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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013 6 years ago

Tom Carey: Future of local farming

Your future food source might be a throwback.
by: Tom Carey

Community Supported Agriculture, which was introduced into North America in the mid 1980s and modeled after the Paris market gardens of the late 19th century, is the system of directly linking the grower to the consumer in a locally based community. Regional crop choices are encouraged by climate, soil, culture, and micro-economies. Compared to the industrial agricultural methods currently promoted, the CSA type of farming would seem to be merely a nostalgic return to the methods of the past.

Perniciously high unemployment rates among those entering the work force, along with the media’s drumbeat of environmental, cultural, and scientific concerns, have trended many fresh horticultural and environmental career seekers towards the sustainable agricultural sciences. Government statistics proudly tout that less than 2 percent of our workforce grows our food, but fail to note the alarming fact that most current farmers are approaching retirement age. With the valuation of arable land near any urban market priced for condo development, then to be used growing food valued at its lowest cost in the history of our species, new farmers seeking community opportunities are presented intractable odds just to get started.

We can purchase from the corner big-box grocery store almost any type of produce any time of the year from any location on earth. Why would we bother with sourcing our vegetables, dairy, meat, honey, seafood or pickles from numerous farms and farmers? Here’s my first use ever of a Bible quotation: "Matthew 4:4 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'" I take this to mean: sure we can eat until we are obese, but knowing the people and back-story of our food will lead to a meaningful life!

Good ideas lost to quick profits, but returning when shared wealth is not broadly based enough to bind a dependency is powerful enough to change many a seemingly bastioned industry. Creative plans to dip into the dirt are spewing in every corner of our culture. Growing methods are being invented while we speak; on skyscraper rooftops, in reclaimed post-urban apocalypses, at aquaponically vermiposted backyards, of spare bedroom micro-greeneries, and under ‘share farming’ (no, not share cropping) with existing farmers. The markets are also changing with produce retailers seeking and gathering locally procured products, restaurants flexible with seasonally available specials and menus, producer-only farmer’s markets, dietary meet-ups, health organizations, disease support clubs, and all kinds of enjoyable festivals and events. Sure, all this opportunity amounts to only 1 percent of the food supply, but our market is doubling every year.

Tom Carey is the owner of Sundew Gardens, a you-pick gardening business in Oviedo. Visit the Sundew Gardens Facebook page and email him at [email protected]

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