Community Based Food Production is the Future

In Christiana Figueres new book [1] with Tom Rivett Carnac they explore what the world in 2050 will look like. The following is a paraphrasing of their view of the future of food production.

Homes and buildings all over the world are becoming self-sustaining far beyond their electrical needs. All buildings collect rainwater and manage their own water use. Renewable sources of electricity enable localised desalination producing clean drinking water on demand anywhere in the world. Although energy prices have dropped dramatically, we are choosing local life over long commutes. Many people work from home, allowing more flexibility and more time to call their own.
As a consequence we are making communities stronger. Things that used to be done individually are now done communally – growing vegetables, capturing rainwater and composting. Resources and responsibilities are shared now. At first this togetherness was difficult because we were accustomed to doing things individually and privately. But unexpected networks evolved that demonstrated the power of collaboration.

Food production and procurement are a big part of the communal effort. Initially the revolution in food production focused on transitioning large scale industrial food production to regenerative farming practices – mixing perennial crops, sustainable grazing and improved crop rotation. Over time there has been increasing community reliance on smaller, local farms that avoid flying in food from thousands of miles away. This localisation has become more and more practical as neighbourhoods and or larger extended families form food purchase groups, which is how most people buy their food now. As a unit they sign up for a weekly drop-off, then distribute the food among the group members. Distribution, finance, coordination and management are everyone’s responsibility, which often means weekly rotating assignments between neighbours. The advantage of this system is that local farms can negotiate annual quantities and prices with the groups, so they have known demand and therefore higher efficiency.
While the community approach to food production makes things more sustainable, food is still expensive. It’s a fact that organic, sustainable produce is effort intensive. So growing your own is a necessity for many. In community gardens, on rooftops and even vertical gardens on balconies, food seems to be growing everywhere.

In (my local) Cork City Council Strategic Development Plan, there is a high level of focus on community based food production. There is stated intent to enhance existing allotment facilities and to establish community growing areas integral to existing and new housing developments. We might expect that a natural evolution will be for food procurement groups to go the extra mile and form community food growing collectives. As discussed by Figueres and Carnac the evolution of community initiatives (in the wider sense) may be one of the most interesting developments as localisation becomes the dominant sustainability model.

In terms of food production, this signals a big change in the future of conventional allotments. Today, allotment plots are private spaces, mostly tended by single individuals. In my experience, the individual would work his/her own plot for many years. As a consequence, there would often be a very long waiting list for plots. But my more recent on the ground (sic) experience, which I accept may or may not be widely applicable, is that there is a higher rate of change of ownership. There are many reasons for this. First, in today’s world, perhaps fewer plot holders will have a vegetable growing background. So taking on a new plot can be a daunting exercise and I observe the drop-out rate of new owners is higher. Second it is noticeable that in today’s society individuals’ circumstances change more frequently for all manner of reasons including moving home, change in work and or family responsibilities, health and more. In today’s world, collaborative efforts are therefore likely to be far more sustainable, as well as sharing the load, there’s the sharing of knowledge.

Today in 2021, many people are frustrated that efforts to address climate change are not happening fast enough. Further that personal efforts are perceived to be largely irrelevant because the big items are all in the gift of major corporations or state bodies. And the contribution of smaller countries is insignificant in context with China, India and the USA, the major emitters of CO2. But it’s also true that new ways of working have to start somewhere. The ideas of localisation, community initiatives and personal responsibility, particularly in food production, provide very real opportunities for everyone to make a valuable contribution now. Naturally these ideas will take time to be widely adopted, but given the latent enthusiasm, it might just go much faster than we think.

[1] Christiana Figueres with Tom Rivett Carnac: The Future We Choose
2021 Bonnier Books Ltd ISBN: 9781786580375

About davidsprott

Artist, writer, veteran IT professional
This entry was posted in Climate Change, climate Change Models, Localisation, Organic Farming, Sustainability, Sustainable Food Productiojn and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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