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Last month I was asked to draft an editorial for a local magazine (Our Evanston) on sustainability and local foods. It was to be the back-end of a friendly deal — an ad for the Wild Onion Market (a local food co-op) in the winter issue followed by a local foods editorial in the spring issue (to be contributed by WOM, of which I am a member).

Unfortunately, after my quick draft and two quick revisions, the publisher chose not to use my editorial in the spring 2022 issue. In the interest of sustainability and not letting something useful go to waste, here’s my original draft — with all the bells & whistles.

And in the interest of supporting local businesses, any support for my food policy and organizing work — FoodFarmsDemocracy — would be welcome. 


According to the international organization GRAIN in The Great Climate Robbery (2016 book), the food & farm system is responsible for 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions.  Specifically, this breaks down to emissions from (a) + (b):
(a) agriculture: on-farm, mostly industrial farming
(b) rest of the food system: processing, transportation, packaging, refrigeration, retail, etc. — the world’s biggest economic sector, involving more transactions and employment to more people by a wide margin

Of GRAIN’s 5-point solution for climate mitigation, “Cut food miles, focus on fresh food” is the easiest for an urban population like Evanston to implement, with numerous components to support — through money, time, and mindfulness.

I call that strengthening the local food infrastructure. Here’s some details.

Spend your money locally, volunteer, join, network!
— Community gardens, urban farms, home gardens, backyard livestock (chickens, bees, rabbits, etc.)
— Season extension (hoop houses, greenhouses)— Farmers markets (summer, winter), cottage foods
— Farm-to-school (cafeteria food + working garden + food system curriculum in K-12, early childhood)
— CSAs, co-ops, buying clubs
— Restaurants, bakeries, grocers, convenience stores
— Emergency food (food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, community fridge)
— Processing & distribution (warehouse, butcher, packing)
— Seeds, plants, locally-owned garden centers
— Land preservation & carbon sequestration (open space, wildlife habitat, soil conservation, biodiversity)
— Waste (compost, re-use bags, recycle)

MINDFULNESS: Food Systems 101
Keep in mind these nuances of local living:
— Living income, housing, and good health for all: Eaters, farmers, food workers, farm workers
— Logistics: Keep the supply lines short
— Support regenerative farmers, land managers, property owners 
— Illinois and Midwestern farms produce many non-food products: Ornamental plants, agritourism & recreation, lumber & other wood products, soil amendments, medicines & cosmetics, fiber, education, decorative arts
— Democratic decision making: Food policy councils (FPCs), co-operatives
— Supporting independent, locally owned businesses keeps $$ local
— Illinois already has a food & farm climate plan, sponsored by Evanston’s former State Rep. Julie Hamos. It just needs to be implemented.

Stabilize and scale up — let’s do it!


a. LOCAL FOOD, FARMS & JOBS: The climate plan for Illinois farmers & eaters with suggested updates (April 2021). Illinois Local Food, Farms & Jobs Plan, adopted by State of Illinois in 2009 under the Illinois Food, Farms & Jobs Acts, authored by Evanston’s State Rep. Julie Hamos.

b. Food Justice Agenda for a Resilient Boston (2020), by Michelle Wu (just elected Mayor)

c. The Great Climate Robbery: How the Food System Drives Climate Change (2016 book), by GRAIN. Published by SpinifexPress (U.S. distributor in Chicago).

d. Local foods in a global food system: Transitioning during a pandemic. Short essay written in April 2020 by Rich Schell (international food lawyer based in Chicago, lecturer at IIT, Oakton Community College): If the Global Food and Farm System could Talk, what would it say?

Debbie Hillman 
Resident of Evanston, IL since 1978. 

Since 2005:
— Food & farm policy (coalition work): National statement to USDA on Visioning of U.S. Agricultural Systems for Sustainable Production (2017); Evanston backyard chicken ordinance (2010); Illinois Local Food, Farms & Jobs Plan (2009) 

— Food & farm projects: Monthly Food Politics Corner for Wild Onion Market newsletter (as co-op owner #604); Co-founder — Edible Acre at ETHS (2008); The Talking Farm (2006) 

Past work:
Professional gardener (25 years), woodworker, artist, proof-reader, editor, typist.