The urban, local agriculture movement has grown enough in Maricopa County and around the U.S. to warrant a counter-movement of detractors (documented by Atlantic Cities) raising the question of where this is leading and whether we’re headed in the right direction.
As the article notes, defending the Goliath of mass food production systems while denigrating a collection of local community garden Davids – and dismissing them as efforts that have always petered out in the past – is to miss out on some key questions. If commercial food systems are doing such a great job, why do smaller, independent, local movements keep popping up over the years? If and when smaller efforts struggle, is it that they aren’t worthwhile, or because current policies and structures either actively or passively suppress them?
Healthy food access, a diversity of options, and redundancy of systems are necessary in order for us to thrive. So it’s difficult to see how reversing trends toward monoculture could be a bad idea. We’ve pursued the green revolution and food production efficiency above other considerations for six decades. The shift led to unanticipated externalities and a current situation where considerable portions of the world and the U.S. now live at either end of a hunger-obesity paradox. In short, the health impacts – physical, mental, social, and political – have been less than positive.
At times of great strain and disruption, it is tempting to believe that backward is the new forward. Perhaps it’s best not to resist that temptation for its own sake. It may very well be that reintegrating aspects of agriculture – among other discarded practices – into our modern lives is precisely how the future should look.