Sometimes a community can surprise me with unexpected efforts toward good and locally grown food. Ours is already strong in their efforts to support local farmers markets, which are open from very early spring to late fall and also include a once a month indoor market for eggs, meat, and other products as available. These markets are swamped with buyers at every opening.
Recently our Health and Wellness Coalition conducted a study to determine if even more locally grown food might be made available, and while the results of the study might not be as simple as presented, they are encouraging never-the-less.
Our community is in the middle of farmland in the center of Kansas. The study estimates that we grow 2 percent of our vegetables and a tenth of a percentage of fruit. If 5 percent could be produced locally, the study estimates $54 million could be kept within the county yearly, rather than buying from out-of-county resources. The health advantages are also clear.
Of course, there are many factors which influence the increase of fruit and vegetable growth. Water can be a very real problem, and recent years of drought put a challenge to the best of us. We are also challenged to raise more meat and dairy products, including pork, chicken, turkey, eggs, etc. But most small/self-sufficient farms that once included buildings for that purpose were let go when the industry turned to large feed lot production and the sales barns disappeared.
I am encouraged that the Coalition is mounting a community effort to develop a plan. Although garden-farming is hard work, there is a real joy in working with the land and producing not only enough food for a family, but also a community. We could do more if we worked together in co-ops or teams, especially in the processing and buying of crops such as nuts, fruits and grains organically. I would love to see the signs go up again that read “We buy Pecans.”
We aren’t a model city yet, but we have the potential of becoming one in the local and organic food arena. I hope you’ll watch for progress in the Wichita area as we continue to learn now to farm both within and outside our city.