Healthy Farms, Healthy Environment

State and Local Policies to Improve Pennsylvania’s Food System and Protect Our Land and Water
Released by: PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

Healthy Farms, Healthy Environment

Pennsylvanians increasingly want healthy, locally grown food that is produced in ways that reflect their values – including protection of the environment. The rapidly rising demand for organic food, the growth in the number of farmers markets and in community supported agriculture, and the expansion of community gardens across Pennsylvania are all indicators of a deep desire to reclaim our food system.

Policy-makers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere have begun to respond by adopting pioneering policy tools that promote sustainable food economies. But, while Pennsylvania has been a innovator in developing sustainable food policies, it has a long way to go to build a strong local, sustainable agriculture economy in the Keystone State.

Sustainable food economies can reduce the massive impacts of agriculture on our environment, while boosting the value of Pennsylvania farms, promoting food security, and supporting healthy, vibrant communities.

Some of the finding of the report include:

  • Organic growing methods have been shown to reduce polluted runoff and energy consumption in agriculture, while boosting the carbon content of soils, according to experiments at the Rodale Institute organic farm laboratory in Kutztown, Pennsylvania.
  • Consumption of fresh, local food – as opposed to processed food or produce from halfway around the globe – can reduce the amount of energy used in preserving and transporting food. Farmers can grow and market fresh peas with 60 percent less energy than frozen peas, and 75 percent less energy than packaging peas in an aluminum can.
  • Sustainable farming can also help farmers keep farmland in production, despite development pressure, by increasing farm income – thereby protecting open land and the valuable ecosystem services it provides.

The report also outlines specific policies that Pennsylvania could adopt to better support local, sustainable farms.