The word information often conveys a connotation of being static and sterile. Many people will say you will never start a movement or effect real change just giving folks information. We agree, information is somewhat meaningless without the social connections in which it moves. These social connections can range from lighthearted get-togethers that foster a sense of community, to more serious attempts at organized change. For the most part our focus is on the way information might move more effectively through our community and in our relation to other communities on these issues. Or to put it another way, the food and health topics present ideas that can improve our lives,. the local networking section here is the challenges we face interacting with one another to get there
When looking for valuable information we tend to seek recognized experts and long established traditions, or best practices. So indeed an important first step is for a community to get a sense of where these informational resources are, and to establish how to best harness said resources for application and discussion within the community. How we begin to outline this information into various categories is another fundamental aspect of organizing information. This website has indeed suggested how categories might be used, but we are at the same time open to the idea that others may want to use a different systems of organization. Most subject matter contains identifiable salient points, themes, or narratives which help to provide general or preliminary insights. Such points can help us to perhaps begin to gain a general 'feel' for the subject at hand, and therefore will be one of our aims Summaries tend to accomplish a similar goal, and we will support a strategy of using a gradient of summaries which move from the very short and concise and then move towards larger and more in depth explanations
At times we may acquire summaries and discussions of salient points from existing sources, but likely we will need to produce many of our own. Those of us who contribute summaries, salient points or even opinion pieces, may have concerns about how their contributions are used, or how their work is cited. Some of this will depend on how well we can cooperate and to what degree we want to have one coherent site, or to what degree we desire decentralized formats and separate distinct sites. Referencing or citing local contributors serves to both credit those who have contributed, but also serves as a trail to confirm the veracity of the information. No doubt problems and controversies will arise as to the factual accuracy of certain contributions, and some amount of fact checking will be necessary. But for the most part we are discussing food and not the JFK assassination in terms of controversy.
In the previous paragraph we introduced a discussion for the need of individuals to be credited for their work. Here we expand that conversation into broader themes, such as copyright infringement of existing materials and the implications of the open source debate in general. A good place to start the discussion is with a non profit organization Creative Commons which provides a series of copyright licensing option which allows various authors an ability to use and contribute to a body of copyrighted information. For instance, some Creative Common's licenses allow for the free, or open sourced, reproduction of material unless an individual or group attempts to reproduce it in an attempt to directly profit. We feel rather strongly that much of the material presented within our community needs to be open sourced or at least with the minimum license which only prohibits copying the material for profit. The reasons for this view will hopefully reveal themselves more fully as one moves throughout the website. But in brief, a community which shares information fosters a different spirit than one which segregates. The only tradeoff, is whether those who would contribute, will contribute less if they are not compensated
In returning to the present copyright system; authors, producers of films and documentaries or on-line copyrighted sources of information generally have copyright restrictions which will complicate our ability to reproduce or perhaps even paraphrase the information within such sources For instance if local lending libraries were to loan out a lot of books or DVD's this would theoretically cut into the sales of the authors of the materials and perhaps be seen as copyright infringement. Beyond the legal questions, localities need to consider in terms of a movement where the balance lies between their access to information and supporting authors who need an income for their work. Indeed part of what we wish to focus on is how information can perhaps flow more freely, and how consumers can begin to play a more active role in the process Further, looking into the issue in a wider frame such as this, perhaps opens ones eyes to the idea that the near future may contain a more interconnected nature of information sharing in general. Rather than seeing ourselves as lone passive consumers of information which is owned by others, we move closer to becoming active participants of a negotiated or interactive process. The electronic age offers a new paradigm in terms of information sharing and ownership, and certainly many ideas that seem perhaps a little absurd may become tomorrows reality.
Before going further, we need to elaborate on some of the main themes which interconnect this puzzle. Who are we referring to in a discussion of experts and authors? For many of us the answer will be fairly clear in terms of well known authors who tend to be the recognized experts. Many of these experts staff the non profits and think tanks which play a large role in disseminating information to the the public. Who the experts are, and the structure in which they deliver their message, will also vary in accordance to which of our subjects we are discussing. For instance, when someone is selling you information on how to do something such as gardening, cooking, eating healthily, etc, questions may arise as to exactly the extent of copyright in such instances Authors can clearly assert that they do not own "the how to do" of something, but that rather you as the consumer are paying for their gifted ability to explain how to do it. Fair enough in this market sense of a relation between producer and consumer. But when we consider the frame of the communities ability to incorporate or acquire meaningful information to assist them in their road towards a more productive capacity in these fields, then this system does not seem to be the most be beneficial. The problem really arises when we attempt to act as a community, as opposed to individual consumers. Because at that point, we as the 'organizers of information' for the community may have an ability to be producers of information as well as being consumers of it , therefore blurring the clear line of producer and consumer which exists at the individual level.
As we move forward into more specific techniques we can use to gather and distribute information at the local level, we do again want to stress the unique nature of the information we are working with and how this uniqueness influences the relation with expert outside sources. Most, if not all the subjects and activities we deal with are capable of being accomplished by local people at the local level. This is not usually the case, and we believe communities need to take ownership of such information in an open sourced fashion which limits the dependence on outside sources and further limits the segregation of information between community members. this is of course an opinion, but we want to elucidate what a shared local information would look like
In terms of the technologies and delivery systems of information at the local level, we might as well take on the question of electronic media and high tech right of the bat. Many back to the earth types are categorically opposed to high tech for a variety of reasons. Many of those reasons are well founded, and we do have concerns about the centralized nature of the industry and its tendency to out of the hands of local control. Nonetheless we need to consider the up sides. While face to face meetings are likely preferable they come at an environmental cost in terms of resource consumption. In other words traveling distances to meet face to face burns fossil fuels or other resources in making travel possible. At this point in time, with our culture so heavily defined by electronic media, and with the media so heavily controlled by conglomerates, we seem to have little choice but to at least initially utilize the electronic tools we have in the cause of local networking.
The first topic is that of on-line, or electronic means, of discussion. In general this would refer to things like Facebook, Twitter, list-serves, Google Groups and like formats. Skype conferencing, on-line discussion forums, and even conference calls. But before we move forward with that, we need to backtrack slightly. Most of us do not or will not really know one another at the onset of using such electronic media for the cause of community based communication. So how we become familiar with one another will be a large factor in how well such tools work. Perhaps meeting face to face, or by neighborhood when possible, might be a good first step before launching into on line discussions. No formula exists to prescribe how this will play out since a lot of folks are understandably uncomfortable in just coming out to meet their neighbors. But we felt we needed to at least give a backdrop to the idea of getting to know and understand one another as a key aspect of this, and that people are more nthan just the words they use in electronic based discussions.
