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Future of Food

How Will Your Farm Cope with A Changing Climate?

(excerpt) By Rod MacRae and Phil Beard

Global climate change is a reality. The vast majority of climate scientists know it is happening and that human activities are a primary cause, that what we are experiencing is not just a product of natural forces and not the typical variations we see from season to season.

Food production and distribution are two of the most significant contributing factors, responsible for up to 30% of all emissions connected to the main activities of the economy. And now, this reality is coming back to haunt farmers, creating moisture stress, damaging fields and infrastructure on and off the farm, compromising animal health, driving up insurance and other costs. Unfortunately, many farmers appear to be overly confident in their ability to adapt to a changing climate, remembering earlier successes adapting to periodic shifts in weather patterns. But the variability we experience now is often outside the range of “normal”.


The key question for agriculture is whether we can transform farming systems to eliminate dependence on fossil fuels and shift to crops/livestock that are more resilient to the impacts of a rapidly changing climate and produce the food/fibre society needs. And will this transformation be predominantly planned or reactive. Producer interviews and focus groups reveal that concern in the Canadian agricultural community remains relatively low despite the increasing level of negative impacts associated with climate change.

However, as this briefing note outlines, the transformation needed to respond to the effects of climate change will require a major redesign of farming systems. This redesign will be more difficult to undertake the longer a landowner waits to start making changes.
Many organic farmers think that they will be protected from the effects of climate change, and relative to conventional farmers, they will likely be more resilient. But the impacts of a rapidly changing climate will be so significant that all farmers need to re-assess their farming system.
Some stories of farmers who are on the leading edge of transforming their farming systems
Farmers have figured out how to make their farms more resilient, be less reliant on fossil fuel use and be profitable. We summarize the stories of five whose farms are located in the same or similar Eco zones as southern Ontario.

(For the whole article, go to, or contact for a copy.)
Rod McCrae is Associate Professor for Food Studies at York University, and Phil Beard is the General Manager/Secretary-Treasurer of the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority in Wroxeter, Ontario. The original paper was commissioned by the Maitland Watershed Partnerships and published in this newsletter in 2008.

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There's A Way to Save Our Future. So Why Aren't More People Talking About It?

Published on Thursday, December 24, 2015 by Common Dreams

Transitioning to organic regenerative agriculture practices 'offers the best, and perhaps our only, hope for averting a global warming disaster.' by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

"Organic regenerative agriculture and land use is the other half of the climate solution,"
says Katherine Paul of the Organic Consumers Association. 

A critical tool in the fight against global warming is right below our feet.

So where is this "shovel-ready solution" amid all the talk of climate fixes in the wake of the COP21 summit in Paris?

"Instead of subsidizing a food and farming system that contributes to global warming while degenerating soils and local economies, we should start rewarding farmers and ranchers for restoring the soil's organic matter and drawing down carbon." — Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Association

An Associated Press article published Thursday, for example, professes to outline "methods to achieve negative emissions," wherein humans remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than they put in it. The AP quotes scientists who say "it's clear" that the goals laid out in Paris "cannot be reached without negative emissions in the future, because the atmosphere is filling up with greenhouse gases so fast that it may already be too late to keep the temperature rise below 1.5 degrees C."

Among the solutions mentioned in the piece: "fertilizing the oceans with iron to make them absorb more carbon," "planting more forests," and "carbon capture technologies."

But there was no mention of agroecology, or regenerative agriculture—practices that work with nature, avoiding the damaging impacts of industrial agriculture, such as no-till farming, composting, planned grazing, and cover crops.

As Diana Donlon, food and climate director at the Center for Food Safety, said earlier this month to mark World Soil Day: "Through regenerative farming practices, we have the ability to pull carbon out of the atmosphere, where it is wreaking havoc, and store it in the soil, where it is greatly lacking and where it has multiple benefits for food, water and climate security."

For Katherine Paul, associate director of the Organic Consumers Association, omitting these practices from mainstream reporting, and not including them in the conversation about climate change, is a missed opportunity. 

"No talk of global warming solutions is complete without addressing agriculture—both its contribution to global warming and its potential for solving the crisis," she told Common Dreams on Thursday.

