The word “localism” has been popping up often as of late, in regards to the ongoing pandemic and its effects on the farming industry. It’s a well-known concept to those familiar with sustainable farming, but it may be quite new to the broader general public.
The case can be made that localism is the way of the future for our farming food systems.
The first thing to deal with is the definition itself. Localism can mean different things to different people, but for small-time farmers it comes down to knowing where your food came from, and understanding the labor and resources needed to produce it. This can’t always be accomplished–farming is a complicated and complex job, and you may end up going beyond your local community for resources at some point. Ultimately, however, staying local is the goal you should strive for.
Simply put, there are fewer things to go wrong on localized farms. This means there’s less of a chance that the system as a whole will break down due to a problem with one of its parts. The pandemic has shown that a problem with distribution on the other side of the globe can have a damaging impact on consumers right here at home. Less moving parts in the machinery of food production means problems can be fixed faster once they arrive, and can often be avoided altogether. Still, it’s important to remember that no system is fault proof.
The carbon footprint of the agricultural industry isn’t always about food production. In many cases, it’s about the environmental costs of delivering food, and the resources needed to do so. These costs are reduced when the farms are run and supplied locally.
Branding is a different type of endeavor for local farmers, as opposed to large companies. Most of your branding efforts should be focused on integrating your business into the local community. This takes time, and can’t be done as aggressively as with most larger businesses.
There are advantages and disadvantages of being branded as a local, community-oriented business. On one hand, it’s a friendlier environment that doesn’t require that much funding to penetrate. On the other, building a reputation within a local community takes longer, and requires more care to uphold.
An important facet in all this is how the government will respond to the move towards localism in farming. Most state and federal governments aren’t tailored for local initiatives, but rather for broad, sweeping action. Aid in the form of tax cuts is helpful to farmers–however, it’s often seen as something not suited for small farms, since their work isn’t disrupted as frequently. This is a mistake, and one that should be fixed in due time.
When it comes to the ways in which our food is produced and delivered, change is inevitable. These changes will rely on consumers, businesses and infrastructure alike. It’s not easy to say what those changes will entail. Localism is but one piece of a much larger puzzle.