October Food & Farms in the News


–by Kelly Sanderbeck, Annual Fund Manager & Story Catcher

No matter what the results of the election, whether it’s Romney or Obama, Inslee or McKenna, GMO-labeling or no, we will still be facing large issues around food and farming.

The New York Times’ Mark Bittman suggests ideas of compromise after visiting California’s Central Valley and reviewing an agricultural study that demonstrates the beneficial effects of crop rotation and animals with limited chemicals. Says Adam Davis of the USDA, “These were simple changes patterned after those used by North American farmers for generations. What we found was that if you don’t hold the natural forces back they are going to work for you.”

In today’s world, you can find news stories to support whatever point of view you want. Headlines such as “Increased Pesticide Use Is A Good Thing” or “Organic Illusions” or “Pesticide Use Rises as Herbicide-resistant Weeds Undermine Performance of Major GE Crops” are enough to make your head spin. After all is said and done and the studies and opinions are digested, you have to make your own decisions and choose your battles. Or, as Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield once said, “Pick a chair and sit in it.”

What’s often not stressed is that everyone deserves access to good, healthy food. Some say food cooperatives are the answer while others look to reduce waste through broad policy shifts. And the lack of local processing facilities is brought up again and again as the local food movement attempts to scale up to meet institutional demand. In the words of Rajesh Kumar, a smallholder vegetable farmer in India, “Changing political policy is the first step to decreasing food loss and waste, followed by improved infrastructure.”

In other news:

The Borlaug Dialogue–named for Norman E. Borlaug who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for a lifetime of work to feed a hungry world–recently culminated with the World Food Prize. The “Nobel of Food and Agriculture” was presented this year to Daniel Hillel for his 50 years of research on micro-irrigation.

Be on the watch for a newly-released film about food, Symphony of the Soil, that highlights how our chemical dependencies are stripping soil of its life-giving duties and turning it into lifeless dirt. “Nature really does know best when it comes to warding off unwanted weeds and insects and feeding a plant what it needs to thrive,” says Jack Algiere of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.

Finally, our own Jubilee Farm is in the news, including details of farmland preservation in Washington state.