Our food system is getting more fragile

Sold out of eggs at farmer's market

The Central Texas food system is just 1% self-sufficient (i.e. locally supplied), and Winter Storm Uri exposed new fragilities. Supply chains for grocery stores, dependent on faraway producers, had bare shelves – if they were even open are getting more fragile. Trucks could not get through the icy streets to replenish supplies.

At the end of the week, as temperatures gradually rose and the ice began to melt, our local farmers market was mobbed. We sold out of eggs fifteen minutes after opening. Vegetable producers had lines with at least 30 people for the first hour.

One way to improve resiliency and decrease our fragility is by increasing our local food production. But farming is hard work at the best of times. Freezing snow and ice storms make it that much harder, especially in regions like this one where we are unused to such conditions for more than a day or two at a time (and previously, only once every two years or so). Finding scarce parts to repair systems after the disaster is nearly impossible for the first week.  That parts scarcity makes our farms more fragile.

One of our friends, a local producer of milk, pork, and eggs, suffered cascading failures at his farm. The power went out early on, shutting down his milking machines. Cows not milked for five days dry up. This means that his income from dairy production has ceased for the next nine months or so, until those cows have calved again. He had a generator, but it needed to be powered with the tractor. The tractor had fuel, but it wasn’t winter diesel, which meant that the fuel gelled up due to the cold.  It will take weeks for some of Jim’s core business activities to recover. That is fragile.

We need a more secure food supply, and that requires financial investment. However, the commodity industry that created this system (i.e. over-extended supply chains), which leaves us reliant on importing 99% of our food to the region, cannot solve the fragile problem it created. And we cannot rely on local farms to be there for us only in disaster times. We need to support our local farmers throughout the year. So now we need to invest in new partnerships with our farmers. In return, they can provide us with increased ecosystem services and long-term food security.

Please consider donating to these GoFundMe campaigns to help farmers whose operations were devastated last week.  

To learn more about our local food producers, check out these links:

Nature Towns designs to ensure family security, which means providing for a community’s food, energy, water and climate security. We plan these necessities into your community and real estate so that you buy them with your home. That is a value-added approach to residential real estate development and if designed properly, it doesn’t cost you more than you are paying now, and makes your family’s security less fragile.

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