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Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Vision for an Organic, Efficient Future

Thanks to Alex D.:

The ideas of a “roadschooled” eleven year old from the southern United States relate directly to the entrepreneurial restaurant concepts of an established chef in the UK. Birke Baehr, perhaps the youngest TED presenter, shows his concern for the American food system by contrasting the reality of a mass market farm to the hopeful idea of organic farming on a greater scale. His ideas collide with those of Arthur Potts Dawson, a British restaurant owner. Dawson has pinpointed various aspects of the food system that are inefficient. While the majority of his presentation focuses on the reuse of waste and sustainable restaurants, Dawson also mentions that the distribution of foods (from harvest to consumer) is terribly inefficient.
The combination of their ideas led me to consider our community, Evanston. Are safe organics products which benefit local growers available in our community, one that is trying to improve its “green” image? I immediately concluded no. After all, most Evanston families shop at Dominick’s, Jewel, and Sam’s Club. The majority of their products are neither locally grown nor organic. But, Evanston already has several events in place, such as the weekly farmer’s market on Maple St. to encourage organic, local farmers. Even with this in mind, there is still an incredible amount of room for improvement. The farmer’s market is not year round, and therefore, Evanston residents cannot rely exclusively on it for their produce needs. Additionally, the products there are often more expensive than at corporate chains like Dominick’s and Jewel, making it unavailable to the lower-class.
So, I considered Baehr’s ideas again. He had suggested that local organic farming was the solution to our inadequate food system. Furthermore, the images of Dawson’s urban garden came to my mind. Would it not be possible to create an organic farm right in the middle of Evanston? Perhaps we could take multiple open lots throughout the city of Evanston and utilize them as farming space rather than having these unappealing, desolate pieces of land. The produce would not be sold for profit, but instead just at a price great enough to support the farms. Additional jobs could be created by these mini-farms throughout the city. The cost and environmental impact of shipping produce from across the country (or even the world) would be eliminated. Evanston would be taking a substantial step towards its goal of sustainable living.

After talking to some of my friends, I realized that I was not alone with these ideas. The Talking Farm is an Evanston/Skokie initiative to create an urban farm in our community. While these ideas have not yet progressed as far as creating a physical farm in Evanston, the creators of The Talking Farm have the necessary mindset to make a difference. Their visions have already resulted in ETHS’s Edible Acre.

It is important to realize that “green” has become perhaps the most important word of our generation. Not only does it relate to environmental concerns, but it also asks us to maximize the efficiency of all our actions. As important as a mango from Guatemala, tuna from Japan, or a kiwi from New Zealand may seem, I think that the majority of us would be just fine without such commodities. By depending on local farming we can work towards solving two major world problems: global climate change and perhaps even our own economy. By reducing our dependence on foreign produce and creating local farms, the carbon emissions of distribution will be significantly decreased. Also, farming jobs will be created which would keep the money in our communities rather than in the hands of produce corporations.

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