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Part III: Regional Production



Our manufactured and agricultural goods are shipped from great distances.  As transportation costs increase, regionalizing manufacturing and agriculture will become increasingly viable – and important.


  • include energy volatility and fuel depletion in New York City and State economic development policy 

  • encourage production and procurement of regional farm products

  • support agricultural production within cities and suburbs

  • enable residents to find farming and gardening jobs

  • encourage schools to establish gardens on their facilities

  • open additional retail farmers markets, a wholesale farmers market, year-round public markets, and a regional product distribution center

  • explore entrepreneurial ways to make private land available to new  agricultural workers

1. Manufacturing

Proximity to clients in Manhattan’s central business district benefits food manufacturers, commercial laundries, building contractors and specialty garment and printing businesses, outweighing higher costs of prime locations. [1] 

Low fuel costs enable long-distance transportation.  As energy costs rise, business practices will change to minimize the energy demand of buildings and transportation.  Manufacturing and food production will tend to become more regionalized and localized. [2] 

Bill Reinhardt, a senior project manager at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), thinks that NYS economic development policy must take energy volatility and fuel depletion into account.  He expects expansion of recycling and remanufacturing industries, energy efficiency and alternative energy services, local tourism and recreation, and manufacturers in close proximity to their raw materials and markets.


"I have already begun to see foreign producers look to New York as the place to produce their goods for Northeastern US and Eastern Canadian markets.  Much higher energy prices will raise the incentive to remanufacture used products and components so as to recover the energy embodied in their original material acquisition and manufacture.  Used manufactured products will become the natural resource base for these new industries, which will tend to locate near their sources of raw materials, which in this case will also be their markets." [3]

2. Agriculture

Food in the US usually travels 1,500 to 2,500 miles from farm to table, losing nutritional value, sending dollars out of the region and contributing to global warming along the way. [4] Large amounts of fossil fuels are used in pumping water, producing fertilizers and pesticides, and processing, refrigerating and transporting food, [5] so rising energy costs will affect large-scale agribusiness products. [6] 

Livestock production, a central part of that system, is a massive contributor to climate change. [7] Consuming fewer or no animal products is an important way for individuals to reduce their carbon footprint. [8] Reducing energy use in agriculture will have many benefits: decentralized regional agriculture, less dependent on fossil fuels, will become more competitive and more affordable, while addressing community food security, green space, and social justice issues. [9] 

City residents buy directly from farmers through the Greenmarket‘s 85 farmers markets [10] and 40 community-supported agriculture groups. [11] Members of Food Systems Network NYC recommend: [12]

  • encouraging procurement of regional farm products by city agencies, private institutions, non-profit community organizations, schools and businesses [13]

  • encouraging schools to establish gardens on their facilities

  • enabling residents to find farming and gardening jobs

  • eecovering food waste citywide for composting and return to farms

  • continuing support for the NYC Watershed Agreement, which preserves family farms and protects City drinking water

  • opening additional retail farmers markets, a wholesale farmers market, year-round public markets, and a regional product distribution center [14] 

Urban and suburban agriculture have great potential.  Raising fruits and vegetables directly within cities and suburbs was common during both World Wars, when Americans planted Victory Gardens, at one point producing roughly 40% of America’s vegetables. [15] This practice is growing in popularity.  There are over 500 community gardens in NYC, and many resources for local gardeners. [16] 

Oakland, California recently adopted a food policy which mandates that by 2015, 40% of the vegetables consumed in the city will be grown within a fifty-mile radius of its city center.  For the NYC metropolitan area to move in this direction, governments will have to provide incentives and training to area residents willing to work in agriculture. [17] Entrepreneurial ways to make private land available to new agricultural workers should be explored.



1. The Mayor’s Office of Industrial & Manufacturing Businesses,

2 . “Think globally, manufacture locally,” The Age, July 2, 2007.

3. Personal communication, Bill Reinhardt, NYSERDA, Oct. 2007. 

4. “Do food miles make a difference to global warming?,” Reuters, Oct. 17, 2007,; 
“Home grown: the case for local food in a global market,” Brian Halweil, Nov. 2002, Worldwatch Institute,; Cornell University Cooperative Extension,; Just Food,

5. “Oil and Food:  A Rising Security Challenge,” Danielle Murray, Earth Policy Institute, May 9, 2005,

6. “New solutions for food, feed & fuel,” Community Solution, July 2007;

7 . “Livestock’s long shadow,” UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 2006,

8. “Rethinking the meat guzzler," NY Times, January 27, 2008;  

9. “Farming the concrete jungle,” In These Times, Aug. 24, 2007;

10. Council on the Environment of NYC,

11. Just Food, 

12. Food Systems Network NYC,

13. SchoolFoodPlus Initiative,; 
“Local carrots with a side of red tape,” NY Times, Oct. 17, 2007, 

14. “When planning for the future, keep food at the table,” Hilary Baum, Baum Forum, April2007,; 
Food Systems Network NYC ,

15. “Fifty Million Farmers,” Richard Heinberg, Energy Bulletin, Nov. 17, 2006,

16. Tri-State Food Not Lawns,; "Garden resources," NYC Oasis,;

17. “What will we eat as the oil runs out,” Richard Heinberg, Museletter, Nov. 2007. 

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