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Posts Tagged: Food Systems

How do we sustainably feed 8 billion people by 2025?

Will farmers markets become the new Ralphs?
Some of us spent our weekend in the garden or at the farmers market, obsessing over our fresh produce that will get us through the week. Some of us went to bed last night dreaming about a Frostie from Wendy’s and fries from McDonald’s. Still, others of us spent the weekend trying to make ends meet and scraping together barely enough food to feed our families. Bottom line – food is something we all have in common. It’s a universal language. Whether we pride ourselves on eating local and organic, constantly find ourselves in the fast food lines, or stress about how to feed our families each day, food joins us all together.

All 6, almost 7, billion of us.

But what happens when there are 8 billion of us? Will more and more of us spend our weekends trying to scrape together enough food? Will more and more of us start our own gardens and obsess over our fresh produce? Will farmers markets become the new Ralphs? Will we have enough water to feed ourselves? Will we have enough land? How do we sustainably feed 8 billion people by 2025?

“We’re going to have to produce more food in the next 40 years than we have the last 10,000. Some people say we’ll just add more land or more water. But we’re not going to (be able to) do much of either,” says William Lesher, former USDA chief economist.

This is a global issue. But as Californian's and residents of the world’s top agricultural producer, what is our role in meeting these challenges? On April 9, 2013, producers, geo-politicists, ethicists, economists, humanists and many others from around the world will come together to discuss the challenges surrounding our global food systems at the UCANR Statewide Conference: Global Food Systems Forum.

The Global Food Systems Forum will feature Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and president of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice, and Wes Jackson, founder and president of The Land Institute, as the keynote speakers. The program will include a Global Panel, discussing key issues such as resource limitations, ethnical quandaries, climate change, responsibilities, etc. A California Panel will also take place, tackling issues such as California responsibilities, productivity, policies, markets and research.

But this conversation isn’t just about UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. It’s about all of us. We all need to take a stand and advocate for our food. If you watch what you eat, you should join the conversation. If you love what you eat, you should join the conversation. If you worry about how you will eat in the future, you should join the conversation.

The public is invited to participate in this one-day event via a live online webcast. You can also join the ongoing conversation on twitter by following the hashtag #Food2025. Make your voice heard. Stand up for your food, and help shape our future global food systems.

Learn more about the Global Food Systems Forum and register to watch the live webcast at food2025.ucanr.edu

Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 7:07 AM
  • Author: Marissa Palin
Tags: food safety (88), food security (24), food systems (10), global (6), sustainability (22)

Sustainable agriculture and food systems: An innovative new major at UC Davis

Two terms related to food production — “sustainability” and “food systems” — have been blended into a new major at the University of California, Davis. Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, the new undergraduate major, in some ways embodies a re-blossomed, student-driven interest in food production, akin to the organic farming movement of the 1970s.

Food systems is a broad term that addresses nutrition and health, sustainable agriculture, and community development. A food system encompasses the entire production chain, not only from farm to fork, but includes broader topics such as short- and long-term impacts on the environment, labor, management of food inputs (e.g., water, pesticides) and outputs (e.g., waste), and the socioeconomic impacts on communities engaged in the food system. In other words, food systems encompasses agricultural production within the broad context of environmental, economic, social, and political concerns.

Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis, noted during the celebration ceremony for the new major, “Agriculture is incredibly knowledge intensive. It is as knowledge intensive as launching rockets.” He cited a terrarium as a model for how we must maintain a sustainable food production system with limited resources to feed a rapidly growing global population. “The planet is a closed system,” Van Alfen said. “We have to get it right.”

Professor Tom Tomich, master adviser for the major and director of the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute, said, “The major is about leadership, as much as it is about education. It’s about creating a new generation of leaders who will go on to guide the sustainability transformation for this country and for this planet.” Unlike student programs that are limited to classroom learning, Tomich said that the curriculum for the new major combines the best of three worlds — classroom and labs, the Student Farm, and the real world.

Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, attended the opening, along with other high-level state leaders in agriculture, including Craig McNamara, president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, and Don Bransford, president of the UC President’s Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi, who spoke about UC Davis’s national leadership in sustainability, noted, “This leadership from the state shows the importance of the program and what impact it may have on the state, on us as an institution, and on our students.”

“Agriculture and food have shaped human civilization and are central to well-being and health,” said Ralph Hexter, provost of UC Davis. “We recognize the need to understand both the natural world and our human activities holistically.” Addressing the global significance of the major, Hexter added, “Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems is a major that is truly designed for the 21st century. It responds to today’s needs and incorporates experiential learning and state-of-the-art research.”

A recent UC Davis graduate who helped lay the groundwork for the curriculum, Maggie Lickter, spoke passionately to the 200 people celebrating the major. She said that the major is driven largely by students who have cutting-edge ideas and want to be engaged in creating a useful education. Lickter said that many students felt that components were missing from the traditional agricultural curriculum, such as farming practices grounded in an understanding of ecological systems, and the application of critical thinking skills to modern-day food systems.

In a moving tribute to the success of establishing the major, Lickter said, “This work can’t stop. If you stop stoking romance, love dissolves. If you stop tending a garden, plants wither. So we must stay committed to the evolution of this major.”

Dean Van Alfen, a strong proponent of UC Davis partnerships with the California agriculture industry, views this major as an additional way to create graduates with industry-ready work skills. Addressing UC Davis’s national and global leadership in agriculture, he said, “Agricultural sustainability has been a theme of this campus for a very long time. This new interdisciplinary major is the future in so many ways. It reflects our campus spirit and our culture. It will meet the needs of our stakeholders and the future of our planet.”

