Foodshed

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This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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Essentially, a “foodshed” is a way to conceptualize the total system of food production from farm to table. This includes the various intermediate stages of processing, packaging, preparation and travel before a good reaches its final destination. Similar to a watershed (the system of rivers, streams and aquifers that define a regions’ water supply) one can discuss the impacts of factors such as pesticides, delivery systems and resource efficiency within a foodshed. However, unlike a watershed which is more or less constrained by local topography, a modern American foodshed is limited only by consumer choice and the behavior and/or regulation of industry and agriculture.

See the American Farmland Trust’s study on the San Francisco bay area’s foodshed

Related terms

Locavore: A person who strives to eat primarily locally sourced/produced/grown foods.

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture): A food supply model whereby individuals receive produce and goods directly from the farm that produces them. Consumers assume a portion of the farmer’s risk by buying subscriptions for a prescribed period of time. This allows farmers to effectively manage financial resources with less impact from weather fluctuations and other circumstantial losses. In return, subscribers benefit from receiving  a variety local, seasonal produce and sharing in high yields. Finally, because CSA’s tend to grow a wide range of foods for their subscribers, organic methods of soil management, including crop-rotation is often practiced.

See the Ecology Center’s list of bay area CSAs

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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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