In this article, Ronnie Cummins explains why we must transition to organic local farming, how far we have come and what it will require to create food security.
[This is a summary of a session at the Democracy Convention in Madison, WI on August 26, 2011 written by Margaret Flowers. You can read more about Biodemocracy.]
At the end of the 1960’s, when the repression started coming down on the anti-war, anti-racist and feminist movements, people realized that they needed to do more than talk about the new society they wanted to see. The moden co-op movement was initiated by a lot of people who were anti-war activists as part of that new society. Some people went back to the land and learned organic farming. Other people started food-buying co-operatives. Others built health centers, alternative radio stations, publications, and alternative schools. This was an outgrowth of the new left. And now, food and farming has moved into a mainstream position.
We have made significant steps toward increasing local and organic food production and popularity. Currently, 66% of Americans prefer organic food. However, people are not yet buying organic in significant quantities. Organics are only 4% of grocery store sales, equal to $30 billion per year. Natural food purchases make up another 8% of sales which equals $50 billion per year.
Unfortunately, natural foods are usually a hoax usually and consumers don’t understand this. Every time a consumer buys natural, they are being fooled. But 12 cents out of every dollar is being spent on what the consumer thinks will improve their health. It is not the tipping point yet, to get there we need to put pressure on natural foods to transition to organic.
Only 1% of America’s farmland is under organic management. People are buying a lot of processed organic food, which is ,better than GMO or non-organic, but not the end we want. We need to transform the industry, get the 12% converted to organic and move beyond that.
Transitioning to organic is necessary in order to solve the climate crisis. The number one contributor to greenhouse gases is food, farming, distribution and processing. When we look at deforestation and the draining of wetlands, we see that 20% of greenhouse gas pollution comes from agriculture. Forests are being destroyed to grow bio-fuels. The current food and farming distribution system is unsustainable. Throwing food into landfills is another contributor to greenhouse gases. Thirty to fifty percent of food is wasted. We need to go local with a vengeance.
There are some promising signs. Twelve million households claim to be gardening organically for food, flowers or for their lawn. The country’s millions of household gardners need to become mini farmers. We used to develop 40% of our food in backyard gardens in the 1940’s.
We also need to go local because we live under a corporate dictatorship. We must stop kidding ourselves about the federal government. We will not get back to a real people’s government unless there is an uprising. We’re calling for a peaceful uprising, but the other side is not going to be peaceful once we approach the point of taking power.
In Northern Minnesota, we realized that after 40 years of loggers and miners being pissed at us, we needed to talk instead about what will happen 20 years from now. What happens if food trucks stop coming? What if the grid goes down? The miners and loggers have a lot of heavy equipment and guns. They are good hunters. The treehuggers will supply organic food and the hunters will be the militia and supply the protein. We need to and we will work together. When you start talking in real terms – treehuggers, hunters, fisherman, miners, and farmers need to get united. We need to get off of arguing and start building local communities that will survive.
In Mexico we are working with local municipalities and are trying to build organic sustainable communities. We have 3,200 counties in the US, and in everyone of them we need more family scale organic farms and that includes animal husbandry. We need manure for compost. And most people are not vegetarians. Let’s do it right. We need farm schools in every county.
We need to look at the local resources. Ask who knows how to garden, hunt, fish, and can, and build from there. Even if someone is growing potted vegetables on the roof, that is a start.
We need sustainable transportation. And we need to learn how to capture water and how to retrofit our heating and cooling. All of these things are essential. Housing in the US creates 40% of our carbon footprint.
Let’s think globally, and act locally and go to DC in October.And let’s work to build our community at the local level. We will only be able to rely on people with whom we have built relationships.
Ronnie Cummins is founder and Director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a non-profit, U.S. based network dedicated to safeguarding organic standards and promoting a healthy, just, and sustainable system of agriculture and commerce. www.organicconsumers.org. He is writing a book called “Biodemocracy: Survival in Catastrophic Times.” Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org