For more information:

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and Dean Neal Van Alfen, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Carol Hillhouse (UC Davis Children's Garden director), Ann Evans (former Davis mayor), and Craig McNamara (president, State Board of Food and Agriculture)

UC Davis Aggie Ambassadors: Jacob Gomez, Chase DeCoite, Alison King, and Phoebe Copp

Posted on Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 8:42 AM

What's obesity got to do with the price of corn in Iowa?

A Michael Pollan opinion piece that appeared in yesterday's New York Times is reverberating in the ag community. Pollan contends that the United State's high spending on health care can be explained by the country's obesity crisis, and that fact will eventually pit health care interests against agribusiness.

". . . Our success in bringing health care costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry," Pollan wrote.

Here are some comments from Pollan about a brewing bout between health insurers and agribusiness:

  • Reforming the food system is politically even more difficult than reforming the health care system

  • Agribusiness dominates the agriculture committees of Congress, and has swatted away most efforts at reform

  • In the same way much of the health insurance industry threw its weight behind the campaign against smoking, we can expect it to support, and perhaps even help pay for, (food-related) public education efforts

  • The health care reform bill is only the first step in solving our health care crisis

  • It's easy to imagine the (health care) industry throwing its weight behind a soda tax
Matt Bogard of AgWeb is indignant.

He points to a 2007 UC Davis research report that disputes the strong connection between obesity and farm policy.

"Given that consumers generally show limited responses to retail food price changes, eliminating the corn subsidy would reduce corn-based food consumption by at most 0.2 percent," Bogard quoted the report.

In closing, Bogard coined the phrase: "What's obesity got to do with the price of corn in Iowa?" Not much, he concludes.

(Photo by John Stumbos)
(Photo by John Stumbos)

Posted on Friday, September 11, 2009 at 11:32 AM
Tags: food systems (10)

Getting into the news through the back door

Writer Charlotte Allen wrote a scathing column for the Los Angeles Times last week about a new food movement in the United States aimed toward more sustainable and socially responsible consumption.

Titled "Keep your self-righteous fingers off my processed food," the article takes to task "social critics (who) inform us that we're actually spending too little for the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the furniture we sit on and the gasoline that runs our automobiles." The concept, Allen suggests, goes way beyond Marie Antoinette saying "let them eat cake."

The Allen column generated many outraged letters to the editor, including one from the director of UC Cooperative Extension in Ventura County, Rose Hayden-Smith.

"I am one of the 'social critics' Allen writes of in her opinion article," Hayden-Smith declared.

She acknowledged that processed food may be the cheapest choice, but the hidden costs are high.

"Consider the obesity epidemic in our nation, and the economic impact and human suffering caused by mostly preventable chronic diseases, such as diabetes," Hayden-Smith wrote. "The space devoted to Allen's article would have been much better used providing useful information about how to put in a home garden."

Hayden-Smith is in Washington, D.C., this week furthering her efforts to encourage a socially responsible food system. Today she is attending a National Food Policy Council Conference and tomorrow she will meet with leaders of national organizations who work on food systems issues. She will also meeting with USDA staff and possibly a member of U.S. Ag Secretary Vilsack’s “Kitchen Cabinet."

On Thursday Hayden-Smith meets with Deputy Ag Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and White House Chef Sam Kass. On Friday, she's being filmed for a video segment on gardening with kids for a new Web site called Earth Parent.

Hayden-Smith plans to write about her Washington, D.C., trip on her Victory Grower blog.

Rose Hayden-Smith
Rose Hayden-Smith

Posted on Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 10:23 AM
Tags: food systems (10)

Thinking inside the blog

At the recent ANR Statewide Conference, historian James McWilliams gave UC Ag and Natural Resources staff and academics a new mantra to consider. For years we've been trying to "think outside the box." McWilliams shared the revelation, "There is no box." That gave UCCE Ventura County director Rose Hayden-Smith something to ponder in her blog, posted today on the Web site Civil Eats.

McWilliams probably jarred most of the people in the ANR audience with his comments.

  • He said it is simplistic to think of food in terms of chemicals vs. no chemicals.
  • He asserted that meat should be eaten in small amounts and not very often, if at all.
  • He believes the "genie is out of the bottle" on genetically modified organisms, which he said have the potential to feed more people with less land using less pesticides.
  • He said the the Locavore movement seeks to “banish to the dustbin” other food system models
  • He suggests any new food system framework will be formed by evolution, not revolution.

In her online post, Hayden-Smith said she sometimes agrees with McWilliams, but made her own points about the future of American food systems:

  • She is a strong believer in the value of strong local and regional food systems, and actively promotes them. 
  • She believes that multiple food systems exist – and probably always will – and that most people participate in several kinds of food systems simultaneously. 
  • She said there is room and opportunity to develop alternatives for the places and situations in our country where the predominant, or meta, food system is not working effectively.

Hayden-Smith commented in the blog on another presenter she had heard speak recently, MacArthur genius grant recipient Will Allen.

Allen advocates for the creation of a public-private institution called the Centers for Urban Agriculture that would combine all of the elements of a functioning community food system scaled to the needs of a large city. The elements would include a training and outreach center, a large working urban farmstead, a research and development center, a policy institute and a state-of-the-future urban agriculture demonstration center.

Hayden-Smith points out that Allen's vision is not only a new food system model, but suggests a new kind of extension model. In conclusion, she wrote, "McWilliams’ ideas actually retain the box - or framework - of the existing national and largely industrialized food system. Allen’s work assumes no box."

Posted on Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 2:01 PM
Tags: food systems (10)

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