Re-engineering our foodshed

December 30, 2009 at 1:10 pm 4 comments

By Carol Peppe Hewitt

I heard a compelling comment by a fellow social entrepreneur recently, hoping to recruit me into his army of foodshed activists, that went something like this:

“Wouldn’t it be great if at a sales meeting of an international food conglomerate, like Kraft, in Pennsylvania somewhere, the sales director pointed to a donut hole on the map of the southern region and said ‘What’s this? What’s going on down there? They aren’t buying any of our cheese, or meat, or much of anything? What the hell is going on?’ This said accusingly to the sales person assigned to our area.”

It’s a great thought, becoming self-reliant on local foods, and less on processed junk, reducing the miles traveled by the food we consume in our community. The idea is especially appealing to someone who escaped from corporate America a decade ago to run a successful small business, and believes passionately in the viability and critical nature of healthy small town economies, local economies, sustainability, and good food.

Like so many, I find myself asking these days, “What can one person really do to impact climate change?” The question now has an answer forming, and it is shaped like a donut hole. And it goes beyond climate change. Reducing food miles means a smaller carbon footprint. Buying from local farmers means keeping that cash, those profits, circulating in our community. The health problems caused by the standard American diet, pizza, mac and cheese, high fructose corn syrup, fried foods, are well documented and include burgeoning waistlines, near epidemics of obesity and diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and climbing cancer rates.

Making this shift would certainly be a challenge, reengineering our local food shed so that we produce and consume a significantly higher percentage of local foods, but I love a challenge. Especially one that involves connecting people to one another for mutual gain, healing the planet, healing ourselves, engages my brain with topics I have an interest in, and sounds both intriguing and fun.

But can it be done? And where do we start?

Farms. We start with more independent sustainable farms. And then we recruit more eaters, and create a structure that connects them to one another. We work out pricing that makes the farms economically viable and makes local foods affordable to the masses. And we provide education on how to make the shift back from boxes of processed foods to eating right out of the ground – real, healthy food are beginning.

Here in Chatham we have a good start. And several new farms have recently surfaced. Duck Run Farm moved to Pittsboro this summer, and offers a creative and diverse CSA along with the cutest ducks in Chatham County. Chatham Mills is launching what may be the first ever “farm to market” venture, creating an urban farm in the back yard of the Mill in Pittsboro that will provide produce for Chatham Marketplace, their anchor tenant and our local co-op grocery store. Shakori Hills, in Silk Hope, NC and famous for the twice-annual GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance, also has a perfect site for a farm. Farm to festival.

What’s next? Farm to restaurant? Farm to school? Farm to hospital? Farm to church?

Some of these are being tried, some not. But it’s only a matter of time.

For people who know the value (financially and gastronomically) of organic foods, slow foods, strong communities and real friendship, this goal will be a no brainer.

One farm at a time, one eater at a time…. let’s create this donut hole together.

We need a farm manager for the Marketplace Farm, funds for the deer fence, enthusiastic supporters, and eaters. Take your pick. Just let me know.

Are you in?

Entry filed under: Carol Peppe Hewitt, Sustainable Farming, Sustainable Food, Urban Farming, Whole Food/ Locavore Eateries. Tags: , , , , .

Local food abomination The case of the leaky cooler

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jeff barney  |  December 31, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Beautifully put, friend.

    • 2. sustainablegrub  |  December 31, 2009 at 10:55 am

      Hey, Jeff,

      Why don’t you and/or Cameron write something for Sustainable Grub? I loved the leaky cooler piece…..

      Happy New Year,


  • 3. Susanna Stewart  |  January 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    As I continue to investigate the huge downside of Genetically Modified foods, I am full of sadness at what the corporations have done to our food supply. It seems irreversible, and the health consequences are alarming. Increasingly, it is getting more difficult to find non-GMO foods. Even locally grown food may have been grown from GMO contaminated seeds. Jeffrey Smith has written a comprehensive book about the subject. Check out his website at There you will find many tips, a link for the book, and a video. Well worth the visit.

    • 4. sustainablegrub  |  January 1, 2010 at 3:22 pm

      Hi, Susanna,

      Nice to hear from you. Thanks for this helpful information, which underscores the need for consumers to find out where their farmers get their seeds, etc., another good reason for knowing your farmer. I will put a link to the non-GMO shopping guide in the Resources section of the blog.



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