By Judith Boogaart
[Note: This is the second post by guest blogger, Judith Boogaart, who helped cover the Hope College Critical Issues Symposium event while I was at the Taste of Greenmarket in New York City last week. For her previous post, check out “Local CSA Farmers and Members Share Thoughts at Hope College Symposium.”]
Drawn from interviews with people as varied as college professors, store owners, food editors, farmers and farm market patrons, the documentary “Eating in Place” explores the issue of eating locally and whether this model is sustainable in West Michigan.
The film highlights many reasons for the recent interest in changing to a local food supply network:
Social Justice – Is access to healthy, nutritious food a right or a privilege? Advocates say everyone should have access to good food.
Economics – In a global market, food is merely a commodity, with no way to preserve food identity. Local food economy is an act of survival, by keeping resources in the local area and letting consumers know exactly what they are eating.
Environment – Many industrial farmers, who only see the land from ten feet up on a tractor, no longer know the land. They don’t know the natural ecological techniques for growing healthy food and preserving the soil, and are at the mercy of dangerous pesticides and chemical fertilizers to produce their crops.
Health – We start out on breast milk, the first “local food.” Continuing that by eating locally produced vegetables, fruits, grains, and animals means healthier people.
Taste – Will we change our food habits because it’s the right thing to do? Maybe. Because it’s better for us? Maybe. But if it tastes better? M-m-m…definitely!
Community – We are insecure when we are dependent on something we have no control over. The only way to survive is by caring for each other – for everyone, not just those who can afford it.
So, is local eating sustainable in West Michigan? West Michigan has great resources: bountiful land, sufficient water, good climate and growing season. But according to Professor David Dornbos of Calvin College, we need a tricky balance in three spheres to be truly sustainable. Environmentally, can we produce local food in a way that causes “no harm?” Economically, will local food producers be viable as businesses long term? Socially, is the surrounding community sufficiently engaged in this arrangement?
For our health and the future of our local economy, let’s hope so!