With this in mind, we want to move forwards to a related issue of comparing the usefulness of discussion forums. Many of the discussion forums allow for a personal profile to be built where individuals can describe their backgrounds and interests. While Facebook in theory allows for this as well, in general Facebook Pages contain a wide range of interests a person has, and it may be more appropriate to have a profile which pertains more specifically to the topics which are being discussed. In other words if you are involved in a discussion of local food, you may want to build a personal profile which is more appropriate than your Facebook profile, and we feel that discussion forums provide that opportunity. Other electronic means of getting to know someone may come through the sharing of video or photographic histories of what they are working on in their yards or farms. While this is a little different form of getting to know someone, it can serve to provide pictures of individuals and their yards and to also supply visuals on their projects. At a minimum this medium of on-line picture sharing provides a closer type of social connection than does merely contributing with words on a discussion board.
Further, the format of discussion boards provide an alternative and perhaps superior form of ease of discussion. Additionally the ability to find archived discussions and to have those discussion segregated by category is greatly enhanced on discussion boards in our opinion. Facebook also appears to be a highly centralized organization with perhaps an inordinate amount of market power, and the idea of too many communities placing their ability to discuss local food issues in their hands may be problematic. And finally our mentality, or cultural attitude, towards Facebook may effect our ability to adapt its usefulness towards the requirements of local food activism. In other words, our previous ways of using Facebook may effect it's new potential usage in local food activism. Facebook may or may not be a good choice for the purposes we are outlining, and it is certainly possible we can combine usages for different aspect of community discussion.
The remaining venues of Google groups, conference calls, Twitter, etc may have a variety of uses, but we will only discuss the aspect of their application for smaller groups for now
Of course the dissemination of information on the local level is not restricted only to electronic media. While newspaper and pamphleteering may be on the decline in general, there is still reason to believe that local grassroots organizations may have a significant use for them. A local newspaper or newsletter may or may not have stand alone appeal, and it may be the case that local food advocates might need to work wit other local groups and expand the breadth of subject matter to make a local paper successful. Having had some experience in this realm, we do believe that the logistics in terms of cost and locations for placement are doable. Pamphlets and various types of informational handouts can often be handed out at farmers markets or other various public events. Finally such paper based medium can serve to keep the non-internet capable types in the loop. Though it my also be possible to keep the non-electronically connected by other means such as allowing them some shared usage of computers with neighbors. We do believe that everyone needs a chance to participate and will go out of our way to make allowances for, and encourage assistance from others, for those who are technologically challenged.
A final chapter in local grassroots media platforms is in regard to audio file capability, webcasts, low power F.M broadcasts, etc. Audio files in particular can be listened to at numerous times throughout the day when watching material on a screen or reading information off screen or paper is simply not practical ,and in theory they can be produced for webcasts on low power F.M broadcasts Such files provide a history of meetings, conference calls, lectures seminars, etc. Further, they provide a medium for local folks who want to provide a testimonial on their own local story with local food issues. For example, we earlier discussed how the personal profile space provided at discussion forums can be a great way to introduce oneself to others and to give them background on your previous involvements and what you want to work towards in the future. While not everyone is likely to have a large enough personal description to fill up an audio tape it may be practical for those with extensive backgrounds or interests. Other practical uses could come in the form of instructional lessons provided by locals on 'how to' type operations. But audio recordings could also be used from webcasts , conference calls, local speakers, panels, and a large list of sources which could be used by others to become informed in their spare time.
Form this perspective, the importance of understanding and being proficient with the use of such electronic media becomes important if not vital. Being able to edit audio files and to further relocate such files into a variety of locations and devices provides an important tool in the community techo-tool box. Audio files are of course not the only electronic medium which has considerable import, and indeed we wish to look at a variety of electronic mediums and to pursue expertise as a group in all of those which seem important to local food education Regardless of the exact type of electronic medium, it seems clear that we have a variety of educational needs for the great majority of us in terms of electronic media. We believe it is possible that a greater community networking capability may increase the likelihood that we can locate more low cost experts in our locale, or perhaps those who will trade their expertise in time hours or some other format. Basically the idea is that a more networked community can become a more tech savvy community at a minimum of cost.
As we have mentioned earlier there is a kind of tension, or connection, between what we are calling information and its dissemination, and a somewhat separate identifiable social aspect in relation to this information's distribution . As we move towards organizations working on food issues at the local level and beyond, the social aspect can have an added dimension of a perhaps what could be called a territorial attitude. In other words when we approach other organizations or individuals involved in this work there are going to be issues regarding cooperation which will likely contrast with the moderately rosy grassroots relationship we have described up to this point.In some ways this might be attributed to typical human jealousy, or perhaps to an attitude which is safeguarding Beyond the question of who knows more about what, the issues also begin to touch on what is good for the movement. This of course is going to be very subjective and contextual, but we think it important to at least mention a couple of points. It is hard to not notice the lack of public and grassroots input and involvement in very large food and health organizations. Even general sustainability organizations often have huge Facebook followings with few contributions in the comment sections. What the cause of this lack of grassroots involvement is debatable. It is clear that few organizations offer discussion boards or promote public input. It is also clear that little grassroots involvement occurs even when avenues for involvement are made available. This state of affairs seems to reflect, to some degree at least, the passive attitudes we have suggested as coming from disconnected nature of the lone consumer in the marketplace, and our lack of ability or desire to organize in a manner outside that mindset. Our point here is that we want to focus on the local, but at the same time there are certain areas where we need to look carefully at organizations outside the local but are nonetheless deeply connected to our work
In terms of connecting with local food related groups such as Master Gardeners, the Local Food Advisory Council, the Farm Bureau, the Farmers Market, etc. First and foremost we hope to summarize and highlight what these groups are working on, and we hope to work with them on what we present to you here. One concern is our ability to interact with the members of these groups and to have a reasonable amount of transparency in their actions. In other words, and as we have mentioned elsewhere, hierarchies and gatekeepers can limit an entire membership from hearing messages from outside groups. That being said the leaders of these groups or others are under no real obligation to let just any group with a website have interaction or communication with their membership. In other words it is likely appropriate that we reach some threshold of membership, or at least some level of accomplishment, before these larger groups offer us contact with their members and activities. This is of course a delicate question, and will be taken on a case by case basis.
