|Seattle, Wash., December 13, 2012 —A new study explores how much food is produced and consumed in western Washington and examines ways to increase the availability of local food. The findings reveal that only 25 percent of food consumed in western Washington is produced here, but this number could more than double by reconnecting food producers and consumers through simpler supply chains, growing food on more land, shopping for in-season foods, and decreasing food waste.
Planting the Seeds: Moving to More Local Food in Western Washington summarizes findings of the Western Washington Foodshed Study, a project conducted by American Farmland Trust and the University of Washington. The report looks at why eating locally matters and compares the effectiveness of four options for moving to a more local food supply, including bringing land back into food production, increasing yields on active farmland, reducing food waste, and changing people’s diets.
“This study shows that we can have a much more local food supply in this region,” said Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest director of American Farmland Trust. “As the worldwide population grows, the countries we rely on to grow our food may need their farmland to feed their own citizens. While local food is sometimes considered a luxury, having a local food capacity could become a necessity.”
In 1950, most of western Washington’s food came from local farms. Since then, the region’s population has tripled and 60 percent of its farmland has been lost to urban sprawl. “We have already developed way too much of our farmland, so every remaining acre is critical for growing food,” Canty said.
While the report argues that there is no silver bullet for increasing local food production, it identifies a number of promising approaches, including reconnecting food producers and consumers through simpler supply chains so that more of what is grown locally stays local. “Farmers markets and community supported agriculture are a good start, as are grocery chains that specialize in local food sources,” Canty explained.
The report also analyzes the impact of bringing additional land into food production. “Many of us are doing this already with backyard gardens, pea patches, and urban and suburban farms,” Canty said. “We also need to bring back some of the farmland that has been taken out of production by reclaiming large tracts of still undeveloped land in rural areas and consolidating undeveloped but subdivided lots on the edges of more developed areas.”
Finally, the report recommends eating more of what is grown seasonally within the region and taking actions to reduce food waste. “If we do all of this at reasonable levels, we can get to the point where we grow more than 60 percent of what we eat,” Canty said. “This would protect the farm economy and guarantee a supply of delicious and healthy local food well into the future.”
“This study offers a fresh new look at what we grow and eat here in the region. It will be very useful as we discuss important next steps in expanding and sustaining a local food supply,” said Mary Embleton, member of the Puget Sound Regional Food Policy Council and executive director of Cascade Harvest Coalition.
“Our future as farmers in this region depends a lot on finding reliable ways to get our food to local consumers. This study provides great food for thought on how to develop a food system that works well for local farmers,” said Dave Hedlin, a Skagit County farmer who served on the study’s advisory committee.
"This study demonstrates that we do produce a significant amount of the food we consume, and that we can do much more with the right kind of local food strategy," said Seattle city councilmember Richard Conlin. "We can eat a healthier diet, protect our environment, and keep our dollars in the local economy while supporting our farmers, restaurants, and food-related businesses. If we really want to eat locally, we have to take practical steps to make doing so possible. A coordinated regional food strategy would produce multiple benefits for all of us."
Planting the Seeds: Moving to More Local Food in Western Washington is available at http://farmland.org/washingtonfoodshed. The report's findings will be presented at the Regional Food Policy Council meeting on Friday, December 14 from 10 a.m.-noon at the Puget Sound Regional Council, 1011 Western Ave #500 in Seattle.
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