Sustainability is the balance of the positive and negative environmental, social and economic demands in any sector and across sectors. In the food work we do, regional systems have a better chance to address them together and yet we spend little time defining those demands. In that framework, local food systems by themselves can grow overly ‘muscular” and crowd out others nearby or focus on demand more than supply (or vice versa) or spend too much energy fighting to build systems for every process that could be shared instead.
In that important work, this blogger wrote a very good piece about the regional and sustainable approach to food that is worthwhile to share:
Those of us in rural areas – rich in agricultural resources – thus have an inescapable responsibility. As we do the necessary work of helping to overhaul the food system, we must consider what part we can play in feeding the populations of places like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. While it is surely tempting (and so much simpler) to focus inwardly and exclusively on how to feed merely ourselves, that is not, in the end, the way to build a better food system. It is essential to be actively promoting and supporting our local farm economies – and, at the same, we need to thinking more broadly.
There’s another strong reason why we need to think regionally as well as locally, one that undermines the notion that it would even be possible for any one town or small state to securely depend on its own agricultural resources. It has to do with things like weather and pests – those unavoidable factors that make farming inevitably risky and unpredictable. Factors which also threaten to make farming even more unpredictable as a result of climate change.