Ken Meter: ‘Local’ is Shorthand for a Community-Based Food System

Ken Meter: ‘Local’ is Shorthand for a Community-Based Food System

“If consumers in the Madison metro area spent just $5/week directly to local farms, those farms would earn $150 million in new farm revenue.” ~ Ken Meter

Ken Meter FairShare recently hosted food analyst Ken Meter at the UW Soils Building for the final event in the 2012 Year of CSA Speaker Series. In his presentation, Meter suggested four key purposes for building local food systems:

Health  –  Eating well is our first line of defense to keep people out of the medical system

Wealth –  Buying locally will keep wealth in our local communities; our country spends $1.2 trillion on food/year; we all eat three times a day if we are able to

Connection – The need to connect around food: culture, belonging, ethnicity

Capacity – The capacity to handle food safely and to know how to farm

Meter uses the term “local food” as a shorthand for community-based food systems that create strong interpersonal connections between producers, non-profits, policy councils, consumers, processors, distributors and recyclers – a food network/food web!

He gave examples of local food-business “clusters” such as the one in Athens, Ohio, where businesses and non-profits cooperate to achieve broader community goals, and Viroqua, Wisc., with Organic Valley, Amish farmers, the local hospital, schools, food co-op and meat processors all collaborating to weave a strong web of food activity.

Ken tied in the growth of indebtedness among American farmers — “get big or get out of agriculture” in the mid 1970s — with imbalanced policies that place too much emphasis on commodities such as corn. It was no coincidence that corn began to show up in processed foods as high fructose corn syrup with a corresponding rise in American obesity rates in 1973, after policies encouraged farmers to depend more on large-scale grain production. The medical costs of obesity are $174 billion annually in the U.S. — about half of the income farmers earn selling all the crops and livestock they sell.

See Ken’s presentation here, or visit his website for more about his work.

Funding support for Ken Meter was provided by the UW Lecture Series; the Year of CSA Speaker Series was co-sponsored by UW Center for Integrated Ag Systems (CIAS).

FairShare CSA Coalition

FairShare CSA Coalition