“RETHINKING FACTORY FARMING” – Edie Burkey
How is food produced? How is it sold? What is the impact of food production on the environment? This is the first of an occasional series of educational pieces for Members-Owners to increase our knowledge of community food systems and better understand the role of food co-ops in the system.
This writer recently had the opportunity to visit the San Joaquin Valley of California. This is the southern two-thirds of what is known as the Central Valley. The Central Valley is 50 miles wide and 450 miles long, nestled between the Pacific coastal mountain ranges and the Sierra Nevada range. It comprises less than 1 percent of US farmland but, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, produces 25 percent of the nation’s food including 40 percent of the nation’s fruits, nuts, and other table foods. It is also a place of massive dairy farms and factory meat operations. Viewing the land from a car traveling along Interstate 5 provides both shock and awe as you take in the immense landscape of this factory-farmed, corporate-agriculture reality. It is an ecosystem under stress, subjected to mega-drought, political wars over water supply, and an impending mega-flood, predicted to occur within the next several decades. A mega-flood last happened in 1861 and it destroyed the entire valley and the lives of people who farmed there. When this occurs, consider what it will do to our current food supply.
In addition to threats from extreme weather events, this land has nitrate-polluted ground water and significant small-particle air pollution that is shocking to see from the overlooks of the Sierra National Park. At an overlook at 10,000 feet, one can view the hazy pollution created by farming operations and truck traffic taking products to market across the United States. Indeed, this area has some of the worst air pollution in the US!
The future of the environmentally vulnerable San Joaquin Valley and much of our U.S. food supply is to a great extent held in the hands of corporate financial interests who own and use the production of almonds and pistachios as a financial asset in stock portfolios. The land is used for profit, and its present and future is determined by how much money it will make for few people.
One tenet of the food co-op philosophy is that better stewardship of land is both possible and necessary for the wellbeing of future generations on this planet. To learn more about Kennett Community Grocer’s mission and vision, visit our website. To learn more about the financialization of agriculture, read “Rivers of Finance, But Not a Drop to Drink: Financialization, Power, and Agriculture in California’s Parched Central Valley” and follow articles appearing on the website of Food First: http://www.foodfirst.org. Food First is a “think and do tank,” dedicated to ending food injustices and helping communities take back control of their food systems.