Episode 210. Redesigning The Food System

This is the World Organic News for the week ending 20th of April 2020.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

We have a great opportunity at this strange time in world affairs. In my own world, the complete lack of clients has led to great leaps forward in the garden space at work. One person with the time and the seeds can make a difference. As I’ve mentioned before, I am employed by a disability day program service and three residential units are in the same location. I’ve been able to supply them with silverbeet, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins and winter squash.

I understand seeds are difficult to acquire in some places at the moment. My favourite supplier is closed to new orders as they deal with a huge backlog from the start of the lockdown about a month ago in these parts. I’m making do with commercial hybrid seeds to get food happening and will replace them with heirloom seeds as soon as I can. I’m trying to not let the perfect be the death of the good enough.

The point is, we can all, if we have access to even a small piece of land, grow some food for some people. This brings me back to my favourite Bill Mollison quote that, yes, I’m going to repeat.


“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”

End Quote

I see this as a chance for us all to rethink our food systems. The current industrial, just in time, don’t hoard anything, especially toilet paper, way of doing things is susceptible to minor effects leading to a hungry annoyed populace. I will acknowledge the work being done by truck drivers across the planet. The problem is the nodes in the system are the weak points. That our greater food system is so reliant on so many warehouses, supply chains and interconnected primary suppliers means that it is fragile. 

From the Guardian online, Tuesday 14th of April 2020 a piece entitled: South Dakota pork plant closes after over 200 workers contract Covid-19


A major pork manufacturing plant in South Dakota has indefinitely shut down after more than 200 of its employees contracted Covid-19.

According to Smithfield, who runs the plant, the facility’s output represents up to 5% of US pork production, supplying 130m servings of food a week and employing 3,700 people. Over 550 independent farmers supplied the plant.

The company that runs the plant, Smithfield Foods, announced the closure of its plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Sunday, a day after the state’s governor, Kristi Noem, asked the company to suspend the plant’s operation for at least 14 days.

End Quote

One plant representing 5% of a nation’s pork production. What happens if the virus is discovered in other plants? In other food sectors? Is the urban population reduced to living off wheat bran and porridge? We have been, despite the deaths, lucky with this virus. If it had been ebola or another novel flu with a 40-60% mortality rate, the food system would have collapsed. 

Back to Bill Mollison’s quote: just 10% of us need to get growing in our backyards. We’ve seen how people pull together and look after the frail and the elderly. Delivering food and other necessities during this lockdown. Once we have that 10% growing we will have built a safety net across the urban, suburban and periurban parts of the globe. The rural parts are full of the more self reliant types. We can look after ourselves, and governments know this. Just imagine a built environment that may not be able to completely feed itself, although even that’s feasible (See In Defence of a Modern Yeomanry under the blog tab on the website) but which could supply 75% of its own needs until the cavalry arrives. People may be a bit peckish and craving chocolate, tea and coffee but they wouldn’t be abandoned without some resources. Chuck in some chooks and rabbits and the diet becomes fuller.

I know that will go against the grain of some, I’m talking to the vegans and vegetarians now, but they wouldn’t be forced to consume anything they didn’t want to.

We need to get our acts together. Another pandemic is coming. How quickly? Who’s to know? If it’s 50 years away, growing our own food won’t be a sacrifice but will, in fact, make normal life better. And if it’s done in a no-dig way we suck carbon out the air, putting it in the soil where it does good not harm.

We can, we probably must do this now. Many of us are now moving at a more agricultural pace through life anyway, why not use the time to learn a new skill? The new skill of growing our own food.

There’s a link to a Udemy course in the show notes entitled “Growing a No-Dig Garden” and you can also send people to Episode 207 where I discuss growing a quick response garden to get yours happening swiftly.

Remember in this painful time, if we put in the ground work now, we can all: 

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.




Growing a No-Dig Garden on Udemy

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World Organic News

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South Dakota pork plant closes after over 200 workers contract Covid-19


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