Guest Opinion by Lindianne Sarno
Why should Tucson’s citizenry care about local food production? Let’s start with the scary fact that virtually all of the food we eat travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to our tables in Tucson, according to the USDA. Tucson’s food supply is vulnerable to events beyond our control like faraway crop failures and fuel shortages.
Picture Tucson as a city of 10,000 family and community gardens, each garden producing vegetables, fruit, herbs, mesquite pods, and compost to enrich the soil.
Picture Southern Arizona full of small family farms adapted for arid lands agriculture.
Picture a Tucson that is food secure because much of our food is grown in Southern Arizona. Picture a Tucson where no one goes hungry and our kids have healthy school lunches.
Regional food production is the key to healthy people and a thriving economy.
In addition to producing healthy foods, family farmers and ranchers steward a good portion of America’s land and wildlife.
Trees, grasses and herbs pull carbon from the air and produce clean, cool oxygen. More family farms = more oxygen + less carbon in the atmosphere = less global warming!
Tucson has a long history of raising food. From pre-history until the 1950s, the Santa Cruz and San Pedro River valleys were the breadbasket of the desert Southwest. But in the past 50 years, small and midsize family farms have been systematically driven out of business to be replaced by huge corporate farms and overseas food production. Millions of farmers have been forced off their land.
Your help is needed to restore Southern Arizona as a food-producing region. Similar movements to support independent farms and ranches are afoot in towns and cities across the U.S. Right now the Farm Bill of 2007 is in Congress.
As currently written, the Farm Bill reduces support to family farms while increasing subsidies to corporate giants whose chemical/pesticide farms are destroying Earth’s topsoil, atmosphere, and oceans.
To push to modify the Farm Bill of 2007 to support local food production, go to www.communityfoodbank.com online or call the Community Food Security Center, 622-0525, which will help you get informed on the issues. Then call Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, asking that they support provisions such as those in the bipartisan Fairness Amendment to the Farm Bill offered by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), provisions to reduce trade-distorting subsidies and shift funds to programs that feed hungry families, protect the environment and help small farmers.
Other ways you can support local food producers: Visit Tucson’s farmers markets and meet your local farmers; buy fresh local foods in season; bring used egg cartons and paper/plastic bags for farmers to reuse; join a Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, group. CSA members invest upfront so farmers can purchase seeds, equipment and soil amendments; in return members receive a weekly share of produce.
Supporting small producers is a bipartisan issue, and can bring together true conservatives in both parties who care about conserving America’s soil, making America food-secure, and supporting America’s small farmers and ranchers, the backbone of our country.
Contact Lindianne Sarno at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published July 31, 2007 in the Arizona Daily Star
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