'Drop Out Economy' Fueling Local Food Entrepreneurship


"Cam Slocum digs holes to plant tomatoes on his backyard farm". Image and caption credits:Katie Falkenberg/Los Angeles Times.

Time Magazine occasionally offers useful insights. Their Important Trends series has one on The Dropout Economy that which deserves attention. It's about a future that spans coming armies of unemployed MBA's and ever increasing numbers of high school drop outs. "As conventional high schools and colleges prepare the next generation for jobs that won't exist, we're on the cusp of a dropout revolution, one that will spark an era of experimentation in new ways to learn and new ways to live." The author throws some nuttiness in for good measure but clearly shows us the oncoming reality.

As industrial agriculture sputters under the strain of the spiraling costs of water, gasoline and fertilizer, networks of farmers using sophisticated techniques that combine cutting-edge green technologies with ancient Mayan know-how build an alternative food-distribution system.
He's not saying the information age is dying on the local food vine. Just the opposite. Tomorrow's internet will help fuel just-in-time local food production and distribution. There will be no need to drive the SUV to a chain grocery store for locally produced food. Central distribution on the hub and spoke concept will be wired to handle on-line orders, giving producers advance notice of demand for particular produce items, for example. That lets them be more efficient. Let me share a personal example to illustrate.

The farmers market I visit on Saturdays in Phoenixville Pennsylvania operates spring through fall. My favorite buffalo meat distributor, Back Yard Bison, is at the Phoenixville Farmers Market summer Saturdays. In the off months he sends me an email indicating when and where his freezer truck will be in my area next, so I can pick up my emailed order. And so on.

The Los Angeles Times article, Backyard gardens become income generators in lean times offers a further illustration of the net enables local food distribution. Craigslist hosts the product listings.

No one keeps track of the number of people selling their homegrown bounty, but scores of ads have cropped up on Craigslist across the country, hawking local produce, home-filtered honey and backyard eggs.

One Los Angeles resident with a lemon tree posted an offering on Craigslist to let customers "save over 50% over Vons, Ralphs, etc. $1.00/pound." At the Orange County Swap Meet, officials said the number of people selling home-canned beans and other homemade edibles grew to 30 vendors this month, up from eight vendors in early 2007.

Tags: Pennsylvania

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