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The Resilience Hub & Portland Maine Permaculture Message Board › How Might New England Feed Itself?

How Might New England Feed Itself?

Lisa F.
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 2,310
This is one particular vision for how it could happen and the authors are looking for FEEDBACK!

Personally, I am very interested in the role of home gardens, community gardens, school gardens, urban agriculture and food forestry in this conversation. Notoriously hard to measure but perhaps the most important component for many people between hungry and not hungry.

Sue M.
user 3284483
South Portland, ME
Post #: 145
Thank you Lisa. I am enjoying wading thru all this. What a lot of work this group of people has done!
David S.
Washington, ME
Post #: 939
Hmmm....You have to ask yourself how people survived in my town in 1800 when there were almost no people, no housing and no cleared land. They certainly did do it.

The paradigm is defined in the first sentence.

"What might New England’s food production landscape look like if we were to try and grow 50% or even 70% of our food (by calories) by 2060?"

You grow it. Grow is the key word. Those original settlers could not do this. There was no place to immediately grow a sustainable amount of food. They had to forage. Maybe this seems impractical. Not as much as it may appear. Not only did those settlers survive but there were already people here who had been doing it for thousands of years. I know quite a bit about foraging and I see wild food available virtually everywhere I go. In a state where 1 in 4 children is "food insecure" there is food everywhere. People have lost skills and resourcefulness.

For true sustainability the paradigm needs to be redefined.

David Spahr
Jesse S.
user 29709632
Harrison, ME
Post #: 79
I believe there are good examples of regions/countries that have had to become more self-reliant in recent times.
Two that spring to mind are the dacha movement in Russia, and the the 'green revolution' in post-soviet Cuba.
The dacha gardens of Russia are for the mostly private, home-scale gardens that provide(d) a significant amount of food much more efficiently than the state run industrial farms.
Cuba had to transition from the high-input, industrial model when the Soviet Union dissolved and the US blockade tightened. What developed was lots of town and urban neighborhood community bio-intensive gardens(agroponicos), return to widespread use of draft oxen, municipal composting and so on. Also private gardens and livestock in surprising locations(pigs and chickens on a Havana apartment rooftop paddock).
Loren B
user 65582502
West Rockport, ME
Post #: 10
"For true sustainability the paradigm needs to be redefined."

David, This is where we begin to avoid drowning in a river of thirst...

Like the closing sentences of Peter Bane's Time to Garden the Planet

"At the risk of being thought romantic or utopian, I assert that the solutions to these and most of the world's dramatic crises rests in a rather simple shift of our awareness and our behavior. We must care for the Earth and for people, and share that which is surplus to our needs so that others may meet their own. We must also consciously limit our consumption and population. These ethics are central to permaculture: they belong to no nation or creed but to all of humanity. It's time to garden the planet." Time to Garden The Planet

Thanks for posting, Loren

Greg M.
user 3541854
Acton, ME
Post #: 523
David, what do you estimate is the human carrying capacity per acre in Maine via foraging?
Lisa F.
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 2,314
Good conversation. I think it would be really awesome to try to get more reality around what's possible in a somewhat quantifiable way around foraging, hunting, fishing, etc. What is possible in terms of calories and nutrients in terms of this kind of "harvest" without compromising ecological health and (in true permaculture framing) while actually enhancing and regenerating ecosystems. This is important information and I think people like David Spahr are going to be essential to the conversation on what is truly possible (without a stampede of urban refugees descending on David's homestead:). We're lucky to have such knowledgeable and experienced people around.

I can also say that we lack data also on the contribution of home/community/school gardening (both current actual and potential) to our food security future. There's some nice historical data. At the last regional permaculture gathering we talked about how we might try to start getting our arms around that one (by seeing if people would be willing to self-report on their gardening efforts). Many of us know that growing and foraging your own food is an enormous part of food security, but trying to extrapolate that potential across the state or region would be a useful exercise and would draw more attention to these critical practices.

David S.
Washington, ME
Post #: 940
I don't know the answer. It certainly depends on what you eat. I eat hemlock and spruce branch tips. Do you? No shortage. I depends on how you look at it. Reality is that there is a free, plentiful, sustainable food resource out there that requires little or no management. Insects, and other related can feed the world. I sometimes eat them.

I find enough foraged food to give myself a good supply and sell a lot to restaurants as well. I have made close to $200 this year selling right out of my yard less than 100 feet from my house. I have actually in all made quite a bit of money this year foraging part time. I made over $750 selling garlic mustard people want eradicated. People want their nettles gone too. Cha ching!

It depends on what you know and what you are willing to do. There is free food everywhere. Lots of it. Most people see it all the time and just call it weeds. Right in downtown Washington Maine in a vacant field there is 3+ acres of wild parsnips no one even touches from one year to the next. At the very worst it's quality free animal fodder.

No excuses! My friends Leda Meredith, Gary Lincoff and Steve Brill forage/lead foraging walks in NYC, Brooklyn.

Check out the food I cook on Facebook and see if I'm suffering.......

David Spahr
user 9298467
Old Orchard Beach, ME
Post #: 78
I think David makes a really good point, and it's the same thing my husband and I write about in our (to-be-released-this-fall ;)) book on suburban foraging. There IS quite a lot of food out there, free for the taking. The keys are to: be aware that it's there; know what to look for (which isn't as hard as it sounds); and to be mindful of how much one is taking (no more than a third of what's in a given area).

Last year, my husband and I challenged ourselves to see if we could have at least one meal per week that contained some foraged food. We found that one meal per week was extremely conservative, and we could have had every meal per week that had something foraged. In addition to eating stuff fresh, though, we also preserved a lot of what we foraged and enjoyed blackberry jam, hen of the woods mushrooms, foraged-apple cider, pickled milkweed pods, dried nettle tea, dandelion root coffee, and dehydrated greens (in soups) throughout the winter.

Most people aren't going to start from zero to eating all foraged foods, but it is important for us to realize that those foods are out there, and, especially with the concerns of genetically modified and/or otherwise contaminated foods, the stuff that's foraged is more likely than not a heck of a lot healthier for us to eat.

The natives who lived in this area were horticulturists. They grew some portion of what they ate (e.g. corn, beans, squash), and hunted and foraged the rest. If we can shift our focus from believing we need to grow everything (and I understand how difficult it is - my husband only spent two years trying to convince me ;)) to an understanding the value of a combination of some cultivated crops and some foraged foods, we could easily feed ourselves.
Sue M.
user 3284483
South Portland, ME
Post #: 146
Self reporting from people growing food at home is a good step. The next step could be a study as to how much food could be grown in the same space using different methods and management of both space and soil. I know I could grow much more than I do in my small space if I had more time/motivation. The other part is more education for people about edibles from around us. There are a lot even in urban settings as David mentions. Knowing which ones not to eat, because of pollutants, etc., is just as important. It also seems to me that maple syrup production could be more than is reported on if people in urban settings were empowered to harvest it. Honey the same. In both cases there are some people doing it, but many more could be.
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