The city can spur local food in a low-cost manner by making its unproductive land available, by creating market spaces and support (like they've done for Main Street) for such commerce. THis focus and openness might allow middle and lower income folks--most of the people living in this city and county--to have a lower economic threshold for entering the food market--it also might provide visual showcases to get them to see a viable economic future in local food (something that, currently, is also mostly showcased to those of a certain class).

That lower threshold could be home-vegetable production (what I do: my backyard), market purchasing (more available farmer's markets), small market participation (selling at markets), upscaling (food, food production, etc.). We can't all, after all, purchase a fish farm. That costs lots of money and is available as a potential business to only a few people.

What do you have against using our public parks for low-scale public agriculture and commerce, and why do you think that this would only benefit poor and homeless people? Have you seen our parks and how much grass is mowed on them, or how intimate and neighborhood-binding they are?

Or maybe I should ask, what spaces do you see working better and functioning more democratically--because I do see food as a key component of a functioning democracy. Maybe that's where you got the 'Danny wants to feed the poor and homeless with local food' part. I guess that part is/was true, though it seems to minimize the larger way food can work in the local economy.