Global food production rests on soil and rain. Robots don’t change that.
Of all the modern-day miracles, the least appreciated is the incredible abundance of low cost food in the U.S. and other developed countries. The era of cheap food is ending, for a variety of mutually reinforcing reasons. We’ve become so dependent on industrial-scale agriculture fueled by diesel that we’ve forgotten that when it comes to producing food, “every little bit helps”–even small backyards / greenhouses can provide meaningful quantities of food and satisfaction.
Virtually every temperate terroir/micro-climate is suitable for raising some plants, herbs, trees and animals. (Terroir includes everything about a specific place: the soil type, the climate variations, sun exposure, the bacteria in the soil, everything.) We’ve forgotten that cities once raised much of the food consumed by residents within the city limits. Small plots of land, rooftop gardens, backyard chicken coops, etc. can add up when they are encouraged rather than discouraged. Let’s start with how disconnected the vast majority of us are from the production of the cheap food we take for granted. A great many people know virtually nothing about how food is grown, raised, harvested / slaughtered, processed and packaged.
Due to our dependence on industrial agriculture, we’ve forgotten how productive localized (artisanal) food production can be. Small operations aligned with the terroir can produce a surprising amount of food. The future of sustainable, affordable, nutritious food is in localized production optimized for what grows well without industrial interventions. The satisfaction and well-being this connection with the land and Nature generates is under-appreciated. It is not accidental that the long-lived healthy people among us–for example, the Blue Zones Okinawans and Greek islanders–tend their gardens and animals, and share the bounty of their labor with their families, friends and neighbors. It’s fun and rewarding to grow food. It might even become important. Those who can’t grow any food would do well to befriend those who do. The goal isn’t to replace industrial agriculture. The goal is to reduce our dependency on unsustainable global systems by reinvigorating localized production.
Charles Hugh Smith Archive
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