“Just Food Now” in Amherst, Massachusetts

Many of us living in the Pioneer Valley are aware that the modern industrial food system is distress.  In this post, I offer some ideas for local solutions we might consider to…

“just grow food – and – grow food justly.”


I believe that public bodies such as Town Government and the colleges and universities need to take more responsibility for helping to build a more robust local food system.  Some things we might consider are:

  1. tax incentives for small, integrated farms committed to selling within their own community,
  2. public investment to support infrastructure (such as packing, cooling, and distribution facilities),
  3. changes in zoning regulations to support the “homegrown food revolution”and
  4. education programs encouraging family, neighborhood, community self-sufficiency, and local farming.

We must begin to build more resilience into a food system that is dominated by global corporations, vulnerable to collapse (in the industrial world), and already in collapse in many developing countries (as evidenced by recent unrest). 

It is time to take action!

Lots of people are interested in talking about creative solutions.  We are planning a public event on March 31, 2011, right here in Amherst – please join us!

In preparation for this event, I’ve outlined a few things we might consider:

  1. If you live in an apartment, growing a few vegetables or herbs in window boxes or on the patio.  And of course walk or bike to one of our farm stands or farmers markets to buy local food whenever possible.
  2. If you live in a suburban neighborhood, tear up that lawn and just grow food now!
  3. If you are in a less dense part of town, grow a large garden with fruit trees.  And don’t forget to consider hens, chickens and rabbits for meat, perhaps a milking goat, and bees!
  4. If you live on a farm, consider growing more food crops (for people).  Much of the farmland in New England is used to produce hay (some for cows, but much for riding horses).  Is this the best use of farm land?
  5. If you are responsible for a public building, consider growing food on the rooftop.  This not only produces food but makes heating and cooling the building less expensive.  Or look to re-configure parking lots and other open areas with raised beds such as the organiponicos in Cuba.

And no matter where you live, think about ways we can make food farming a more attractive lifestyle.  Farmers (especially those who don’t own land) struggle with the economics of a food system that keeps prices artificially low through public subsidies and failing to pay for externalities.  If we want more local food, we need to help these farms compete more effectively within the global food system.

The Feed Northampton report, for example, proposes a public investment in food hubs that might provide communal food processing, packaging, cold storage and redistribution.  It might also include a slaughter facility, a community kitchen for processing vegetables, a maple sugar boiler, a cider press,  and a flour mill.

We all need to begin by imagining possibilities and then getting to work.  There are plenty of examples of ways in which you can get involved in creating a sustainable food system.  Think about:

1. Slow Food

2. Fair Trade

3. Bioregionalism

3. Public commitment to human right to a nutritious diet

4. Public commitment to insure food producers earn a living wage

5. Zoning laws that allow urban and suburban families to raise their own food (including animals) – a right to survival law

6. Decent wages and training for farm labor

7. Education for young farm managers

8. Research into appropriate technologies

9. Programs to bring local food into the workplace

10.  And of course, grow our own!

Lets dream together about the world we want to create….. and then lets get to work!

You can begin by joining us on;

Thursday, March 31 at 7:00pm-9:30pm

Amherst Town Hall

for a presentation sponsored by the Amherst Agricultural Commission and Conservation Commission on….

Growing More Food in Amherst: Public Responsibilities and Opportunities

…featuring Dr. Brian Donahue speaking on “the future of food farming in New England” followed by a public discussion.

For information, call John Gerber at 413-549-6949 or see:


I hope to see you there!

2 thoughts on ““Just Food Now” in Amherst, Massachusetts”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s