Planning for Food Sustainability
by Jason Bradley
Seeing that it’s well below zero this week, it may seem strange, but I’ve been thinking about gardening. As we move closer towards spring, I’ll be posting more about this, but we’re really not that far out from early planting dates. A lot of plants that you start indoors are started 6-8 weeks before the last frost (so we’re talking mid March to early April). You’ve got to have your seeds and planting strategy prior to this.
Why cover gardening? What does it have to do with our usual fare, here at Community Solutions MN? I feel that it’s important to take a moment to address this. We have asserted over and over that government is too involved in our daily lives in everything from taxes to transportation to food consumption. In growing our own food, we create a self-sustainable source that can be used to put the power back in our hands. A strong and healthy neighborhood is one that can take care of itself, despite what else is happening in town.
If we have a huge blizzard (not hard to believe in MN this time of year), and people flock to the stores and raid the shelves, what would you do for two or three days, while we clean up and wait for supplies? Wouldn’t it be nice to only have to worry about cracking the freezer open and pulling out a couple bags of frozen vegetables that you grew?
Having some jars of canned vegetables, or bags of frozen vegetables, also ensures that we can have nutrient-rich food all year round. Our local governments seem to be pushing us to get food from the local farmer’s markets, and indeed, they are quite popular. This food is usually locally grown and much healthier for you than some of the food you purchase in a grocery store. The cost still adds up pretty quickly, however. You pay for quality.
Unfortunately, you are paying more and more these days. If we look at 2012 inflation rates on food, we will see price increases that are above the average Consumer Price Index (which suspiciously leaves out food and gas prices, because they are seen as too volatile). A CNN study last August (http://money.cnn.com/2012/08/09/news/economy/food-prices-index/index.htm) stated that overall food inflation went up 6% in July alone, with corn rising 23%. Sugar was up 12%. Peanut butter and margarine also saw big increases. While we may not be able to produce sugar or peanut butter, we can grow other crops to help offset the cost of buying these things.
A prepared community is a healthy community. Local governments tell us that we should eat local, but often contradict that philosophy with watering bans, and disallowing certain types of plants in designated parts of your yard. They want you to go buy your food instead of grow it. We need to take a look at creative ways to grow food. There are many different methods we can consider, from using pots and above-ground planting boxes to neighborhood-wide efforts to maximize plant variety and harvest. Community gardens in empty lots are another viable solution. Each community needs to come together to decide what’s right for them, but doing nothing is probably not the wisest course of action. The time to start planning and talking to your neighbors is now, so you know what you’ll do in March and April. Make sure to share your ideas with us!