What if we could use technology-based products or services to grow local food systems ten-fold or even twenty-fold in the next few years–from one percent of the current food production in our country today to 10 to 20 percent in the next decade? Our new company, Goodeggs, seeks to do just that. Our hypothesis is that some technology-based product or service will be an important enabler of that future. Read more

This past holiday weekend, hundreds of people gathered for a free conference, called Food Justice, hosted by the University of Oregon’s Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics. In the words of the conference organizers the purpose was to, “Explore the history and future of our food system with a focus on three themes: community, equity and sustainability.”

With a heavy hitters Fred Kirschenmann and Dr. Vandana Shiva offering inspiring plenaries and a host of academics and practitioners sharing their latest research and ideas, the event was as stimulating as it was frustrating. As Dr. Shiva so eloquently said in her closing plenary, “No other species has achieved the amazing success of depriving itself of food.” Read more

Kristin Kimball is an accidental agrarian. A reporter in her early thirties living in New York City, she fell for a farmer in upstate New York–the subject of a story she was writing–and then fell in love with farming with him at Essex Farm. She tells the story of leaving the city to grow food and more in her new book The Dirty Life, a compelling memoir that gives insight into the growing young farmer movement in America. Read more

The discussion on American agriculture is evolving every day, and as a result, agribusiness has been stoking a backlash against those pushing for a change in how we grow our food. Notably, Michael Pollan has been a target at recent university speaking engagements; a few weeks ago at Cal-Poly, when a feedlot owner threatened to rescind a donation if Pollan was allowed to speak solo, the university caved, making his talk a part of a panel discussion. This is all an indication that the conversation on fixing our broken food system is gaining traction, as the discussion grows more nuanced, more solutions-oriented and more threatening to the status quo.

Last month in New York, Lisa Hamilton, author of Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness, hosted just such a nuanced discussion on the current state of agriculture featuring Verlyn Klinkenborg, New York Times writer whose column is called “The Rural Life,” farmer Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University and President of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, and farmer Mary Howell Martens, who grows 1400 acres of organic corn, beans and other grains with her husband and three children in Penn Yan, New York.

The panel focused on assessing the situation farmers are now caught in, and discussed solutions, including focusing on improving the foodshed, rebuilding rural communities and strengthening “ag in the middle” through trade partnerships. Read more

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of lending a hand as a volunteer at Rooftop Farms in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The name says it all: it is a 6000 square foot urban vegetable farm on the roof of an industrial building, growing rows inter-cropped with lettuces, tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, kale and much more, which they sell directly to restaurants and at a farm stand inside the building every Sunday from 9am – 4pm.

Annie Novak and Ben Flanner are the farming minds behind the project. Both are passionate about how food gets to our table (Novak works with farmer with Kira Kenney of Evolutionary Organics at the Greenmarket, and works as the Children’s Gardening Program Coordinator at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Flanner is new to farming but seems to get a kick out of hawking produce). Chris and Lisa Goode of Goode Green, a green roofing company, found the roof and funded Rooftop Farms as a test. With this project, the team hopes to determine what is possible in terms of scale for growing on rooftops in the city. Read more

In Oakland, California last week, the political momentum seemed to clearly and perhaps irrevocably shift to formation of a sustainable food system for the nation. Hailing from three western states and Washington DC, 120 leading activists (from farms, ranches, philanthropy, businesses and NGOs), 15 USDA officials, and two important northern California mayors focused on the issues of food security, foodsheds, and public-private partnerships to accelerate change. The take home message from this groundbreaking summit is that an essential set of sustainable food concepts has pierced the intellectual membrane that shapes the American political scene. Perhaps it is only a matter of time until this welcome and healthy infection takes over the body politic. Read more

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Directive [PDF] this week at a City Slicker Farm in Oakland during the Direct Farm Marketing Summit organized by Roots of Change, making food system planning the unambiguous responsibility of city government. Under the directive, it is the official city policy to increase the amount of healthy and sustainable food available to San Francisco residents, charging mayoral agencies with specific steps to accomplish this goal. By using his executive powers, Newsom was able to move swiftly, though some agency initiatives will eventually require legislation enacted by the Board of Supervisors. Read more

I recently had the pleasure of eating lunch next to Dr. Wes Jackson, President and Co-Founder of The Land Institute in Kansas. Among a plethora of other accolades, Rolling Stone Magazine just named him as one of the nation’s top 100 “Agents of Change” due to his lifetime commitment of creating a healthier agricultural system. The setting was a sunny spring afternoon on Earthbound Farm in Carmel Valley, in conjunction with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Cooking For Solutions annual Sustainable Foods Institute for members of the media. We sat there, sipping iced tea and munching on salads and savory tarts (all made onsite at one of the few completely certified organic commercial kitchens in the U.S.), but the pleasant environment, the chitchat of food lovers and chirping birds nestled in the children’s herb playground, seemed to highlight an ironic contradiction as the self-described “Dr. Doom” earnestly discussed with me how we are running out of time. Read more