Redundancy in Food Supply

Digital Photograph - Staff & Family with Delivery Cart, Outside WP Clarke Grocery Store & Removal Business, Chelsea, 1920-1921
Digital Photograph - Staff & Family with Delivery Cart, Outside WP Clarke Grocery Store & Removal Business, Chelsea, 1920-1921

Why some are calling for sustainability and “food security” in the name of the environment, I am calling for “food security” which will keep us from relying on long logistic supply trains that centralized companies are dependent. We need a more resilient local food economy and manufacturing capacity for the sake of having enough to eat. The most serious threat to our food security is stores depending on current “on-time logistics” and less on in store stock. “On-time logistics” allows for companies to deliver the supplies when they are needed and not sitting in stockrooms. This was implemented in the name of efficiency to increase profitability. However, if one component of this logistic train is off, a cascading failure happens which we witnessed in the aftermath of Covid 2020.

The underlying assumption of “on-time logistics” is there will always be a consistent supply from the farms to the processing plants to the distribution sites and then to the stores. Each of these pieces are reliant upon a steady supply of energy and fuel. Continue this train of thought with me. The employees at the farms, processors, factories, and warehouses rely upon modes of transportation. The employers must have a reliable supply of workers to operate. The modern economy is very complex and works very smoothly when all parts are working without issues. However, as COVID showed, if one little part is broken or delayed, then supply and demand causes issues in the market i.e. eggs skyrocket in price and chicken almost doubles.

The backbone of the economy is electricity. Too many have overlooked the massive amount of generation that is needed to cool or heat the factories, and to keep the lights on. Unfortunately, we are witnessing the decline in generation of electricity and are sitting very close to experience rolling brown or black outs. In recent years during several cold snaps, I have heard many stories from people in the utilities business that we have come within hours to minutes of blackouts on the East Coast. Many issues contribute to this fragile energy grid such as reduction in generation with the increase in demand, poor maintenance and workmanship along with cheap parts add to the issues that energy companies from California to Texas are experiencing. Coal fueled power plants generate a decent percentage of the country’s electricity. With several months of coal reserves at the plant, this provides a buffer in case of coal delivery logistics problems. Since natural gas plants have taken over a large percentage of generation, they need hours of fuel reserves. Let me say that again, hours. Natural gas is the “on-time” generating fuel of the new economy. If a pipeline freezes, which happened in winter 2020-2021 in Texas, the flow of gas is stopped, and the plant simply shuts down. There is nothing in place to thaw the pipeline. Redundant systems have been forsaken for the shareholders. “Atlas has shrugged.”

Our nation used to be built with redundant systems because if one thing failed the backup would take over without a noticeable hiccup. The roaring economy would continue. However, people often think that since nothing has happened, then nothing will in the future. Complacency is keeping people from preparing for the worst case scenario.

I believe that everyone who has an opportunity to build some resilience into the economy should. By patronizing local businesses, our money stays local and is compounded. The demand for local products has to be there for people to invest in them. People are not aware of the need for more local farms and food processed locally, and this is an issue. Once this need is recognized, it will be too late. Local farms cannot be built in the span of a few weeks. Crops take time to grow. Chickens take 11-15 weeks to hatch and grow. Farmers are not going to grow extra; only what the demand is.

I hope this message, as I continue to develop it, resonates with people who also recognize the need.

History is an excellent teacher. Empires rise and fall. Economies shift, and natural disasters happen continually. For over 150 years, America has not seen a devastating war on these shores for which we have been blessed. However, we often seem to forget that human nature tends to lean towards conflict and chaos. The relative peace America has experienced is THE exception in history, not the normal. By building a more local economy to provide good, healthy, quality food, we can create a more secure food supply to weather the storms that may or may not come. No one can predict the future, but we can make some very informed assumptions.

“yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” -Thomas Paine The American Crisis


-Jeremiah Deborde

Passel Hills Farm is a family owned farm located in Union Hall, Virginia on Smith Mountain Lake. Shifting careers from a fiber optic splicer to a farmer, this is our story of life on the farm and a few tales from years past as we have time to tell them.-

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