Keywords: capital assets, foodsheds, sustainable food systems, Hartford food system, natural capital, social capital, sustainable agriculture, Toronto Food Policy Council, community cooperatives, farmers groups, ecolabelling, traceability, sustainable farming, industrialised countries, developed countries, rural communities, sustainability, sustainable development
Towards sustainable food and farming systems in industrialised countries
Economic systems at all levels rely for their success on the value of services flowing from the stock of total assets which comprise five types of capital: natural, social, human, physical and financial. Sustainable systems accumulate stocks of these five assets, so increasing the capital base over time. But unsustainable systems deplete or run down capital, spending assets as if they were income and so leaving less for future generations. Modern agriculture has diminished these assets whilst increasing productivity, imposing external costs on many sectors. In the meantime, the food system has become increasingly globalised, bringing with it concerns about new inequities. Alternatives, however, are arising, with a range of approaches available for taking some of the value in food systems back to rural communities and people. Five options are discussed in the paper: adopt sustainable agriculture; sell direct to consumers; enhance links with community co-operatives; organise into farmers' groups; and encourage ecolabelling and traceability. The challenge is to find ways of integrating all of these in supportive policy frameworks. Two examples of improvements in Toronto and Hartford are discussed in detail.