Flowering arch with oranges | Credit: Courtesy

Even before the current pandemic/economic crisis millions of American families lacked adequate healthy food and billions around the world faced food insecurity, hunger, or even starvation in places like Yemen. While this crisis has not yet resulted in major American food shortages, it has laid bare the instability of our globalized food system. 

Disruptions caused by the current crisis have caused massive amounts of food to go to waste. Food workers, local food businesses, and the Main Street economy have been devastated, while the wealthiest Americans have profited or been bailed out. Very little of the food we eat is grown locally and most food grown locally is shipped elsewhere. Much of our food is shipped thousands of miles, producing massive pollution and carbon emissions.

Get the top stories in your inbox by signing up for our daily newsletter, Indy Today.

Our current food system depends primarily on huge agribusiness and food distribution corporations whose main purpose is to enrich executives and profit shareholders. As a result it has become precarious and unsustainable in multiple ways:

  • Food is distributed through complex channels that can break down during crisis.
  • Yields are diminishing in many places as droughts and floods increase.
  • Conventional agriculture depletes and destroys necessary topsoil and wastefully squanders limited freshwater and groundwater supplies.
  • Food is grown and shipped with massive energy inputs that cannot be sustained as climate chaos and economic decline force huge reductions in energy use. (It is far too late to solve the climate crisis simply by switching to renewables.) 
  • Food is grown and processed in unhealthful ways.
Nitrogen-fixing acacia tree in bloom

What if the purpose of our food system was instead to dependably and sustainably nourish everyone with healthy food? To accomplish this we would need to:

  • Grow food more intensively in ways that build soil and conserve water supplies.
  • Grow food close to where it is consumed using the least possible energy.
  • Grow more diverse foods that suit local conditions.
  • Cultivate more local land to replace declining yields elsewhere.
  • Distribute food more directly.
  • Grow, process, distribute, and prepare food in healthful ways. 

Transforming our existing food system will require public awareness and political will that are still not well-developed. But we can get the ball rolling now by starting to grow more food locally on private and public property. Converting ornamental landscapes and open land to food production will help build a sustainable local food system and at the same time increase public consciousness and political will. 

Happily, food-producing landscapes do not have to look like your typical vegetable garden. They can instead look beautiful, provide outdoor living space, and produce abundant food with minimal water and maintenance. One of the best approaches is food forest landscaping, which aesthetically integrates fruit and nut trees, food-bearing shrubs and bushes, vegetables, root crops, herbs, flowers, vines, companion plants and in some cases small animals into a beautiful, largely self-sustaining ecosystem. 

The good news is that no matter who you are you can help create a localized food system now:

Apricots and flowers
  • If you own property you can revamp your landscape in ways that combine beauty, function, and abundant food production.
  • If you have knowledge and skills you can help people who have property to design and install such landscapes.
  • If you enjoy gardening you can help install and maintain these landscapes while you share in both the food and the satisfaction of donating the surplus to people in need.   

What could be more rewarding than working together to create a sustainable, healthy future for our children? 

For more information please contact Brad Smith at bsmith.interplay@gmail.com or (805) 705-5844 

Every day, the staff of the Santa Barbara Independent works hard to sort out truth from rumor and keep you informed of what’s happening across the entire Santa Barbara community. Now there’s a way to directly enable these efforts. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution or with a subscription to Indy+.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.