Home Articles The Importance of Renewable Energy in Addressing Food Insecurity in Rural Communities

The Importance of Renewable Energy in Addressing Food Insecurity in Rural Communities

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Food insecurity in rural America is a great and tragic irony. Many of the people living closest to food production can’t afford what is being made in their own communities. The reasoning is pretty simple. Much of rural America experiences a starved economy. If you aren’t making food, there probably aren’t many lucrative employment opportunities available to you at all.

In this article, we take a look at how sustainable growing practices can help address food insecurity in rural communities.

Renewable Energy in Food Production

The promise of renewable energy in the context of food production is that it allows for more to be produced at a lower price. Environmental friendly practices even beyond renewable energy are known for improving food production.

For example, pesticide-free farming. On paper, one would assume that pesticides would improve food production. Larger yields, less food reduced to shrinkage.

In practice? Pesticides erode soil quality. They boost insect populations over time.

No. Pesticides kill insects. It’s literally what the word means.

You’re the type that doesn’t raise their hand, huh? Yes. That’s true. But spray year one, and you might kill eighty percent of the pest-related insects in your field. And ninety percent of their predators (predators tend to reproduce slower and at lower numbers).

It sounds pretty good until you get to year two. You spray again. This time you only reduce sixty percent of the insects because the 20% that survived last year passed genetic immunity onto the children. Now, there are fewer predators, and more pests each year.

Pesticides are far from being the only crime of mass food production. It takes time and energy to transport it. Pack it up in the little cellophane wrappers you see at the grocery store.

This process of mass food production is why you can get tomatoes in February (virtually tasteless, but they’re just the same) and it’s also why food production is such a major global source of emissions.

Ok. But What Does that Have to Do with Addressing Food Insecurity?

It’s ironic that many of the regions of the country that produce the most food struggle the most with food insecurity. To get into all of the reasons rural America struggles financially and with its food access would take far more words than can fit in this article.

However, let’s examine the points made above.

  • Modern food production is inefficient and non-sustainable
  • Food is produced and shipped over enormous distances all throughout the world

Sure, food is around, but it’s not necessarily being made for community members.

A More Sustainable Solution

Let’s imagine a town that takes all of this advice to heart. The farmers primarily avoid or at least reduce their use of pesticides. Instead of shipping out their foods at incredible distances, they establish local connections, selling to places that are a car ride away.

What does this look like in a practical sense?

At the farm, things may be challenging at first. Organic farming comes with a learning curve, and the bigger the farm, the harder that curve is to negotiate. For a couple of years, the locusts and other pest insects may come in what feels like Biblical numbers.

But the farmer notices something as she slowly perfects her organic farming routine. The plants are bigger in her pesticide-free fields. The soil is no longer being degraded by harsh chemicals. It stays good for much longer, resulting in better yields in year three.

The economics of the process aren’t even terribly different. While opting for pesticide-free farming comes with costs, many of them are a question of swapping expenses. Those big barrels of pesticide weren’t free, you know.

So, year three on the organic farm comes around. Farmer Jane is now accomplishing yields comparable to what she brought in when her plants were soaked in poison. Still less, maybe, but she makes more money commanding a higher price for her crops.

Plus— and this is enormous— her farm is now designed to last for the long haul. The soil isn’t being harmed by poison. Predator insects are doing pest control for her. She can trust that by taking better care of her fields, the farm will be highly productive for many generations to come.

That’s Great for Farmer Jane, But What’s Happening in Town?

Good question. Keep in mind that Jane isn’t just committed to growing food sustainably. She also wants to package and transport it in a way that is good for mother earth. Because Jane and several other growers in her community have made this commitment, city planner Jessica has organized a farmer’s market.

Do any men live in this town?

You must be thinking of Jim the food-buying guy. Jim loves fresh produce but lives on a very fixed budget. Grocery store prices can be very difficult for him to swing, some months. He goes to the farmer’s market full of skepticism but leaves with a trunk full of kale and carrots.

Why? Farmer’s markets are statistically more affordable than grocery stores for several reasons. One of them is overhead. Instead of worrying about processing, packaging, and transporting her food, Jane can drive it into town in her eco-friendly truck.

Community members get affordable, delicious vegetables, and she gets to do her job more sustainably.

Ta-da!

A Reality Check

Admittedly, the situation described above is idyllic. It requires a lot of work on the part of growers, and a general community-wide understanding that is easier said than done. However, it’s also worth keeping in mind that this is what agriculture has looked like for the majority of its existence.

Chemical-heavy pesticides in the form that they exist now are a relatively recent invention. And before rapid transportation and accessible refrigeration, food didn’t make continental journeys. Farms serviced their communities.

The “localvore,” movement, as it is sometimes referred to, allows farmers to grow food in a way that is at once affordable, and better for the long-term health of the planet that feeds all of us. It’s not necessarily an easy change to make, but it can make all the difference, both for the ozone layer and for people suffering from food insecurity.

It’s not the only step, of course. Grants, scholarships, and low-interest loans may also be required to lift rural America out of poverty. Still, sustainable agriculture is an important step in the right direction