Is The Industrial Food System Reliable?

Is The Industrial Food System Reliable?

Do you believe you can rely on your supermarket always to be full of food you can afford?… and I'm not just talking about now, but in the future as well?

When Covid 19 hit our country in March of 2020, my wife and I went to the supermarket to buy some essentials and things we don't grow on our farm, like pineapples and toilet paper!

Empty Grocery Shelves

We could not believe the sight of all of the empty grocery shelves when we got there. Even though we only shop once every six or so months, we too had become habituated to the spell of the 24/7 reliability of supermarkets. While we can usually select our items based on organic status, nutrition levels, lack of sugar, etc., it quickly became apparent that this was a take what you could situation.

Other shoppers had this sense of absolute panic and distress about them. The supermarket staff scuffled anxiously about as they had become store security personnel involuntarily. They quickly scanned everyone's shopping trolleys for potential breaches of the strict '2 items only' policy they were now enforcing.

It felt like this surreal, crazy dream, but it wasn't. Gemma and I decided to leave immediately as we had wisely prepared our plan B.

Our Smart Veggie Patch had been built for a time like this. We felt a lot of comfort in knowing that we could grow whatever food we would require for whatever the future might throw at us. We had planned ahead and could now reap our rewards. So we raced off to the local garden shop to purchase a bumper supply of organic vegetable seed stock. There would be no panicked shoppers there and no '2 item' limits. We had beaten the failing system. 

Could you imagine our surprise as we stood in front of the seed display stand only to find it completely empty! Not a single packet of seed was left. Just empty hooks and information cards.

We asked the local store person when they thought they might get more stock. He just shrugged and told us he did not have any idea but that it would probably be several weeks.

Community Seed Planting

We drove home quietly in our car. We had a small seed supply at home, so all was not lost. We would be ok. But for the first time since the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, we felt that stomach-churning anxiety of being caught out again.

Being unsure how to feed yourself is an unearthing feeling as an individual. Still, for a parent, the thought of not being able to provide for your children is absolutely sickening.

It is a sobering reality to appreciate just how people must feel every single day in poor and developing countries. This was our first ever experience of lack or scarcity regarding reliable access to our food for most of us.

This fact hides the fundamental truth that our industrialised food system had already begun showing signs of unreliability. In 2007, the world faced a global food crisis. We narrowly avoided it from becoming remarkably similar to what we experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Organisations are still debating what caused this food crisis from over a decade ago. Still, it appears that it was an assortment of issues ranging from financial manipulation to falling production output. Many developing countries simply ran out of food, and the UN was inundated with calls for assistance. All of the developed countries saw dramatic food price spikes and reductions in availability.

Interestingly, all of the issues that are believed to have been instrumental in the 2007 food crisis are all still present today. Yet now we have the added concern of a global pandemic and all of the related adverse impacts it is having on our industrial food system.

There is no doubt that the industrial food system has reliably supplied us with the food we needed over the last century. But the only way it has achieved that has been at a significant cost to our health and the environment. As we all become more aware of the actual reality of these costs, which inspires our growing unwillingness to continue to pay them, how will the industrialised food system continue?

We know from studies and science that the key to reliability is simplicity. Our industrial Food System is the antithesis of simplicity. It is an incredibly complex globalised structure of almost infinite moving parts.

Complexity of our Industrial Food System

On top of this, the natural resources it has had at its shameful disposal, like arable land and clean water, are becoming more limited or have now simply been exhausted. Politicians and governments are now enacting new restrictive 'green policies' in an attempt to rain in these health and environmental issues caused by the industrial food system.

How will these affect how reliable it continues to be?

We also need to consider now how a continuing global pandemic and accelerating climate change might impact our previous assumption of never-ending brim-full supermarket shelves. Will the industrial food systems continue to reliably fill our supermarket shelves under the changing reality of our world today?

Like with the 2007 food crisis, the first warning signs of any potential issues with the reliable food supply will be empty supermarket shelves and rising prices.

Well, it's not like we are seeing that now… are we?


About The Author

Terry Memory is the author of "The Smart Veggie Patch" which will be available through Pan Macmillan in July 2022. He lives with his wife Gemma, and their six kids live on a forty-acre organic farm in the Huon Valley in southern Tasmania, Australia. Terry and Gemma produce most of their food requirements for their family with a two hundred square meter Protected and Controlled Environment garden that also thermally heats their home. As a successful health food entrepreneur, Terry co-founded the 13 Seeds Hemp Food and Tasmanian Tea Companies on his farm. Terry is a passionate sustainability and self-sufficiency advocate with over twenty years of practical experience.

TAGS: Veggie Patch, Vegetable Garden, Raised Garden Beds, Growing Your Own Food, Self-Sufficiency, Sustainability, Homegrown, Homesteading, Off-Grid, Organic Food, Backyard Garden, Community Garden, Urban Garden

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