Moving toward more food independence

Despite the fact that the Treasure Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the western United State, most what is grown is not for those of us who live here. A huge majority, about 85%, is beef cows, dairy cows, and the feed for the cows. Much of the rest is grown for export or in such quantities that we couldn’t possibly eat it all.

So how much do we eat that is grown locally? Based on a soon-to-be released report from the Urban Land Institute and the University of Idaho, not very much.  About 2%.

Turkeys grace this 1930 postcard from Malheur County, Oregon. Courtesy Oregon State University archives.

The reasons for this small percentage are many, but the implications are clear. We export out of the region what we grow and we are utterly dependent on food grown elsewhere to eat. We have the soil, the climate and the water to grow a robust, healthy, and varied diet.

TVFC believes that we can and should grow more of our food locally.

How do we increase the percentage of local food that we eat? The food system we have today wasn’t created in a day, a year, or even a decade. Many features, such as convenience foods and refrigerated trucking, became widespread after World War II. Changing a system that is so complex and interwoven in virtually every part of our world is difficult.

Eating more locally for most people is changing your diet and shopping habits a little at a time.   It might mean planting a larger garden and eating more food from it. Or buying all your fruits and vegetables during the summer from the farmers market.

We started in 2010 to understand how food in our community works.  We’ve undertaken these things:

2010 Year 1:  An understanding of our food and farm economy based on a study by Ken Meter of the Crossroads Resource Center. We also were involved in numerous public presentations about our local food system, including the City Club of Boise and the Fettuccine Forum.

2011 Year 2:  The Year of Idaho Food, a year-long celebration to raise awareness about the food we eat. We partnered with the Urban Land Institute and University of Idaho to create a baseline of current production and consumption.

2012 Year 3:  The Idaho Healthy Dozen focused our attention on just 12 of the many foods that we eat. Understanding more about twelve commonly eaten foods revealed opportunities for, and barriers to, increased local consumption.

2013 Year 4:  From the Idaho Healthy Dozen, we selected tomatoes as a food worthy of a very public campaign.  We called it the Tomato Independence Project:  Ending the Tyranny of the Tasteless Tomato.

2014 Year 5:  The Tomato Independence Project continues into processed tomatoes:  How can we eat locally all year long?