This year marked the twelfth opportunity I have had to address our annual Farming for the Future conference, and I have to say it is still one of the most challenging and solemn responsibilities I have as executive director of PASA. Through the years I have tried to highlight some of the most important issues we face organizationally and as part of a larger, sustainable ag and food system movement that continues to spread across the country and beyond.
But I have to say that while the challenge and thrill that goes with this duty still feels much the same, there has been tremendous change over this past dozen years in terms of the audience. The audience at the conference, in addition to doubling, has evolved from consisting primarily of current sustainable farmers wishing to learn new things and be rejuvenated for the year ahead, to a gathering heavier on the “beginning farmer” contingent. The spread between the two has made it more difficult to plan programming that will please everyone, but this is a challenge we enjoy facing.
The external audience has changed even more. In this regard, I am thinking not only of average consumers, but also the remaining conventional farmers out there and, most particularly, those agricultural organizations and corporate interests that often look at things differently than we do. I was recently reminded on twitter of a famous quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi that goes: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Continue reading
This column is a follow-up to my last one (September/October), which you can check out on our website if you wish. The basic message of the previous column was that the social movement in which we are all participating – sometimes called the Good Food Movement – benefits greatly from its diversity, but faces great adversity if we cannot overcome internal fragmentation. In this column I wish to take that theme a step farther in being more specific.
There are many different attributes that can be and have been assigned to food to make it more interesting to consumers and, at the same time, more profitable for farmers to produce. We seem to be coming up with new ones all the time, some of which are based on credible criteria and others less so. But the “big three,” if you will, are organic, sustainable and local, which have been developed over the years in approximately that same chronological order, at least in the perceptions of consumers. Continue reading
A Sustainable Agriculture Perspective on Food Safety
Released: November 8, 2010
What makes food safe? Or, for that matter, nutritious, or enjoyable? Such questions acknowledge the many inherent risks that compromise the availability, diversity, quality, wholesomeness, cleanliness, and affordability of food, making it less safe, secure, or sustainable.
We enter this conversation as partners in the rapidly growing constituency of local and regional food systems across the United States. We are farmers and food-related business of many shapes and sizes, committed to providing the safest food possible without increasing the potential for adverse unintended consequences. We see ‘food safety’ in the context of many other risks to our shared food systems.
As citizens and as stakeholders, our commitment to food safety is informed by our concerns about:
- The long-term loss of topsoil, species diversity, natural resources, opportunity for farms and rural communities, and choices for consumers
- The public health consequences of industrial chemical and pharmaceutical use on and off farms
- The long-term effects of implementing inadequately tested and controlled technology
- The concentration of wealth, power, and control of production in the hands of fewer and fewer players in the food system
- Private ownership and patenting of seeds and other production technologies
- A widening gap in the connection between many citizens and the sources of their food
- Instances in which farmers are disregarded or demonized, in particular by other farmers
- The measurable but unpredictable impacts of the industrial model applied to agriculture Continue reading