2015 National Heirloom Festival: Freedom of Our Food Supply
True North of Sustainable Fishing, Reefnet Style
Hallelujah for the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, San Francisco's Church of Food
Do you crave sustainable food? You'll find it in spades at this inspired San Francisco Supperclub
How the curious case of eco-fibbing gave rise to the dynamic sustainable-fish duo of Two X Sea
How a Craggy Coastline, a 1971 VW Bug, and Marlowe Inspired Chef Dante Cecchini's Joyous Journey of Food
Poultry Slaughter Workshops + Truffle Hunting + Ancient Reef Net Fishing = Riley Starks
AllStar Organics Farm: Heirlooms, Infusions and Blends for an Appreciative Market
Apple Farmer + Pastry Chef + Ruby Reds = Pink On The Inside
National Heirloom Expo - World Fair of Pure Food
San Francisco's Perennial, Beyond Farm To Fork, A Marriage Of All Things Sustainable
Chef Blaine Wetzel of the Willows Inn on Lummi Island, WA
Positively Indelible Marketing...Amy Yvonne Yu
Farmer Wendy Baroli & Chef Mark Estee Bridge Meat Gap In Reno Part II
Help plant a "Mother Orchard" with the strongest, drought and pest resistant wild trees and vines found in California
Farmer Wendy Baroli & Chef Mark Estee Bridge The Sustainable Meat Gap In Reno
Chef de Cuisine Dante Cecchini, Wanderlust in a Pop-up Kitchen
Chef Seth Caswell, Technology and Healthy Food for Emotional Well Being, Google and Adobe Style
Chef Tom Douglas, "Deliciousness Served With Graciousness" in Seattle
Chef Stephan Pyles... Limitless in Texas
Kanaloa Seafood: Netting the Spirit of Environmentally Responsible Fishing
FoodShed Exchange Celebrates With Great Farmers, Friends & Family
Restrauteur and Farmer Pete Eshelman: Hunger for Humanely Raised Beef With a Nutritional Twist
Chef Natalie Sellers: Artisan Parmesan, Vertical Tasting, and Food Culture in Reno
Fisher Heidi Dunlap: Wild Alaskan Salmon Running for Their Lives
Chefs Collaborative Upgrading the Quality of Our Food Supply
Amigo Bob... Influencing the Neyers Vineyard of Napa Valley
A Kinfolk Honey Gathering... Supporting Our Homeland Security
Quality U.S. Grown Food IS Our Homeland Security
Composting the Biggest Rib Cookoff in America
Visuals Only Because Most Haven't Been (PHOTOS)
Farming Beyond Me... Fighting the Tide in a Sea of Wheat
"An Apple a Day..." or Hundreds of Thousands From Tree Top
Bluebird Grain Farm: East of the Cascades in a Sea of Emmer
Sea-Crop Soup, From Sea To Shining Sea
Chef Jerry Traunfeld, Soulful in Seattle
Horse Power on Betsey's Farm, Bainbridge Island, WA
New Seasons Market: The Freshest Chapter in Portland Food Scene
Nature, An Instrument of Restoration
Homeless Garden Project: A Safe Place To Go
GirlFarm, A Field Of Dreams
Craft Bartender Naomi Schimek: Foraging in L.A. With Time To Spare
In The Body Of Bread, The Holiness Factor Revealed
Legacy For The Essential Farm Fashionista
All photography © Julie Ann Fineman, unless otherwise noted.
Dave Henson • Presented at the Ecological Farming Conference, February 2, 2012
On February 2, 2012, Dave Henson gave a plenary talk to 1,500 farmers, gardeners, researchers and activists at the 32nd annual Ecological Farming Conference at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California. The plenary was titled “Organic Agriculture as a Strategic Tool for Global Change”. (Note this text was written as notes for a talk, as opposed to a more traditional essay format).
Every year, this conference is populated by idea-visionaries, practical problem solvers, and a beautiful community of people who love life, land, farming, food and each other. Collectively, we are about as hopeful and hard working community as any.
Working for environmental and social justice, I’ve spent most of my professional life asking these questions:
The Latin root of the word “Agriculture” – agricultūra – means “to cultivate a field.” So what’s the problem with all of this “field cultivation?”
I think there is, among honest and thoughtful people, a clear sense of the problem in the arena of food and agriculture. In a phrase, that problem might be “long term viability.” Given a few more words, I would sum up the problems as those of sustainability, of economy and governance, and of collapse. Let me take them up in turn.
The problem of sustainability means, of course, that as we “cultivate fields” over many generations, how do we sustain soil health, water quality and quantity, robust and locally-adapted genetics, biodiversity in the agricultural landscape, and a healthful human culture to coexist with all these inputs.
