My Thanksgiving post will be tomorrow, but as I've been cooking these last couple of days I've really thought about the garden year and what I'm thankful for. It isn't what you expect. I grow my own organic food and shop at farmers markets. I compost. I give to the Nature Conservancy every year. I belong to freecycle so I don't have to throw things away. When I go out to eat I bring my own take out containers for the leftovers. So I'm into the green spectrum of things where most people want local. Heck I'm even a crafter so want people to think local when they buy for purely personal reasons. You wouldn't think that what I'm thankful for is the non-local food.
I've watched the local food movement grow. I even follow some blogs that are trying to be as food local as possible. But I don't believe in a 100% local food system. I do believe in a partially local food system for all the usual reasons. But I'm thankful that it isn't 100% local.
Years ago I read a paper about the why one country was starving in Africa. It wasn't that it didn't produce enough food to feed all of its people. It did. The problem is that it didn't have a national food system in place. Part of the paper was about food subsidies and the boom and bust cycle of growing. The previous year had been a boom. Too much was produced and the prices fell. The next year there were fewer farmers growing food. Which was problem number one. The second problem was they had a drought in one part of the country. Add them together and you have a population that can't feed itself. The other part of the paper was how a non-local food economy could have saved them all from starvation. They had no transport or distribution system set up. So had no way of getting the food from the people who had extra to the people who needed it.
This year we had a bad growing season for many things due to an over abundance of rain. I had two crop failures in major calorie crops (corn and winter squash - though to be fair if I had done a later corn I would have been fine). If New England had had to rely on our own production we would have been in trouble. Winter wheat (which accounts for about 3/4 of our US wheat crop) is harvested in late spring and early summer. This was during the time of our weird wet weather. The crop would have rotted in the ground. I tried drying and saving peas this year but because of the timing they all rotted.
So this year I'm thankful for our distributed food system that provides me food no matter what our weather has been. If we are in a drought or we are innundated with rain, I can still eat.