A community’s culture makes it special. Yet to be sustainable, a level of economic and social cohesiveness is needed. One of the key components of a sustainable community model lies in local food consumption.

We have seen many “Buy Local” campaigns started throughout the country, but what do they really mean in terms of community?

After the industrial revolution, food sources became global. Concentration of production and processing led to concentrated wealth and efficiency. A community development problem that occurred in this paradigm was ignoring the social aspect of raising local foods.

More than consumption drove local food markets. These were gathering places for social interaction and led to a greater understanding of community.

Farmers markets were (and still are) social centers for more than economic commerce. These became great policy arenas where major decisions could be made. Acquaintances became friends and ultimately dependant on each other for survival.

Poverty became the strongest cause of food insecurity, and globalization led to greater poverty, not sustainability. As we were able to obtain more foods at different growing seasons, we became unsuspecting victims of our own greed.

We now know that these facts are indisputable:

* All people are food insecure. 
* As resources are depleted and energy costs rise, food security will increasingly become an issue. 
* As poverty grows, we understand that social contracts that once held firm are now broken. 
* Dependency on global food systems lead to social degradation and eventual loss of any interaction that drives culture and welfare.

 What we need to do for the future is to preserve the community’s relationship with the food system so that residents understand what is truly at stake.

For small rural communities, a tie to local food is the cohesive bond that unifies people. It can also be a strong economic tool, but it doesn’t have to drive the project. Whether or not local food systems and markets drive economic development is not as important as what local food systems do for the social development of the community.

In the next couple of months we will look at local food systems and learn how we need to design our small rural communities to accept the markets as a community development tool and not as the economic force to sustain the community.

Contact: Michael L. Holton for more information on rural community development, michaellh@cfra.org or 402.687.2103 x 1020.