on resolving food and energy sustainability challenges together

food and energy

Feeding ourselves turns out to be a much bigger deal than we may have thought, if only because it's not just about food.

We know that everything's connected, and we cannot talk about food without also talking about energy...and transport...and building...to name only the biggest 'elephants' in our ecological footprint.

Of course, it takes lots of energy to grow, process and distribute our food, and we wouldn't want to copy this wasteful food system as we reinvent our local food chain.

So, we gotta think about food and energy together...which is what makes Hawaii’s proposed Food & Energy Authority attractive.

Still, we already know enough about how ag and energy can be mutually reinforcing systems, so we can envision the scale of Hawaii's required solution.

Let's try some numbers for Kauai.

Using a figure of $770 for monthly food expense in a Hawaiian household (data for 2005 "thrifty food plan"), we note that the ZEFE farm could prolly feed, say, 90 families.

This means we'd need roughly 250 of these ZEFE farms scattered around Kauai, or about 3 dozen in each of our island's 7 co-equal Kalana (settlement areas).

For example, we'd need 8 ZEFE farms around Kilauea, 12 around Kekeha, and 35 around Kapaa.

Bottom line: Kauai would need to double the land area of its towns to incorporate another 40,000 acres of ZEFE farms located in close proximity to our homes.

Due to differences in town's density of land use, some towns would expand significantly (like Hanapepe and Ele`ele) while others might be able to absorb these new growing acres (like Anahola and Lawai).

Now, forget those numbers. Why? Because they are drawn from a study in Britain that used average productivity data for a northern temperate climate.

If, instead, we used the latest findings from "biointensive" farming in the tropics, it might be possible to feed ourselves on only 10% of the land used in the ZEFE model.

...Which is why I've challenged Kauai's leading practitioners and thinkers to adapt these findings to Kauai's situation, and derive reliable estimates of our productivity and land requirements.

Turns out, these folks will be hosting a series of 'permaculture' seminars and trainings here in early April, which might be a good time to sharpen our vision.

Published by Ken on February 10th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Energy, Food

One Response to “on resolving food and energy sustainability challenges together”

  1. supak Says:

    This model, fueled by biointensive methods, can work anywhere. Up here at 46 degrees lattitude, I greatly increase my growing season, especially for cold tolerant crops, through cold-frame gardening. And I do it in my backyard.

    Perhaps one of the components of the ZEFE model could be through micro-loans or grants to home-owners, or even renters, who will grow food in their backyard. Certainly helps with some of the space problems.

    On Maui, a lot of land within town limits is zoned agricultural already, so that's a jump start for community gardens right there. Not sure about Kauai, but I'm pretty sure the big island towns are loaded with agri-zoned property that's not being used.

    Finally, I any current CSA (community supported agriculture) operations should be encouraged and expanded. You might already have more capacity there than you think.