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Food System & Production Questions

A brief change in format was called for today. Instead of sharing my perspective on issues, I have compiled a list of questions over the past year that I would like to ask. I am genuinely seeking answers and opinions for these questions, which I feel have not been adequately addressed. I have divided the questions into a couple of groups. Here is the first set, relating to food production.

  1. There are a few “loud” voices that speak out adamantly against our current food system. Is it reasonable to completely abandon what we currently have and if so, what is the proposed method to do this?
  2. While I am very supportive of locally and regionally grown and farmers markets, is it really reasonable to believe that all Americans can be fed & clothed through this type of system and is this the “solution” being suggested to replace what we currently have?
  3. If the “big corporations” are “disbanded,” where will farmers and ranchers go with their products without an alternative in place?
  4. What is that alternative and what is proposed to develop those alternatives realistically?

Feel free to answer any, all or none of the questions. I am simply posting them to stimulate thought and hopefully encourage discussion.

  1. February 15, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    I am going to think about this for a bit more… Maybe I will have to write a blog post to give my thoughts and ping back.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 16, 2011 at 8:23 PM

      I appreciate it Janice. Thank you.

  2. commonsenseagriculture
    February 15, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    The following comments were sent to me on Twitter from @PoppyDavis:

    Poppy Davis @JeffFowle Questions 1 & 2 seam as unrealistic as the “loud” voices. The loudies might help change public opinion,but new policy & programs get written&implemented by people with knowledge&training not by people with a list of talking (or yelling) points.

    So Q’s 1&2 R not really on the table in any scenario.It is a slow moving democracy,lots of yelling then slow moving change. Vilsack’s view 4example is more informed, he talks abt local as1of many markets,an overlooked mrkt that helps rural communities.

    And that whole thing about local feeding the world is just the other side of the GMO s feed the world shouting match. Any1 who studies global food supply knows that we need 2 advance on multiple fronts-it’s not production OR distribution must improve BOTH.

  3. February 15, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    1. No, that would be nuts. I think those of us with “loud” voices feel that it requires a great deal of energy to make even small change happen. Personally my hope is that we can shift to increasing regional markets over time at a rate that doesn’t upset the entire apple cart, so to speak.

    2. Again, this isn’t about ditching one system altogether, overnight, and replacing it with a new one. But I think the challenges of feeding the world are less about producing more (we already produce more than enough calories) and more about addressing distribution challenges, social justice, and decreasing waste. It’s a complex issue that needs a holistic approach.

    3. When is this disbanding of corporations going to happen? In the apocalypse? LOL, you are even more optimistic than I am!

    4. Just speaking from the perspective of someone who lives in a major metropolitan area with loads of social inequity and huge amounts of food pouring in, we are working on multiple alternatives. CSAs, farmer’s markets, meat clubs, community gardens, etc. The city and state are talking about updating our major distribution hubs. The department of education has been wrestling with the challenge of local sourcing with the occasional success. Demanding change means joining the effort to actually find those solutions (and report on them). No one is looking to change the world overnight. It doesn’t work that way. But like I said, it takes a tremendous amount of energy just to push small changes, and in my experience those small changes are worth the effort.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 16, 2011 at 8:23 PM

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments Adriana. I appreciate your sharing.

  4. February 16, 2011 at 5:58 AM

    Jeff,
    I think these are great questions.. and rather than sling rhetoric back and forth, I think the answers to them need explored, questioned, researched, etc.

    I only leave a small personal example. We (or more precisely my wife) loves to garden. We have a fairly large garden, lots of freezing and canning happens, and yet, we only supply a very small portion of our families total calorie intake, with a fair amount of work, land area, and expense.

    From this small example, I really question how we could feed even a moderate sized city with local food raised in this matter, but I’m open to ideas.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 16, 2011 at 8:24 PM

      Thank you for your thoughts Darin. I appreciate your posting.

  5. Seb Paquet
    February 16, 2011 at 8:25 AM

    These would be great questions to ask on Quora.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 16, 2011 at 8:26 PM

      Great idea Seb. I will shortly. This is a continuation of some conversations that have taken place on Twitter over the past two years. 140 is not enough to fully share thoughts, so I opened my blog up for discussion for those who have been engaged.

      Thank you for the idea though.

  6. February 16, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    1. Loud voices will always demand changes, but we need to do a better job telling the Ag story to a broader audience. Let’s take advantage of this renewed interest by the consumer to connect with their food sources by telling our story! No, loud voices should not cause us to abandon our current methods.
    2. Local source can be defined as the closest grower producing food at any given time. During the winter, residents of Fargo (for instance) may call food produced in CA local, as everything in-between is buried under snow and ice. Local is a relative term depending on the season of the year.
    3. We live in an free and open economy that is driven by market forces; the very definition of that dictates that there will be big players and small players alike. Eliminating the ‘big corporations’ would then cause us to label our economy something other than free.
    4. Change comes from great discussions and melding of ideas and concepts. This cannot be dictated by regulation or mandates.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 16, 2011 at 8:26 PM

      Norm,

      Great points. Thank you for taking the time to share them.

  7. February 18, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    Great enthusiast of your blog, a variety of your posts have seriously helped me out. Looking towards updates!

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