Is Modern Agriculture Moving Toward Locally Sourced Foods?
With climate change on the rise, plus the projected global population, farmers and consumers must address changes in the modern agricultural system. How can one industry feed nearly 10 billion mouths without hurting the environment?
Local food systems are not anything new, but society has moved away from this practice with industrial farming. Centuries ago, local farmers would provide enough food — including fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and dairy products — for entire communities. Most of the food people consumed was produced within a 50-mile radius.
Up until now, modern agriculture enabled people to primarily get their food from a grocery store. The food in grocery stores has traveled far and wide to get to a plate. However, to feed more and more people, the local food movement will have to make its presence known worldwide. Instead of food being industrial and globally sourced, we are moving toward sustainable and local practices.
Is modern agriculture moving toward locally sourced foods? With people more concerned about the environment and healthy foods, the answer seems to be yes.
Although many people think this is the case, large-scale agriculture is not, in fact, the primary source of food in the world. Family-owned farms throughout the world produce more food for people than industrial-sized farms. In countries other than the United States, family farmers work the land to provide for themselves and their families. It’s only in developed countries that industrial farming offers dividends for its residents.
Some communities in developed countries realize the importance of locally sourced foods. However, these people reside in heavily populated areas where there is little to no space to get a few acres of land to grow food.
A relatively newer method of farming known as vertical farming has enabled urban areas to produce food locally. Instead of using land horizontally, these farms take the vertical approach. Most vertical farms use hydroponic systems, which grow plants without the need for soil. Inside these farms are lights and ventilation systems which provide the perfect environment to grow plants. Once the food is ready to harvest, farmers can sell it to local communities. That way, people can source their food locally rather than purchase their food from a grocery store, limiting food miles and thus helping the environment.
Another method that embraces locally sourced food production is urban farming. Vertical farming can be categorized as urban agriculture, but there’s more to urban agriculture than just vertical farming. Some urban farms are managed by a community on a plot of land near residences. Additionally, some people decide to grow food on rooftops.
As modern agriculture moves toward locally sourced foods, those who have access to it will reap so many benefits:
- Local food is full of flavor: Locally grown foods are harvested at peak ripeness, meaning they are full of flavor. With industrial farming, foods are often picked before ripeness and then ripen on a countertop.
- Growers can tell you how it’s grown: You can directly ask a farmer how they produced a particular crop. This provides information about the food, including any fertilizers or certain watering methods used.
- It helps the environment: Purchasing locally grown foods helps the environment. The food travels a shorter distance, which lessens fuel emissions. Plus, it helps maintain local farmland.
- The food is safer: Food grown thousands of miles away has a higher chance of being contaminated or becoming a safety issue. However, food grown locally is often much safer because there are fewer steps between you and the food source.
- Local food promotes the local economy: Buying locally supports the local economy, which is a critical factor in sustainability and will help to feed billions more people in the future.
Locally sourced food is healthier for those consuming it, and it’s better for the environment and the economy, which is why so many people are interested in going back to the agricultural roots of local and family farming.
The move toward locally sourced food is one that everyone should get behind. Concerns associated with industrial farming have been enough reason to rethink how modern agriculture operates and ensure the future of agriculture remains sustainable.