Sustainable Living Systems

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On this page are:
useful facts
our 7-Point Plan for building a Local Food System,
the Benefits of a Local Food System,
Jill's Mindful Eating Articles and other good ones
and the CFP Project Summary

Food processing used to be Montana's #1 employment, and Montanans produced 70% of the food they consumed.    Now the food processing industry is nil in the state, and we consume less than 10% of our own state produced food.   We depend on a tremendous amount of fossil fuel, extensive transportation networks, and a small number of food distributors, retailers, and food services to move food from afar to our plate. But how secure is that food system?

Montana’s public institutions spent approximately $33 million on food in fiscal year 2004/2005. A 10%  increase by value of Montana-produced food purchased by Montana's institutions would bring almost $5 million directly into the state's economy.  

And, if each household in Montana spent just $10 a week on locally grown foods, we would re-direct $186 million each year to local farmers and ranchers.

Community Food Security means that....
...all people in the community at all times have access to
safe, healthy, and affordable food through a sustainable food system.

~ ~ ~ ~ Our 7-point PLAN and Accomplishments for Building a Local Food System ~ ~ ~ ~

1. Educate consumers about the benefits of obtaining their food from local, mostly organic producers and  distributors and about how they can access local products. (see. our Producers' Directory,, Mindful Eating Articles (below), monthly Enews, occasional workshops and events (see Events page) ) . 

2. Plan for a local food system so as to supply local markets (stores, schools, institutions) in an efficient and reliable manner, and that helps the local farmers to market and distribute and get a fair price for their produce.  A Community Food Project (CFP) grant was obtained in the fall of 2007, to do a formal community food assessment, and to engage the community in developing a Plan for our valley.  
The Report of the Food Assessment and Plan is here: Community Food Assessment

3. Establish a consumer-owned, Food Co-op retail outlet
.  A Growth thru Ag (GTAg) grant was obtained in the fall of 2005 to develop a business plan, a steering committee was formed, member/owners
were being sought, but the project fizzled at that point for many reasons.  Now we are working with the MontanaCoop out of Ronan, an online ordering system, to establish a Food Hub in the valley. (visit www.montanacoop.com ).

4.
Start or Support Community Gardens/Edible Schoolyards -
to have gardens in each community used by the residents and associated with the schools, being used by teachers to give hands on lessons in many subjects that growing food entails.
 We have started the Victor Community Garden with 40- 20'x20' plots that are rented by community folks and we supply compost, tools and have an automated watering system. Call 642-3601 if you would like to rent a plot.

5. Food Sharing Project -
collecting surplus and donated food from local producers and giving it to food banks, soup kitchens,
group homes, and directly to low-income families. Over 15,435 # of fresh produce and 100 gal.of cider have been distributed from year 1 (2009) to year 5 (2013).

6. 
Develop and maintain a seed bank of locally adapted, open-pollinated crop varieties that comprise a good food base for the valley. (for information or to help grow out seeds, call Larry Campbell at 821-3110).  see the Seed Bank page.

7. Start Community Land Trusts
(CLT) for holding title to land and putting it to use in a way that benefits that community.   Over 150 CLTs across the U.S. are shifting control of land from the speculative market to the local community.  By holding land as a community asset that can be leased to individuals to provide permanently affordable access to land for housing, farming, small businesses, etc., CLTs are creating a solid foundation for healthy, stable and diverse communities and local economies.  Jill Davies is now on the Board of Trust Montana, a new statewide Community Land Trust and has set up for her farm to be assigned to this CLT.
For more information on CLTs, visit:   www.communitylandtrust.org and also visit the
Schumacher Society website, where you will also find information on CLTs and on other tools for building local currencies.  


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ There are many BENEFITS of a local food system ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~  ~ ~ ~

 - Sustainable: The majority of the food in a local food system is grown using organic and sustainable methods which do not deplete the soil and other natural resources.  
- Quality:  Food produced without toxic chemicals does not poison people, animals, the air, or the water.
- Freshness, Taste and Nutrition:  Locally grown fruits and vegetables are usually harvested within 24 hours of purchase. Food picked and eaten at the height of ripeness tastes best and is most nutritious. 
- Variety:  Local producers often raise and sell wonderful, unusual and old-fashioned varieties.  
- Energy Conservation:   Sustainable production systems reduce dependence on petroleum-derived fertilizers and pesticides. Local food systems reduce transportation distances and reliance on fossil fuels.
-
Biodiversity:  The enhancement of biodiversity is at the heart of organic agriculture, drawing upon the idea that farming systems that mimic the biodiversity levels and functioning of local ecosystems will be productive, pest resistant, and conservative of nutrients (these are basic organic, permaculture, and agro-ecology principles).
- Soil Stewardship and Environmental Protection:  Creating and sustaining soil fertility is a major objective of sustainable and organic growers.   Their practices protect air and water resources and promote biodiversity.
- Regional Economic Health:  Buying locally keeps money in the community which contributes to the health of all sectors of the regional economy, increasing local quality of life.
- Food Security:  A local food system provides food security for the community.
-
Supports Farmers:  Marketing locally and directly provides a fair wage for producers and maintains rural vitality.
- Builds Community:  Connecting consumers with producers creates a sense of community and connection to place.
Open Space:  Keeping farmers on the land protects open space, wildlife habitat, and natural resources.              


