The Gillings Sustainable Agriculture Project: A Gillings Innovative Laboratory

The 3 Pieces – Health, Environment and Economy

About The Gillings Project

If you’re like me, you think about what your next meal will be a number of times throughout each day. Brushing your teeth as you begin to wake up, reading through your emails, stuck in a traffic jam, as you are finishing your first meal of the day, the list goes on. Recently though, the question as to what your next meal will be has expanded to thinking about where your next meal will come from. And I’m talking about taking it one step further than the obvious answer of your pantry. The nation has recently begun to realize the affects of our heavy dependence on fossil fuel, and eating locally has been focused on as a way to reduce the amount of total fuel for transporting food long distances and, in turn, benefit the environment through less pollution. But would eating locally and supporting a sustainable food system address more than just environmental issues, could it affect people’s health? And how would such a food system, utilizing small to mid-scale farms, affect economic viability? The Gillings Project looks to integrate three areas that traditionally have been considered completely separate – health, environment and the economy. As ultimately, each of these areas are linked to what we put on our plate. Who would have thought that what you put in your shopping bag matters so much? The project seeks to not only affirm that what we buy matters, but will prove it during two years of research. With the data found, the project seeks to guide future policy related to local, sustainable food systems and inform future research efforts.

The Three Essential Pieces:

The Health Component:

Among the most pressing public health problems in the U.S today is obesity among both adults and children. High-calorie, nutrient-deficient food has become a dietary staple of families who have lost the connection with local, seasonal foods. Also of major concern are apparent health disparities between socio-economic groups, and those affected by the loss of livelihood among farmers in transition.

The Environmental Component:

Our current food system is heavily dependent on fossil fuels- fertilizers, pesticides, and gasoline – for large-scale production as well as long distance transport.

The Economic Component:

The price of transporting food over long distances and the inflationary result of high-energy costs affects the family checkbook. Loss of farmland and livelihood has sounded an alarm among small to mid-scale farmers transitioning away from growing tobacco. Rural communities where these farmers live face manufacturing layoffs and plant closures – another blow to the local economy.




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