Minnesota Farmer

Eat local?

collage-localfood1There seems to be much in the food press about the eat local movement, and yet there is none of that in our area of Southwestern Minnesota, why is that?

We live in an area that is not exactly food diverse, because of market availability we do not raise many crops here.  Our area is mainly corn and soybeans and a bit of wheat and alfalfa for field crops.  For livestock we mainly raise swine and beef with a few stray sheep, goat, milk and poultry producers in the area.  Fruits and veggies are relegated to gardens with only a few making their way to a farmers market.  Our problem here is not lack of produce for the local eaters, nor lack of soil or climate that can produce food for our locals, but a lack of customers.  We produce more food here than can be eaten in the local area.  The average farmer in the U.S. now produces enough food to feed 155 people.  Because of our distance from markets where our produce can be consumed, we have a history of producing products that move on the hoof to market, beef and pork.  Those who live closer to a population center can and do produce the perishables that are consumed fresh.

We are lucky to have harvest facilities for both pork and beef in our area.   A little to the east there are processing plants for sweet corn and peas.  Most of this production is shipped to the east coast.  There are a few scattered vineyards for the production of locally consumed wine and craft breweries for beer.  Some local gardeners set up stands to sell their excess produce in season.  Beyond that, we also ship in most of the food eaten in our area.  We have no local producers of bread, pasta or rice, and tropical fruits, chocolate and seafood are still craved here just as they are in the city.

As I said, our markets drive our production.  The livestock of our area are our chief consumers of field crops.  Until WWII the only way to get produce to market was to walk it there.  There was no interstate transportation except the railroads and most production was consumed on the farm for the horses that worked the farm.  Except for wheat, milk and eggs there was not a lot of produce that was sold to others.  As more and more people moved to the cities the need for food to move from the farm to the city increased, thus was born modern agriculture.  Now with only a few percent of the population left on the farm we have developed machinery and crops that feed those who do not work the land.  Ninety-eight percent of the food produced in our country is produced by families who care for the land and animals that feed our world.de43f58f66faba7a30340d6b664284a0-1

Although some in our world would like to eat local, it is just not practical when you live in the city for all to eat that way.  There is not enough food produced within a few miles of our large cities to feed the city, you need the farmers and ranchers of middle America to produce enough to feed not only the cities of the U.S., but the world.  So eat local if you want to.  In the mean time I and others like me will be putting food on the table for the many who do not have access to, or the money to pay for, locally produced products.



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The local food movement is big here in Toronto. Many restaurants publicize there commitment to local. And families are forming buying groups associated with local farmers. We will watch how urban farming impacts consumers in the future.

Comment by Len Rosen

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