Farming Practices and the Everglades Restoration
Incubators for Food Processing Start-ups
Perceptions of Rural America
Building Support for Buying Local
Issues In Depth
Models for Changing American Agriculture
Farming Practices and the Everglades Restoration: The World Wildlife Fund is working with agricultural producers and policymakers in South Florida to encourage farming practices that are compatible with the restoration of the Everglades and protection of sensitive marine ecosystems. http://www.worldwildlife.org/news/headline.cfm?newsid=280.
Incubators for Food Processing Start-ups: In Michigan, a Food Innovation Center is being developed as an incubator to help small and medium-sized food entrepreneurs add value to their products through on-farm processing. http://www.msu.edu/~miffs/introduction.htm.
Perceptions of Rural America: Members of Congress view rural America as an incubator of traditional values, but believe the absence of a strong national voice is an impediment to drafting rural policy, according to a new study released by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Lawmakers expressed concern about the decline of the family farm and the effect of consolidation on ordinary farmers as well as the difficulties in bringing economic opportunities to rural America. For a full copy of the report, “Perceptions of Rural America: Congressional Perspectives,” visit the Foundation’s website at http://www.wkkf.org/pubs/FoodRur/Pub3699.pdf.
Building Support for Buying Local: Inconvenience and lack of consumer information are the biggest barriers to building support for locally produced and grown food, according to a consumer survey conducted for FoodRoutes Network. Many consumers buy organic and locally grown foods based on general feelings that these foods are fresher and of better quality. The Network is developing a national framework for “buy local” campaigns. A copy of the survey is available at http://www.foodroutes.org/docsearch.jsp?c=7.
Models for Changing American Agriculture: It’s no secret that the current agricultural commodity system in the United States is broken; the question is how to fix it. Some of the barriers to reform and models for change are being studied by Hal Hamilton, a Food and Society Policy Fellow and Executive Director of the Sustainability Institute. Using a systems analysis approach, Hamilton examines the structures and mindsets that give rise to the destructive cycle of falling prices, increased production, pressure on the environment and failing farms.
Hamilton notes recent developments in Europe, where ecological, rather than technological modernization is being emphasized in current farming practices and policy. Under this approach, new goods, services and markets are reconstructing the eroded economic base of both the rural economy and farm enterprises, leading to new food supply chains and farmer-managed landscapes. A range of new tools is being employed in Europe: land management contracts, new alliances between farmers and society, and a new generation of cooperative marketing arrangements. Hamilton concludes that the future of agriculture in the United States will be determined by the degree to which it meets the needs of society, rather than farmers. A smarter system must be designed, he says, which incorporates feedback from a variety of sectors to create not just financial capital, but social and cultural capital as well.
For Hal Hamilton’s recent presentation, “Sustainable Agriculture: getting to the root causes of problems we’re trying to solve,” click here. For more information on the Food and Society Policy Fellows, go to http://www.foodandsocietyfellows.org/pages/home.html.
FoodRoutes Network has launched a comprehensive new website, www.foodroutes.org, which offers a “one-stop shopping” approach for timely information, resources and market opportunities for the food and farming community. The website offers a searchable library of reports and publications, video clips and audio files on local food systems, health and food safety, the environmental impacts of food systems, and food and farm policy.