This weekend I picked up environmental journalist Amanda Little’s new book, The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World. She details the difficult decisions we in the food world are grappling with regarding food access and sustainability in the face of climate change.
Little traveled the world meeting people at every level of the food system working to reinvent the way food is grown and arrives at our plates. Some proposed solutions were old-school like diverse permaculture and organic systems, edible insects, and ancient, indigenous crops. Others such as lab-grown meat, 3-D printed food, and vertical farms without soil or sunlight left me feeling uneasy. Little lays all the cards on the table.
These solutions are offered as a means to withstand the climate-caused disruptions to the global food system. Crop losses caused by droughts, floods, dramatic temperature fluctuations, and increased pest pressures are not distant problems. Farmers from our community to farmers in Kenya are feeling the impacts now.
The effects of climate change are not distributed uniformly, and the impacts to food production will be inequitably felt in poorer regions of the world where food security is already imperiled. Climate will ultimately test the resiliency of our food systems and determine who eats what.
As a proponent of regionalized food systems, it’s difficult for me to reconcile with ground beef grown in a distant lab as a food option and potential solution to climate change and I remain skeptical of greater concentration of power in the hands of already powerful food corporations.
Call me idealistic or optimistic, but I place my trust in the many, although decreasing, number of farmers capable of meeting the challenges of climate change if given the chance and support to engage in regenerative farming practices that support soil health.
Amidst all of the solutions in Little’s book, an idea that stayed with me was perhaps the most obvious. She posits that “The most effective solutions will emerge locally, region by region, built from the ground up by institutions…and by farmers…, engaging in trial and error.”
One of the many things I love about our home on Chequamegon Bay is the community of farmers and eaters engaged in the very trial and error necessary to meet the challenges of climate change.
Hazelnuts, composting, season extension, food preservation, and pasture-based meats are only a handful of examples of the region working to develop a localized and resilient food system model worthy of celebration.
On Friday, September 27, the Hulings Rice Food Center is hosting the Harvest Trail Dinner, a locally-sourced meal to honor those in our community who create such a vibrant and resilient food culture. We hope that this evening sparks conversation about what our locally specific solutions can look like and look forward to you joining us.
Danny Simpson ’18 studied biology at Northland College and is now the assistant manager at the Hulings Rice Food Center. This piece was written for Northland Connections, a weekly column in the Ashland Daily Press.