Two more important topics related to how we organize with others are that of conferences and speaking tours. Conferences can provide an opportunity to network face to face with others working on food related issues in our region or from more distant locations. Yet technology is quickly changing the nature of such conferences with interactive modalities such as video conferencing, chat rooms, call-in applications, and discussion boards, either taking a significant role or leaving the potential use for such options. Also many conferences are providing live streaming or perhaps audio files to be available. Of course our success in utilizing these latter modes will depend heavily on our technological ability to record live streams or audio files, as well as any copyright costs associated with the products. Again we should not see our communities or others as only passive consumers at the conferences and should seriously consider collaborating with other communities to form either our own conferences or in pressuring conference organizers to conform to popular will and networking needs. Speaking tours in general refer to idea of experts being able to come to our community to give lectures workshops, etc. Our communities ability to host such events will depend on our ability to acquire a venue, to advertise successfully through an established communication network, and to instill interest in the speaker and the subject. However we should also see this endeavor in terms of regional cooperation since many speakers will want to make several stops within a single region if they are going to visit the area at all. Large metropolitan areas may be able to host such events without great difficulty. But the hurdles may be larger for more suburban and rural areas, and cooperation and coordination may be necessary from several towns and counties to attract such speakers.
We mentioned earlier that our electronic media can be used to share pictorial histories of both how to accomplish a task and to display the aesthetic experience involved. Also we mentioned how this can help build a closer social bond, or at least a different type of feeling of being connected than mere words and diagrams. Yet such representations are really just a halfway point towards true hands on experience and direct participation in project and that is the final theme we wish to mention. The point is kind of strangely obvious in terms of an end point in the educational process which culminates in the actual hands on experience. Those who have mastered the skills however may serve as a sort of short cut for many of us however. In other words it may take a long time to get a book understanding of how to do something properly, but an expert can perhaps demonstrate the technique in person and teach it to you in minutes. So we will need to evaluate when book learning or other non in person techniques are necessary and when they are not
The next few subjects deal with outreach, the scale of organizing (especially in terms of geography), and various sub- groups of the population. The key theme is participation and individuals to freely network with one another.
No particular line defines when outreach begins in this process. In fact outreach would likely be the centerpiece of any diagram trying to describe this project. Someone simply hearing of Napa Food Cooperative, or any identifiable local food movement, is not a beginning nor an end for defining outreach. It may be the case that for some individuals just learning of the activities regarding local food may inspire them in a way that they become fully involved. For others it may be an ongoing process of slowly unfolding involvement, where bit by bit they slowly become more involved. So outreach is not a black and white issue of those who have heard the message, or a message, and those who have not. There may be individuals who have already grown food on their own who decide to become active in an organized campaign. Or there may be those who have no interest in an organized movement, but have been inspired by an organized campaign to grow their own food independently, As we have stated earlier even the term organized campaign can be problematical since centralization and belonging to a movement may take many forms. So while recognizing there are many ways in which outreach, and that are multitudes of ways of describing this phenomenon, we nonetheless want to try to focus our discussion here on a mixture of loosely based and tightly focused strategies of accomplishing this task.
One of the key ideas is that of small scale neighborhood organizing. Several reasons exist for considering such a strategy first. Neighbors tend to already be familiar with one another, and will likely be a lot more likely to listen to a fellow neighbor talk to them about organizing for local food production than they will a stranger. Also there are studies, including anthropological ones, which indicate we humans tend to work best in groups of a hundred to one hundred and fifty individuals per unit, and therefore it is our suggestion that this may be a good rough number for neighborhoods to organize around. And finally the idea that relation to place matters and which is perhaps exemplified best by the term stand where you are. This idea can have a lot of wild connotations associated with it, but part of the message should be in terms of your relation with the natural world and the individuals most closely associated within your locale. Technology and globalization have certainly led to a sort of disconnection from a placed based orientation to ones life. And while we are not suggesting that is all bad by any means, we are suggesting a re-exploration of the issue and what might be gained from an intention to connect with your neighbors is worth a look. A final complication on this issue is where to draw the lines of your neighborhood, especially if you are attempting to organize within semi formal groups of a particular size. In these instances it might be the case that your neighbor across the street is a member of a different group and someone several blocks away is part of your group. Hopefully some of this problem can be alleviated by some natural barriers such as commercial parks, large boulevards, and other geographical structuring that tends to define a naturally existing neighborhood. Further the suggestion that we organize by local distinct neighborhoods is by no means an absolute, and hopefully those at the the periphery of such neighborhoods can at a minimum serve as a conduit or liaison with the adjacent neighborhoods
The problem of outreach for local food activism of course is not simply solved by saying just get together with your neighbors. In fact it may likely be the case that an effort to organize a neighborhood not begin primarily with the premise of growing or organizing around food. Simply trying to organize by having a block party or a pot-luck dinner may be a good first step. Another strategy may be to show documentaries or movies at someones home or a larger venue in your neighborhood if one exists. Having a large screen projector that can show films outside during the warmer months may be preferable strategy since coming inside someones living room may be a little too intimate for some folks when we are trying to get comfortable with one another. Many neighborhoods may not have such equipment and therefore having it supplied might be the job of a larger organization or some other shared resource consortium The Nextdoor software helps neighbors connect with one another on-line through a partnership program with the city. The system has had significant success and we applaud the effort, but to a great degree it has become a kind of local Craig's List of services and goods people want to sell and get rid. The process of local exchange and communication is indeed part of what we are looking for, but so far it has not seemed to foster a true sense of connection for people to meet, nor have we seen much evidence that it has had much impact on the introduction of some of the new ideals of the share economy or other means of non traditional money based exchange. We will pick up on this theme shortly in the trade and exchange section.
While outreach occurs in this mixed context of working to produce effective information systems and networking with existing media, we still want to try to point out some more direct strategies. The previously mentioned neighborhood organizing technique is only a suggestion, and even such a decentralized approach may take central planning in a sense. In other words, if an initial group of activists wishes to pursue the neighborhood strategy they may need to fist look at what makes sense as a neighborhood to target, and then to seek out likely individuals in the neighborhood who may wish to take an initial leadership position in activating that neighborhood. Therefore so called central strategies such as putting an add in the newspaper, mass mailings, appearances on local radio shows may be a necessary first step in finding even one individual within a given neighborhood to initiate the process. Another strategy is to identify neighborhoods that have been previously connected for other arbitrary reasons such as opposing redevelopment or having a marijuana dispensary come into their neighborhood. We use those examples not to provide an opinion on the worthiness of those efforts, but simply to highlight how some neighborhoods may have had previous organizing efforts which can be used to reinvigorate that neighborhoods organizing capability A number of additional factors can be involved in this process such as identifying sub communities like apartment buildings, semi-rural farms and the socioeconomic makeup of the neighborhood. In general several factors need to be taken into account in order to tailor an appropriate strategy for neighborhood specific outreach.
