At the beginning of this pandemic, many people were looking for something to do while being self-quarantined. With the removal of a commute, people were suddenly inundated with time, many in single-family homes without children–thanks to the housing bubble. Many people watched a number of television shows, but with the visible collapse of the food supply chain, many people started cultivating gardens in their yards. What has become obvious over the course of the pandemic has been how resources affect people’s abilities to adapt to shortages and broken food supply chains. People without land are unable to suddenly rip out their lawns to create food forests, and social structures–like homeowners’ associations, municipal code departments, and seeding costs–make it difficult for people in single-family structures to change their lives to cultivate food. Gardening as a trend made people feel kitschy, but more are realizing that the United States should have never departed from an emphasis on agriculture because food is a necessity, not a privilege.
Extensive slavery was never a requirement to cultivate the land, and Indigenous populations understood the food-producing ecosystems better than any settlers ever did. What has research uncovered regarding the effects of colonization over the United States and climate change? Essentially, colonists behaved like little children playing with someone else’s belongings that they were unaware of how to use, and they broke the delicate balances of predator and prey, flora and fauna, and built up barriers to preserving those balances. Native populations understood that the earth was never meant to sustain huge swaths of land being dedicated to monocultures like cotton, tobacco, beef, or any other single crops. When profit became the only motivation for existence, the settlers degraded soil quality, destroyed predators for sport, and created a world where the majority of the citizenry was dependent on apathetic private entities who willingly sentenced portions of the population to starvation. Part of the solutions to climate change includes the cessation of building out on soil that could–and should–produce food.
Not all food grows everywhere, and moving forward, people will need to be more regionally conscious of what costs more to consume. While everyone loves consuming non-dairy products, the reality is that almonds are native to the Middle East, and nowhere else; growing almonds in places that are not the Middle East requires making up the difference in habitat. Texas grapefruit is different from California grapefruit, and both are different from Florida grapefruit. Growing seasons matter, as does soil composition. Growing a fun garden because of the pandemic may be entertaining, but a lot of frustration could be saved by local knowledge of what grows best in a region. People who are looking to take responsibility for growing their own food should also take responsibility for learning how to create a truly sustainable agrisystem that can be sustained with the trends fade.
The economic revelation of the pandemic was that most people are not going to be able to live in single-family homes with yards, especially with a rising cost of living and a predatory lending environment. While people with resources were able to pool supplies and labor to engage with their food supply, others were left wondering what could be done. Therefore, growing more in less space will be a necessary skill to evolve from a socioecosystem with a complicated food supply chain to a series of communities with ready access to fresh produce. Because many people live in multifamily communities, more people will need to develop the skills to grow their food supply without needing to endlessly rely on grocery stores. Space does not need to be a barrier to food, even though time is the real barrier to creating the food utopia that could fend off starvation.
Perception is the biggest barrier to changing how people receive food in their communities, and the biggest misconception above all is about who farms. The marketing industry portrays farmers as one way, which leads to damaging ideology about who belongs in positions of autonomy in the agricultural industry. In truth, every culture has farmed because all people have had to feed themselves since the beginning of human history. While Indigenous people had the advantage of understanding the ecology of the United States, African immigrants formed freedom colonies after working the land for decades, and created self-sustaining communities. While that hard-won autonomy was constantly terrorized, Black people fought for their survival in the most basic way: they farmed. Despite the dominant narrative’s persistent portrayal of White gentry farmers, food in the United States has been cultivated predominantly by non-White populations since the country began. Instead of relying on servitude and access to capital, this era of accountability will give the United States a second chance to develop a country where everyone is not only fed, but knows to nurture and sustain the land.