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Read these Mindful Eating Articles by Jill, to be informed about the Western Diet = Western Diseases and to understand why you should get off the corporate food grid.  These articles were being published in the Ravalli Republic for a while, up to #5, but then got censored.  The editor said he received several angry calls from our local beef producers or related businessmen.  More articles to come.  Mindful Eating #1 - "Industrial Agriculture" is born and its food is depleted in nutrients.   M.E. #2 - Western diseases and refined fats & oils       M.E. #3 - Whole Systems Thinking  M.E. #4 - "Nourishing Traditions" and soaking grains,   M.E. #5 - Feedlot beef and Omega 3's,   M.E. #6 - Aspartame & MSG                                    M.E. #7  - Why Fuss over GE Foods
Warning to Gardeners: - M.E. #8 - Killer Compost
VIP Article:  The Earth is Not Roundup Ready by Judy Hoy.

Jill has prepared talks on several of these topics, including;  "Staying Healthy in a Toxic World", "How GE Crops are Made", and "Saving and Breeding Seeds the Old Fashioned Way". 

 Here is a Letter to the President by Michael Pollan.  It lays out beautifully what is needed in our nation's food system
.
And, re/ Globalization, please read this essay on  Conserving Communities by Wendell Berry.
Another good one is: The Purpose of a Coherent Community, available online at: essay.

and... lots of very informative articles by Helena Norburg-Hodge on this website:  www.isec.org.uk.    
and...10 reasons why we don't need GM foods (updated 1/10) - a PDF: http://bit.ly/dzm5c0

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CFP Project Summary
Sustainable Living Systems
received a grant in the fall of 2007 for a Community Food Project (CFP).  A CFP grant is from the USDA and is for communities to plan and create a local food system that improves community food security.  This grant was a Planning Project, which is the first step in the Community Food Security process.

The Mission of the Community Food Project (CFP) is
to Improve our Community Food Security.

Community Food Security means that....
...all people in the community at all times have access to
safe, healthy, and affordable food through a sustainable food system.

With this grant we formed a team (Coalition) of individuals and organizations, including low-income residents, that workedtogether to complete an Assessment of a broad range of the community’s food related assets, opportunities, needs and challenges. We documented and analyzed those factors that hinder local production and processing of food and its distribution to those in our community who need or want it. We wrote an extensive CFP Report
that presents what we have learned in a succinct format and then entered into facilitated discussions and arrived at a Plan.

Our Plan that came out of the planning process and that SLS continues to work on is:

1. To form a Food Policy Council.  We have completed a community food assessment and developed a Plan for building a more sustainable, local food production and supply system that fosters the economic health of our communities and farms, the social and physical health of our citizens, and the environmental health of our valley.  

2. Start a Bitterroot Food Co-op - The idea is to adopt the Oklahoma Food Co-op model which would offer online ordering and a distribution system. Both producers and consumers would be member/owners of the business.

3. Community Gardens/Edible Schoolyards - to have gardens in each community used by the residents and associated with the schools, being used by teachers to give hands on lessons in many subjects that growing food entails. Activites will continue throughout the summer.

4. Food Sharing Project - collecting surplus and donated food from local producers and giving it to food banks, soup kitchens, and directly to low-income families. Over 2600 # of food and 57 gal. cider were distributed this, our first year (2009).

5. Farmer Mentoring - using the knowledge of currently successful farmers to help new and transitioning farmers get started or expand production; and using our connections, connect land owners who are not farming but who would benefit if their land were in agricultural production with people who want to farm but cannot afford land .

6. Farmland Protection - serving as a counselling and clearinghouse of information and models for avoiding development of prime ag. land while benefiting retiring farmers.

7. Education - using a variety of formats and media presentations to inform the citizens of the valley about our projects and about the many benefits of choosing local food.

  The Plan consists of very specific goals and recommendations for actions, programs, facilities and policies to ensure that the food needs of low-income people are met, to increase the food related sustainability and self-reliance of the valley, and to create an economic environment where diversified farming and processing of locally produced food is stimulated and encouraged. It is oriented toward establishing a permanent Food System Council to encourage project continuity and sustainability. This Plan, when implemented, will improve food security for all in the community and is consistent with the goals of the USDA grants program.

This Planning Project was completed in the spring of 2009 and the next grant proposal was submitted, for funds to impliment the Plan, but failed to qualify for additional funds..

Our Objectives are still to:

  • Improve access to fresh, healthy, locally produced food for low-income folks, schools, various institutions, seniors and residents in the valley.
  • Provide improved markets with a fair return for farmers’ products to support agriculture in the valley.
  • Stimulate the start up of new businesses in food production, processing and distribution.
  • Identify infrastructure & facilities needed for a secure community food system.
  • Identify policy changes that will enhance and support the above goals.

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