Transition to a Healthy,
Local Food System
As we saw on the Make the Transition page, agriculture is one of the biggest users of energy and producers of greenhouse gases. Synthetic fertilizers, on-farm fossil fuel use for equipment, methane-producing manure, food transportation – these are all areas where we can act to reduce Minnesota’s greenhouse gas emissions. Buy local, eat local, grow local, invest local.
Agriculture, forestry and land use is also where we can start to REVERSE climate change. Regenerative agriculture can put carbon back into the soil for the benefit of plants and the atmosphere. Rebuilding our forest cover and wisely harvesting forest crops can capture and store carbon.
Food is also the place where we need to build resilience. Crops and livestock are vulnerable to extreme weather. Our food, our soil, our water – these natural systems are all at risk. These are all reasons why the Transition Town movement has focused on food from the beginning.
What’s Your Food Action Plan?
Changing your diet can be one of the easiest and most affordable first steps to take to reduce your carbon footprint. Take a look at:
- What we eat,
- How it’s grown, and
- Where it ends up.
Improve Your Diet: More than half of food-related emissions come from animal products, so eating less or no meat, dairy, or eggs can reduce your food carbon footprint by as much as 3 tons a year. You can reduce it by 25% just by avoiding beef and lamb.
Wondering about the impact of other favorite foods? Chocolate is often grown in areas that are deforested for its production. Rice-growing produces both methane and nitrous oxide. Check out this food footprint calculator to learn more.
Source Your Food Locally and With Care: The money you spend on food is your vote for how our food should be grown. When you buy local, you are supporting local people and local jobs. When you choose organic produce and fruit, you are investing in farmers caring for the soil. When you choose grass-fed, free-range, no-antibiotic meat, you are supporting farmers committed to raising healthy animals.
Can’t afford organic? Don’t do it all the time. Pick the things that are most important to you. Consider going organic for those foods that are most often contaminated by pesticides – the Dirty Dozen. Maybe you can’t afford grass-fed beef, but you can afford cage-free eggs. Do what works for you.
Grow Some of Your Own: Like the Victory gardeners of WWII, home gardens can make a valuable contribution to our national health. Eat local by learning how to grow, prepare and store some of your own food.
Reduce Food Waste: When we throw away food, we throw away the energy, water and fertilizers used to grow that food, as well as the money we spent to buy it. When food rots in a landfill, it releases methane, a climate-warming powerhouse. Worm bins and organics composting are two solutions for no-longer-edible food, but eating the food you buy is the most cost-effective.
Visit our Food Resilience page for groups and resources to help you reduce food waste and your food footprint. If you would like help finding teachers for a skillshare event, contact Transition Twin Cities.
Bring the Idea of Food Resilience to Your Community
Transition groups can help build a more food-secure and climate-resilient community. For example, Transition Longfellow (Mpls) has installed more than 200 raised bed vegetable gardens in neighbors’ yards, at cost, in a program they call Chard Your Yard. They also partner with Hennepin County master gardeners to offer a Veggie Basics class in their community.
Examples of action-oriented approaches Transition groups (and other community sustainability groups) have taken to build resilience, eat local and reduce their food footprint:
- Host film nights to help people understand the issues.
- Host a garden Q&A once a month. Get to know your local master gardeners! They are an incredible source of science-based information.
- Invite speakers from groups working on food issues on a bigger scale, like the Main Street Project (regenerative agriculture using chickens) or the Land Stewardship Project
- Start a cooperative investment club. Get acquainted with Slow Money Minnesota and its “grow a farmer” program.
- Inform people about opportunities to impact city regulations related to growing food, raising chickens, or starting cottage food businesses.
Skill shares give people hands-on experience in a fun, social environment that can be cross-cultural and intergenerational. Work together to:
- Build a rain barrel or a rain barrel system
- Sow seeds in winter using plastic milk jugs
- Learn to prune trees, save seeds, and mulch
- Learn to make jam, dehydrate herbs, can tomatoes, and pressure cook
Making life changes can be difficult when food is involved. “Challenges” give people a specific amount of time to try something new. After they’ve done it, participants may find it wasn’t so hard after all. Examples of food challenges:
- Meat-free Mondays
- Go vegetarian for a month
- Eat with the season
- Eat local within your region or within the U.S.
- Commit to reduce food waste for a week
Food IS a Justice Issue
Food justice is multi-pronged, referring to affordability and access, and also land access, seed access, equity for farmers and farm workers, and care for silent partners – the soil and pollinators.
Growing food is one “eat local” strategy: backyard gardens, community gardens, community orchards (see the example of Longfellow’s Adams Grove), and gleaning projects like Transition Sarasota’s (FL) gleaning program. Most of these require land, education and time. Busy families may need additional solutions.
The Transition movement has its roots in permaculture and its 3-pronged ethic of Care for People, Care for Planet and Share the Surplus. That sharing includes sharing with the soil that feeds us all. Regenerative agriculture is part of the justice movement.
Farmers and farm workers are on the front line of climate change … and economic changes. How can we help farmers weather the difficulties ahead while producing our food in a healthful, soil-building way? There are no easy answers but by putting our heads together and funding the changes we need, we will make faster progress.