What would life be like in Michigan if we made a concerted effort to develop a more sustainable food system? Let me be a bold visionary here and paint a future that is in many ways better than our past.
Having grown up in the Detroit metropolitan area I am entitled to observe that urban/rural relationships are poor. Urban and rural people do not understand each other. They blame each other for our current state of affairs. The course I am advocating will increase mutual appreciation in our region, and actually provides a platform for meaningful dialogue among diverse groups that have hated each other in the past. I’m talking about opportunities to reduce racial discrimination, overcome prejudice, and develop a healthy dependency on each other, not through abstract philosophical bantering but by rubbing shoulders with each other in the food system marketplace.
Our food system would be better insulated from crises related to food security. When we are temporarily cut off from motor fuels by an energy crisis like the black out we experienced a few years back life is difficult. If, for some reason, either through terrorism or natural disaster, we lost access to food staples we would face unprecedented challenges. Incorporating production of food and fiber into our regional economy as a sector that stands shoulder to shoulder with automobile production and high technology industries will provide valuable public safety and well-being pay-offs.
Increasing regional production of fresh produce and improving distribution systems for moving regional farm goods into local markets will help us shed our reputation as a poorly nourished, obese population.
Maintaining some access to the global marketplace so we can continue to enjoy pineapples and other specialty products, but increasing our dependence on local agriculture will reduce wasteful transportation expenditures, redeploy capital toward job creation and business growth, and take fuller advantage of the natural resource systems we are blessed with.
Other states would die for our land and water resources.
Michigan, unlike any other region in the world, is suited for building a strong economy based on agricultural production, distribution, processing, and marketing. There have been times when rural leaders have understood this truth. At other times urban leaders have seen this vision. I am hoping that we can get to a point where they see this potential simultaneously and agree to work together.