When it comes to agriculture, big isn’t always better. Today 1% percent of farms operate 70% of the world’s farmland. As we experienced in early 2020, a centralized and monopolized agriculture system broke during a time of crises.
Now more than ever, there is an urgent call for what has been termed Whole-sum food: food that is nutritious, safe, humanely acquired, and is produced and distributed in a way that contributes positively to our environment and our local economy.
The Nevada County Food Policy Council, hosted by Sierra Harvest, was formed five years ago to address the problem of local food system insecurity, and just recently published the Nevada County Food Systems Assessment. Council members, consultants and agriculture experts worked together to assess and document our food supply and distribution system, and identify critical actions needed to address weaknesses, with a special focus on supporting our own local agriculture and food system. A Resource Guide was also created with organizations, businesses and programs already supporting local Whole-sum food.
While our vibrant grower’s markets appear to demonstrate a vigorous food system, our local farms actually receive a very small proportion of our total food dollars. Nevada County spends an estimated $800+ million on food, but only about $16 million is produced by local farms, and about half of those dollars go for beef that eventually leaves the county.
In Nevada County we have the climate, land and water to expand our local agriculture. If together we can increase our local food consumption to 20% of what we eat, that would bring well over $160 million to our agricultural community each year and nourish us with more healthy, fresh local food in our diet. In order to meet this goal, we need more land in production, greater sales of food and food products, compost instead of food waste, and widespread education on the value of growing and consuming local food.
The Food Policy Council has a three-point approach to achieving 20% whole-sum food for Nevada County. The first step is to inform the community of our baseline and goals via the Food System Assessment Report. The second is to empower consumers to target 20% of their food purchases from local sources. The third is to support a series of food system actions that build capacity and sales.
The importance of whole-sum food values has led dozens of organizations and individuals to contribute to this assessment report, and we are grateful for their support. We will continue to seek more funding for this project so together we can create a food system that diminishes our dependence on the global market and replaces it with a local, economically vibrant network of farms and ranches that deliver healthy and secure future for everyone.
Please share this movement with your friends and keep posted for more details on how we can work together to create a secure local food future for Nevada County!