The United States was once home to a wealth of local food systems that supplied most of the food people needed from relatively nearby.
In a process that continues today, those locally adapted systems have been steadily dismantled in favor of a centralized model that requires large-scale monocul tures, massive chemical inputs, fewer farmers and ever more transport.
This shift is now a worldwide phenomenon that benefits agribusiness and supermarket corporations that increasingly control the food supply. For local communities, economies and ecosystems, this process has been disastrous. There is an urgent need to strengthen local food economies, thereby providing a cascade of benefits for consumers, farmers and the environment.
If you want to create a more sustainable society, a good place to start is by helping rebuild your local food economy. Everyone everywhere needs food every day, which means that even relatively small changes in the way it is produced and marketed can have immense effects.
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In recent years, many individuals and organizations have devoted themselves to addressing problems in Kentucky's food system. Though victories have been won, the overall picture continues to deteriorate. The food system remains heavily dependent on toxic agricultural chemicals, fossil fuels and food crops with an extremely narrow genetic base. Irradiated and genetically engineered foods line supermarket shelves, even though neither technology has been proven safe. The number of small and medium-sized farms continues to decline, and farm workers are still impoverished, their working conditions abysmal. Despite an obesity epidemic, many Kentuckians are unable to put enough food on the table.
We must take back the food system and get involved in what Will Allen of Growing Power calls the "Good Food Revolution." The re-localization of our food economies would protect small farms, businesses and local jobs; allow food to be produced in ways that nurture rather than destroy the land and provide food that is healthful and nutritious.
We encourage Kentuckians to join us physically or spiritually as growers, educators, leaders and others gather in Lexington April 21 for the Bluegrass Local Food Summit to discuss ways to build and expand local food systems.
"Local food systems enable producers to capture more of the food dollar and offer consumers access to fresher, more nutritious foods," Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer said. "Kentucky Proud is an important part of any local food system in Kentucky. The Kentucky Proud marketing staff is working every day to open new markets for Kentucky farmers and create partnerships that will make more local foods available to Kentucky consumers."
Mac Stone, executive director of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Office of Agricultural Marketing and Product Promotion, will be one of three speakers on local food systems in higher education and state government. Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear will be the keynote speaker during lunch starting at noon.
In the afternoon, Dan Arnett, store manager at Good Foods Market and Café, which buys from 250-plus Kentucky producers, and John-Mark Hack of Marksbury Farm Market will facilitate a discussion of how we can scale up production and consumption in a win-win for all.
Morning sessions will focus on current efforts to create local food systems and how government leaders, educational institutions and community groups can expand them. Afternoon working groups will consider the role of the faith community in a local food system, meeting growing demand from wholesale buyers for local food, growing urban agriculture, creating a local food policy council and building regional partnerships in Appalachia.
A wine and food tasting will follow the summit from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Kentucky Proud Market in the Lexington Center.
For more information go to sustainlex.org, email email@example.com, or call (859) 379-9046.