So While much of our discussion of outreach has been in regard to the idea of organizing by neighborhood, a more centralized approach is also important. There is of course no either or in this area. We can have both some sense of centralization and strong neighborhoods at the same time. A centralized capacity, or at least mindset, may increase a larger sense of community and that we are in it all together even if we have strong neighborhood organizations as well. Centralized outreach may also take advantage of larger scale media, or community information systems such as local radio station, newspapers, political parties, and a variety of community resources, Also worth mentioning is that outreach is not always a specific attempt aimed directly at outreach. Often outreach can occur within the context of various issues being discussed at the community level. This is of course is dependent that your community even has any ability to have local discussion of local issues. But if it does local food movements can be part of such discussion which may include sustainability in general, global warming, health issues, and a host of issues which can lead to a connection to the local food movement. While in general we are trying to focus local food at the community level which is usually defined by a town, city or county, how we interact at the regional and even larger level is part of the outreach story as well. In particular communities working on local food are likely to want to interact with other communities to both share information and to serve as examples and inspiration for one another. Some have referred to this union of autonomous communities as trans localism, and that is a term and an outlook which we support
Trade and capital includes both the exchange systems that we use to trade products and services, and the capital investment to create the infrastructure and conditions for an extended food system to be created in the first place. In general we believe that most of us tend to understand these two functions as relatively the same in that they both require money. While there is an obvious an undeniable truth to that, we nonetheless believe that money as a medium of exchange and money as capital investment perform quite different functions and will be treated as somewhat distinct subjects here. But before we delve into these two functions, it is also necessary to consider our preconceived notions and belief systems surrounding these issues Earlier we have stated that we wish to avoid many of the all too familiar arguments of conservative and liberal economic ideology, or even the impacts of globalization in general. So we stand on the horns of a dilemma to some degree in trying to look at these issues of trade and capital from a non-ideological and perhaps fresh and objective fashion. But at the same time we are trying to address some of the possible biases, and these may in part at least be related to the discussions of ideology, or at a minimum the impact of the larger monetary system and the global economy. We will provide some links in the larger issues section for those who wish to see some of the experts and ideas who either offer new ideas and who do a good job of recapitulating some of the arguments some of us know all too well
But before we go into our more extended discussion of alternative analyses and system of local trade in relation to food and health issues, we want to first again review some of the existing systems. Much of this was discussed in the cooking and health section where we spent a good deal of time with relations to local restaurants and grocers from the point of view of the local food consumer. Here we are more interested in how to network, trade, and exchange locally grown or prepared foods. There is indeed overlap in the two subjects, and we suggest reviewing that section when proceeding here. So here are a couple of more conventional ,or already existing food exchange systems we want to highlight before our discussion of even more alternative based systems
Those who are presently producing local food such as CSA's, farm to table programs, and lot of high end restaurants who are having local food grown for them deserve recognition. To some degree these occurrences may be a function of a consumer population who is willing to pay the price for what they see as an ethical purchasing outlook, a novelty, or in the case of the high end restaurants the ability of chefs to tightly control the produce they are looking for. Regardless of the exact reasons for their success, we want to capture as much of the positives as possible and expand them further. So in this vain an exploration of the existing successful business models and how those success might be expanded is one key components of an increased local food production capacity. What we want to emphasize is that existing businesses and the business model itself, is certainly compatible with an expanded sense of local food production, and is even capable of adapting to alternative local currency systems which we will be discussing shortly
Cooperatives are another form of relatively mainstream business only that its organizational and decision making procedures are under the democratic control of the employees. A reasonable amount of successful cooperative models are in our area and others, especially in relation food. One of the tradeoffs is that some versions of cooperatives require a lot of time and energy for the employees to meet and decide policy. Though many cooperative models hire or appoint management teams which report to the membership. One of the main positive arguments for cooperatives is that if we are to claim we are democratically based country then perhaps it is inconsistent to spend our working lives in a non-democratic environment. Also cooperatives are not limited to individual productive enterprises. In fact they include consumer cooperatives, or small business cooperatives who organize to increase their purchasing capacity and other forms of cooperative engagements
While we are trying to avoid mentioning specific businesses it is difficult to ignore Whole Foods and their place in our community. Of particular import is the fact that Whole foods is willing to buy from local growers under the right conditions. Further they provide cooking and other food educational classes which are often free or low priced. They tend to be transparent about their buying practices and the condition of the foods that they stock their shelves with. Perhaps this story belongs in our grocers section, but the tendency of Whole Foods to meet much of the criteria we desire for successful community networking regarding the subject of food makes them seemingly worthy of mention in this section as well
Farmers market's are of course another vital part of the community's ability to network around the sales of local foods, but to also serve as a social hub for local food activists and perhaps a venue to table on other information regarding local food issues. We are indeed enthusiastic on providing specific information on the requirements to sell at farmers markets, and to perhaps to provide some initial strategies to coordinate additional local items. Many local farmers markets do not include food grown within the city or even the county where the markets take place. And while this is still an improvement over conventional markets, we are hopeful of getting more locally grown foods in our markets in the near future. One strategy may be a consortium of producers, perhaps from single neighborhoods, who can split some of the costs and then aggregate their production in order to meet minimal production thresholds to sell at the market. Another strategy is to develop niche markets of various sorts of perhaps little known produce or something with a value added component attached to it which can be grown locally
Now in returning to our discussion of alternative approaches to local forms of exchange we want to first set forth some of the theories which we believe gives validity to the consideration of using such alternative systems. The idea that distant producers of organic, or other produce, can produce such items more cheaply and with more efficiency than local producers gets to the heart of the question. There are several aspects to this question which include; the scale of the operation and the degree mechanization, the upfront capital investment, marketing strategies, and even in some cases complicated questions about market power which may distort the actual cost compared to the price. So the latter point is complicated aspect, but one which also ties in nicely to larger environmental and sustainability questions involved in these issues. For example there seems to be an environmental price to shipping food and produce large distances in order to reach the marketplace. And while we are trying to push the larger the environmental question to the background in our discussion here, the issue nonetheless has bearing in an analysis of efficiency in the marketplace of local food production. So when we say actual cost may be different than the price what are we talking about. In a sense we are talking about the hours of labor it takes for the product to be created and to reach the consumer, plus the amount of natural resources involved in that process, So it is that second component of resource consumption which tends to be the focus of environmental concerns. And while we are going to continue to set that issues aside here, it is so obviously and closely tied to the economic considerations of local food production that it had to be mentioned in this context. With that aside what is left for analysis of actual cost versus price? Well a lot really. But lets try to look at the question in terms of the hours of labor alone that it takes to bring an item to market.The most fundamental aspect of economic production in any sense is the informed techniques of physical labor upon natural resources to create goods and services in the marketplace. From this perspective it is virtually impossible to claim it is economically more efficient to produce food from a distance and have it shipped here at least in terms of organic produce. One can make an argument that the scale for large mechanized conventional production may create efficiencies that offset the cost of shipping large distances. But it may also be the case that these perceived efficiencies are instead a result of distortions in the marketplace which create an unnatural pricing system
So we are implying that it is possible that our present market system may be influenced by factors which distorts the relationship between the labor cost in terms of hours and price. This issue will of course involve a broad and fairly complex discussion about economics in general and is again somewhat outside the scope of what we want to get involved with here. However such a discussion is introduced in the larger issues section and a brief look at those issues may be helpful in trying to comprehend all of this. Certainly the recent increased concern of wall street speculators turning towards greater investment in commodities futures and the seeming corresponding volatility in food prices will be broached there, and highlights the potential important connection between international markets and the prices we see at the local level We are not insinuating a conspiracy in all of this. All we are suggesting is that we consider that the price we see in the marketplace is not automatically reflective of actual cost and value to us as potential local food consumers. Yes there is a kind of cold reality to the price you pay at the local store versus the price you can get raising food locally. But at the same time if we conclude that these prices tend to reflect either distortions in the marketplace, or misplaced incentives in the marketplace, then they can be corrected. Some corrections may be fairly arduous road of political and legal maneuverings. But it might also be the case that certain alternative forms of economic organizing may also tend to overcome this tendency.
