If people only think of local food as being something that is only available during the summer and fall, there is a certain seriousness to the subject that is missing. After all, we tend to eat every day of the year! Feeding people year round builds this relationship with eaters and expands greatly on the value of food that can be generated within our region.
Local winter eating can be accomplished already through food storage and processing. Hoophouses add a fresh, green aspect to this cold season. Hoophouses transform our cold, dark winters by trapping heat during the day that prevents the soil from freezing in the night. This and protection from harsh conditions like wind and snow mean hardy plants like spinach and kale can be harvested any day of the year. Hoophouses can also add great value during the summer for heat loving plants such as tomatoes and peppers. This combination means that hoophouses can generate over $100,00 per acre per year.
And hoophouses generate jobs as well. Switching even 5% of our land use from low labor commodity crops such as corn and soybeans to diversified vegetable production can add thousands of jobs in Washtenaw County alone. And these jobs can be filled by workers now considered low skill who are suffering the worst effects of our present economic downturn.
Jobs and economic re-vitalization are only one aspect of this shift to a new farm model. High value farms will preserve farmland from development and sprawl. Local food saves energy and preserves natural resources. And these foods are likely to lead to improved diets and reductions in health care costs. In fact it is difficult to find any downside to this important re-localization model! Further information on the economic impact of local and four season farming can be found at 10 Percent Washtenaw.