Thankfully, we rarely need to consider how the food on our tables comes to be. However, challenging times prove that these methods, while usually efficient, can easily be disrupted. There are many options to improve our systems, one of which is through decentralization: focusing on the work of local farmers and local supporting industries.
It is essential to identify problems with the system as it currently stands–this allows us to identify what the system lacks, and how it can be improved. The problems facing the food industry range from environmental ones to manmade.
The industry is designed to maximize profit with a rapid payoff. This is often accomplished in ways that are severely damaging to the environment–damages which can eventually cause problems with overall yields and profits. In some cases, the benefits aren’t enough to justify the damage that is done in the process.
The systems we rely on can result in an unnecessary markup in the costs of food. This is due in part to middleman negotiations. With each additional business or person placed along the chain, you’ll be forced to increase the cost for consumers.
At this point, the system undeniably lacks transparency. This is enabled in part due to the general public’s lack of interest in how their food is being made, though interest has grown in recent years. It is largely up to the customers to demand transparency from the corporations that serve them.
Simply put: decentralization means that the food you eat is produced locally, delivered and packed by local companies as well. This in turn leads to decentralization for all other entities involved in the production of food. Most importantly: governmental involvement is inevitably reduced, as well.
The biggest expense and contributor to carbon footprint lies in moving food from one location to another. When you produce food locally, you limit and therefore mitigate expense and the biggest addition to the carbon footprint comes from moving the food around and not from actually producing it. When you produce and buy your food locally you’re limiting and mitigating the amount you’re adding to your carbon footprint.
Decentralized farming practices are also cost effective for both farmers and consumers alike. This is all thanks to local production and the lack of a middle man: allowing consumers to pay only for the bare minimum needed to prepare and ship the product.
Access to food is something we usually only consider when it has been interrupted. When infrastructure is threatened, we must rally on local food sources to survive. Decentralized agriculture makes this possible, providing access to basic, nutritious foods in challenging times.