October Farms & Food News

It’s a time of protest, it’s a time of change

–by Kelly Sanderbeck, Development Director and Story-Catcher


Whether at Occupy Wall Street or GMO-Free Seattle, folks are starting to put their bodies and beliefs out in plain sight. Although the focus is scattered, the message is the same:  We Want Change. We want our food labeled, especially with more studies illuminating the hazards of GMOs. We want the new Farm Bill to encourage fruit and vegetable production, increase conservation and support small farms.

Despite protests on city streets, we do glimpse the presence of cooperation and thoughtful negotiation unfolding. The James Beard Foundation, which normally honors chefs, has moved to recognize folks in the sustainable food movement, citing a need for compromise by “honoring corporations who are making incremental changes.” A new paper in the journal Nature takes a global look at the future of agriculture “ combining increased supply, reduced environmental damage and improved food security “ and offers up a new certification system for sustainably produced food. In their video about “Terraculture,” they suggest we combine the best of conventional and organic agriculture, with environmental conservation, to feed the world and save the planet.

One way some farmers are trying to increase direct communication with customers is by adding Twitter to their business models.  “People still have somewhat of a romantic image of a farmer,” says Stewart Skinner, a pork producer who tweets about the “farrow-to-finish” operation he and his family run near Listowel, Ontario. At the end of the day, though, “we’re just like any other small business owner, and the world moves at a pretty fast pace.”

Unfortunately, in a world where “money=speech,” those with the deepest pockets seem to overshadow the media.  For example, Big Ag recently invested in a giant marketing campaign where organic producers were noticeably absent. Across the media, fear travels well and catches public attention, as evidenced in a crafty press release from Starbucks. Perhaps folks will alter their beliefs about climate change when they hear there is a danger of losing their daily coffee (and chocolate¦)!

But some good news is that, across the world, winners of this year’s World Food Prize have demonstrated that investment in agriculture and rural development really works, with a relatively small outlay of capital. Hope reigns!

“Every purchase is political.  Every purchase is a vote.  Every purchase affects the environment.  Every purchase is your conscience.  Every purchase is a prayer.  Every purchase matters.  Buy local.  Buy lovingly.  Buy organic.  Live in the world you want to create.  Create the world you want to live in.”

–Richard Baynton, Alternatives Magazine, Summer 2011

I trust in nature for the stable laws of beauty and utility.
Spring shall plant and autumn garner to the end of time.

–Robert Browning