The price of a locally produced food may not fully represent the value that it has in comparison to a food product not grown locally. This discrepancy is generally referred to as the multiplier effect. The multiplier effect is based on the fact that studies have shown that dollars spent on locally owned businesses tend to circulate 5 to 6 times longer than dollars spent at non-locally owned businesses. If one accepts that this multiplier effect is real, then it really opens a whole world of potential for communities to improve their economic condition by increasing locally owned businesses as well as simply producing and cooking more food locally. But we have at least two problems in realizing this economic potential. of locally grown and cooked foods. One the multiplier effect is not reflected in the price of an item. And second other economic markers are not likely to capture the increase in value which would result from members of communities purchasing meals cooked by either locally owned restaurants or simply in their own homes. In the case of eating at home, most economic calculations would not see this as a positive since economics is usually measured only in productive capacity in the marketplace and not by savings. Yet it seems intuitively obvious to realize that if a community members became more capable cooks at home then they would need to spend less on food in general. Yes there are questions about more time and energy being lost preparing food at home, and that quality of life issues would be lost be losing the eating out experience. However it is also not necessarily the case that more home cooking, or cooking collaboratively with other locals, is a burden, and that eating out is always a joy which we are being deprived of. Instead it is possible that many of us have lost interest , or have never been taught, the ability to cook well, efficiently, or even happily. Though the real point is how this might be seen in terms of the economic health of a community. If we were to assume that folks could be happier eating more at home, how would that economic savings be expressed? The final point on this subject is in regard to health. Again if we were to consider the possibility that if a significant change were made by a community in terms of healthy eating, and that such changes could have significant health impacts overall, then again how could the economic effects be seen or calculated? Indeed some of these measurements would be expressed in terms of lower medical bills. Yet such savings are unlikely to be realized through either private insurers or through government medical insurance programs. Also there are questions about idle labor capacity and poverty within our community which may add an extra layer of complexity upon this somewhat simple frame of buying the food which is the cheapest and least difficult to buy. So while we have been in contact with one economist over these issues and hope that a push towards re-localization may provide an impetus for an increased ability to evaluate the economic significance of such issues, the real point we are working towards is making a breakthrough in the mindset of the community members themselves
Another topic we feel has relevance in our discussion of community economics is that of idle economic capacity. This issue tends to be equated with the larger institutional economic theories and Keynesian economics, but it also seems simple enough implications at the local level as well. Idle economic capacity is expressed most clearly in those who are unemployed and looking for work, or perhaps willing to work given certain conditions. So it might seem from a community perspective that we put such people to work growing food. But we have at least two problems with that scenario. One, as long as they are not able to grow food and sell it at a competitive price in the marketplace, then there is no incentive or need to have them doing anything. Second, unemployment insurance , and perhaps other governmental aid programs, are rarely tied to local food production possibilities capacity or other productive possibilities that can be accomplished at the local level. These aspects will lead us to a larger conversation about how law and regulation may limit our capacity to utilize idle economic capacity which we again defer to the larger issues section In the meantime,. we will offer some new ideas on how time banks, local currencies, and other ideas may offer some alternatives which may provide avenues to actualize this capacity in ways traditional capacities cannot. At the same time we also want to emphasize that some new types of economic measurements for an expanded local food production and associated health benefits are possible. And that if we are able to quantify and qualify such measurements, it may help in changing the mindset that the lowest price at the grocery store or restaurant is the only incentive we can create for one another at the local level.
