Rebuilding the Foodshed

Happy Spring! After enjoying the sun the past couple of days I started to read a book my friend gave me for my birthday two weeks ago. She was excited to give it to me because the author was hosting a discussion followed by a book signing at the local bookstore from which she purchased the book.

rebuilding-the-food-shed-350The book, title Rebuilding the Foodshed by Philip Ackerman-Leist is the third of a series of Community Resilience Guides, which is a collaboration between Chelsea Green Publishing and Post Carbon Institute. Ackerman-Leist, associate professor of Environmental Studies and Director of Farm and Food Project at Green Mountain College (which was just awarded a perfect “99” score in the Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges) subtitles the book ‘How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems.

After accepting an offer with the 2013-2014 Real Food Challenge Fellowship (!!!) I was unbelievably excited to start diving into this book.  In Ackerman-Leist’s introduction, he unpackage’s what ‘local’ means and discusses many themes in which I have been talking about in which you need to be media (and food system) literate to determine what does local mean exactly?

He talks about using an imaginary string starting at your table and and ending at ‘some point’ to which you create a circle. Local, right? Nope, not that. He says maybe local should be given a distance, a boundary. But no too simlpe. Food miles? Nope.

Here’s a blurb from his introduction that neatly sums up what I have been discussing about how the media portrays ‘local’ :

“…there’s a split screen displayed on the nearby computer, showing Webster’s online dictionary on the left so you can look at definitions of “local” and Google Maps on the right so you can see what a 1,500-mile-radius from your home address looks like [the average distance food travels to your table in the US]. Suddenly a headline flashes across your computer screen as a news alert: ‘Local Trumps Organic’. As you stare into the screen, pondering the complexities of it all, a tweet from Oprah abruptly appears, informing you that she is now at her favorite farmers’ market buying Chioggia beets (‘Oh, the splash of color they’ll make on a salad with those concentric circles of red and white!’) No sooner has your attention been diverted by Oprah’s digitized epiphany than a beep from your computer indicates that a new word has just been added to the English lexicon, providing a much-welcomed (and somewhat self-congratulatory) label: ‘I’m a locavore!’ At last, self-actualization with a community flair! But wait, is that new word spelled with our without a second l?

Ackerman-Leist has poetically introduced why the term ‘local’ is so complex, and the media’s influence which makes it this way. Imagine yourself in that scenario. And the end of it all, did you ever find a solid definition of ‘local’? This is where being both media literate and food system literate is necessary.

Food-miles-2When you are able to understand:

  • what food miles are, and how you impact those totals (ride your bike to your local farmers’ market!)
  • why Oprah would ‘tweet’ that message (marketing people!)
  • what the intended audience and purpose of the “Local Trumps Organic” headline (don’t become part of a ‘local’ fad!)

You will then you will be able to create your own definition of local and live by your own standards.  This author has described what I have been attempting to convey since the beginning of sustainabelly!

Please check out the Community Resilience site, and learn as much as you can about if you are interested in this topic so you don’t find yourself in the scenario described above! What does ‘local’ mean to all of you?

NP 4/30


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