Local Food at a Stand Still

“The local food movement is going nowhere.” That’s according to my friend Mike. Mike is an intern at a nearby sustainable, organic farm, and he told me this while we were sitting at a locally-owned restaurant eating grass-fed bison burgers raised on a different
farm less than 30 miles away. I had to disagree with him.

I live in Louisville, Kentucky (which was just ranked the “10th fattest city” in the U.S. in a very unscientific magazine survey – a big part of Mike’s pessimistic argument). If this movement is going nowhere, then how are Louisville’s 27 farmers markets staying in business?  How was Rainbow Blossom – one of many  nutrition/local produce grocers in town – able to expand to their fifth location last  month?

Buy_fresh_buy_local Here’s more evidence that the local, sustainable food movement is alive and well. While I was channel surfing
a few days ago, I saw a segment on Kentucky’s PBS affiliate about a biodynamic farmer from Crestwood, KY who talked about the increased demand for their products. A week earlier, I was browsing the shelves at a movie rental store and noticed a prominently displayed section full of food and agriculture
documentaries like Food Inc, Fresh and King Corn. Jump back two weeks before that, and I’m in a mostly full theater listening to Will Allen of Growing Power call this movement a full-fledged revolution. If he can fill a theater for an urban gardening lecture at 8:45 AM on a Saturday morning, I’d have to agree with him.

Growing Power is an organization in Milwaukee that produces fresh, affordable and healthy food in the middle of an urban food desert. A similar project is underway in Louisville called Breaking New Grounds. Louisville is also home to the Food Literacy Project and Neighborhood House which received a grant from the
Presbyterian Hunger Program to teach children about the local food system and let them get their hands dirty in the vegetable garden. Read about that grant, or better yet take a look at all of the grants PHP has awarded to dozens of similar organizations.

Maybe I’m more optimistic than my friend Mike because I’ve read all about those organizations, but I say the local food movement is on its way up… and fast. Maybe that’s because it has nowhere to go but up. Mike was kind of right, the Center for Disease Control
put Kentucky as the 6th most obese state last year (see for yourself).
Minorities are the most at-risk for obesity and diabetes. The agricultural industry is now more consolidated and powerful than it ever has been before (see the Food and Faith website).
Sure, things are bad now, but that’s no reason to be pessimistic.

Change starts with one person. So start buying local, find a farmers market and go to it, buy fair trade when you can’t find it close by, and stay up-to-date about food/agriculture legislation with the Washington Office. The local food movement will only go nowhere if you let it.