No one cares about your local food!
If you want to truly make a change in this world, you need to divorce yourself from the illusion that the ideals you hold dear are a driving factor to the outside world.
I started my journey into local food via a fairly common path. As a young family beginning to take a closer look at what I was eating and feeding my family brought me to some very stunning realizations. The amount challenges facing the agriculture industry is a well known fact to many people. The potential to solve those problems are complex, but in no way unattainable. However, the challenge that everyone is trying to begin with at the local/organic/sustainable level is trying to get people to care!
The world has more to care about than it has time to care.
That’s where the non-starter exists. The masses don’t have time to care about local food. The reason for this isn’t cynical by any means. The reason is purely bandwidth. The world has more to care about than it has time to care! Just listing a few;
- There are kids dying as they cross continents in search for a good home.
- There are complete nations looking at the potential of not existing due to changes in sea level.
- There are idealists attempting to wipe scores of populations off the map because of the fear and hate they’ve been teaching themselves for generations.
The proposed solution up until this point in a lot of ways has been to trumpet on the horn a little louder. Attempting to make people care by reinforcing how important it is that they really do care. Teaching them that Organics are important, that GMOs are evil and that local food is what you need!
The challenge with that is two fold. First, the only people you’re going to engage in that argument are the people that already care. Now, it is important to understand that these people are critical for the eventual success of small/local/distributed production; however, these people are only the first step. People that truly understood the potential of the iPhone on day one, were willing to pay an excessive amount to get that right away. Everyone else who was happy to pay less when it hit an economy of scale that made it better for them for many reasons is what brought smart phones to scale. Second, the people on the edges will just want to see a label or certification of some type and then check out of the rest of the conversation. In order to be truly successful in the mass market, no one should know about your local food, sustainability and GMO free food.
The only way that you solve a problem in a way that matters, is when you get everyone to choose the option that is better economically and environmentally, because it was the better option for them. The only way that you get someone to care about what you’re doing is by winning in the market.
That’s where technology comes in. The world of agriculture is no foreigner to technology, the problem is technology has been focusing on a different subset of goals. Since the US market’s focus in the 1970’s changed rather dramatically to a pure — produce at all costs — standard operating procedure, technology has been leading the charge to make that happen.
It hasn’t been until recently that a different class of engineers has looked at solving a different problem. How do we produce food in a manner with minimal impact on the environment?
The start of this story is where we will end it, but I’m happy to say that these challenges have people working hard to solve them and I’m very fortunate to be able to count myself as one of those people working on solutions. The challenges still exist, but the solutions are in the works!