The final point we wish to introduce before moving on to a direct discussion of alternative economic platforms is in the discussion of the nature of mediums of exchange. In our present system this is money or more precisely dollars. As Thomas Greco points out in the 'End of Money,' one of the biggest problems is 'that almost everyone seems to have difficulty in distinguishing between units of measure, on the one hand, and the things being measured on the other." Greco uses the following example to illustrate the point. 'One may have a shortage of lumber or nails when building a house, but one will never have a shortage of inches or pounds which measure such real world objects." The point illustrates our seeming tendency to believe that money is a thing in and of itself, and that work and production in the real economy cannot happen without it. We do not want to spend too much time with this point, but we do want to add it to the list of items being discussed here which imply that economics and price in the marketplace may not be as a 'real thing' as our belief systems suggest to us. The second point in some ways continues to illustrate some of our strange ideas about currency and debt obligation. Currency seems to be in its fundamental form, is simply the acknowledgement of a debt obligation. For example, the producer of a good, such as a chicken, gives it to a buyer, and in exchange the buyer gives the chicken producer some amount of currency. Hopefully this leads us to the discussion of credit versus currency. Some folks may have a tendency to feel that systems which keep only computational accounts on a ledger, are somehow trying to substitute for the lack of a real currency. We are trying to suggest here that that tendency may be a signal that this may be indicative in a belief that currency is the real driver of economics when in fact it is our social acknowledgement of a debt obligation which is the true real factor
So with that background in mind, we want to move forward to alternative forms of trade. Perhaps first and foremost is just a general look at what has become known as the share or gift economy. The share economy has become the most famous for the success of the Airbnb, the room share program, and various car share programs. Airbnb allows homeowners and sometimes renters to share extra rooms in their houses with travelers for short stays. Car share programs allow individuals who are not using their cars at specific times, have others use their cars during those periods with an agreed upon insurance policy of those involved. We do not want to go to deep into the details, but rather the general implications. As usual we are suggesting a two fold effect here; the practicality of sharing tools and other products related with food, and the cooperative social mentality that seem to accompany these new systems. The gift economy is sometimes seen as an extension of this cooperative social mentality which moves us from beyond simply sharing into gifting. In other words some interpretations of the gift economy present an economy literally based on a one way gift giving from giver to recipient without any obligation or expectation of reciprocal exchange being required from the recipient. In general however most explanations of the gift economy suggest that one gift leads to another, and that eventually exchange continues and even grows without the expectation of direct reciprocal exchange. Interestingly the mentality of the gift economy has some legal implications in relation to the IRS. Large companies and corporations are prohibited from exchanging any significant amount of products to one another in moneyless exchanges without reporting such exchanges to the IRS . In other words Ford is not allowed to simply trade with Apple for I-Pods without tax implications. However the IR S does allow for small scale transactions to be allowed when the transactions are meant as gifts for one another. Granted this is a little bizarre since it requires knowing the intention of the gifters. But at the same time it tends to give the gifting economy some real world legitimacy to counter its reputation as being pollyannaish or quixotical
The first form of alternative trading systems we wish to discuss is that of community currency. Community currency can also be known as complementary currency or local currency, and perhaps some other versions that go beyond the scope of our discuss In general there are three ways community currency; a paper or coin that has representative value agreed to by a certain group of people, a coin or metal such as silver that has intrinsic value, or a virtual credit system which is kept on an online , or other type of ledger. Community currencies have a long history within the history of our culture and others, often arise at times of economic crisis. Often they are seen as temporary measures to serve as a medium to utilize idle economic capacity. That term is somewhat synonymous with unemployment, but may also be seen as unrealized potential for those that are working, or who feel that the dominant money system is not properly valued in relationship to some sub economy or region. Another significant factor for local currencies are incentives placed within the system to encourage the velocity, or speed of use , of the currency. In other mechanisms are put in place where the value of the currency may decrease in a short time period, encouraging you to spend it quickly. This encourages more trade to occur and to theoretically maximize idle capacity. For a community currency to have success a certain threshold of participants must be reached. In general such currencies require a good deal of local businesses to accept the local currency.
This is not necessarily true for the closely related idea of time banks. Time banks do not require a physical currency and are generally are organized around participants directly trading work hours with one another. For example someone who knows how to do carpentry trades two hours of his or her labor for two hours of guitar lessons from someone with expertise in that field. Most often such time banks have a one to one correspondence in trading hours. A lawyers hour is worth the same as a gardeners. Some time banks may make adjustments for the value of some persons hours being worth more or less than others. While that may seem like a good idea, it can open up the issue to controversy and questions of process form what was otherwise a straightforward process. Also time banks tend to be a service traded for service. Though things like chairs and tables are technically a good, they usually have a pretty clear time equivalent related to them. But when it comes to locally grown produce, which is often a commodity available for time banks, it may be a little more complicated to calculate. So it is often the case that some standard for time hour equivalency will be given for such items
Food swaps are another emerging trading system being taken up in several localities. Usually they occur at a specified time and location and tend to be highly informal. The centralized location aspect does afford the possibility for participants to have increased information on each others produce and growing strategies, but again we may have an environmental and time cost in traveling a distance to meet one another. However, if production increased within a local neighborhood neighbors may be able to make arrangements to trade produce both more quickly than perhaps a monthly scheduled crop swap, and there might be less distance to travel to trade such items. Further there is no clear demarcation for only swapping produce, and hybrids are likely to occur between trading produce and trading labor to bring that produce into being. In other words trading system for food swaps that incorporate both trading the work of harvesting the produce and exchanging the produce itself. In particular this will make sense when certain produce is ripe and may have a short window to be harvested, such as an apricot tree. In a case like that it may make sense that a group of people are necessary to help the individual responsible for the tree to harvest the apricots in a timely manner. So it is unlikely that crop swaps are really a separate idea form time banks, or much of local currency.
Now we want to look at what we have termed as start up capital for a local food networking enterprise. Unfortunately this is almost impossible without putting the question into some significant context. For instance to build an entire network like the one we have outlined here would include the following; tools for gardening and farming, community commercial kitchen, land and water, electronic equipment, books and DVD, and if we are to include human capital and information, all the time and effort to build the informational and networking systems to educate ourselves. So not only is this an overwhelmingly large amount of investment, it really cannot be called the start of the project or up front infrastructure in any meaningful way. The point is that it is difficult to define the beginning point of what it necessary to get started. In the section on process we hope to take on this question of staring points, and how the process evolves towards goals and the re-evaluation of goals. In the more strict financial sense of capital, it has a kind of dual nature of being a build up of someones funds, and a sense of delayed returns upon the investment of those funds. But for now it should be clear that other mechanisms may be used which perform the same tasks as financial capital in the sense that financial capital is really about requiring the necessary real goods and services to start up an operation such as a local food system. For instance if a local food movement is seen as reaching some threshold of credibility then certain individuals within the community may decide that they are now willing to use their own backyards to grow food because of this increased credibility of those working on the emerging local food system. In this case the capital goal of acquiring land involved in some ways occurs in the minds of those in the community in relation to the credibility of the organization working on local food. And this can be accomplished with or without outside financial capital
