A community’s dollars should be used to support its own people, with particular focus on the areas of food. If we want the majority of people to receive the maximum return on their community’s investment, then small food businesses must be strengthened at every turn. Minority and women ownership should be prioritized to level the playing field.
Here are seven ways to start this shift:
- Promote grants/incentives around food hubs. Use incentive dollars from grants, release from payment of business licensing fees to back local food hubs and other networks that are focused on place, health, and equity. These systems of support for locally owned businesses nurture local supply chains, enable peers to support each other, set up forums for candidates to address food policy, and foster the kind of collaboration necessary to make local food distribution viable or renewable energy locally affordable.
- Use city contracts to increase purchases of local food. Local, healthy, fairly produced, humanely raised, sustainably grown. An example would be requiring antibiotic free chicken. Re-direct corporate subsidies to organizations that provide technical assistance to micro enterprises. The Association for Enterprise Opportunity has shown that if just one in three microenterprises was strengthened to hire a single employee, the United States would be at full employment.
- Allow small food businesses to farm community garden plots through contracts. Invest in shared infrastructure for local “economies of scale.” For example, a foundation in might invest in a local grain mill, providing needed processing that would encourage the resurgence of local grain farmers in Richmond.
- Set asides for community land. Require a community garden in Richmond to be in every 5 acre plus park. Agricultural and community land trusts preserve affordability for residents, farmers, and local business owners in contrast to speculative gentrification. Land banks to bring vacant and blighted lots under the control of the public authority to redevelop the land for productive uses.
- Reduce regulatory red tape. A few national initiatives that would be helpful are:
- Strengthen antitrust laws.
- Loosen copyright and patent laws.
- Reduce occupational licensing that creates difficulty for startups.
- Conservation Programs: Encourage state government plans to spend money to create a conservation easement. Pay farmers development value of their land to continue to grow and require deed restrictions to for future development.
- Encourage government agencies to establish sustainability and ecological awards for small food businesses.
We need a people’s food plan and it must have health, the environment and local at its heart.