Five Dollars to Freedom

Last week I attended the first ever small producers conference here in Tucson. Several of the small producers from around the region came together to listen, learn and voice their concerns. Farmers are usually really busy during this time of the year, so gathering all of the growers together in one place at the same time is difficult and rare, but this event was bursting with them. It was amazing. We had an opportunity to listen to a variety of guest speakers from across the nation, each with a distinct expertise and point of view. But there was a common goal between all of us–to increase food sustainability and change existing food policy.

For me, the most interesting speaker of all was Ken Meter. He is one of the most experienced food system analysts in the United States, and his message was both ominous and inspiring. Most of us are aware that we are losing our farms to growth, housing developments, and urban infrastructure, but the extent to which this is happening is astounding. Our region alone is losing farms at a rapid rate–since 1960 we have lost over 65% of our local food shed to urban growth. With a smaller local supply, our produce needs have been outsourced. Currently $3.3 billion dollars a year is spent on food that is trucked in from areas outside of our region. $3.3 billion. It’s amazing when you think about it. Can we afford to lose any more farm land? How about the farmers? But it isn’t so hard to turn these figures around. Did you realize that if everyone in Tucson spent just $5 a week on locally grown food, we would generate $287 million dollars in local farm revenue for the area’s farmers and ranchers? So often we think that we need big solutions to the big problems, but the truth is, a small personal effort can make all of the difference. If we start little by little, buying locally and eating seasonally, what would our world look like twenty years from now? What would we look like?

Times like these are bringing change, and it is up to us how we respond to it. We can either stubbornly stick to our old habits, or we can alter our course just a little–as little as $5 a week! Doing so would not only affect you, but also your family, your neighborhood, your city or country, and even the planet. I know that I am ready… are you?