Currently many Utah households have basements full of food storage, but little or no food production. A growing number of Utahns are adding backyard chickens, bees, greenhouses and gardens to supplement their daily diet and diversify their home food storage. Cities, counties, nonprofits and even jails have put in community gardens. A small number of local direct-to-consumer animal farmers and fruit and vegetable growers are part of our increasing state food production and storage.
We need to add many more flocks and herds, gardens and orchards, tended by thousands of new and much needed small business owners. We need deep, fertile soil below diverse, vibrant pastures and gardens on these small Utah farms where cows, pigs and chickens are pastured, and fruits and vegetables grow. Self-reliance starts with a local sustainable food system.
We are in the middle of an agricultural renaissance in our country, including right here in Utah. More and more food consumers are demanding to know where their food comes from and the details of the process it took to get to them. Consumers are becoming educated to the realities of our industrial food system and want alternatives. They understand the vision and security of home food production and buying from their local farmer.
What an exciting time as we make this transition toward a more locally empowered food network, a system that has countless benefits for our communities in terms of health and health care, economic development and stability, land use, environmental health, political unity — in addition to providing tasty, local, healthy food for all.
In 2015, our neighboring state Wyoming passed the Wyoming Food Freedom Bill as a powerful move toward greater state self-reliance and self-determination.
Led by the vision of many of Utah’s new and longtime local food consumers and producers, a bill has been written, modeled after the Wyoming bill, and presented by Rep. Marc Roberts during this year’s legislative session. It is HB144, the Utah Food Freedom Act.
As expected, there is vehement opposition to this bill by Utah’s industrial food producers and their allies in commodity farm organizations and government, who are dismayed by what is happening in our food culture.
They are pulling out all of the stops to deceive, bully and cow legislators, local food consumers and the public in general to protect their own self-interests. They would have us believe that if this bill passes we would get sick from all of the wonderful, fresh, healthy, local food we would be eating. They are the epitome of Chicken Little shouting, “the sky is falling, the sky is falling.” What they don’t seem to understand is that Utahns are not Turkey Lurkeys. We are too smart to long be duped by their antics.
Alternatively, good and honest farmers/producers who truly believe in local, healthy, sustainable food for all are rising like cream to the top.
HB144 will accelerate our move away from the profits-first, centralized food production model that has put our health and our communities at risk.
Utah has a unique opportunity to capitalize on the unprecedented enthusiasm and attention to local agriculture and food production. We need many new small business owner farmers and food producers.
Let’s take a powerful step towards greater state self-reliance and self-determination.
I invite you to join this amazing movement by planting a garden, purchasing from your local passionate farmer/producer directly or even starting your own food business. Most importantly, I invite you to ask our Legislature to support the Utah Food Freedom Act.
Danny McDowell, local food consumer lobbyist/activist, lives in Salt Lake City with his wife Shawnee and their two daughters.