- Greggory Moore
By Greggory Moore
The concept is as old as humanity itself: Humans eat, and the Earth provides.
But over the last century, that inescapable reality has become increasingly remote for an ever-greater percentage of homo sapiens, who find ourselves acquiring our caloric intake from companies, corporations, and machines, a caloric intake that is often more a product of the laboratory than of sea or soil.
A network of local food providers is aiming to bring us back to the past by connecting local residents to the growing number of natural food-acquiring alternatives hiding in plain sight right here at home. That connector is knowledge. And because the aphorism “Knowledge is power” appertains to your health as much as to anything else, it’s fair to say that Shift LB’s Long Beach Guide to Local Food Networks, which these self-proclaimed “greenhorns” are freely making available to as many people as possible, has the potential to be a powerful tool.
The turnout on July 18 to “the Chestnut Lot,” a 10,000-sq.-ft. farm space little more than a half-dozen blocks from Long Beach City Hall, was heartening for all involved, as somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred people turned out for what the event press release called “a community discussion of the growing awareness of the food we consume and where it comes from, as well as the local food networks that are cropping up here in Long Beach.”
The list of speakers read like a Who’s Who of local food networks: Foodscape Long Beach, which “builds and maintains food gardens on peoples’ private property, teaches people that process, and shares resources”; Long Beach Grows, which “promot[es] urban agriculture […] and other activities that educate, enhance, & grow our communities by ensuring and safeguarding local food security”; Farm Lot 59, “a small biodynamic, organic farm”; SoCal Harvest, which “harvest[s] fruit from the community, for the community, one backyard at a time”; etc.
But while they were sharing valuable information, they were also preaching to the converted. Most of the attendees were already involved with the “local food network” scene (let’s call it the LFNS, for short), and seemingly all were at least relatively well informed about the pertinent options available in Long Beach.
The brass ring for the LFNS is to bring the gospel of sustainability (environmental, economic, and physiological) to the unconverted, community members benighted by the status quo or hungering for alternatives without knowing where to find them. And that is where the Long Beach Guide to Local Food Networks comes in.
While the Guide may be little more than a pamphlet, what is contained therein is a wealth of information. Divided into seven categories (“Food-Sharing Groups,” “Urban Farms,” “Community Gardens,” “Farmers Markets,” “Vendors and Stores,” “Education Groups,” and “Eateries and Restaurants”), the Guide does not flood the reader with detail and commentary, opting instead for concision—in most cases it’s just contact information and a one- to two-line description (restaurants/eateries also get a little code key and legend that informs about cost, vegetarian/vegan, organic, non-GMO, low waste, etc.)—thus allowing for maximum ease of use.
And use is the point. As uncomfortable as the reality is to some, money has influence—and so the more we employ our dollars to support the kind of kind of food production we value, the more such food-production models will thrive and proliferate.
“When you take money out of your pocket and buy something, you’re voting for how it was made, how it was produced,” Chef Paul Buchanan of Primal Alchemy, an organic caterer listed in the Guide, told the group assembled at the Chestnut Lot. “Every purchase you make makes a difference.”
The existence of the Guide seems to concede the reality that the vast majority of even those who share the “greenhorn” ethos of food-production are unwilling or unable to cultivate our own food. Alyie Aydin for example, told listeners that she founded beachgreens, a farm-to-door service delivering organic and sustainably-grown produce, because the belief that everyone can grow his/her own food is a “fallacy”; and that beachgreens “is small part of a larger system” by which the quality of individual lives can be immediately improved, while in the long run large-scale change can be effected.
“It is up to all of us to share knowledge and skills showing people how to empower themselves and to not be 100 percent reliant on our current food system,” says Melina Paris, a Shift LB programming coordinator. “[…] Our food is being manipulated, owned, and changed. We are consuming different ‘food’ substances than what out bodies have lived on for our whole existence, [including] genetically-modified organisms, additives, irradiation, and other food ‘safety’ practices. […] We can change this, take our food system back into our own hands and those of the farmers.”
Such widespread change will come one purchase and person at a time. But we as individuals can choose to change our contribution to the whole, along with the quality our personal consumption. All it takes is knowledge of and access alternatives to the food-production status quo.
The Long Beach Guide to Local Food Networks gives just that, and Shift LB would like to see it circulated as widely as possible—in coffeehouse, corner shops, libraries, liquor stores, even City Hall. But printing them out costs money, so Shift LB welcomes donations of any amount to the cause (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org).
There is, of course, a paperless alternative for those with computer access. To obtain a free download of the Guide, visit ShiftLB.blogspot.com.