Currently, the city of Carbondale is not food secure. In the event of a drastic disruption of the existing food system, due to either climate change or other factors, Carbondale would have to improvise a food system on the fly. Furthermore, the existing food system relies upon fossil fuels for transportation and unsustainable agricultural practices that are depleting topsoil and poisoning soil and water. If we want to build resilience in the face of climate change, we need to grow much more of our food locally.
Further, the government shut down that stretched from December 2018 to February 2019 came to the brink of cutting off SNAP benefits. While it didn’t go that far (this time!), the looming crisis revealed for many how absurd it is for thousands of people in Carbondale to rely on the smooth functioning of the federal government for something as basic as their daily bread. Food security for Carbondale means food autonomy – the ability to produce what we need here, in ways that improve our soil, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and provide a healthy food safety net for everyone.
We aim to make Carbondale the city that is taking this challenge seriously, building resilience in our food system before a crisis.
How would we do this? We will transform the city-owned vacant lots into urban permaculture farms. There are countless examples of highly productive urban farming operations throughout the world.
Dozens of people are already gardening in Carbondale, creating beautiful spaces that are producing healthy food for the community. Our aim is to radically expand this practice that has already proven itself, providing an injection of city funds to develop these projects on a larger scale.
In the first three years of the Carbondale Spring initiative, the city will:
- Designate 10 suitable vacant, city-owned lots for new urban farm projects.
- Hire 5 farmer-educators to facilitate the design, set-up, and operation of these farms.
- Hire 20 part-time farmers-in-training. These will be people who live in and are committed to Carbondale, and who want to learn sustainable farming practices and build an urban agriculture system.
- The farmer-educators mission is to train our local want-to-be farmers, and interested volunteers, in urban agriculture suited to our bioregion over the course of 3 seasons.
- After 3 seasons, these neighborhood farms will be operated as a commons by neighbors and volunteers, with intermittent support from the city as needed.
- Actively encourage chickens in town by providing materials for chicken coops, consulting for new chicken-owners, and facilitating the distribution of eggs.
- Hire a beekeeper to place beehives throughout the city in order to protect and increase our pollinator population.
These constitute just the first steps toward building food autonomy at the city level. In the following years, the city should invest in city-owned livestock, as well as dairy and meat processing facilities. Each of these facilities could sell surplus locally, but the emphasis is on creating a local food safety net for those in need.
In addition to the intrinsic benefits of a healthy, autonomous food system, researchers have found that community gardens can reduce violent crime and help to ease depression, particularly in low-income areas.
Food Autonomy Design Team
Wayne Weiseman, The Permaculture Project, LLC.