Just in Time: Taking Stock of Tomorrow’s Groceries


Today’s food system in the year 2020 has many features that improve our resiliency and security. Key attributes are:

Diverse. A complete and balanced diet can be had within the agricultural base of the County.

Local. Food produced here is consumed here, and the agricultural landscape is no longer dominated by grapes and cattle for export.

Renewable. Energy inputs for agriculture, transportation and processing are based on solar, wind, hydro and other non-fossil sources.

Non-toxic. Artificial pesticides and herbicides are no longer available and we use biological controls and landscape management to dampen pest cycles.

Cyclical. Soils are improved rather than depleted through conservation tillage, smart land-cover rotation patterns, and composting of all human and animal wastes.

Adaptable. As climate changes and new farmers learn what works best, systems are in place to exchange information and perform needed research.

Buffered. The future is always uncertain. Always be prepared for trouble by storing extra of what we really need.


This is from a “scenario” at The Oil Drum depicting the unfolding of events during an imagined (but utterly possible) sudden end to “just in time” stocking of grocery stores–for whatever reason, and there are many conceivable shocks that could make this a real event.

Wouldn’t it make wonderful sense to have the characteristics listed here describe TODAY’s food system so we wouldn’t have to endure the trauma of a food crisis! Resiliency? Food security? in the winter of 2009? Who are we kidding.

Just In Time could quickly become Just Isn’t There.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Fred, thanks for turning me on to the Oil Drum. There’s such a wealth of information related to energy issues on this site. I’m looking forward to spending some time with the 3 part – Passive Solar Design.

  2. Thanks from me, too – I went on over and read Jason Bradford’s entire post plus nearly all of the 157 comments that followed… interesting to see the responses, and a bit dismaying to see not a one of them keyed in on the value of these attributes of a resilient and secure food system. Lots of arguing about the basis of his crisis scenario and if or when or how it would really occur. But thank you for parsing this nugget out. As a farmer I am most interested in principles such as these, and wish we did indeed already have the mindset to achieve them now rather than later. Wonder what Mr. Vilsack would think of them? Hmm.