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Sustainably Insane

Sustainability is consultant speak in business. Every thought leader and MBA speaks of creating a sustainable advantage. We see innovation, blue oceans, lean, supply chain management, as tools to create and maintain a sustainable advantage. One industry defies all of this and it’s insane. At least in our state, food is anything but sustainable.

In Alabama, a state with a heritage in farming, $11 billion is spent on food and  $6.5 billion is spent in the households. Yet less than .2% is locally grown. Not even 1%. Imagine our local Mercedes or Hyundai plants have .2% of their suppliers parts located in the state.

This was pointed out at a meeting today of sustainable minded agriculture and food service leaders hosted at our local community college. The entire supply chain and interested institutes, extension services and tourism executives exchanged ideas. We decided the benefits were worth forming a coalition to insure at least local restaurants started buying local products. Dream big, start small.

The Meter Study pointed out that if residents purchased only 15% of their home use food from local farmers, $980 million in new income would result for local farmers. Trickle up economics in the local community.

Eating local also means eating fresh. This addresses the biggest problem in our state, obesity and its older cousin, diabetes. Alabama is either number one or number two nationally and this ain’t the BCS. The cost of these rankings, primarily located among the poor, will bankrupt Medicaid if nothing is done. And this will cost every household more than a few dollars a month for local produce.

Sustainable agriculture can address this. A local middle school with a >50% child obesity rate switched their food program to local produced food products and reduced obesity by 70%. Turnips and corn instead of pizza and national suppliers #10 can processed buys.

So maybe we can make a dent in this insane policy of outsourcing our diet. We’ll start with education and try to change this market one meal at a time. Stay tuned.

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