Local food, jobs, and health
"A vibrant local food movement is working to change this paradigm and supply our communities with superior food produced with a lower carbon footprint..."
Nowhere is the Western Foothills region more fossil fuel dependent and reliant on others than in our food supply. In a century and a half, the region has gone from food self sufficiency, and even exporting food to our neighbors, to becoming almost entirely reliant on food imported from the far reaches of this continent and beyond; food that is almost exclusively grown and transported with petroleum-based fuels, fertilizers and pesticides. It is estimated that the average meal from the supermarket has traveled 1500–2000 miles and requires over 10 calories of fossil fuel inputs to grow 1 calorie of food. It is becoming increasingly clear that the food that sustains us is derived from an untenable situation.
A vibrant local food movement is working to change this paradigm and supply our communities with superior food produced with a lower carbon footprint, but we have a long way to go on the path to food self-reliance. According to the USDA, our area has thousands of acres of prime farmland of “statewide significance.” Much of this land is under-utilized, either growing hay or returning to forest. By some estimates this is enough land to feed half of our population a healthy, diverse diet. Other degraded farmland and areas with marginal soils can be revitalized and brought into productivity. Indeed, much of the intensive food production that is supplying our newly developed local food markets is coming from marginal lands that are being willed into productivity by determined growers.
Thoughtful design, and an inspired, well-supported agricultural workforce will replace the brute force of fossil fuel on which our food system is based. The result will be a healthier community that has rediscovered the joys of working the land together and the profound pleasures of sharing real food. A goal of 80% regional food self-reliance, creating hundreds, if not thousands of new jobs by 2030 is possible, but we need to start now.