Friday, January 2, 2009

The New Food Economy and the New Southside

The Franklin News-Post reported a story last week about the "new food economy," an agricultural system that emphasizes locally-grown produce. The article points to a proliferation of CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture systems, across the area. There are very good reasons to be excited about this trend, particularly because of its applications for rural communities throughout Virginia.

First, the obvious benefits for local growers: in this globalizing world, the folks down the street need all the help they can get. Farmers' markets provide a central location where the community can not only buy local food, but also interact with the growers, which adds a huge social advantage. As consumers notice that local produce just tastes better, they self-select into supporting their new friends and create demand for more local crops. This model plays into the idyllic small-town-America vibe that pervades the Southside, which can only make our region a more attractive place to live and work. 

There are also huge environmental benefits to buying local, since your food hasn't burned enormous amounts of gas or diesel to reach you--not to mention that it likely won't be doused with preservatives and pesticides. 

Of course, Southside residents and rural Virginians have been shopping at farmers' markets for years, but I think the next step is to create regional economies built on that practice. For example, I would like to see counties shipping their produce into cities like Roanoke, Danville, and Martinsville, where restaurants would agree to use as much local produce as possible. That model could then be expanded northward to urban centers throughout the state.

The News-Post article cites Floyd County's Seven Springs Farm as an example of a CSA in action. Here are some other helpful links: a Biodynamics CSA list with Virginia locations, and Local Harvest, a database of CSAs and farmers' markets.

No comments: