Howdy, partner: connecting with local food producers

Throughout history, most food was local. Food was grown right where people lived until the advent of factory food the past century or so. Today’s supermarket food travels an average of 1500 miles from industrial systems dependent on large quantities of cheap fossil fuels and pesticides. But as consumers learn more about the disastrous hidden costs and health effects of big Ag and processed foods, the infrastructure for local food networks is being rebuilt community by community. When folks understand the multiple dynamics of local food, including its connection to climate change, support for it is growing in communities across the US. Join us to learn about the benefits of promoting local food in your town.

Listen to a Good Dirt Radio 5-minute eco-spot on supporting local food efforts.

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Read the transcript below.

Welcome to Good Dirt Radio… reporting on positive solutions, taking root.

Throughout history, most food was local.   It was grown right where people lived until the advent of industrialized food, in the past century or so.

Today’s supermarket food travels an average of 1500 miles from factory systems dependent on large quantities of cheap fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  But as consumers learn more about the damaging hidden costs and health effects of big Ag and processed foods, they understand the multiple, positive dynamics of local food, including its beneficial connection to climate change. The infrastructure for local food networks is growing, being rebuilt community by community, across the US.

Dyer: We’ve been developing a process to help people make the most sustainable food choices possible. We all know that local is important but sustainability of production and marketing and use is important as well.  We ask first, could I grow this myself or with my neighbors in a back yard garden, a farm   if you’re a farmer or in a community garden.  Can I help a local farmer grow it? And that might be through being a loyal, repeat customer for a local farmer, or working with them on their CSA, community supported agriculture subscription project, something in which you’re really working with the farmer.  The next best would be can I buy this locally, in a direct venue such as a farmers’ market, so I can ask them about how this food was produced.

That’s local food activist and consultant Jim Dyer, director of Southwest Marketing Network and a partner of the non-profit, Healthy Community Food Systems. He says a growing number of local food producers are moving beyond just farmer’s markets to more robust systems that supply produce to markets, restaurants and schools.

Katy Papinsky is the Project Manager for non-profit Growing Partners of Southwest Colorado. She works to improve infrastructures that support local food production and provides resources for families. Access to growing spaces is key.

Katy:  What we’re trying to accomplish with Growing partners is establishing school and community gardens and increasing the amount and accessibility of growing spaces.  One of the ways we’ve identified of making local food more accessible is to provide people, regardless of their income, with places to grow their own food.

We also caught up with Darrin Parmenter, director of the Colorado State University Extension office, in La Plata County.  He sees local food becoming more widespread as people learn about the multiple benefits of food networks that support sustainable living.

Parmenter: The majority of us want to put something in body that is healthy and safe.  Food is intrinsic in all of us and its something that’s easy for us to get behind.  And the pairing that with education, if its teaching people the importance of growing your own food or teaching people how to grow food or purchasing locally, local has become the new word.  It completes this local economy piece, supporting your local agriculture not just for production but for scenic qualities and wildlife access and environmental responsibility.    

Local Food advocate Jennifer Wrenn helped organize a recent food retreat in Durango, CO.  A collaboration of several non-profit groups, the event increased the ‘ripple effect’ of local food knowledge in her community.

Wrenn:  People of all ages and all walks of life came to the food retreat.  I think they came to learn more about local food because they truly care about their health and the health of the planet.   We’re all eaters and people all over the world are realizing that eating choices we make have huge implications for our health, for saving energy and reducing pollution.  These are deliberate, real choices we make every single time we eat.  People are getting involved in local food networks by doing things like joining food coops, shopping at farmer’s markets, asking for local food in their kids’ schools and in restaurants and by growing some of their own food.  People want a better world for their kids and their kids’ kids.  Growing and eating clean, local food helps make a better world.

To find out more about helping increase yourLocal Food network, please visit us out at GoodDirtRadio.org

Supporting local food helps reduce climate-changing-pollution and promotes local economy and health.  We urge you to connect with local growers near you.

I’m Tom Bartels, and I’m Tami Graham.  Thanks for joining us on Good Dirt Radio… digging up good news … for a change.