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Grow Local, Grow Natives 

click to enlarge MONTY CAID
  • Monty Caid

Local Food Month promotes local food, local food production and local farms and community gardens. It is meant to promote a sustainable local food system for our local area. The main problem I have is that our truly local foods — the native foods — are not included in solving our local food problems. Instead, we promote plants that can be grown here even if they are from Asia, Europe, Africa, South America or other parts of the world.

A local food system that grows non-local plant species is not sustainable. Creating non-native food systems is very unsustainable and is one of the leading causes of the loss of natural biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, which is a direct cause of the loss of ecosystem function, the extinction crisis and climate change.

True sustainability is the ability to sustain nature and the self. Self-sustainability on its own is not sustainable unless you sustain nature as well. Our concept of self-sustainability is actually very selfish, we are only concerned with sustaining ourselves and that is why our local food system can not be truly sustainable. It is very easy to sustain ourselves in the short term but in the long run we use up our local resources and destroy a system that was truly sustainable and that provided for our basic needs as a species to survive. We cannot survive by ourselves and instead must learn to sustain the whole.

Early settlers might have been considered self-sustaining but the environment that they left clearly shows that their land management practices were far from sustainable. Native Americans' land management practices, in contrast, were truly sustainable because they not only sustained themselves for thousands of years but they also helped sustain all local species and the local environment, and even helped make the natural environment more abundant.

Recognizing our diverse native foods can lead us to a truly sustainable local food system: A food system that is diverse, nutritious, drought tolerant and restores and supports our damaged local ecosystems and the wildlife that depend on them. This type of food system can create a symbiotic relationship between humans and nature where we actually benefit each other.

Before Europeans settled this land or destroyed it and became self-sustaining, there was an abundant local food system that was already here and was the definition of sustainable and local. There was easily more food fit for human consumption growing naturally than all the agriculture in California today, even though California is a leading food producer in the world. European settlers quickly destroyed this local food system to grow non-native crops and, today, California has the most endangered species of any state, depleted soils, dammed rivers and polluted water sources. The once abundant native foods have been forgotten, are hard to find or are locally extinct and the world's ecosystems are out of balance.

Through racism, carelessness and ignorance, Europeans caused this crisis worldwide. Today we continue to follow in their footsteps, destroying diverse native ecosystems and replacing them with non-native foods and plants. Now Humboldt County wants to expand our local food system and continue to ignore the natural food system we destroyed and promote the expansion of locally-grown, non-native crops in the name of being self-sustaining.

We have become so disconnected from nature that most of us do not even know what our real local/native foods look like, let alone taste like. It is easy for us to understand that unnatural is unsustainable but hard for us to realize that non-native is unnatural and unsustainable even though natural and native basically mean the same thing. Native foods support nature and the natural systems in nature while non-natives do not support nature correctly or efficiently, which is why we are losing ecosystem functions worldwide.

The true hard-core locovores were the indigenous people of this state. Europeans killed many of them, destroyed the local food system and destroyed nature in the process. That is why today we depend on food shipped in from out of the area. Europeans once lived in balance with their environment and were hard-core locovores until the kings of Europe took control of the land, destroyed the environment and forced people to work in farms and factories. Our indigenous European ancestors lived like indigenous Americans and carried similar beliefs regarding our connection to the natural world and other species. Our European shamans, healers and spiritual leaders were killed for disobeying the king's non-sustainable ways and were called witches, that is what the burning of the witches or the witch hunts refer to. This was done to destroy the natural culture that Europeans had and to create a new system of control. Today we are still promoting the same kings' values of environmental destruction and ignorance of the natural environment, which makes us easy to control and manipulate.

We rely on local farms and foods shipped in from other farms because we destroyed the local environment that produced all-you-can-eat food everywhere. Manmade food farms cannot produce the amount of foods produced naturally unless you destroy nature first.

Locally Delicious mentions in the Local Food Guild that the indigenous people of this area are working toward restoring native foods, then they mention early settlers being self-sustaining by necessity. The facts are that early settlers destroyed the local food system partly to destroy the Native American community and partly to make room for growing non-native crops they felt were superior to the native foods. Locally Delicious is promoting this belief by acting as if Native Americans can restore native foods while the rest of us use the remaining resources to be self-sustainable with our non-native foods. I believe it is all of our duty to restore native foods and native plants that the European culture drove to the brink of extinction. To leave it up to the indigenous people while we continue to expand our agriculture shows we are still racist, careless and ignorant of the value of native foods and plants and nature in general.

Monty Caid is the founder and president of Lost Foods a non-profit 501c3 corporation dedicated to restoring native plant diversity and abundance and reintroducing native foods and native plants to create a sustainable society. He also manages the Lost Foods Native Plant Nursery at Redwood Acres, Lost Foods also installed and maintains multiple native plant sanctuaries in Eureka. He is originally from Oakland and lives in Eureka for the last 15 years, he has studied the uses of plants for over twenty years and the relationships between native plants and wildlife for over ten years. He believes restoring our diverse native plant species can solve many serious issues concerning today's society and natural environment.

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Monty Caid

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