“This magical, marvelous food on our plate, this sustenance we absorb, has a story to tell. It has a journey. It leaves a footprint. It leaves a legacy. To eat with reckless abandon, without conscience, without knowledge; folks, this ain’t normal.”
– Joel Salatin, farmer and author of Folks, This Ain’t Normal; You Can Farm
How often do you think about where the food on your plate comes from? Is it from a farm in your district or state? Is it grown by people working for fair wages under safe and hygienic labour conditions? Urbanisation, globalization and changing global consumption patterns, are some of the more straightforward reasons why most people aren’t aware of the answers to these questions. However, as more people become curious about the story their food is telling, the local food movement gains more supporters and subscribers.
As it turns out, one of the easiest ways to choose what kind of story your food tells is to eat local!
Community Supported Agriculture
Now is as good a time as ever to reflect on how our individual consumption behaviour contributes to local farmers’ well being. Given a choice, close to 90% of consumers we surveyed across urban India would like to verify the source of their food, know more about how it was grown, and engage with the farmers who grow it. This is in line with the global trend as well. Local food movements, such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives, have been taking shape across the world to connect the farmer with the consumer, and are making a positive economic and cultural impact at the local level. This movement has now resulted in over 50,000 CSAs across the world creating options to buy fruits and vegetables directly from the farmer. You can read more about CSA here.
India too has seen a rising number of CSAs as a result of the rapid growth in demand for locally grown food, especially among millennials.
Why Should I Support My Local Farmer?
- Investing in the economic development of my neighbourhood
When a consumer decides to spend on local businesses and local produce, it keeps the money within the community, instead of into a large Multinational Corporation.
- Bringing the community together
When we take the time to think about what is best for our community, we are beginning a relationship with the members of our community, and fostering a sense of belonging and togetherness in our neighbourhoods.
- Empowering consumers
To know exactly what you’re buying and eating is a lot harder than it seems. How much do we know about where our food comes from and who grows it? How do we know that the money we pay is reaching the people who are ensuring we don’t go hungry? These are ethical problems that local food movements want to engage with.
- Ensuring the farmer is paid fairly and regularly
It is often the middlemen who profit from agriculture, while farmers languish in debt. When we buy directly from farmers, we are supporting their work and ensuring that they can live comfortable lives while remaining farmers.
- Supporting biologically and culturally diverse crops
Farmers know what is best grown locally and during different seasons, but often cannot grow crops that are unprofitable. By supporting farmers directly and learning to eat local varieties of grains and vegetables, we are encouraging the growth of biologically diverse foods that support a wide variety of diets and cultural food customs
Plus, it’s the principle of it: We should all be demanding transparency and accountability when it comes to food safety and security.
Buying local is crucial now more than ever before. Supporting local food movements allows every one of us to contribute towards a sustainable environment, economy, community, and future.
Participating in the Local Food Movement
With the growing awareness about local food movements and their vision for the future, a lot of people are choosing to eat locally grown produce. There are also those who are actively participating in the movement in different ways, making them active members of a community that shares their passion for healthy eating, ethical consumption, and a sustainable future.
Volunteering your time or skills
There are various ways to participate in this movement. You can begin by signing up as a volunteer at an NGO which works with farmers and food systems, or you can locate a CSA network close to you and offer your time or skills.
Vishalakshi Padmanabhan, who founded The Buffalo Back Collective says, “Various people come together to participate in the upliftment of local farming practices. Each person takes ownership of their job. There is no hierarchy and each individual maintains the sustainability standards of the collective. People who are passionate about the initiative come from different parts of the state.”
Learning about local varieties
When it comes to local food, always embrace the biodiversity of the food that is produced in your region. There are probably a lot of superfoods that are locally grown and are unique to your particular geographical area. Not only will you be cutting down on your food miles, but it will also help preserve genetic diversity.
To help out in this line of operation, you can head to a farmers’ market near you and buy your food only from local farmers; ask them questions and, here too, offer your time or your skills.
Another great way to pitch in is by selecting restaurants that are part of the Farm-To-Table movement, and use local produce for their dishes. Many chefs and cooks source their food from the farmers’ market, so eating at these restaurants will ensure that they know they have your support. Restaurants like Kala Ghoda Cafe and Olive Bar in Mumbai or Go Native in Bangalore promote local produce by picking out their daily stocks from the farmer’s market.
Wherever you live, give your favourite restaurants a push too, if they haven’t already considered sourcing their produce locally! Similarly, buying local brands at grocery stores and suggesting other local brands they can source for their shelves will help create more awareness and betterment for the community.
Growing your own
You can also show your support at a more individual level. You can grow some of your own food in a private or communally owned space, or plant fruit trees in your neighbourhood. You can plan your menu around seasonal availability and help others around you do the same.
Most importantly, start reading, listening and learning about sustainable agricultural practices and policies, about the agricultural crisis and how we contribute to it, and stay informed about decisions that affect your farmers and ultimately, you.
These are just a few ways you can strengthen the local food movement. Spread the word to promote and encourage the movement in your social circles. Your participation will benefit various groups of people: consumers, farmers, and in the long run, the planet itself. Let’s dedicate a small chunk of our time towards making sure we understand our food and take action to secure the future of the planet.