Transition Whatcom

How much food is consumed in Whatcom County in a day, a week, a month, a year? We know that the commercial farms in Whatcom County produce an abundance of milk, fruits and vegetables, more than can be consumed by our country residents. But how much food is produced in backyard gardens by gardeners who grow food to be consumed locally by themselves and others?

As we look to a future economy where imported food becomes impossibly expensive due to high growing and transportation costs, the food we can produce locally will become a more important component of our local food supply.

I have been pondering an idea for starting a county-wide "victory garden" like push for backyard gardening for the 2010 growing season. The goal would be two fold: to encourage more private food gardening and also to raise greater awareness for the Transition concepts of localization of food supplies and developing resilience skills in food production and preservation.

To give the project a "global" yet local, personalized plan of action, I have imagined the project revolving around looking at how much food is needed to feed everyone in Whatcom County. Could gardeners collectively grow enough food to provide the equivalent of a day's sustenance for every resident of the county? Two days? A week? Even more?

As I've brainstormed the idea of such a project, I've thought it would require a centralized means of quantifying the amount of food harvested (By weight? Calorie content?). In order to do so, I was thinking of the example of the online Smart Trips website where participants can register and then record their information on a daily basis.

If such a website could have some interactivity, it could also function as a "gardening forum," where newbie gardeners could post their questions and gardening gurus could offer advice. Perhaps it could have sections that offered advice on what crops could be grown in various garden configurations: first time gardens, small gardens, large gardens, etc.

The net effect of the program would be to increase gardening skills, get a broader community awareness of the food needs of our local communities and build sensitivity around all of the Transition community building concepts.

That is the "broad brush" view of the concept. Looking at the details, I see a number of questions that would need answering: How to describe the specifics of feeding Whatcom County for a day: identifying the number of residents and setting a realistic daily caloric input. Also, there would be the need to determine how to evaluate the harvested food--such as by weight, by counting gross calories, or attempt to "sort" the calories in terms of a food pyramid or some other measuring tool. I am sure there are other considerations to be factored in.

Then there is the question of how to measure the harvest on the basis of produce harvested from each individual garden. Is weighing the harvested produce enough, or would it be helpful to create a rough calorie count for each head of lettuce, apple harvested, etc?

How would individuals record the results: by printed form, or logging into a website? Could a ning site be adapted for such a purpose? How would all the individual harvest information be collated to identify the food types/calories harvested? How would such a total be divided into individual meals and ultimately determine how many days Whatcom County residents could be "fed" from the backyard harvest.

I think the value of such a project would be in creating a "big picture" opportunity for individuals to be proactive in contributing to a local response to our global challenges. Also, such a project could be an important way for our community to focus our collective thoughts and individual actions on how to find community-wide responses to the future global downsizing of our food supply.

Once we had a snapshot of the volume and type of produce grown in the home gardens of Whatcom County for 2010, we would have a base year from which to measure future harvests.

Lastly does anyone know of any such community programs already in existence elsewhere?

Any thoughts?

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