self sufficiency and the city
Self sufficiency in the city
No doubt it is possible - in fact I know of a city dweller who grows most of his own food. He has a piece of land he rents, at a reasonable rate on the edge of the city where he grows most of his food. He complains about the traffic noise at his growing plot - says it drives him mad - however its over a kilometer from the main road in question and tucked away in a beutifull valley - some people dont know how lucky they are!! He is also involved in the organisation of a community food growing project in the city.
This example I find particularly heartening as he not only produces most of his food but he shares his skills and knowledge via the community food project. This project engages with schools and adults with learning difficulties and via these activities he earns a living - well that part of it that he does not grow
Of course land is scarse and in demand around cities, which makes it more difficult to find a piece suitable for growing. Which in turn increases the probability that you would have to travel further to get to your growing space with the additional travelling time increasing the efforts that have to be expended.
The classic example, much loved by the Transition Towns movement is of Cuba - the film ‘The Power of Community’ (which I’ve sadly yet to see) details how Cuba had to drastically increase food production after the Soviet Union split and Cuba lost the massive food and oil supplies that had been sent. The film apparently paints a somewhat rosey picture, but with massive state support domestic food production increased dramatically ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Period ) . People grew much more in the city - being creative with their use of space. Also movement from the cities back to the land was facilitiated.
There does appear to be a growing interest in food growing, I certainly see it here in the UK. There is much on television, a massive demand for allotments (which are sadly massively under supplied - particularly in cities) and for the first time since WW2 vegetable seed sales have recently out stripped flower seed sales. The planning system combined with the property and vegetable markets make it extremely difficult for new enterants to move into food production. There is a big financial outlay (and probably debt - which will require servicing) to aquire and gear up for production. Then a new entrant needs to have the growing skills and all the skills to keep their new business afloat and market their produce in a market with extrememly competative pricing. Its a tough start going it alone - which is one of the reasons I like the idea of food production which is a community enterprise - supported by, and in the service of a community.
Although many more self sufficient people, growing much of their own food would, in many ways, be a good thing, I dont find the thought amazingly attractive. I think much that is wrong in the world is due to the fact that people have become more and more insular. I think that food is a good way to bring people back together. At the community food projects where I volunteer I meet all kinds of people who I would never noramlly meet, let alone get to know. The sharing of food (at all the projects food is prepareed and shared) and labour creates friendships.
Benefits of a more resilient food production
I’ve covered some of this already, I’m going to outline benefits under a more resilient food system based upon the model I’ve tried to describe, although I think any resilient food system would share many characteristics.
to throw up a quick list -
For community -
- increased resilience to supply chain disruptions (possibly due to financial or energy disruptions)
- increased community 'strength' (greater community bonds)
- reduced imports (more wealth kept in community)
- less food transportation (pollution, congestion, energy)
- reduced energy consumption (fetilizer/peticide production, tractors)
For individuals -
- increased resilience (not totally reliant on a job to put food on the table)
- increased mental and physical wellbeing (working the soil, being in fresh air, collaborating and socialising with others, eating fresh vegetables, supporting yourself)
- greater understanding of the resources required for, and the impact of, the production of your food