Here you’ll find support in providing consultation to guide others in establishing gardens and food distribution systems for local food security. This information can help you to express to others the need for developing food security measures and describe to them the key aspects of success. You may freely copy any text here for your own use. (Most of the photos have been purchased, however, so you’ll want to acquire your own pictures for your web pages and documents.)
What is “Food Security”
“Food security” refers to all people having access to healthy food and optimal nutrition. More specifically:
Food Security means that all people at all times have physical & economic access to adequate amounts of nutritious, safe, and culturally appropriate foods, which are produced in an environmentally sustainable and socially just manner, and that people are able to make informed decisions about their food choices. Food Security also means that the people who produce our food are able to earn a decent, living wage growing, catching, producing, processing, transporting, retailing, and serving food.– Resilience.org
Leaving the Dysfunctional Industrialized Model Behind and Actually Feeding People
The state of the industrialized food system is no longer the mystery it once was. Beyond those of us into permaculture, numerous documentaries, books, and reports have been published detailing the misdirection of the world’s food supply under the guidance of capital interests over actually feeding people. Neither the health of the planet nor its people really factor in to what [many people] eat. Worse still, the same dysfunction has spread to less developed countries, not only via growing food to export to “advanced” nations for processing but also by creating a new dietary dependence on cash crops and manufactured food. The fresh is shipped away, and bags of snack food shipped back in.– The Importance of Food from a Different Source: Eating Perennials
Where to Start?
Where you start will depend on your particular situation, current interests and priorities. For example:
- Food growing consultancy – If you are an experienced gardener or farmer, you may wish to develop a consulting business that provides seeds, plants, education and services that support others in your community to develop food-producing gardens, systems of food storage, and support in seed saving and preparing food.
- Food distribution – Another option for established gardeners is to develop or expand local food distribution through markets and identifying “hubs” – locations where people can meet to exchange information, support and food.
- Land conversion – If you have a business with clients who have land, you might focus on sharing knowledge regarding the benefits of converting outdoor spaces to food production.
- Land acquisition – Locating and purchasing land for food growing is another important activity.
- Immediate & sustainable feeding solutions – Another key aspect for local food systems is developing ways to feed those who do not have the resources to grow their own food or to pay for it. There is endless need for feeding programs that offer opportunities to evolve toward sustainable solutions based on community development. For example, this could be offering microloans for gardens or food prep, or providing food shares in exchange for work in gardens, food prep and community education.
Choosing Plants for Food Security
When choosing plants for food security, take into account these factors:
- Natives – Plants that are native to your area require drastically less work to succeed. Natives are an inherent part of the land you find yourself on and, as animals that rely on nature for our existence, it’s sensible that consuming native plants as food and medicine are optimum for our health and well-being.
- Staple foods – Choose some plants that produce foods that can serve as the basis for many meals and foods that can stored through drying, canning or freezing and those that can easily be prepared and stored such as using cabbage for sauerkraut or tomatoes for tomato sauce.
- Perennials – Consider choosing edible perennials such as artichoke, asparagus, berries, rhubarb and perennial kale in addition to annuals.
Consider Incorporating Perennials
When building a permanent ecosystem, food-based or otherwise, it makes little sense to do so with annual plants. They die; thus, they require cultivation again and again, as well as an abundance of minerals and nutrients to support such fast growth cycles… without constant outside inputs, annuals need the stability of a perennial system. That’s how sustainability works. And, a sustainable food system requires much the same. It’s not to say that we can’t have our annuals anymore, but what’s on the typical dinner plate today is in disproportionate balance for a healthy planet and, for that matter, a healthy population. Our diets were designed by the same geniuses whose vast monocultures and agricultural chemicals have put the entire planet on the verge of ecological collapse… Environmentally speaking, [annuals] are energy intensive.– The Importance of Food from a Different Source: Eating Perennials
Sample Plant List
In order to efficiently ensure food security for a family or a community, create a core list of plants and seeds that you choose to sustain your community. From this list, you can prioritize the acquisition of what you need now and ensure you have the proper seeds in your possession. You can also use the list to share responsibilities in growing, food storage and the creation of prepared foods for use and sale.
Here’s a list for South African farmers developed by farmer and heirloom seed-saver, Sandra xx of XX.
- Red Amaranth
- Indian Red Popping Sorghum
- Cape Valerian
- Wilde Als
- Sunflower – Nigerian Oilseed
- Twak – Golden Virginia
- Twak – Silver River
- Guatamala Bulbine – Orange
- Tulbaghia – Wild Garlic Rue
- Thisle – Milk
- Geranium – Wild Rose scented
If you want to support your community members in prioritizing gardening and food security and want to communicate how you can help, you may wish to direct them to the following information or develop your own website with such information as the following:
The Importance of Supporting the Soil
Seeds and plants need appropriate soil, water, sunlight and the labor of love necessary to protect them from extreme weather and other issues such as birds or insects that want to share in your harvest. If you’re new to gardening, consult with an organic gardener to immerse yourself in the “tricks of the trade” for your area.
If you rely on pesticides or chemicals to do this work for you, those poisons will harm the small and unseen helpers you need such as bees, earthworms, and soil microbes. Ultimately, this harms the earth, and the health of all who consume the foods produced there. In contrast, attending to the healthy “soil food web” will save you money and labor, as the following video explains:
Preparing Your Soil
You will likely need to begin by preparing the soil which will feed your plants. If you have access to a permaculture expert, learn all you can about working with nature rather than against her.
Identify the sun’s path across the available land, noting sun/shade due to existing trees or other structures, and the weather patterns in the area such as wind or severe sun. Learn more HERE.
While preparing the soil, become an expert on the availability of pure water and the options you have for efficiently watering your gardens.
Choosing Seeds & Plants
See the section above on choosing plants and begin selecting your seeds.
We hope that each community will develop Seed Starter Kits that can be distributed from hub locations and, when possible, shipped as needed.
To order a Seed Starter Kit for South Africa, learn more here.
For small home gardens, food storage is typically needed to make the output of the garden compensate for its costs. In the case of community gardens, food storage can also makes distribution easier such as delivering tomato sauce in sealed containers in contrast to only transporting fragile, short-lived tomatoes.
Especially in the case of people who have not had much fresh food in their lives, offering and teaching how to prepare meals is a key part of helping people be inspired to grow and consume fresh foods. Making simple pestos, jams, smoothies, salads, sauerkrauts, soups and stews can inspire great change and empower others to evolve how they feed themselves and their families.