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Local food economy

Published: Sunday, May 18, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

To the Editor:

Anyone who shops for groceries knows the price of food has skyrocketed since 2007. If forecasts about climate change in general and the California drought in particular prove true, prices will double again in the next few years.

The abundance of cheap oil for transportation after World War II created this Catch 22. 

Cheap transportation allowed extensive regional crop specialization, which eliminated the diverse local food economies that once dependably fed America.

Cheap energy also drove a tripling of the global population, creating demand that locked in the need for extreme regional specialization.

That system is failing. Oil is no longer cheap; fresh water is being depleted; climate is more unpredictable; people are consuming more grain-devouring animal products; ethanol subsidies are converting people-food into SUV fuel; global bidding wars for grain are intensifying; and the credit that finances crop production is becoming more uncertain. Yet world population keeps growing.

Small, dedicated groups are working to re-establish the local food economies that will again prove necessary for feeding ourselves dependably. They’re organizing farmers’ markets, patronizing citizen-supported agriculture, and buying memberships in a recent initiative to open a storefront food cooperative in McHenry County as a year-round outlet for locally grown foods.

Re-establishing a strong local food economy is the only way to ensure we don’t go hungry as the global food economy unravels. Yes, local food is more expensive today. Until it is broadly supported, that will remain true.

For an affordable food future, we must invest aggressively in local food. Here’s one way: visit www.foodshed.coop.

Donovan C. Wilkin


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