“The average person is still under the aberrant delusion that food should be somebody else’s responsibility until I’m ready to eat it.” – Joel Salatin
Alarmingly few people seem to understand, or talk about, the food crises that already being experienced in many corners of the world. These food crises have not yet been felt in western nations, but in coming years they are projected to be. Major eastern nations seem to have a grasp on the realities of the food supply as they deploy large scale agricultural reform that prioritizes:
* Perennial crops
* No-till/restorative practices
* Regional distribution
What’s Wrong with the Current System?
Let me preface this section with the fact I love farmers! I believe it is very possible I missed my calling as a farmer.
I say this to underscore the point, my criticism is of how the US Agriculture system grows and distributes our food. The men and women who are farmers today did not create this globalized system dependent on unsustainable practices. However, I believed it is modern farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, and permaculturist that will have to heal this system. Furthermore, if you and your family like to eat I believe you will have to start to identify as a member of the above list.
“There will come a time when only those who know how to plant will be eating.” – Chief Oren Lyons (attributed)
We have over a half century of collective knowledge since the green revolution to lean upon as we develop new solutions to ensure regional food supplies. Of that collective knowledge, four major tenants that viable solutions will be built upon are:
* No-till practices that build carbon in the soil-
US Agriculture has average of 1% carbon in soil. As reference point, desert soil <0.5%. As the carbon is built in your soil, the stability of soil structure increases and the need for irrigation decreases. The dust bowl was the result of lack of soil structure stability.
Monoculture crops are susceptible for entire crops to be wiped out by infestation. Bees need to shipped in, since there is only a small pollination window for any given crop. The soil is never able to tap into the symbiosis of nutrients between companion crops, since there is no diversity.
* Perennial crops-
Well established root systems are more resistant to climate changes. Perennials also sequester carbon, and in some cases nitrogen. Perennial crops heal the soil and the environment as they grow food.
* Local distribution-
Our distance from of our food supply is inversely correlated with our food security. If we depend on food from another continent, we have low food security. If we depend on food from our yards, we have high food security. Of course there is a wide spectrum between those 2 points.
Each of these tenants are worthy of their own post and I plan to do that in the future. For this post, I will just state them so if you are interested in exploring more about food security you will have the best practices outlined.
What about my hometown?
How much food can one yard grow? We do not have the data to answer to that question, but the Dervaes family farm, on 1/5 acre, can be a helpful point of reference. On their 1/5 acre farm, they support 4 adults with about 75% of their total food needs and sell enough excess produce to provide the remaining 25% of their food needs. The farm has been 20 years in development and is located in Pasadena, CA.
How does that compare to Millwood (my hometown)?
We have a much shorter growing season and that impacts our ability to grow our own food exclusively in significant ways. However, our soil is healthy in Millwood. Yes we have rocky soil, but I’m willing to bet our carbon content is higher than it was for the Dervaes family their early years. We keep our soil covered with lawns and gardens. Also, we have access to water for our yards. Pasadena, CA experienced drought the majority of the years the Dervaes family were establishing their farm.
Among the homesteading community, the cited amount of acreage it takes to provide all the food for a family of four, is often 1-2 acres. Sources that cite 2 acres often include space to grow grains such as wheat, major livestock like cows and pigs, and sometimes include space allocated for a solar array for energy.
In a thought experiment once, I penciled out what would be required to grow 100% of my family’s caloric intake on our 1/3 acre lot. It was possible with each family member getting 2000 calories a day. In my experiment, the diet we would be able to grow ourselves would largely be fruits, veggies, eggs, and nuts. We would have to grow greens indoors over the frost season, and we wouldn’t be able to grow wheat. According to Millwood’s current ordinance the only meat animals you can legally raise in your yard are 4 female fowl and 4 rabbits at any given time, so meat would be scarce and predominantly rabbit.
Regional food security is a topic that I believe is worthy of many future discussions. And the first discussion should be at our kitchen tables with our families.