We all see the news and the predictions of climate change impacting American farmers so much that the price of food will quadruple in 4 years. The future looks ominous. And many effects are already happening now. My sister paid $12 for 5 sweet potatoes in Florida last year for Thanksgiving, due to the heavy flooding in the Carolinas where 40% of the nations’ sweet potato crop farmers reside. This year an ancient grain farmer in Montana shared with me that his crops were pummeled with hail, then decimated by crickets. Ancient grains from Montana are going to be very hard to come by in a few months. Never mind COVID…climate change is the real plague.
Mothers like me, who see what’s coming, lie awake at night with fear and questioning…what are we to do? How are we going to keep feeding our population? How will small food brands, the ones doing the right things like growing organic and regeneratively, using hemp packaging, or dairy from humanely raised animals, survive and thrive? How will they continue to provide food to the masses?
It has occurred to most of us moms that it isn’t “the masses” that food brands need to be focusing on. It sounds totally counter intuitive. And ineffective. But unless we, as a society, begin to focus on feeding our population locally, we are headed for an even bigger food disaster than most other countries.
Spain feeds 70% of their population from small, local family farms. Farms cover the landscapes in India, Asia, and Africa and provide a huge variety of beans, peas, grains, and vegetables locally. Can Americans say that? Can we say that our primary agriculture crops are feeding local Americans?
No. American agriculture is focused on mono-crop culture, GMO, and chemically sprayed farming (which is used primarily for exports), animal feed to Asian countries, and grains for ethanol fuel and plastic. Very little of our farming is feeding Americans. We export more than 50% of soy (which is GMO) and yet 80% of the soy that is used in organic foods in America is imported. Those organic imports could be contaminated due to lower standards overseas and compromise our health. Does that make sense?
We are in a highly insecure position. The fact is that focusing on feeding the masses nationwide or globally actually decreases the chances of rural communities having access to healthy and nutritious, toxin–free food. By focusing on mass exports, farmers tend to switch to mono-crop GMOs. After years of dousing GMO crops with toxic chemicals, their soil can no longer grow a variety of vegetables. Even if they did, their relationships to buyers are primarily mass exporters who don’t want fragile vegetables or fruits. The farmers don’t have the network set up for local buyers and, therefore, do not provide to the local region.
Moms stay up at night thinking of where they can get their food locally if the power grid shuts down due to climate change, hackers, or pandemics. If grocery stores don’t have power, for whatever reason, it won’t matter how much food a big brand has stocked at their headquarters. How will they get it distributed?
We want to know now—who has grass fed, pasture raised dairy, beef, and poultry locally? We think about where we will get our grains if a loaf of organic ancient grain bread goes up to $20 a loaf in a few years. We think about what substitutes for breakfast we can give our children now that organic cereal prices have climbed to over $5.79 a box. We want to see food brands focus on feeding our population locally. We are shifting now to local, small brands because we want our communities to be supported.
JustOne Organics, for instance, wants to open up gentle-dried facilities near major cities all across the country so they can provide a service to farmers who have excess or “ugly” fruit and vegetables. Instead of allowing produce to rot, JustOne Organics dries them into nutrient dense food crystals that have a shelf life of over 7 years. These crystals can be economically used for baby food, soups, smoothies, and added nutrients and flavors to oatmeal, rice, and other staple dishes. That is a solution that helps a mother sleep at night.
Other food brands, like PYE at EatPye.com, focus on obtaining organic cheese and regenerative raised meat, wheat, and vegetables for their tasty meat pies locally in San Francisco, solely to support local farmers. “Pies were one of the original forms of food preservation,” Co-owner Caleb MacCready stated. “A pie gives us the opportunity to source quality ingredients in-season when local farmers need to harvest and preserve them in a frozen product that can be enjoyed for the rest of the year.” When asked if he was interested in national distribution, he said, “We are focused on staying local and supporting the local food system but we are shipping nationally for those who want to support it and may not have access to this type of food where they are.”
We mothers who buy 85% of the food face a huge dilemma in the future. Where will we buy our food when the going gets even tougher? Who is coming up with solutions now? We ask all the huge food brands to start to break-up your conglomerates. Instead of buying up more land to have enormous mono-crop farms in the Midwest, look at how you can support local farmers in small towns all across the USA. Spread your resources. Give small local farmers 3-year contracts and pay them fair prices. Cut the fat from your corporate salaries and bonuses rather than undercutting a local farmer. These are our neighbors, our friends…yours too. Support local, small, organic farmers and let us know you are doing that. Show us on your packaging, tell us in your commercials and websites. Be the ones to increase access to local organic food now, and your ability to continue to provide food, and thrive as a company will only increase later.