This is a post from Rob Avis - Verge Permaculture. It hit home on exactly all the points that we at YYC Growers strive towards.
This week I was interviewed by the local newspaper, The Calgary Herald, about the rising cost of food and systemic problems within the food system. The reporter wanted to know if people were signing up in droves to our Permaculture Design Courses this year because of the astronomical cost of food. Here's what I shared with her:
- Historically speaking, food prices are still rather low, when compared to the % of a family's gross income.
- Our food system was designed to be hyper cheap during the 50's and 60's in an era known as the Green Revolution. Food prices were reduced significantly through the use of cheap energy, moving production to far away places with cheaper labour, and "productivity" tools like fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Note that the productivity gained in single crop yields, cost reduction & labour savings has been at the expense of the environment and poor working conditions.
- We have allowed all of our other costs of living to rise dramatically while expecting food to remain stable. This has forced our food system to be outsourced and local farmers to become nearly extinct - especially if you don't count farmers who are only growing commodity crops for global markets.
- All of this automation has produced food that is far less nutritious, produced further away from where it is consumed, by companies with less than favorable working conditions.
- As these far away places run out of water, labour & soil, our food system becomes more fragile. Most of the food in North America is produced in California and Mexico. Is it fair to expect one or two ecosystems to feed all of us? Is this resilient?
- As food prices rise there are hidden opportunities that arise as well. There is always opportunity in adversity.
Right now there is a local food renaissance emerging, urban farmers are sprouting up everywhere & urbanites are starting gardens, growing mushrooms and raising chickens & rabbits. As food prices increase, local farming becomes profitable and people will rise to the challenge and grow. Last week I gave some resources on getting into gardening, next week I am going to be reviewing my good friend's book, The Urban Farmer by Curtis Stone. I have known Curtis for many years and have watched him grow his urban farming business exponentially. He currently makes 100k +/year in a city running a decentralized urban farm called Green City Acres. His book details out how anyone can make this happen with little-to-no capital.
Will the food system collapse? Its possible, but not probable. I am remaining optimistic. I suspect I will see some major price spikes in my lifetime which will spur innovation and a resurgence of farming both urban and rural. Your cheapest insurance to these spikes is learning to grow a small garden and raise a few animals. Having the skills now to grow small will make you eligible to grow big when it counts.
In the meantime here is a blog I wrote a while ago on Food Not Lawns which is as relevant now as when I wrote it.