I love the Okanogan, the landscape, the forests, the shrub lands, the grasslands. I have a lot of friends there. At the same time there are things and people that I don't like. I would like us to all get along reasonably well and create a more vibrant local food economy.
Last winter I gave a short presentation on formal and informal economies at a meeting held at the Okanogan Grange which was organized by Peter Myers. In retrospect, I wished I had talked about the topic of food self-sufficiency in Okanogan County. So I was inspired to write this article for my friends.
Food security is a growing issue in today's world at all scales: global, national, regional and local. Communities throughout the USA and in other countries are looking at local food security issues and how to resolve them. National food security concerns are one of the biggest issues in world trade negotiations. "Dumping" of food had destroyed many local food systems worldwide. Never before has so much of the world been at the mercy of food imports. This includes Okanogan County. What can be done to improve local food self-sufficiency and hence local food security in uncertain times? That is the focus of this small article.
Most people would agree that a high degree of local food self-sufficiency is a good idea even in good economic times. It will make even more sense in bad economic times. Okanogan could be 100% food self-sufficient if necessary. At the moment, steak and apple pie would be the main items on the menu if we were cut off from the outside world.
This article is about exploring what it would take for Okanogan county to achieve a high degree of food self reliance. Much of this would be applicable in other counties as well.
For those readers not familiar with the Okanogan. The county is located in north-central Washington State and is the largest county in the state. The county includes part of the North Cascades, the wide Okanogan valley and the Okanogan Highlands. The county is about 100 miles wide and 40 miles deep. It borders British Columbia. Average precipitation in the county is 12 inches in the driest areas and the more mountainous parts receive 25 to 45 inches.
Okanogan is currently an exporter of several food commodities, primarily apples and cattle. However if fossil fuels and other outside inputs were not available, than farm production would drop. Outside inputs are undoubtedly going to get a lot more expensive. Orchardists, farmers and ranchers have been going out of business in droves for the past 50 years because of low commodity prices, high input prices and interest rates.
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Michael Pilarski is a farmer, educator and author who has devoted his life to studying and teaching how people can live sustainably on this Earth.
He has extensive experience in organic farming, seed collecting, wildcrafting medicinal herbs, plant propagation, horticulture, teaching, and international networking. Michael has personally worked with over 1,000 species of plants.
He founded Friends of the Trees Society in 1978 and has authored many books on forestry, agriculture, agroforestry and ethnobotany. Michael has been involved in the permaculture
movement since 1981 as a writer, teacher and networker. He has taught over 20 full Permaculture Design Courses in the USA and abroad.
In this talk, he takes the permaculture ideas onto a larger platform in a discussion on bioregional thinking.
The concept of a bio-region describes how indigenous peoples lived on the earth—in harmony with their environments that
In the 1970′s the ideas and principles of bio-regional thinking were re-kindled in the US. In the Pacific Northwest the movement received a lot of energy and action and Cascadia and Columbiana were born.
Nationally, bio-regions are generating new energy and ecological thinking and planning. The management of local ecology,natural resource management and collaborative working groups are emerging.
Listen to Michael Pilarski's interview on Bontiful Productions by Ken