Why Farmer’s Markets Are Important

excerpt from “Why Local Food Is Vital,” by MPLSGreen founder Mikki Morrissette

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I sat down with an iced vanilla nirvana in my favorite coffeeshop and started reading a 2010 book by Bill McKibben called Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Admittedly, I sat down with McKibben’s book merely to find a few nuggets that might explain how our dirt at home had an impact on the world. A local gardening expert had passionately urged that the best thing anyone in our city could do was buy organic from local farmers… and as, a left-brained person, I wanted to understand this… “Why should I?”

The True Impact of Climate Change

“I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen.” The rapid melt of the Sierra snowpack means “we’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California.” — Nobel laureate Steven Chu, 2009, former U.S. Secretary of Energy

finding drinking waterWe have heard “climate change” and “global warming” so often in recent years — especially now that it’s no longer dismissed as pseudo-science — that it can lose its meaning for those not actually involved in the discussions. What climate change is truly happening that affects us?

  • Midwest floodAcross the planet, flood damage is increasing by 5 percent a year. Data show dramatic increases — 20 percent or more — in the most extreme weather events.
  • In 2007, atmospheric levels of methane began to spike. A Russian research ship found areas of sea foaming with methane gas, in concentrations 100 times normal.
  • A research team predicts that it will routinely get so hot that wheat and corn crops will suffer. Wheat yields alone are expected to drop 20 to 40%. In 2003, when heat impacted France, 30,000 people died, corn production fell by a third, fruit harvests by a quarter, and wheat by a fifth.
  • The great Amazon rain forest is drying
  • The great boreal forest of North America is dying in a matter of years
  • The oceans — three-fourths of the earth’s surface — are distinctly more acidic and their level is rising
  • Vast inland glaciers in Andes, Himalayas and American West are melting very fast, and within decades the supply of water to billions of people living downstream might dwindle

The Global Answer Is Local

steadyhands“For 100 years we’ve substituted oil for people,” wrote McKibben. “Now we need to go the other way… In a world more prone to drought and flood, we need the resilience that comes with three dozen different crops in one field, not a vast ocean of corn or soybeans. In a world where warmth spreads pests more efficiently, we need the resilience of many local varieties and breeds. In a world with less oil, we need the kind of small mixed farms that can provide their own fertilizer, build their own soil.”
Even busy people can make change happen by simply thinking and shopping smaller.
McKibben’s book does not offer solutions to regain the planet we’ve grown accustomed to. He named his book Eaarth to bring attention to our planet in the future as a somewhat familiar but awkwardly different place. It is not just the regular, intense weather-related happenings that we will see more commonly…. or the lack of traditional energy reserves that we’ve relied on to do the work (and shipping) for us… but the changed access to food that we need to adjust to.

Steady Hand Farm

He writes about solutions that forward-thinking people have already been putting into place. We are aware of them… this perhaps quaint “hippy” culture. And “they” are aware that it’s time for us to join them at the table.

  • In Vermont, a rural composter collects food waste from schools, farms, and restaurants; makes rich fertilizer from it; then trucks it a mile down the road to a large organic seed company, where “metal shelves are filled with the beginnings of a million meals,” from quinoa to onions.
  • A local farmer figured out how to create a moveable solar greenhouse in order to offer a year-round Community Supported Agriculture farm (CSA).
  • In Honduras, farmers figured out how to transform ground cover from played-out desert to springy black loam in ten years.
  • In Bellingham, Washington, 500 merchants are part of a Living Local alliance, and “60 percent of the city’s 80,000 residents tell pollsters they’ve changed their buying habits dramatically.”

Click here for Minneapolis Farmer’s Markets Open Now

Related Resources

A Local Farmer's Story
excerpt from Featherstone farmer Jack Hedin’s op-ed in The New York Times
We found butternut squashes from our farm two miles downstream, stranded in sapling branches five feet above the ground. A hillside of mature trees collapsed and slid hundreds of feet into a field below. The machine shop on our farm was inundated with two feet of filthy runoff. When the water was finally gone, every tool, machine and surface was bathed in a toxic mix of used motor oil and rancid mud.
We burn thousands of gallons of diesel fuel a year in our 10 tractors… I stand ready to accept the challenge of the future, to make serious changes in how I conduct business to produce less carbon….
But my farm, and my neighbors’ farms, can contribute only so much. Americans need to see our experience as a call for national action. The country must get serious about climate-change legislation and making real changes in our daily lives to reduce carbon emissions. The future of our nation’s food supply hangs in the balance.