Traditional societies normally provided for people’s sense of who and what they were, and sustained viable communities, which provided a framework for people’s lives. They answered questions such as — Who am I? What is my purpose in life? To whom do I matter, apart from my immediate family or close kin? They gave people a sense of communitas. This need continues today. Many stories about the future point to some of the ways new smaller, more intimate, and more open societies can be created. Halweil has described a situation based in his observations in Lincoln Nebraska where an alternative system has emerged among farmers who for a wide variety of reasons have chosen to maintain their own farms, grow a multitude of crops, make their own preserves and create a kind of new community. Even the new market where all of their excess produce is sold has become a kind of place to meet neighbors, talk to one another and spend pleasurable social time. The growth of farmer’s markets in the US as well as the equivalent in Europe is a testimony to people’s desires to know who produces their food and to establish a human relationship with them. Indeed, the interest in local food is like an epidemic. Articles about local markets appear in newspapers nationwide, and programs about them are appearing more and more on Television, especially the publically supported stations. The presence of a farmers’ market or community garden often inspires neighboring areas to create their own, and the possibilities for start-up food businesses, including bakeries, butchers, vegetable stores, canneries, caterers, et. Multiply with the growing availability of local stores.
People also need neighbors to turn to for both emergencies and at times of celebration. To share life is an important almost biological need. Scheer in The Solar Economy notes:
This model of economic development is jeopardizing our future…we will be in no position to face these challenges if the existing practical knowledge of land management and plant husbandry of hundreds of millions of farmers were to vanish.
The future of society can no longer be secured if the economy is not structured around primary production. . . As agriculture transforms itself into an integrated food, energy and resources business, it will start to grow rather than continue to shrink.
The real business for the agricultural sector lies in this cross-sectoral synergy. This, together with the concomitant ability to produce fertilizers and pest deterrents on site, is what will liberate farming from its suppliers, the chemicals and energy industries. It will also bring jobs back out into the countryside, partly with new roles, but also with wholly new opportunities. The person specification for a farmer capable of dealing with the whole spectrum of plant life is as demanding as any: the adaptability to learn the land, climate and nutrient requirements of a variety of plants, a solid grounding in biology and biochemistry, and in the latest harvesting technology (p. 317-8).
The idea of a foodshed, discussed by many, and modeled on the analogy of a watershed, is a land of contiguous land, people and businesses that provide a community with its food. While this concept is still small in relation to the dominant patterns, is slowly growing and might take off sometime in the next ten years. It is being promoted by health activists world-wide.
Certainly sustainable food systems can both improve people’s access to healthier and more nutritious food, increase outputs, and reduce inputs if it makes use of a wide range of alternative information including alternative energy sources, better community-wide conservation of water and water sources, and even the seeds that people use to grow their food. Community seed banks not only preserve biodiversity but also increase a sense of community belonging.
Ecologically sound, locally grown basic food movements are on the rise world-wide. They offer considerable promise for the future, a future in which climatic changes and the need to drastically shorten food miles and to find new models for the survival of humanity will only hasten the growth of these new movements. We aim to help with this by raising funds to support the growth and spread of small-scale successful models of sustainable agriculture in South India.