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Local Food: Everyone Benefits

By Debbie Barr

It’s been a temperate summer, with enough sun and rain for an abundance of food in the garden and at farm stands. It’s hard to balance this idyllic summer with climate change predictions for a hot, dry planet that will reduce crop yields by 2% for each decade in this century.

Our local abundance, however, is still linked to a national food system that is entirely dependent upon non-renewable resources. That system is unstable and unsustainable. It damages air, water, soil, and biodiversity beyond repair. As long as New England grocery stores are full of food produced by that system and transported 1500 miles or more to get here, we are at high risk of food insecurity.

The good news is that Americans are starting to demand sustainably grown food that they can trust to be good for the environment, our health, and our economy. As the risks and hidden costs of the conventional food system are better understood, small-scale, localized farms and gardens are becoming an attractive model for the future.

Ilene Bezahler, Editor of Edible Boston, notes that “the growth of CSA’s and markets, as well as a boom in restaurants featuring local foods, has led to a rise in farmers’ wages. People are starting to pay for what food really costs.” Massachusetts is among a handful of states with an increase in small farms and new farmers.

Concord farmers and gardeners share much in common. We worry about flooding and drought, heat waves and new pests. We use one or more of the following agricultural best practices: crop diversity, season extension; rotation systems and reduced tillage; use of cover crops; composting farm waste to improve the soil; use of energy conservation technology and renewable energy sources such as solar panels; grass-fed farm animals with well managed pasture; and integrated pest control.

Together, the Concord Agriculture Committee and the Concord Gardeners Cooperative are sponsors of the Farm and Garden Fair on September 13 and 14. Step into a garden, and open the gates to the farms!

The Fair is a weekend celebration of local food: a time to have fun sharing what we know about sustainable growing practices, this land, and what grows here; a time to meet Concord gardeners, farmers and food entrepreneurs. All of which are needed to build a food system that generates environmental, economic, public health and community benefits.

Among municipalities, Hamilton-Wenham has been the most successful Mass. proponent of Zero Waste, with organic material bins collected at the curbside, and an ultimate goal of zero discards to incineration or landfill. On a larger scale, San Francisco is committed to becoming a zero waste town by 2020, with a program that started in 1989, became mandatory in 2009, and reduced their waste by 80% by 2013. These inspiring examples show us what we could achieve as well.

The Fair starts with the Farmer’s Market on Main Street on Saturday and ends with the Stone Soup Dinner under the tent at Verrill Farm on Sunday. In between, choose among a dozen garden tours hosted over two days, and designed to inform, delight and inspire. For details go to: www.concordfood.ning.com; Like us at facebook.com/concordfoodnetwork

And that’s not all!
• Stay in town to dine at nine nearby restaurants offering Ag Day specials to visitors who want to enjoy a picnic lunch or dinner.
• Get on your bike for a casual tour of Concord’s Foodscape. (Richard@playandlearntogether.com)
• Visit the Lexicon of Sustainability, tm a pop-up photo exhibit illustrating the terms and practices that define sustainability, on loan from the Museum of Science and hosted by the Concord Art Association. www.lexiconofsustainability.com

Keep food growers in Concord! See you at the Fair.

Debbie Barr is a member if the ConcordCAN Steering Committee, the Coordinator of the Gardening for Life Program, and Team Leader of the Farm and Garden Fair

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