Discovering that my bioregion is more limited in local options than I ever imagined has been a real eye opener for me. The research involved in this course is timely for me, since I have been living back in Connecticut for just 15 days. Between work, studies and other life events I have searched for local options to feed myself. What I have found is a limited number of expensive choices, lacking in both depth and availability. Meat is definitely out of reach for a graduate student.
The challenges of eating locally in my bioregion are real, and I know these challenges cannot be met in isolation; overcoming them will require resourcefulness, support and hard work. It will need to involve engaging all the stakeholders not only in local food producing but the community at large. Things are happening here in my bioregion, but more people will need to take up the work if we are to develop a local sustainable food system that can feed residents in the future. We need “Real Democracy”, in which all stakeholders, or their chosen representatives are present and have an equal voice at all points in the food system.
The first major obstacle I see the entwining encumbrance from the larger political arena. Connecticut is a wealthy state, in terms of actual capital, and the value of the land. I will not get into an analysis of this. I point it out simply for the implications to what I say next. Politically agriculture as we know it in the State of Connecticut has been profit oriented rather than “food” oriented. Consider the following facts:
Connecticut’s top five agricultural products are greenhouse and nursery products 45.8%, dairy products, chicken eggs 13.1%, aquaculture 6.1%, and sweet corn 2% (UConn). Connecticut also exports tobacco and shellfish. In fact in 2010 Connecticut ranked 3rd in the nation in the export of tobacco, it was CT’s number one agricultural export. Revenue from tobacco was worth 93.4 million dollars almost half of the full agricultural export income of 179.8 million. It should also be noted that CT has the dubious distinction of ranking first in percentage of farmland lost from 1997-2002 - almost 13% (BuyCTGrown).
These statistics make it very clear to me that taking back farmland to feed our local bioregion will be colossal, and political. Connecticut has developed much of the land. Land that could be used to feed local communities has converted into sites for hotels, and other revenue generating ventures to attract tourism dollars (particularly in my bioregion). The remaining farmland is largely used to generate agricultural and other “top” products for export. Convincing the powers that be or even farmers to switch from those crops in order to grow food for people, and feed for livestock will be a task for the mighty. One glimmer of hope is that tobacco farmers do not receive federal subsidies so perhaps a “transition incentive” might be attractive to them.
In addition to solid policy decisions at all levels of...