The Feasta Review, number 2



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Ivan Ward has farmed organically in Wexford since 1986 growing grass, wheat and oats, and keeping sheep, cattle and horses. He now realises that organic production is not enough and is looking towards selling direct to the public and Community Supported Agriculture.

PDF version of book reviews


Getting back to eating local foods

Bringing The Food Economy Home

Local Alternatives to Global Agribusiness

Helena Norberg-Hodge, Todd Merrifield and Steve Gorelick
Zed Books 2002
ISBN 1 84277 233 3 (pb) £13.95
ISBN 1 84277 232 5 (hb) £39.95

review by Tom Campbell

This book comes from ISEC, the International Society for Ecology and Culture, a non-profit organisation that promotes locally-based alternatives to the global consumer culture. That sums it all up. For example, it contrasts a Thanksgiving Day meal in the past when all the ingredients came from the farm or surrounding countryside, with the situation today when all the food can come from one vast company, which itself, rather than the farmer, absorbs the greatest proportion of the money the consumers pay.

The book despairs at conventional agriculture in the US - vast, polluting, exploiting - and draws hope from the slow, steady re-growth of human-scale farming and small farmers' markets. Part of the re-growth is due to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) which involves consumers paying for their produce in advance to the farmer at the beginning of the year. In North America there are some 1000 CSA schemes in operation. Farmers' markets are another solution and, largely as a result of both approaches, about 5% of British farmers, 15% of German and U.S. farmers and 25% of French and Japanese farmers now sell direct to consumers.

A lot of the alternative picture the book paints seems so very good: the development of small communities, more jobs, better health, the avoidance of vast monocultures, increased crop diversity, absence of overproduction, and more trust, honesty and integrity. The book is packed with statistics that will prove invaluable for anybody making the case for a sustainable future for agriculture, and the wider case for the re-localisation of our economy. It has a cheering collection of 'Things That Work' boxes and a long section of useful contacts.

While it is impossible to predict the future, it will be very interesting to read this book ten years hence. I believe that by then a lot of the suggestions will be in widespread use.

This book review is from
Growth:The Celtic Cancer,
the second Feasta Review. Copies of the Review can be ordered online from Green Books, priced at £9.95 plus postage and packaging.
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