Foodsheds Part 1: Restoring our Sense of Place

Feature Stories Summer 2011 Issue

Foodsheds Part 1: Restoring our Sense of Place

By Jessica Luhning 0

Thirty years ago, Frances Moore Lappé ignited the real food conversation with her bestselling book Diet for a Small Planet, and more recently, authors like Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Barbara Kingsolver (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) have brought the conversation into the mainstream.

The real food conversation has made us increasingly more mindful of how our food choices can strengthen place-based relationships between local farmers, food producers and community. As a society of eaters, we are being asked to shift our conscious behavior and do more than just debate our food choices. We are being encouraged to rebuild lost food connections in an effort to strengthen the sustainability of local food systems. Through this conversation we have learned that by choosing food that is local, organic and sustainable we are not only improving our health, but the health of our communities and biophysical environments as well. In the process, we are also restoring our sense of place.

Food in its raw, most simple form is nourishment and an earth-given right, as declared by the principals of the food sovereignty movement. It is a right that has become so convoluted that the connections between soil, seed, food and body have nearly disappeared. In The Rise of the Network Society, Manuel Castells argues the fundamental fact that places are becoming more diluted and diffused. With global interdependence we lose the connections between food and the land from which it was sourced, and as a result, we may be losing our sense of place.

Food and the concept of a “foodshed” are inherently embedded in place and naturally serve as a catalyst to understanding and reconnecting with one’s sense of place. The vision of a foodshed was first introduced by W.P. Hedden in his 1929 book, How Great Cities Are Fed. The idea lay dormant until the 1991 Permaculture Activist article “Urban Foodsheds,” where author Arthur Getz used the concept to describe how local and regional food systems work. Then in 1996, UW-Madison Community and Environmental Sociology Professor Jack Kloppenburg and his colleagues, John Hendrickson and G.W. Stevenson, reinvigorated the concept in their article “Coming In To The Foodshed” where they describe the concept as follows:

How better to grasp the shape and the unity of something as complex as a food system than to graphically imagine the flow of food into a particular place? Moreover, the replacement of ‘water’ with ‘food’ does something very important: it connects the cultural (‘food’) to the natural (‘…shed’). The term ‘foodshed’ thus becomes a unifying and organizing metaphor for conceptual development that starts from a premise of the unity of place and people, of nature and society.

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