Urbanization and Operating Outside the Industrial Food System

In Food Systems, ITP

Many of the readings from this week touch on the need to stop thinking about feeding the world’s population, but instead, to focus on creating self-sustaining communities (countries, regions and cities) that feed themselves.

So much of what I’ve learned so far in this class is that empowering localities to produce food for themselves is the best way to address the problems facing the food system. This idea works directly in contrast to industrialized agriculture that thinks of crops more as a commodity for the global market than as sustenance for the communities that actually participate in the agricultural production. To go one step further, it’s important to separate oneself from the high cost of participating in a system where you are beholden to the large players in the environmental sciences space . One must adopt natural methods like bio-diversity, which have proven thier virtues in yield, quality and resilience to changing climates.


While the case for this smaller, local scale of agriculture has very strong arguments on it’s side, I’m by no means educated on the subject enough to accept this as an absolute truth. However, assuming it is true, there is one clear challenge that comes to mind for me. Even as you develop a network of local producers, how can you ensure that the food actually gets distributed locally? So much of the food economy is geared towards distribution on a larger scale and people will be inclined to follow the path of least resistance. I know of several urban farms that produce greens locally in NYC but they will distribute to where it makes economical sense. They do not follow a mandate to strictly distribute to their immediate surroundings. To some, that could be seen as a privileged/fortunate way of operating a business because it can be very hard to compete against larger producers.


It’s important to encourage people to produce more locally, but also, to commit themselves to serving the local community where they operate. The need for “conscious” distribution from the local producers is something that needs to be paid close attention to for the local food economy to function.

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