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Mar 8, 2009 08:18 AM

Thinking outside the CSA box: Mother Jones on sustainability

Plenty to chew on in this thinkpiece which deservs a careful reading:

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    1. That is one of the most thought-provoking articles that I've read in a long time.
      Somebody clearly took a deep breath and began to see that the solutions are more complex than many people would like to believe.
      This is worth rereading a few times.
      And worth expanding on....

      It was interesting to read your post on the same day that George Will published a piece about the value of the Department of Agriculture and the direction that it should take under Tom Vilsack. His point was how often craven politics has screwed up what should be sound farm and food policy for the US.
      To Will, corn is a health, education, energy, and diplomacy issue, among others. As such, the Department of Agriculture could be the most important of all, and possibly the most screwed up by politics. I hope there's more to come from him on this issue.

      1. Thanks for posting, very cool. I have to post a few of the many "a-ha!" bits:

        "If we wanted to rid the world of synthetic fertilizer use—and assuming dietary habits remain constant—the extra land we'd need for cover crops or forage (to feed the animals to make the manure) would more than double, possibly triple, the current area of farmland"

        "The nation's grocery chains have about 32,500 acres of potential "farmland"; a single Wal-Mart supercenter sits under more than four acres of rooftop—enough, according to Agoada, to produce 5.7 tons of wheat a year."

        "one reason farmers prefer labor-saving monoculture is that it frees them to take an off-farm job, which for many is the only way to get health insurance."

        "Federal agencies and food programs are among the biggest purchasers of food in the world. If they didn't buy solely from the lowest-cost bidder, as they're now required to, but could instead source from local or organic producers, or farmers practicing polyculture, this massive new customer would remake American agriculture in a heartbeat."

        4 Replies
        1. re: yamalam

          I urge everyone to click over to the article. These bits really need their full context for the extent of what the author is getting at to be appreciated. Honestly, they don't really make much sense out of context.

          Thanks to the OP for posting, this was a very interesting read.

          1. re: ccbweb

            I agree--what it comes down to is that "sustainability" isn't an easy catch phrase. It's a sound bite that has caught on but there are so many levels to every decision.

          2. re: yamalam

            That last point is one reason we're not seeing peanut butter on shelves.

            1. re: yamalam

              Our whole land-use policy is screwy -- instead of encouraging higher density and infill, every year millions of acres of prime farm land is turned into sprawling subdivisions where nothing is grown but acres of grass (using lots of water, labor and fertilizer, but producing nothing). In California we see it every day: what used to be fields and orchards being plowed under for subdivisions that are half empty and littered with foreclosure signs! That's one reason that I try to buy local whenever possible: to support farmers who are trying to hold on to their land instead of selling out to a developer. What's ridiculous, too, is that there is plenty of land in urbanized areas that could be developed or redeveloped instead -- not only would we be saving agricultural land, but people could live closer to work and public transport and not spend hours a day and valuable fuel to commute -- which is unsustainable in its own right. If we really wanted or needed to, there is a huge amount of land now covered with grass and "landscaping" that could be used to produce food -- just as people did with Victory gardens during WWII.

            2. The link isn't working for me . . .

              2 Replies