Banks are of course a conventional institution for investment. Yet traditional banks offer virtually no loans for local food systems. There are some examples of locally or regionally owned banks which are involved in more community based projects, and it may indeed be worth our time to work towards establishing such banks in our area. It may also be worth some of our time to increase public awareness that the major banks have no interest in most community based food system investment, and perhaps put some pressure on them to change their policies. but perhaps the most promising avenue for change in this area is the public banking movement. Perhaps some of you have heard the Bank of North Dakota is the only state owned bank in the country, and that many consider it as a successful example of how state owned banks can assist in investment in the public interest. In general public banks utilize employe's pensions, and other sources such as tax revenues are pooled together to create credit for community based projects such as local food systems. The Public Banking Institute has been the leading organization involved in this movement, and we highly recommend that they be considered closely as a priority for our local efforts
. Private investors may also be able to play a role in local community investment and in particular local food systems. A lot has been made of sustainable investment portfolios, and in the case of Slow Money investing in communities for more locally grown food has been an explicit aim. Unfortunately at the time of this writing we are not clear what offers exist for communities, in terms of organized grassroots networks for such investment strategies. We have little doubt that such companies are doing good work through private hands, but when it comes to how this might be applied at a community level we remain somewhat in the dark. Though it may be the case that such green investors and their strategies may potential play a role, or may already be playing a role outside our view by working with individual farmers or other food related institutions outside of the purview of grassroots organizers. And to whatever degree this is occurring we are of course grateful since anything which produced local food production isl likely seen as beneficial to the cause. But someday soon we would like to be more aware of the process
Direct government grants are also a possibility. From what we have seen they tend to be targeted towards school lunch programs, and communities struggling with poverty. The USDA's Peoples Garden Program is one such example. There are a series of such grants. However , we should also keep in mind that receiving such grants may depend on the willingness of your local and state governments to be actively lobbying for funding from the federal programs. A second aspect is that some of the non-profit institutions we have mentioned earlier may also be working on lobbying governmental officials to increase the availability of such programs, and therefore the involvement of grassroots organizations at the local level may facilitate this process with greater involvement. State governments may also have some programs and possibilities, but local governments are potentially the most responsive. Farmer's markets, school programs and community gardens being the most obvious examples. But as mentioned earlier zoning laws and other local and governmental regulations can play a role in our ability to access land, and therefore serve the end goal of land access in the same way as financing can
Then there is of course direct appeal to the public for funds. An important distinction to be made right off the bat is between a general donation and a targeted donation. A general donation would usually give the members of the group receiving the donation some latitude in how the donations are used. Whereas targeted donations go to rather specific projects. There is also the option of having targeted donations used only when a threshold of funds for a particular project is reached. In other words individuals jointly pledge their funds for a project, and only when the threshold of funds necessary for the project is reached are their funds actually used. Various crowd-sourcing formats such as Kickstarter and Indigogo have had marked success in the arena of grassroots on-line fundraising for various projects. While such organizations and methods have rarely, if ever, been applied or successful at the local level, there seems every reason to believe that localities which establish a well connected networked community may be able to apply such methods. Also we should again keep in mind how the distinction between capital as start-up funds, and as a potential consumer demand source can both be used as a means to establish a new food business or cooperative food effort. For instance if a group of consumers pledges they will buy a certain product then producers may feel they may need less capital investment to hold in order to insure their ability to continue to produce in the case of decreased demand. Another way of looking at this is that producers may need to invest in marketing in order to establish a demand base from consumers. However if a block of consumers have already established themselves as a reliable unit for demand and have further outlined the types of products and services they desire, then it may be possible for the producer to avoid these upfront marketing costs. This is a different type of market philosophy and will not just happen overnight, and certainly producers will still be wary of reliability of such organized consumer blocks. Nevertheless it does have the potential to change the nature of capital requirement in relation to food production, and we should at least entertain the possibilities
We have discussed capital here in the sense of needing a certain amount of land, tools, seeds, fertilizers, etc, plus a certain amount of human labor to jump-start a workable system. In general we have discussed this from the perspective of direct financial capital of various sorts. To a lesser degree we have mentioned that acquiring the necessary start up resources can be accomplished by means that do not require financial capital This other frame in general is those individuals who are willing to put some work into this mission upfront without any direct financial compensation. One might call this simple volunteerism, but the situation can be more complex. For instance many individuals may see a potential opportunity to make money down the road if they invest their time and energy for free initially. Often an individual internal calculus takes place in the minds of the individuals involved, and we cannot be certain of all the motivations which take place for those who participate in what we are roughly calling volunteerism. For some it may be a sense of duty to help the underprivileged. For others it may be some loose idea of community involvement, with a subtle belief that working for the good of the community can eventually benefit us all. And for still others it may be simply being involved in the nature of the task and experience itself without any notion beyond that. Simple community recognition may play a role for many, and certainly can be seen as a different form of compensation.
The idea of volunteerism can be closely related to what we will call informal agreements. .in other words at times individuals will help someone out with some expectation that someone will eventually return the favor. At other times the such returns of favors become more explicit and we might call them informal agreements. While it is difficult for a local food group to try to effect how individuals come to decide whether they want to volunteer, we can be more proactive in our discussions of these informal agreements . For example a group of individuals may be willing to help folks get started in their backyard gardens by offering help upfront with certain understandings that the person responsible for the yard will contribute some food in some way in the future. A networked local food group which highlights these agreements in a public manner may provide an additional impetus for the recipient of the help to honor their end of the bargain. There is of course a balance to be struck here. We do not want to necessarily shame or intimidate individuals to hold up their end of such agreements, but nor do we want those who trust such individuals to be abused either. There is the idea that more formal and perhaps legally binding agreements could be created, but such tight agreements may also serve to turn off well intentioned people who would otherwise be willing to allow their backyards to be used Such informal agreements can take a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and a good deal of focus should take place on their possibilities in our opinion. We should also mention that our examples are dealing with gardening are not the only situations which involve volunteerism and informal agreements, these notions can apply to information sharing of various sorts, as well as, cooking and other issues we have raised on the site as well
In the last paragraph we began a broader definition of capital in terms of informal agreements and personal motivations which may help kick start the early process of gathering resources and initial labor. Some of that discussion was regarding access to land for growing produce, and how informal agreements could play a role in that. We want to expand that conversation further, but first a couple of the reminders. First capital is not necessarily money. Rather it is; the acquisition of resources, the investment of labor, and the nature of the compensation for those things, which is necessary to start a new networking operation like the one we are suggesting here. Second as our conversation begins to move back towards questions about agreements, we should recognize that there is both a gradient in how strictly agreements are structured and enforced as well as, the idea that law and rules for future applications are malleable and subject to revision. As a starting point with land use, we need to make some early distinctions. We have land from individual homeowners at the sub acre level, and we have those same sized plots maintained by renters. We have larger parcels which are more often occupied by homeowners, but may also occasionally be maintained by renters. We have public lands including schools which may already include school gardens and community gardens. We have land owned by churches, And we have land owned by commercial enterprises.
