Industrialized farming methods were developed to support large-scale, energy-intensive monocultures. They use extensive amounts of water and chemicals for herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers, and produce tons of animal waste products that accumulate and pollute the land, water, and air. The leading threat to the health of the Chesapeake Bay, for example, is excess nitrogen and phosphorus pollution (fertilizer runoff) that destroys habitat and causes fish kills.
Most conventionally-produced food is extremely resource intensive. The U.S. spends about $239 billion each year on energy to bring food to our tables, 80-90% of which is used in the areas of post-production: processing, packaging, shipping, storage, and retail operations.
Locally grown food doesn’t have to travel far, reducing fossil fuel dependence, CO2 emissions, and packing materials.
Sustainably grown food provides many benefits to the entire ecosystem: it is grown in our own foodshed by a local farmer at a scale that’s appropriate to the area and involves minimal ecological disruption and processing. Sustainable food is also grown under healthy working conditions.
Consumers have an enormous power to leverage and demand a more sustainable food system. The choices we make about the food we eat directly impact other people and the environment.