Food Security and Stability
There is a need for a major shift from industrial agriculture to transformative systems such as agro-ecology that support the local food movement, protect small holder farmers, respect human rights, food democracy and cultural traditions, and at the same time maintain environmental sustainability and facilitate a healthy diet. Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food
Being food secure means more than just having enough to eat, though that is square one. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization breaks it down into 4 essential elements:
- AVAILABILITY (is there food?)
- ACCESS (can you get it?)
- UTILIZATION (can you prepare it and can your body make good use of it?)
- STABILITY (can you do all of that all of the time now and into the future?)
Main Street Project is actively working to improve all aspects of Food Security through our triple bottom line of social, economic, and ecological sustainability, but since our model is unique in integrating long-term resilience in farming, let’s focus on stability.
The most obvious way in which we cultivate food stability is by implementing a nearly closed circle of energy inputs and outputs. We rely on the system to renew itself, and have nearly eliminated our dependence on outside inputs to keep the food coming and the cycle cycling. Since we don’t need intensive irrigation, we can withstand periodic drought. We don’t use designer seeds, synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, so are immune to the whims and demands of the companies that own & sell those products. Minimal machinery means we are more or less unaffected by oil prices, and our heating needs are largely fulfilled by renewable solar. Our chickens eat what we grow, so they don’t care about volatile corn & soy feed costs.
By letting the soil, the climate, the animals, and the local consumers dictate what crops we grow, we are less vulnerable to market fluctuations and the shifting of political winds. The crops that protect our chickens from heat and predators also provide our neighbors with hazelnuts and sunflower seeds, and we intercrop not only to limit the spread of disease and pests, but to support a healthy, diverse diet. Our food prices reflect the actual cost of farming while supporting the farmers and workers and without pricing low-income consumers out of the market. Consistent and reasonable local food prices support a healthy community and regional food security. We don’t need to rely on California [Why the Midwest] to fulfill our nutritional needs.
Finally, the system isn’t just self-sustaining, it’s soil-sustaining. By treating the soil as what it is: a living thing that must be replenished as it nourishes, we ensure its health and productivity indefinitely. Unlike conventional agriculture, which seeks to get as much out of the land as quickly as possible, for as much profit as possible, we are with our land for the long haul, and work to achieve balance.
But soil does more than grow our food; it cools our planet. Stability is threatened everywhere by the multiple threats of global warming. Our practices increase the soil’s capacity for carbon capture. Not only do we avoid carbon-based inputs and minimize petroleum usage, our practices actually have a negative carbon output. Healthy soils eat carbon. A large-scale, international shift towards farming practices like ours would dramatically reduce the carbon in the atmosphere, increasing food stability and security worldwide.