Each of these types of land ownership arrangements has its own unique set of circumstances in terms of being accessible for growing food. While we are not going to list all the possibilities here, we do want to discuss a few of the major themes. In some communities it may be possible for some group individuals or perhaps a non profit to actually purchase land to grow food in a cooperative manner. In the majority of cases however the owner, or the renter of the property, may need to have some sort of agreement with others in utilizing the property for food production. The clearest legal option for this circumstance is a legally binding lease between a landowner and an individual or group of individuals wishing to grow food on the property. But in this case, and in the case of more informal agreements from landowners in allowing some limited access to their property, legal questions about zoning and liability can arise. Liability issues generally arise when landowners allow individuals onto their land to work in food gardens. There can be a few remedies to this problem including the application of homeowners policies which can cover such liabilities, or the use of waivers to be signed by those wishing to work on the landowners land. A final issue in this regard, is whether landowners attempt to charge those wanting to work on the land. In general local food production on a small scale is economically challenging, and additional burden of paying a landowner from such work will often move the endeavor into the realm of not being worthwhile for those involved. However it is often the case that some landowners are inspired to allow such use of their land for free either by the public attention garnered by the altruistic nature of their granting this to happen, or by a perhaps a more personal prerogative that they simply enjoy seeing their land put to a productive use
Zoning laws can even impact homeowners who are attempting to grow food for themselves, or perhaps selling or trading their produce with neighbors. Many of these situations arise from neighbors who see front yard vegetable gardens and the like to be a nuisance, or when they feel the homeowner is illegally operating a business according the zoning regulations. The question of home food operations operating as a business will be taken up in more detail in a following section. But in terms of trading vegetables and produce we can of course enter into some of the alternative community currency question and time bank issues which may further cloud exactly what qualifies as a business. Until some of these newly arising issues are clarified by law, or perhaps by neighbors becoming more accustomed to the tendencies of a growing local food movement a certain amount of common sense should prevail. For instance, a large amount of farm animals, or even a single rooster, tends to fly in the face of just common sense respect for your neighbors in an urban or suburban environment
A final point related to land and the idea of capital is that of the agricultural park, or the eco-village. Few communities presently have such places, but the idea has conceptual appeal. These terms can however be a little loose. Agricultural parks are often described as working farms which serve as a buffer zone between urban and agricultural areas, but are also open to the public to dome degree. Eco-villages generally have some on site farming, but often include on site residents who share resources in a communal fashion. Both of these types of establishments, and many variations in between, can offer communities; a demonstration hub where folks can view operations first hand, social centers for people to get together, and the opportunity for hands on training in food technologies. Many farms who are using small scale agriculture, may also be in a similar category to this if they are open to the public. As we discussed earlier, it may be possible to set up tours for local who are interested i visiting locations like this in their region.
There are as many examples of what could be called capital investment as their are ideas for a community food system in general. There is no magic starting point, but we chose to use some examples of land since it tends to be the primary starting point. There are however several other necessities which lend themselves both to the idea of a necessary early steps, or capital investments if you will, and to the idea of profitable shared use. Compost is another resource which would likely have an enhanced capacity if it were to be networked within the community. Rather than sending all of our yard waste and clippings to the waste management folks it may be possible to have it collected by community members of certain neighborhoods. Not everyone wants to have an active compost pile but many people may be willing to contribute their yard waste for neighborhood utilization. Also when we are getting yard waste delivered from the waste management folks it may be possible to get a large delivered load from them which can then be split up throughout the neighborhood. The final example will we mention is in regard to bee populations. While bee's cannot simple be brought in, bee friendly plants can be planted and pesticide use can possible be reduced to make the community more bee friendly, and therefore a more conducive environment for vegetation in general
There is no smooth transition from this idea of capital into our next subject of distinct or special populations within or community, but it is noteworthy that such populations can be a source of potential capital for a food movement. Some of these populations may exemplify the idea that capital is not necessarily a burden which must be met in order to get people to become active in a food movement, but instead can also be a possible untapped source waiting to be utilized. This is most likely in our senior citizen population, but also has potential with children and the unemployed. In the case of senior citizens it may not always be the case they are up for a lot of physical labor, but we have talked about many other options here such as information gathering, cooking etc. It may also be the case that seniors could serve simply as a conduit. For example if some of us were able to present on our ideas for local food systems at a senior facility of some sort and impress upon them the importance of our work, they may then be willing to contact their friends and families to let them know of our mission. Also at some level it is difficult to ignore the disconnect that our seniors have from the rest of our society. And while it may not be an explicit aim of a food movement to address such issues, it is difficult to ignore the situation and the potential a food movement has to effect this social isolation factor as well. It will of course be a touchy issue since many seniors are vulnerable and often live in assisted care facilities, so outreach will need to be closely coordinated with those involved with such folks. The final point in regard to seniors is the vast potential for information gathering of various sorts which this site has outlined. While this activity may not necessarily offer seniors as much potential social interaction as the more active functions of raising food, we hope it will offer an anlternative mode of involvement for those whose physical participation is limited
In terms of children, much attention has been focused on this by existing groups. We congratulate the work done by such groups and do not have any magic bullet to offer how these effort might go further. We do hope to be able to put together a kind of broader picture of what is happening to the broader public in terms of what schools have either healthy lunch programs or school gardens. Also we hope to organize and present as many of the resources available to our school districts as is reasonable, and to help in any way we can.
In terms of the unemployed, or even the incarcerated, the issues become even more complicated. Two main issues confront us here. One it is difficult to incorporate the existing social programs these folks may be on and incorporate them into active production in local food systems. And two social attitudes cast some suspicion on such individuals, particularly in the case of the incarcerated or formerly incarcerated. We are not here to say anything is wrong with existing systems or attitudes. But we do want to at least investigate whether such populations might want additional options in local food systems and health related issues. One issue may be whether healthier food choices might be offered to inmates at our local jails which come from locally grown food efforts. So yes we know this idea will not sit well with some folks, but for now we are not going to enter the debate beyond the potential positives. It seems within the realm of possibility that inmates who did choose to consider these healthier locally grown produce options could benefit from the direct health benefits, but may also benefit psychologically from a community showing them a certain amount of concern and offering them a road back to a better life. With the unemployed, disabled, or other non full time workers, as we have stated earlier, these folks are often tied to assistance programs which may have strict rules on what kind of economic activity they can involved in. These are complicated subjects, but the upshot for us in trying to determine whether such programs are serving as a disincentive for such individuals to be involved in local food production
Finally we come to the question of ethnic sub-groups and the challenges the subject brings in regard local food production. When some of us have looked at organizing our local neighborhoods it has become clear that some ethnic groups are just not going to be comfortable with a Caucasian coming to their door as they would someone of their own ethnic group. In many cases this is at least partly due to simple language barriers, but in reality the issue seems to go deeper. So we are, in part, suggesting that those who are active in a certain neighborhood, and of a certain ethnic group, may be better suited to approach other members of their ethnic group within that community. Yes we realize that this may be seen as re-enforcing ethnic isolation, but there is every reason to believe that as a local food systems develops there were be plenty of room for different ethnic groups to make progress towards greater interaction with one another Different ethnicities are also likely to have different traditional foods. The point here being that ethnic and cultural differences should not serve as a reason to continue to divide us from one another, but nor should such differences be ignored with a one size fits all approach which may fail to take take into account the importance of some of these differences such differences