The Potential Economic Impact of Local Food in Our Region

Apr 20, 2017

Adopting a 100% local diet would have a huge economic impact--almost $1 billion--in the western Lake Superior region. It would also add thousands of jobs. That's the message of David Abazs, researcher, farmer and keynote speaker at the 9th Annual Iron Range Earth Fest.

David and his wife Lise moved to Round River Farm in the Sawtooth Mountains on Lake Superior's North Shore near Finland MN about 30 years ago. David and Lise operate a 55-member CSA, offer on-farm classes, and host up to 1,000 visitors to their farm each year. David also manages the organic farm at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, directs the 15-acre OCA AgroEcology Center (including a new deep-winter greenhouse), and is a board member of MOSES (Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Services) in Spring Valley Wisconsin. He was one of the authors of a recent study to define and evaluate the agricultural landscape of the western Lake Superior region.

The region, David explained, has enough land--and enough good land--to feed the everyone who lives here, but food at the farmer level is not a great moneymaking venture. "How do we build a food system that props up the farmer so the farmer's not on food stamps?," he asks. It is, in large part, a social issue. "Do we want to do this; build the local food system as a major part of the local economy? If so, how? If we want to, there are lots of challenges and obstacles."

It'll take a renewal of small farms. David noted that this area of the US is one of the few that has actually seen an increase in the number of small farms. Abazs and other champions of the local food system have been helping start farms around Finland. "There are economic benefits," he says. "We've made 12 hires." The more local food produced, the less money is shipped out. The region can produce most of our historical diet, and its small open areas and grasslands are particularly good for "meat and potatoes."

David's also focuses on sustainability and efficiency. On average, it takes 10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie eaten in this country. Projects like the deep winter greenhouse, the practice of season extension, and eating foods in season will increase food production  and efficiency.

David Abazs' full interview can be heard below.

The 9th annual Iron Range Earth Fest is Saturday April 22nd, from 9 am to 4 pm at Mountain Iron Community Center, Merritt Elementary School, and Messiah Lutheran Church. The keynote address by David Abazs starts at 10:30 and is in the Messiah Lutheran Church sanctuary. Admission is free. Earth Fest includes vendors, presentations, demonstrations, local food, music, a green innovators expo and much more. It’s sponsored by the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability.