Friday, September 20, 2013

How big is your food system?

Last week I did an exercise with a 6th grade class in preparation for the fall planting in their school garden. What interested me the most was the way they see food.

Simple.  Farm to fork.

But when we talked about it and I walked them through how many people are involved, they were surprised.

We started with an industrial food system:

Seed grower
Seed distributor
Wholesaler / Distributor
Processor / Manufacturer
Grocery store / restaurant
Landfill or compost

Then discussed a locally based system:

Farmers Market

And ended with the simplest system:
Gardener who saves seeds, grows and composts = a food system of one.

Obviously there are many variations on this theme, but the thought that kept popping into my head was something I read in Dawn Gifford's new e-book, Sustainability Starts At Home.
When the continuous operation of a system relies on a long and complex chain of suppliers and resources, all running smoothly, that’s pretty much a textbook example of an unsustainable system.
~ Dawn Gifford, Small Footprint Family
I think we all understand that  things with a lot of moving parts are inherently unstable, but when we look at the processes we operate in every day under that microscope...well, it's unnerving.

I asked the kids how they felt about all those people handling their food...and they were unsure, but didn't quite know why.  I asked them if they felt things could go wrong, and they agreed.  And when I asked them which system they preferred, it was unanimous.

We'll be planting the garden next week, and I'm going to challenge the class to go to a farmers market this month and write about it.  I'll let you know what they have to say :-)

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