She noted that the world’s soils have lost 50–70 percent of their carbon stocks and fertility—a crisis largely attributed to modern chemical-intensive, factory-farm, GMO-based industrial agriculture. And she cited a recent report from GRAIN, which shows that when deforestation, transportation, synthetic fertilizer production, and wetlands destruction are factored in, Big Ag contributes more than 50 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

"We must restore the soil's potential to store carbon," Paul declared. "We must also, in addition to reducing emissions, draw down billions of tons of CO2 already in the atmosphere."

"Fortunately," she continued, "we have the tools to do this. Organic regenerative agriculture and land use is the other half of the climate solution."

Though some have said the COP21 talks were "a disaster for agroecology," Paul points to the French 4 per 1000 Initiative, through which governments can now incorporate carbon sequestration through organic agriculture into their climate plans. She urged the U.S. to follow France's lead.

"Instead of subsidizing a food and farming system that contributes to global warming while degenerating soils and local economies," she said, "we should start rewarding farmers and ranchers for restoring the soil's organic matter and drawing down carbon."

Yet a recent study looking at research-dollar allocation within the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed a dearth of funding for agroecological research and "an urgent need for additional public funding for systems-based agroecology and sustainable agriculture research."

Indeed, the future of the planet depends on it, Paul said. "Transitioning from industrial ag, a huge contributor to global warming, to organic regenerative offers the best, and perhaps our only, hope for averting a global warming disaster."

Source: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License (

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Patrick Holden of the Sustainable Food Trust
Food Tank recently had a special discussion with Patrick Holden of the Sustainable Food Trust on true cost accounting in the food system.

Food Tank hosted a special discussion with Patrick Holden, founding director of the Sustainable Food Trust.
“There is the illusion that the most intensively produced food is the cheapest and the most sustainably produced food has to be more expensive,” opened Holden.
His personal experience as a farmer in Wales, United Kingdom led him to question, “Why is that if you are a farmer, it is the best business case to produce intensively, while the worst business case is for sustainable production?”
Holden said, “It is dishonest to have an economic system where damage to health and the environment are not reflected into the price of food.”
He spoke about the different categories of external costs including; emissions, pollution, biodiversity, natural capital, human health, animal welfare, jobs, and more.
Holden firmly believes, “It should be the right of every person to consume healthy food.”
And since the increased prevalence of obesity and diabetes is directly related to changes in farming practices, specifically the misuse of antibiotics, this has painted a completely false picture that sustainable production is the most expensive.
The environmental and health “impacts are not priced into the tag that we pay, nor have they been reflected into the price farmers receive. If you factor in the true cost, the picture will be reversed,” said Holden.
He suggested several solutions including; taxing nitrogen fertilizers and recycling the tax to farmers who are carbon stewards; redirecting subsidies through the farm bill from soy and corn to mixed farming operations; paying a proper price for resources that would incentivize less water usage; incentivizing farmers to produce healthy food; and educating people. “If people have enough information they will make informed choices on what they buy and can put pressure on the electorate,” explained Holden.
“In the end it will be the power of informed public opinion which will drive politicians into reallocating the farm bill to switch in favor of sustainable farming practices.”

Holden encouraged listeners to “buy food with a story you know. And talk about it, it’s interesting. Think about it. An educated citizen is a citizen that is empowered to help change the world.”
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Feeding the Planet

There is a revolution happening in the farm fields and on the dinner tables of America -- a revolution that is transforming thevery nature of the food we.

By 2050 there will be another 2.5 billion people on the planet. How to feed them? Science's answer: a diet of algae, insects and meat grown in a lab.

Biodynamic Food

How can we feed the 2.5 billion more people – an extra China and India – likely to be alive in 2050? The UN says we will have to nearly double our food production and governments say we should adopt new technologies and avoid waste, but however you cut it, there are already one billion chronically hungry people, there's little more virgin land to open up, climate change will only make farming harder to grow food in most places, the oceans are overfished, and much of the world faces growing water shortages.

Fifty years ago, when the world's population was around half what it is now, the answer to looming famines was "the green revolution" – a massive increase in the use of hybrid seeds and chemical fertilisers. It worked, but at a great ecological price. We grow nearly twice as much food as we did just a generation ago, but we use three times as much water from rivers and underground supplies.

Food, farm and water technologists will have to find new ways to grow more crops in places that until now were hard or impossible to farm. It may need a total rethink over how we use land and water. So enter a new generation of radical farmers, novel foods and bright ideas.

John Vidal, Writer for the Observer, UK
Published, January 22, 2012

Feeding a Growing Population

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