By Russell Libby
MOFGA Executive Director
Two months have past since September 11, as I write this, and we’re all struggling with the repercussions. For me, the tragedy and the aftermath have been both disheartening and clarifying. We all witnessed the result of anger carried to extreme. And, unfortunately, we saw it over and over again, as if seeing the images of the planes and buildings once wasn’t too much. The political debate that followed has been promoted as the solution, one that all of us have to support if the nation is to be successful.
Yet the events of the past two months have, perhaps, provided a clearer picture of the place where we, as gardeners and farmers and people who want to eat good food and to make sure that everyone eats, can make a difference, a difference that might eventually transform the underlying system. That place is food security.
Over the past decade the phrase “food security” has become a little more visible. A national Community Food Security Coalition exists; a small pool of federal money has been used for pilot projects around the country, including several in Maine. A Maine Coalition for Food Security works with low income families in Portland to develop community gardens and with legislators to change policies. At the Hartford Food Project, Mark Winne and friends and co-workers have developed a comprehensive network, including farmers who bring food to new farmers’ markets and distribution points in the city.
The events of September 11 have given the idea of food security a new urgency, one that extends beyond the simple idea that everyone should be able to go to bed at night without being hungry (as important as that is for a starting point). Now the discussion has broadened to include ideas of bioterrorism – the potential for intentional contamination of our food supply. The proposed solutions, however, are more of the same – more testing, more precautions, more security.
For thirty years MOFGA has been working to build a local, organic food system for Maine. At times the balance between the two has been skewed toward organic, but underlying our efforts has been the notion that we need to be able to feed one another healthy food.
As we move through the winter, and read the seed catalogs that will be arriving in the mail almost any day now, I think we need to think about some of the elements that really would make us, and Maine, and the country, more secure. They include seeds, and gardens, our own places and our dreams for them. But they also need to include our neighbors, and our communities. We need to think backwards (to our seeds, to the people who help us keep our equipment working) and forwards (who really needs the food we have, and how can we get it to them?). Above all, we need to talk about how a local food system is a secure food system, and keep working in every way to make the connections that extend that idea far beyond our current circles.
I look forward to talking with many of you in the months ahead about your ideas for how we can promote true food security for all.