Foodsheds: Examining Local Food Capacities
Could our region feed itself? To what extent could or should food needs be supplied from local or regional production?
With research funding from the US Department of Agriculture's "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative, these types of questions are moving a little closer to the mainstream.
In 2007, I worked with my Ecotrust colleague Mike Mertens to examine the question, posed by California's Ag Futures Alliance: Could Ventura County feed itself? We used an agro-ecological analysis to develop a landscape production scenario that was optimized to meet actual demand for 42 USDA crop types by Ventura's population of 720,000. We also performed the same analysis to examine the capacity of the county's agricultural lands to meet demand for populations of five or ten million. Results are described in the paper Landscape Production Analysis for Ventura County and the poster Scenarios for Regional Food Diversity.
Here are recent foodshed analyses for three other regions of North America. This first one, just published, looks at actual (2004-08) production and theoretical demand, as defined by USDA dietary recommendations (versus our look at potential production and actual demand).
Testing the local reality: does the Willamette Valley growing region produce enough to meet the needs of the local population? A comparison of agriculture production and recommended dietary requirements
by Katy J. Giombolini, Kimberlee J. Chambers, Sheridan A. Schlegel, and Jonnie B. Dunne
In the most recent year of our analysis, 2008, Willamette Valley agriculture production met 67% of annual required grains, 10% of vegetable needs, 24% of fruits, 59% of dairy, 58% of meat and beans, and 0% of dietary oil requirements. (link)
Linking future population food requirements for health with local production in Waterloo Region, Canada
by Ellen Desjardins, Rod MacRae and Theresa Schumilas
First, we estimate the quantity of locally grown vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains needed to help meet the Region of Waterloo (WR) population’s optimal nutritional requirements currently and in 2026. Secondly, we estimate how much of these healthy food requirements for the WR population could realistically be produced through local agriculture by the year 2026. Results show that a shift of approximately 10% of currently cropped hectares to the production of key nutritious foods would be both agriculturally feasible and nutritionally significant to the growing population. (link)
Mapping potential foodsheds in New York State: A spatial model for evaluating the capacity to localize food production
by Christian J. Peters, Nelson L. Bills, Arthur J. Lembo, Jennifer L. Wilkins and Gary W. Fick
[T]his research presents a method for mapping potential foodsheds, land areas that could theoretically feed urban centers. The model was applied to New York State (NYS). Geographic information systems were used to estimate the spatial distribution of food production capacity relative to the food needs of NYS population centers. Optimization tools were then applied to allocate production potential to meet food needs in the minimum distance possible. Overall, the model showed that NYS could provide 34% of its total food needs within an average distance of just 49 km. However, the model did not allocate production potential evenly. Most NYS population centers could have the majority of their food needs sourced in-state, except for the greater New York City (NYC) area. (link)
See also, on food systems and modularity: ("Modularity: Small Pieces Loosely Joined").