Living in rural northeast Iowa ~ granted in a college town so it doesn’t feel rural ~ it is easy to be a convert to the ‘grown locally’ movement. It wasn’t until after reading Philip Ackerman-Leist’s Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems (Chelsea Green, 2013) that I realized that my ease of finding local, organic, and diverse vegetables and produce is a pure luxury that not all Americans have. At first glance, I thought this book was going to be too scholarly (yes, there are charts and maps interspersed throughout), but from the moment I started reading the foreword and introduction, I was hooked.
Ackerman-Leist identifies the inherent difficulties with defining what local is, or as he calls it, “The Dimemnas.” From there, he moves into the second part, which defines the different drivers for rebuilding local food systems; how local and regional food systems relate to issues of the environment, energy, food justice, cultural and biological diversity, and the marketplace. And finally, he wraps up the book in the third part, new directions. What can be done to create local, sustainable foodsheds, especially in our home regions?
An example that Ackerman-Leist uses to illustrate one of the new directions is D-Town Farm in Detroit, MI. After describing the D-Town farm, an urban farm surrounded by a tall fence designed to keep the deer out rather than the people, Ackerman-Leist indicates that this urban, marketplace farm has become a transformational touchstone for the Detroit area. In 2011, Detroit’s Garden Resource Program Collaborative created and maintained 1,351 vegetable gardens, yielding 73 types of fruits and vegetables within 382 community gardens, 48 market gardens, and 857 family gardens.
After reading this book, I realize we all have the opportunity to completely reimagine our community food systems, and in doing so, the opportunity to connect people not just to their food but to each other. This book gives me a better understanding of what I’m eating and why, and I will be continuing to eat healthier as a result.vI am motivated to start my own milk jug vegetable garden on my patio.