Land and food are much in the news this season, and well they should be. The ongoing shocks and shifts in our economic foundations are jolting awake hordes of citizens to the absolute importance of the ways we care for the land and the ways we grow our food.
Many magazines and newspapers are offering in-depth stories to inform and educate the public about a range of 21st Century agrarian issues that are coming to the forefront, and that will likely occupy the forefront in the years ahead. To support readers in becoming informed, and then taking action, I offer the following roundup of significant snippets and links:
The March/April 2009 issue of Mother Jones magazine features a package of articles on what their editors think we need to do to grow enough healthy sustainable food at an affordable price.
What we grow, the magazine posits, is at the very core of how we live, how we run our economy, how we exist in the world.
The themed edition of Mother Jones, available online, includes an interview with agrarian journalist Michael Pollan. In the interview he observes: “I don’t know if organic is the last word. It’s sort of an all-or-nothing idea. People getting it partly right is very important…Let a thousand flowers bloom, and let’s see what works…The whole problem of industrial agriculture is putting all of your eggs in one basket. We need to diversify our food chains as well as our fields so that when some of them fail, we can still eat.”
According to writer Gwen Schantz in an article posted at AlterNet.org “industrial agriculture is sooo 20th century,”
She writes, “As America moves forward with a new agenda of change, our food system is getting a green, healthy makeover that promises to leave thousands of food and farm advocates with nothing to do…From a White House garden to rule changes at factory farms, the era of industrial ag calling the shots is changing.”
On March 22 the business section of the Sunday New York Times posed the question, ‘Is a Food Revolution Now in Season?’ Essentially, yes, the writer answered, asserting that sustainable-food campaigns have reached a critical mass of influence in the United States
The Times article quoted Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack making note that the USDA’s recently released Census of Agriculture included more than 100,000 new small farmers. Vilsack said he wanted his agency to help develop regional distribution networks, so that produce from these small farms could be sold to institutional buyers like schools.
As part of the overall national economic stimulus plan, he said, the Agriculture Department plans to award $250 million in loan guarantees, spread over the next two years, for local and regional food networks.
Vilsack also told the Times that ultimately agriculture and food policy should fit into the administration’s planned overhaul of health care, by encouraging good nutrition as a basic way to prevent disease; and that agriculture should also be part of the effort to combat climate change, by encouraging renewable energy and conservation on farms.
The Spring 2009 issue of YES! Magazine is also dedicated to the Good Food Revolution, and offers a range of noteworthy artless on this theme.
Executive Editor Sarah van Gelder writes “…change is coming to food. As the global economy unravels, and as the implications of peak oil and climate change sink in, interest in alternatives to the current food system is growing. People are reconnecting with the land and with community, and rediscovering diverse, local, and organic practices. All over the world, people are standing up to the agro-industrial complex and calling for ‘food sovereignty’—the right to nourish and strengthen their families and communities, sustain their culture, build health, and protect biodiversity.
“A new generation of farmers is going local, opening farmers markets and bringing fresh foods to urban ‘food deserts.’ Schools are growing their own fruits and vegetables. Cities and towns are adopting food-friendly policies. Farmers and ranchers are turning to land management practices that protect and restore ecosystems.
The development that has generated the most press attention to the theme of agrarianism, at the level of the household, is the lead of the Obama Family, which is establishing an organic vegetable garden at the White House.
First Lady Michelle Obama and a team of children, chefs and gardeners began digging the (garden map) on the White House South Lawn on Friday, March 20. This is the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden during World War II.
White House chefs will use the produce to prepare meals for the family and for official functions, and some of the produce will be donated to Miriam’s Kitchen, a soup kitchen near the White House.
The example of the Obama family is generating widespread news coverage, and will likely inspire many thousands of people to follow their example.