Time to Talk about Houston's Food Supply

The food we eat travels over 1500 miles on average from where it is produced. Yet, we have repeated food safety issues and we are losing prime farmland at an alarming rate. So says David Crossley, president of the Gulf Coast Institute, host of the conference.

"We would note that a road like the Grand Parkway will pretty much take out all the remaining farmlands in Harris County, and some other counties as well, and that we ought to be thinking about those things, because a lot is happening in the world. Rising energy prices which are driving the cost of food up, and the ability to move food all over the world may be diminishing. So, can we feed ourselves in ten or twenty years?"

John Jacob is with the Texas A&M University system. He says some of the best farmland in the world will be lost as Houston more than doubles in size in the next 20-30 years. He says we must have a food system that is stable and familiar.

"We want people as well to have an appreciation for the land that we have around us. We believe, or some of us I believe anyway, that having more farmers on the land, which is what would happen if you had more local productionξmeans more and better habitat as well. More people caring for the land."

Easier said than done? Not necessarily. John Ikerd teaches agricultural economics at the University of Missouri, Columbia. He says Texas isn't far behind other states at the forefront of sustainable natural food movements.

"It's a broader, kind of social, ethical movement. It was really started by the Hippie movement, back with the earth people, and they formed a commune. It was an organic way of life. It was about community, and society and responsibility and ethics."

Chuck Wemple heads the Economic Development Program for the Houston-Galveston Area Council. He says while the interest is high for local farmers markets, Houston is victim to what's called the lag effect:

"Houston tends to be about 3-to-5 years behind most of the national trends that you see, whether its green building, or even Starbucks, for example. It took a lot to catch off. But when it did take off, it exploded. I think we're gonna see the same thing as folks start to look for more local sources for their food."

With thousands of tax delinquent properties in neighborhoods all over Houston, talk is growing that the city might allow some of them to be converted into community gardens.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.
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