How to Feed More People: Think Small and Local

The world is not getting smaller. Around 350,000 babies are born each day, and by 2050, the world’s population can reach over 9 billion people. Today we rely on “green revolution” technologies to grow more food –  these technologies (pesticides, genetic modified plants, fertilizers) are used to grow high yield crops (corn, soybeans, wheat) or monocrops. But the green revolution is also a process with huge environmental costs. And the human costs include more diet-related diseases, malnutrition (hunger and obesity) and wasted food. How can we reverse the harm from industrial or conventional agriculture? What are solutions to grow food differently?

Local Food Systems

A solution to feeding more people is to think local and grow local. We need alternative and creative growing practices that are less harmful to nature and people.

What is “local” food? It is food produced within 100 miles from, food you buy from the farmer’s market or whatever food you grow in your own windowsill.

Improved farming technology
Credit: Jennifer Hyman, Land O’Lakes International Development

A local food system offers choices in buying food that is fresh, organic, and healthy.

A local food system is also a regional food system: food distributed over short distances, using organic growing practices, and produced in a local geographic area.

Growing Food Differently

Rural and urban food systems both contribute to the local food culture.  Rural food systems are not the large commercial farms – they are part of a food system supported by small-holder farmers. Urban food systems include growing food in containers, patios, school gardens, and rooftops in our cities.

Different food systems look at the ecosystem of food: the impact of food production on nature, the supply chain, consumer health and well-being, waste, and crop yield. Smaller food systems favor a big picture view of our growing practices.

Small and local food systems fill a gap because they don’t need large-scale technologies to grow food. Small farms can grow a biodiversity of crops v. conventional farming based on monocropping.

Final Thoughts

One blog concluded that agricultural technology comes with unintended consequences. While these technologies drive the overall food system, we still need alternative ways to grow food. Fresh produce at Farmers MarketGrowing food differently is one way to see the bigger picture, reduce environmental and social harm, and support the local food system. Thinking small and local, offers a holistic way to grow more food.

Dr. Bessie
Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the center of an education.
~~~Alice Waters~~~

Author: Dr. Bessie DiDomenica

Food Policy Researcher • Resilient Agriculture Advocate • Public Speaker • Public Policy Wonk • Writer • Teacher • Social Entrepreneur • Associate Editor

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