FOOD: Growing Community Food Systems by Erika Allen


Food systems can be a very powerful tool for resilience.  In a revolutionary way, you can completely trasform things without people realizing what’s happening–they are aware, but it just makes intuitive sense this way.  It’s also not about just going out and fighting the proverbial "man," or continuing an academic dialogue about what could happen or should happen; you don’t have time for this because you’ve got a lot to do.

So instead of having people just being oppositional and trying to get someone else to make the changes, you have people who are assets to their community, who are making the transformation happen themselves (but being oppositional when they need to be).

…The idea of a community food system is much larger than just urban farming. It deals with everything, all the components that are needed to establish, maintain, and perpetually sustain a civilization.

Urban farming is key in the reclamation of an Earth-and ecology-based value system, and it plays an important role: We need urban food production, communities growing food in an urban environment. But with a community food system, neighborhood stakeholders are the ones growing that food, moving it around, and in control of land tenure or wherever soil-, food-, and Earth-based materials are being grown. Basically we are talking about sovereignty, about having land and water rights.

This is not a new concept; indigenous communities globally struggle with powerful external entities that attempt to extract raw and refined resources from land that has traditionally been stewarded by families who understand the natural laws of replenishment and proper natural-resource management. In a locally-operated food system we engage all members of the community, taking special care to engage the most marginalized members and those most impacted by food and land degradation. We begin with simple questions: “Where are you going to get water from, and how are you getting the water?” “Who makes the decision about how land—open space and commercial space—is being used?”

These simple questions activate civic and civil rights and accountability with government, because there are always regulatory issues and agendas that (as is often revealed) community members are unaware of and have not been included in the conversations. So true sustainability in terms of community food systems means that disenfranchised people, especially youth and their families, are involved in the process not only as beneficiaries of “good (and carbon-neutral) food” but as central participants in the planning, development, and execution of the food system, including its interlocking parts: energy, housing, public transportation, economic development, and so on. You’re building a whole infrastructure that supports local food systems…

About The Post Carbon Reader

Image RemovedHow do population, water, energy, food, and climate issues impact one another? What can we do to address one problem without making the others worse? The Post Carbon Reader features essays by some of the world’s most provocative thinkers on the key issues shaping our new century, from renewable energy and urban agriculture to social justice and community resilience. This insightful collection takes a hard-nosed look at the interconnected threats of our global sustainability quandary and presents some of the most promising responses.

Contributors to The Post Carbon Reader are some of the world’s leading sustainability thinkers, including Bill McKibben, Richard Heinberg, Stephanie Mills, David Orr, Wes Jackson, Erika Allen, Gloria Flora, and dozens more.