Decentralization is essential to creating robust, efficient, and resilient communities that aren’t fully reliant on the transportation network to deliver food. There are many models that reflect the structural functionality of decentralization as a means of strengthening localized resources. In this guide, we will be covering the food production model, and why it benefits from decentralization.
The food distribution model we have grown accustomed to in the United States was made possible by cheap energy and transportation. Single mega-facilities could produce massive amounts of food to be distributed nationally and even internationally. Inexpensive oil made shipping foods to great distances a cost-effective model for these companies.
Unfortunately, as many national and international food production companies have grown further distanced from the consumer, their production quantities of food and how much they can yield has outweighed the quality of the foods they produce. Rather than the using the time tested methods of the small farmer, large-scale food companies can afford to innovate with shortcuts that end up creating more harm than good.
The Centralized Food Model
Shortcuts & Practices used by large-scale producers.
- Dairy products pasteurized for safety, shelf-life, and shipping. However, this also kills beneficial probiotic bacteria.
- Beer that’s bottled and canned for shipping is pasteurized. Many fermented foods are pasteurized for shipping as well.
- Meat Production
- RBGH (growth hormones) given to cattle to improve yield.
- Nitrates & Nitrites added to meats for preservation and shelf life.
- Antibiotics fed to livestock, contributing to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- Cheaper livestock feed used and crowded indoor conditions to maximize profit margins.
- Fruit and Vegetable Production
- GMO’s, farm acquisitions, and plant patents cause ethics concern for questionable practices.
- Working conditions of people harvesting the food for some companies.
- Pesticide and herbicide use creating concern for consumer health.
- Lower quality, such as picking foods too early before they’ve fully ripened.
- Outside investors and shareholders influencing the decisions, not just consumer and producer.
The Decentralized Food Model
When you decentralize your purchasing choices from large-scale food producers that distribute nationwide, and instead support local farms, the structural model changes and our food becomes less centralized. Food is purchased closer to the source, and this encourages local agriculture.
- Quality food over quantity.
- If the consumer isn’t happy, their message will be heard more directly.
Local farmers are more capable of managing small operations with organic, sustainable methods.
- Organic farming improves the soil with live microbes and natural nutrients.
- Capable of implementing natural pest-prevention methods on a smaller, more manageable farm.
Farm owners’ vested interest in their land encourages the land resources to be preserved and cultivated.
- Encourages long-term soil cultivation and renewal.
- Taking care of their own land by choice, not by cultural pressures.
A more resilient food distribution model.
- Less dependence on energy/shipping costs.
- Less dependence on freight reliability and store shelves being cleared during natural disasters.
Food production decentralization continues to increase thanks to individuals taking charge of their health and the quality foods they choose to eat. To be a part of this movement, one simply needs to vote with their dollars by choosing to purchase locally-produced foods and support local farms.
There are many online resources dedicated to improving the quality of our food.
Polyface Farms http://www.polyfacefarms.com/
Farm to School – http://www.farmtoschool.org/
Non-GMO Project – http://www.nongmoproject.org/
Seed Savers Exchange – http://www.seedsavers.org/
1000 Eco Farms http://www.1000ecofarms.com/
Start a Buying Club http://startabuyingclub.com/