This morning I want to share with you an interesting Infographic that landed in my email box from the Christenson Fund, a private foundation focusing on biocultural diversity. This exhaustively detailed graphic includes WAY too much information, but after a quick look, most farmers will understand what the authors are driving at: 'industrial' ag, baaaad. 'Agroecology'…good!
"Industrial agriculture has failed to feed the planet, destroyed local ecosystems, and exacerbated the climate crisis," reads the email. "In contrast, agroecology -- a discipline that combines ecology with farmers' knowledge of their local environment -- reduces agriculture's impact on the climate and enables ecosystems to produce abundant, sustainable food."
A few years ago I might have simply dismissed this touchy feely approach to farming as a nonstarter. Today I'm not so sure, and I'll tell you why.
However, I do think we now must look differently at some of the practices that are considered 'agroecological.' Modern ag should consider how to blend the best of these practices into already proven systems as a way to make farming sustainable for the long haul.
Why? Feeding everyone is getting harder to do. Even now our planet shamefully allows over 1 billion to go hungry each day. If we have challenges now, what will those look like 50 or 70 years from now?
In a few weeks I'll be at a farm show giving a talk on global food needs after 2050 – you know, the year everyone predicts we'll have 9 billion people to feed. My colleague and I were talking about this yesterday when he said, "People forget, there will be 9 billion to feed in 2051, 2052, and a lot more years after that."
We still need innovation and technology to boost food production. We will never dismantle what has to be considered a modern-day miracle – the U.S. farm economy. We just can't ignore sustainability, no matter how dumb we think that word is.
To some extent, we have over-relied on technology, thinking it would solve everything. But that's really no longer an option. We need to take another look at ways to incorporate practices like no-till, cover crops, and nutrient recycling. We need smarter water usage. We need real incentives for farmers to rebuild soil organic matter.
How we get there – through government or simple pocketbook incentives – is not clear yet. But it's time we all start to listen a little more closely to the 'other side.' The people we might have once considered to be the 'fringe element' may have some solutions that will work for production agriculture.
To see a full-size version of the graphic above, click on the picture or click HERE