Situation

Much of middle Tennessee crop land is misused or not used at all. The way crops are grown currently for exporting out of state is increasingly under scrutiny by scientists and the public alike for their questionable affects on the environment, the economy and our health. On the other hand, Tennessee’s cultural and economic heritage had always revolved around small, sustainable farms growing food crops and pastured livestock for local consumption. As of today, organic, local foods continue to be the fastest growing sector in the national food economy, although they are not readily available to most Tennesseans.

Key Questions:

  1. What is Tennessee’s crop land being used for now, and how is it being managed?
  2. Where does Middle Tennessee’s food now come from?
  3. If properly managed, how could middle-Tennessee’s farmland provide a large portion of middle-Tennessee’s diet?
  4. What affects does the present agricultural system have on Tennessee’s environment, economy, population health and rural social networks compared to what would happen with a shift towards local organics and small farms?

Challenges:

  1. It’s hard to change a diet, or a farmer.
  2. A highly centralized and extremely profitable (for a few) system is already in place, with overwhelming political, economic and military clout.
  3. Public indifference to agricultural policies, coupled with widespread misunderstanding of various farming practices, keeps serious environmental, economic and health issues under most people’s radar.
  4. The food system in place is not set up for the distribution of healthy, local food.
  5. There is a lack of education and training for farmers beginning in organic agriculture.

Opportunities:

  1. Nashville has recently become a city noted for local food.
  2. Agriculture pollution is rampant, rural economics are devastated, and our population’s diet of products grown and processed elsewhere is creating serious health problems.
  3. Middle-Tennessee’s unique climate and culture offer the opportunity to sustainably grow and process the crops needed for a large part of our diet.
  4. A proliferation of organic gardens and diversified, sustainable farms would greatly benefit the middle-Tennessee community immediately by reducing agriculture pollution, reviving rural economies and providing fresh, healthy, local food for everyone.

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