Sustainability Means Local Food

Many people easily associate sustainability with energy efficiency, recycling, biking, public transportation, solar power, hybrid vehicles, and even shopping at local businesses, but few readily associate sustainability with food.  How and what we eat as a community has a major impact on long-term sustainability.  “Eating locally” is more than just a pleasant aphorism for the wealthier among us, it is an absolutely essential goal for any community wishing to encourage a healthier population, create local jobs, and support local business.

One of the largest ecological detriments of the industrialization of food in the last 50-years is the cost of transporting food hundreds of miles from where it is produced to where it is consumed.  Government subsidy of food production, as well as major petroleum subsidies have made it feasible to transport food economically from places as far away as China and Chile to North America for American consumers.  Events of the last few years have exposed the inherent un-sustainability of this kind of food system, and the interest in local food in America has skyrocketed.  The numbers of farmers markets and community gardens continue to increase from year to year, and more and more of the population is seeking ways to reduce their dependence on industrialized food and its deep dependence on subsidized fossil fuels.

This year VODA has been involved in two pro-bono projects supporting new community gardens in the Salt Lake City area. The first is the Artspace Garden located at the Rubber Company building in west Downtown Salt Lake.  Last spring, the site for the garden looked like this:

This was basically dead space behind the residential building. With great sun exposure, and existing fencing, the Artspace community saw this as an ideal spot for a small community garden for its tenants. After a few weeks of planning and organizing, the group had constructed deep garden beds and support trellises for the community garden:

Today we’re nearing the end of the growing season here in Salt Lake, but the community garden has grown significantly, and brought together a group of people around the idea of local food production:

Another project VODA’s been working on is the Sugar House Community Garden, built on top of neglected tennis courts adjacent to the Sugar House business district in the south east corner of Salt Lake City. Here’s where we started in the spring:

After several weeks of planning and fundraising, we had beds constructed for lease by  community members:

After a long summer of hard work and care from Sugar House gardeners, we’ve got a beautiful, productive garden:

Its been a productive year for many community gardens in Utah, and the Sugar House Community Garden has enjoyed support from a wide range of community members, from elected leaders down to individual community members donating time and labor into ensuring the long-term existence of the garden.