Tonight, my food system class will discuss the May 2011 Science article on Transforming U.S. Agriculture. I find this article fascinating because it reflects the underlying motivation for the food movement, and also because I have high regard for the authors.
One interesting aspect to the discussion is the idea that some approaches to addressing the problems with our food system are incremental and others are transformative. The incremental approach includes (among other practices) 2 year crop rotations, precision agriculture, and no or reduced till farming. The transformative approach includes organic farming systems, grass fed livestock production systems, and diversified farms (mixed crop/livestock operations). The authors state “Such systems integrate production, environmental, and socioeconomic objectives.”
Our current policies and research funded work at the edges, by promoting incremental changes. The authors state what most of us believe: we need transformative change. But how to encourage a shift to transformative systems? The obstacles to doing so are well known: the dominance of a global, concentrated agro-food industry, consumer choices, and current policies.
Stay tuned for the thoughts of my students about how to promote transformative change.