As for solutions to the problem of sustainability, we know how to produce food and fiber over generations of cultivating fields in a way that:
Called organic agriculture, sustainable agriculture, agro-ecology, farming with the wild, or ecological agriculture, decades of hard work by farmers and researchers around the world have demonstrated that the problem of sustainability in agriculture is not mainly one of knowledge, tools or technique, but a problem of economy and governance.
How about this second problem of economy and governance?
In agriculture, the governance question is “who decides which approaches to ‘managing our home’ will be subsidized, or taxed, or disallowed?” This is really a problem of who governs, which, in turn, is the problem of corporate rule versus democracy.
We who are working in organic food and sustainable agriculture know this problem well.
Most federal, state and local agricultural subsidies and tax structures – of every sort – enable wrong action over right action, favoring giant scale, industrial-agriculture over appropriate-scale ecological agriculture.
Why? Because this country is governed to support a resource-exhausting, labor -exploitative, and short-term profit-taking economy – instead of supporting a resource sustainable and restorative, labor equitable, and long-term wealth-building economy. This is true in the energy sector, the industrial and product manufacturing sector, and it is true in the food and agriculture sector.
It’s not that smart people don’t understand that our economy is “destroying our home,” it is that the governance structures have been hijacked by corporate capital to serve the interests of corporate capital. This has been made all the more concrete with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens’ United ruling – which allows unlimited wealth from corporations and elites to control our national and state elections, thus deciding who governs with what agenda.
My argument is that if we don’t address – straight-on and immediately – the problem of governance, then the sustainable agriculture solution we have worked so hard to develop will never become mainstream, and the sustainable agriculture solution will not be able to make the critically-important contribution it is poised to make – to turn what might be “catastrophic collapse” into “difficult, but hopeful transition.”
Which brings us to the third problem, the problem of collapse
That would be the problem of “peak everything” – peak fossil fuel, peak fresh water, peak ocean biodiversity, toxicity, carbon dioxide, ozone, human population, etc. This is the elephant in the room; the alcoholic uncle at Thanksgiving dinner; the approaching asteroid. But most of us eventually say, “seems really important to deal with, but it’s all too much and too depressing. And I’ve got to get back to my farm, my family, my immediate life.”
Well, let’s take a canopy view of the problem of collapse – a vantage point from which we might appreciate a time-frame beyond our own life-span for analyzing this problem, approaches towards solutions.
The problem of “peak everything” and collapse seem to have began with our ascent – or decent – into the Anthropocene – the widely adopted new name for our current geological epoch. The Anthropocene is defined by the domination of one species – that would be us – reshaping the biological world in ways few other single species have done in the roughly four-billion-year history of life on Earth. Our method of bio-domination has been agriculture, and the civilization that agriculture creates, including the imposition of property, militarization, religion and patriarchy. And we did it with mind-boggling speed: just some 10,000 or 12,000 years since the beginning of agriculture.
From the canopy view, we notice that 13,000 years ago, the last glaciation event of the most recent ice age receded very rapidly and left the Earth’s climate and terrestrial landscape ready for the Anthropocene’s thriving agriculture and civilization.
Like so many of you, I have been trying to take in this “peak everything” situation, and figure out – “Is there anything I can do?” I believe our goal is to do all we can, most strategically at the local-regional scale, to turn what is otherwise certainly “collapse” into a socially just, ecologically sustainable transition. I’ll break down my solution suggestions into those dealing with “peak everything” or “collapse,” and those dealing with “economy and governance.”
Dealing with Collapse:
In the field of dealing with the effects of climate change, people talk about mitigation and they talk about adaptation. Organic and sustainable agriculture has something to offer both:
On mitigation to climate change, organic and sustainable agriculture offer practical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions – mostly through sequestering carbon in soils – when compared with industrial monoculture agriculture. The California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) (www.calclimateag.org) is at forefront, advocating for policies in California that will support the transition to sustainable agriculture through, including:
On adaptation, on-farm ecological restoration (a hallmark of good organic and sustainable agriculture) offers the benefits to food production and food security of being more resilient to a the weather impacts from a changing climate. On-farm ecological restoration includes the outcomes of:
To avert collapse and build a socially just and ecologically restorative transition in the sector or agriculture and food, I think we must:
Develop new political movements!
Save the parts – biological and cultural diversity!
Dealing with Economy and Governance:
What can I do? Here is what I tell myself, and I’ll offer to you:
Dave Henson is a founder and the Executive Director of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center.
www.oaec.org • email@example.com
Contents © Copyright 2010-2015 Julie Ann Fineman (aka Julie Brothers). All rights reserved.