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Why supporting local is one one the simplest ways you can help ensure the security of your community

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Well, technically the title I wanted was this: Why supporting Local is one one the simplest ways you can help ensure the food security of your local community... My blog-builder thought this title was too long, but I disagree.

This week I had the opportunity to fly to Washington DC to participate in advocacy with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. They flew in farmers and food systems organizers from across the country to meet with members of Congress as well the USDA. The goal? To advocate for food system needs. Specifically, to advocate that more funds in the next farm bill be directed towards support of local food systems. We also offered some strategic recommendations on how to better structure existing programs to more effectively serve the communities that need these funds the most.

DC Case Studies

Every farmer I met in DC was involved in food system work. It was sweet to get to know everyone and to listen to the stories of the work they are doing in their own communities. I was shocked that every single farmer had a story about the pandemic, a story about how the "conventional" food system failed them and their community during that period. Everyone stressed the important role of their local supply chain to bridge the gaps created by the pandemic. One farmer from Ohio told me about how their school districts couldn't get fresh produce during the pandemic, a problem remedied by the local co-op who stepped up and was able to get local vegetables from farmers directly to schools. (Thank goodness for the adaptability of this "unconventional" supply chain!) There were stories from Georgia about a farmer-led food hub aggregating produce and getting it directly to customers - helping to improve food access and while also redirecting produce that would have been otherwise sold to restaurants... a less-than viable outlet at the beginning of the pandemic.

I didn't take many photos in DC, but I did manage to snap this one!

The Problem

It is clear that our economy has only focused on one thing: EFFICIENCY. Yet in order to achieve this esteemed efficiency, we have overlooked a key metric: RESILIENCE. Long, obscured supply chains can result in the cheapest products (only) when all parts of the supply chain are functioning properly. But as soon as there is one hitch in the chain, it all crumbles. This is a big deal for everyone, but especially for those who don't have the time or resources to creatively navigate these shortages to feed their families. Even here in Texas, we have experienced multiple supply chain shocks over the past two years as a result of the pandemic, and then the winter storm. It may seem like a distant memory, but grocery store shelves throughout the state were bare during both events. The beauty of local supply chains is that they are inherently more adaptable. We as local producers can more easily pivot because our farms are human-scale, and usually begin and end with our business our with a small and manageable number of local partners. Our processes can adapt infinitely better than those of multinational corporations located thousands of miles away, and in times of stress, we can get food on the tables of those who need it.

The Solution

There are SO MANY reasons to support your local farms and food producers. By supporting the type of ethical agriculture you want to see in your community, you are accessing fresher (and arguably healthier) food for you and your family. You are keeping local dollars in our local economy. Beyond just the value of the food itself, there is exponential value in supporting the local food systems and the structures that get food from local farms to your kitchen (or grocery store, or neighborhood market). I pride myself on being an optimist, but at this point, I have to honestly say that the likelihood of future disruptions to our national supply chain is likely, if not inevitable. Having robust local production and supply chains is an incredibly valuable asset.. but one that will not exist unless we're PROACTIVE. It's not enough to start thinking about the need for food access and resiliency in the middle of our next disaster. We have to think about it now.

I made this pitch to the members of Congress I had the opportunity to speak with, and was happily surprised that there was care and concern coming from both sides of the aisle. The support seems to be bi-partisan. I don't know any Texan that is against the idea of local farms feeding local families. Hopefully, some of the advocacy work we did will result in increased funding for local food infrastructure in the next farm bill. (What is the farm bill?)

Your Role

The good news? We don't have to wait on the federal government to affect our community's food security and strengthen our local infrastructure. If you're reading this blog (and have gotten this far), you're already at the table. Ultimately, these markets are driven by YOU, the consumer.

If eating local food was part of your story of “surviving” the pandemic, or if you are worried about the resiliency of our food system, please make a conscious effort to turn this concern into action by supporting your local supply chain and your local farmers. It may be the only political action you can take that tastes so delicious. Don't wait.

Already eat local vegetables? Great! There's more you can do. Tell your friends about this CSA, your favorite farmers' market, or your favorite source for local, pasture-raised pork. (We're biased on the pork front). With fall veggies beginning to roll out of the fields, it's the perfect time to tell your friends about local farms. If they're not accustomed to eating seasonally, they'll have an easy transition into the fall CSA season; the abundance at this time of year is unparalleled as we finish out the summer (squash, peppers) and invite in fall (lettuces, carrots, broccoli). Our crop availability at this time of year basically looks like an HEB shelf, but way fresher, tastier, and more responsibly grown.

Our new partner Local Pastures is a great example of the innovation happening in our very local, Austin, Texas supply chain. If you eat eggs and meat check out their direct-from-farm offerings.

Last but not least, if you are in Lockhart, San Marcos or Buda (or know someone who is!), make sure you know about the Central Texas Farmers Co-Op. This farmer-owned cooperative (which VRDNT is a member of!) proudly serves these areas outside of Austin with awesome vegetables, all sourced from an incredible group of local growers.

Thanks for reading, and thank you for your support of local agriculture.

Sincerely, Farmer Becky


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