From SHEILAH ROGERS
From the Center for Rural Affairs/Blog for Rural America:
by Steph Larsen
These days it seems the most popular person to be in the food system is the “local farmer”. Farmers markets are popping up everywhere, and their size and popularity grow all the time. Local food is trendy – even the First Family is in on it.
But as anyone who has ever raised grain or livestock can tell you, the farmer is not the only person in the chain of players from her farm to your fork. In addition to producers, your food chain includes processors, distributors or transporters, and retailers.
In other words, to have a truly local food system, we also need local butchers, bakers and millers, local truck drivers, local grocers, and a community that supports them in all their efforts.
In the world of farm and food policy, we’ve paid a lot of attention to production end of the food system. It’s an obvious place to start. We have programs within the Farm Bill to develop new or “beginning” farmers, help them secure loans and down payments, and transition to organic agriculture. But most products aren’t made to eat directly out of the field. Even salad greens or apples, things we typically eat raw and straight from the field, must be washed and sorted before your local farmer will sell them.
As Tom Philpott pointed out in early November, the infrastructure for small-scale processing is woefully inadequate, having suffered decades of atrophy – to the point where an otherwise profitable farmer can be driven out of business because she has no where to take her pigs for slaughter, her grain to be milled or her tomatoes to be “sauced”.
Small-scale, certified community kitchens, like this one in Montana or this one in Tennessee, are beginning to fill some of this need. There are a few mobile slaughter facilities gaining traction, but not enough to meet demand and too new to measure their long term viability. Not many community colleges offer classes on how to humanely kill and butcher an animal anymore.