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Locavore learning


July 24, 2012

Buying and eating local foods—it’s a win-win strategy that supports the local economy and neighboring farmers, keeps land in agriculture, improves overall health and builds stronger communities. So why do we need a movement to restore a practice that used to be part of our everyday lives?

The issues were discussed during a session on “Lessons in Local Eating,” led by Jane Bollinger of the Wayne County group of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) on July 17 at the Hawley Silk Mill Complex in Hawley, PA.

Tackling the topic were food entrepreneur Marcia Dunsmore from Hawley; vegetable farmer Greg Swartz of Willow Wisp Farm in Abramsville, PA; and Julie Hudson, an advocate for sustainable agriculture and small-farm farmers from South Canaan, PA.

The conversation launched with a question about local versus organic choices. “Local food is great,” said Swartz. “Organic food is great. But what we have to be heading for is local organic. And there’s no reason we can’t get there.”

The panelists discussed the recent history of farming and food, noting the development of pesticides from the war industry roughly 60 years ago that became privatized and applied to agriculture. “Like many things, you have to look at who is saying what is being said, and look at why and how the government ends up adopting certain practices,” said Swartz. “Federal farm policy radically changed the landscape of the U.S. in a really short amount of time through subsidies and the land-grant university system.”

Bollinger offered a quote from whyhunger.org for consideration: “The global food system disenfranchises small scale farmers, destroys local food systems, increases inequality and reduces biodiversity.”

Hudson agreed. “Small farmers all over the world have been greatly impacted by the global food system,” she said. “Many were forced out of business. The biodiversity issue is clear, too. The agribusiness model is really harsh on the environment. It has a huge impact on waterways and air quality.”

Dunsmore advocated for decentralization of the food system. “The more you can get the food system into small units around the country, with each unit supplying the area around, the safer food will be,” she said. Dunsmore also said that consumers play a key role in the process. “With its purchasing power, the consumer ultimately decides what a corporation will sell.”

One participant asked, “How do you level the playing field when there are those who can’t afford to buy organic food or even to buy local because it’s not subsidized like the agribusiness model?”