by Julia Ward
After attending a “Brown Bag” luncheon given by Professor Ben Cohen of the Engineering Studies Department, I learned about the numerous efforts to build a sustainable local food system. It is no surprise to me that there are many ways that someone can become apart of creating a sustainable food and agriculture system. When it all comes down to it, it depends on the particular consumer’s resources and dedication to promoting sustainable food.
The most extreme effort to build a sustainable local food system is by following the 100 mile diet. This basically means the consumer lives in a food shed where they not only reduce the transportation energy of food (since their food sources are only coming from the 100 mile radius) but, they also promote local commerce. The 100 mile diet forces the consumer to make choices due to the fact that there is not much variety in their diet. There are local, organic stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joes but both are extremely expensive.
Another cheaper option is purchasing items from a farmer’s market because there is no middle-man markup. Some don’t have the availability to participate in a weekly system because it is not a simple or straightforward answer. But since you are purchasing from local farmers in the area, you are certain that the items you are buying are fresh. You are supporting local farmers which is also extremely significant.
Consumers can also try urban farming or community gardens. Farm to school programs and student farms, especially at colleges, are apart of this option. Both of these are extremely educational due to the fact that the students, and the community are taking the time and energy to grow and produce their own food. It is not only good for the land, but also potentially healthier. Most programs that fall under this area are also USDA supported which shows the federal effort and support of this cause.
CSA, or community supported agriculture, is another alternative. A consumer would buy a share in a farm which not only provides stability for the farm itself but also gives the consumer a certain amount of food each week. This method can also be expensive, due to the fact that people have to pay an upfront cost (by buying the share) before they receive any results.
Food Hubs are also a great resource for supporting local sustainability. In this regard, a warehouse is shared by farmers who may not have the financial stability to have a farm of their own. These farmers then sell directly to other institutions, such as Lafayette. Food Co-ops, or community owned food stores are another course of action to add to the list. Some are student operated food co-ops, such as COFED. These co-ops can be started online as well.
Finally, another option that is available over the World Wide Web is a virtual marketplace where numerous online grocery stores can be found. These stores are reasonably priced and accessible to everyone that is interested in promoting sustainability.
Overall, there are many different options available to consumers today. By taking the time to change where you purchase your food, you can really help sustainability and those that are trying to promote this idea as well, such as farmers. While some of these methods may not provide for an easy transition, by choosing to make a small change such as going to a farmers market or purchasing from a virtual marketplace, you will add to the promotion of local and sustainable agriculture system.