Local Food: On Personal Responsibility
Food. We all eat it. Why every single one of us needs to accept our personal responsibility to contribute to the growing of local food.
First, let’s look at the somewhat grim reality. Don’t be discouraged as you read onwards. The sooner we take on board the complexity of the problems, the more creative and complete the solutions can be. The good news is that every single one of us has so much to offer towards the solutions.
We’re often asked the question, “Where can I get locally grown organic food in Goa?” Sadly, almost nowhere comes to mind. Could it be that in a state the size of over 370 000 hectares, only a handful of hectares are growing organic food that is good for people, in a way that is good for the earth, and is not shipped off somewhere far, far away? Are there official figures available?
The food we are eating is making us sick and worse, and there are epidemics of both obesity and malnutrition, often at the same time, present in the same people.
Most of us no longer hunt, nor gather, and the knowledge of species and nutrition garnered over thousands of years, has fast been replaced with simplistic and damaging agricultural systems based on monocrops and chemicals. As a species, humans have quite simply lost the ability to feed themselves. From birth itself, mothers are faced with the loss of breastfeeding knowledge. This is a huge conversation in itself, which we’ll not cover here, but urge you to look further into.
We’ve heard the stories of children growing up not knowing where eggs & milk come from (regardless of ideological or religious dietary choices), nor how beans or tomatoes grow or what a mango or apple tree looks like. As adults, how many of us actually know how to feed ourselves? If there is a halt to the current food production & distribution channels, due to reasons as diverse as energy cuts, health outbreaks, political or social disruption (strikes, coups, demonetization…), how much food do you have available? What about your local community? For how long will it last?
Food security in times of crisis in most places around the world, particularly in densely populated cities, is as little as 1 to 3 days. What then? What will you eat? How long will it take to start producing food? On what land? With what skills and resources? What seeds will you use?
What happened to Cuba in the 1990’s is a living example of what can go terribly wrong, awfully fast….and then what can go really right, with the application of personal responsibility for one’s own food. Bharat Mansata’s excellent book “Organic Revolution!” is highly recommended to give you an insight into what happened there.
Does human hubris really allow us to think that we are immune to these kinds of food disasters? Or are we simply being lulled into not having to think about our own food by supposed creature comforts of fast, packaged, chemical-laden, processed foods & water (not to forget electronics, air conditioning units, coffee, sugar, corn…) and corporate manipulation? After all, whoever ends up controlling the food & water, ultimately controls the people.
Is it wise to have anonymously delegated the entire process of our very own food? Is it wise to have so thoroughly and completely abdicated responsibility for the entire process of growing the food that is so central and critical to our very survival and well-being? People like to know who is cutting their hair, doing their accounts, educating their children. How many people know who grows their food? How can we afford not to build and maintain relationships with those that grow the very food that sustains us?
Within our own priorities in life, where do we place the need for quality food, water, and air? In the past, these things may have been a given to some, but today they require conscious prioritization for all. Even for those who might have attained sufficient or vast financial wealth, it’s extremely difficult to purchase great food & water and a healthy environment. In Goa, it’s easier to buy diamonds; but just try eating or drinking them.
If you are amongst those lucky enough to be growing your own food, yet live within a community whose needs are not met, you would be ill-advised to consider that the problem is solved. When food is scarce, your own little island of food suddenly becomes what everyone around you wants and needs. People will do what they feel they need to do to get it. Your food won’t last for long if the conventional food system is stressed or abruptly disrupted. Living in a community full of sick or hungry people whose needs are not being met is an ugly scenario. We thrive best as individuals when those around us are also thriving. How can we ensure that food is abundant for not only ourselves but for our communities?
Back to questions about priorities and values. Contemporary society attributes value to lawyers, technology gurus, media moguls, movie stars, marketing executives. Where does the farmer or grower of food sit on the social scale? Right at the bottom. In fact, they are so disrespected and abused that in some places, like right here in India, many farmers have even been driven to suicide. Farmers have quite simply become the pawns in a lop-sided industrial game of chemicals, loans, and never-ending debt. It’s a rather unbalanced social scale considering that we all need to eat, every day, and we are in the midst of a global food crisis.
In some movements around the world, value is being re-attributed to artisan growers but there is still a long way to go. When’s the last time that you heard someone bright and ambitious say that they wanted to become a farmer or a market gardener? When you do hear it, it’s usually from someone who has already gained their financial independence by other means, or pretty quickly you’ll hear the next big question, “But how will I make a decent living, giving myself and my family access to a high quality of life, with education and options that other career paths can provide?”.
Should the growing of quality food be the reserve of a privileged few? Should those choosing a career of providing food to the community be subjected to living on the social & financial edge of society?
Are there functioning examples of sound models that include economic sustainability to inspire new growers and farmers to build their own successful operations? When we abdicate responsibility for our most basic living needs (food, water, air) to centralized corporate businesses and often corrupt government bodies we are easily controlled….and in the absence of wise governance that’s a dangerous place to be. Our faded personal responsibility for food over the last fifty years and more has also lead to a whole host of far-reaching knock-on effects to the individual, to local communities, and to society at large. Direct effects include poor health, pollution, water scarcity, the breakdown of local communities, and destruction of wider social networks. We are destroying our own human health and the earth whilst we do it.
Watch the film “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Keep an eye on the social issues addressed including breastfeeding, water, trees, seeds, and fuel. Surprisingly far from fiction, it’s what might feel like a very dramatic illustration but is actually a very potentially real depiction of how things almost are in many places, and are fast becoming in other places, right under our placated and unsuspecting noses. With eyes wide open to that dismal scenario, how can we jump back to the bright side? How can you engage your own personal responsibility and be part of the solution to the local food crisis?
There’s a lot of work to be done and there’s no reason why we can’t all have a great time doing it. We all collectively have so much intelligence, education, skills, talents and passions: I can’t think of many that can’t be applied in some way to contributing to the active growing of local food. If you don’t feel that you’re in a position to do it hands-on, then actively support and encourage someone who can.
Identify the weakest points to achieving the growing of local food in your community and start there. Is it the training & education of artisan growers that’s needed? Land access? Architecture & town planning? Awareness events? Can you lend your hand to existing projects and help create new initiatives? Whatever it takes. Learn it, do it, talk about it with others, sing it, swim it, photograph it, film it, write it, apply science & technology, art & architecture, cook it, eat it, and most importantly have fun with it. It’s your very life source that you’re investing in.
Could the single act of growing your food locally, really be one of the most radical and accessible social & political acts of our time?
“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” – Bill Mollison
“All the world’s problems can be solved in a garden.” – Geoff Lawton
We urge you to share and discuss these questions far and wide. Initiate these discussions with everyone you know. We need a local food revolution, everywhere – let’s eat!
About the Author:
Rosie and Peter have regenerated a piece of degraded land in Goa, India, to become an abundant and productive Kitchen Garden and Food Forest which thrives as part of a sustainable and resilient ecosystem. The garden serves our own food needs, provides a surplus for friends, and serves for demonstration & education, and research and development purposes. We are actively involved in awareness and outreach to individuals and organizations who wish to participate in every aspect of local food security.
This is where we share some of our experiences, knowledge, and questions from our adventures with our own Home Kitchen Garden & Food Forest: