DIGGING DEEPER: New Thinking on “Regional”
In 2010, we presented a set of arguments and assumptions supporting the value of regional thinking and the regional scale in food systems work in papers that we wrote under the aegis of the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (Clancy & Ruhf, 2010; Ruhf & Clancy, 2010). We pointed out that local food has resonated with the public, producers, and marketers, and that it has inspired many supportive public policies. We also talked about some of the drawbacks of the focus on “local”—its varied definitions, and its shortcomings as a framework for sustainable and resilient food systems.
We described how regions, which go beyond the local scale, play a unique and essential role in meeting the food needs of a population. Regions also play an important role in sustaining food chain participants and the natural resource base in the face of environmental, social, economic, and climate uncertainty. To us, “regional” signifies a substantial volume and variety of products that can more fully address demand when compared with “local” foods.”
Regional implies a larger scale, often multistate, but is not strictly limited to a radius or state boundary. We believe that the regional scale is one of multiple scales—along with local, national and global—that will produce food for the American diet into the future. Regional-scale food systems consider at a landscape scale certain needs and limitations, such as transportation efficiencies, broad land use and protection, energy use, production systems, and climate. Using a regional scale provides an essential context for addressing cultural dynamics and differences, natural and human-made disturbances, and diversity and equity challenges that cannot be adequately encompassed at the local scale....
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