Our Best Food System Solutions Stories of 2021 | Civil Eats

Our Best Food System Solutions Stories of 2021

Despite ongoing challenges, across the food system, people and communities are thinking creatively and acting boldly to address the big issues—and seeing promising results. 

Blake Alexandre checking on the vitality of the soil on Alexandre Family Farm.

(Photo courtesy of Alexandre Family Farm)

From the climate crisis to systemic racism to the never-ending pandemic, challenges abound, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But across the food system, people and communities are thinking creatively and acting boldly to address the big issues—and seeing promising results.

In a media landscape dominated by bad news, Civil Eats remains committed to reporting on the people and projects that are making a positive difference. In August, we published a collection of solutions-focused stories, and we end the year by rounding out that list by highlighting our solutions coverage since. We hope these inspiring individuals and efforts will leave you feeling hopeful as we head into 2022.

loading shiitake logs onto the apollonia. (Photo by Doug Bierend)

Building an Alternative Supply Chain for Shiitake Mushroom Growers
The Logs to NYC project connects city-based mushroom growers with rural landowners and surplus lumber hoping to blaze a trail to lower-carbon living.

Hybrid Rye is Helping Farmers Fight ‘Superweeds’ Without Herbicide
Herbicide-resistant giant ragweed is destroying crops across the Corn Belt. These farms have found a sustainable solution.

A member of the Hoopa Valley High School Water Protectors Club speaks at a 2020 rally to shut down the Delta Tunnels Project. (Photo courtesy of Wingspan Media)

A New Indigenous-led Student Movement Is Protecting Sacred Waters
In the midst of the state’s water crisis, Native-led school curricula in Northern California are empowering youth to fight for the future of their waterways.

Can Accounting for the True Cost of Food Change the Global Food System?
A new book argues that it’s not only possible to measure the human, social, and environmental impacts of food from production to consumption—it’s essential.

Black women farmer-politicians. From left: Kim Jackson of Georgia, Sonya Harper of Illinois, and Juanita Brent of Ohio.

Meet the Black Women Driving New Ag Policy
A new generation of elected officials is working to benefit disadvantaged farmers and African Americans in their states by serving on agriculture committees, introducing legislation to promote equity in agriculture, and fighting food insecurity.

The Next Chapter for Farm to School: Milling Whole Grains in the Cafeteria
A new pilot project in California is purchasing a mill for a school cafeteria, marking the next step in years-long effort to bring local, whole grains to schools around the country.

The Nation’s First Regenerative Dairy Works with Nature to Heal the Soil—at Scale
At a time when large dairy brands are experimenting with scaling up regenerative practices, Alexandre Family Farm is working to set the standard for the future of the industry.

Emily Selinger, right, and Amanda Moeser, both raise oysters in the tidal flats of Casco Bay. While they each have their own companies, they often collaborate and support one another.

Can Aquaculture Help Women Secure a New Foothold in the Seafood Industry?
Women have long played a crucial role in global fisheries, yet their work remains largely invisible. As a growing number start aquaculture businesses, it’s unclear if the industry will provide a path toward more independence and recognition.

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Civil Eats TV: Women in Wool
We profile women working the land, with animals, and with wool to create a local fiber shed: ‘If you care about where your food comes, you should care about where your fiber comes from.

Planting a Life—and a Future—After Prison at Benevolence Farm
The residential and employment program on a North Carolina organic farm helps formerly incarcerated women find a new path.

Tourism vs. CAFOs: A New Front in the Fight Against Industrial Animal Ag
In rural communities, residents and family farmers are increasingly pitting the need to protect their waterways and natural areas for outdoor recreation against factory farms, which they say pollute the environment and threaten tourism dollars.

The RACCA team in the field. (Photo courtesy of Megan Mucioki)

Keeping a Detailed Record of the Changing Climate Could Save This Tribe’s Foodways
Research by the Karuk Tribe of Northern California aims to build resilient food systems in the face of droughts, wildfires, and extreme weather.

The Resurgence of Waffle Gardens Is Helping Indigenous Farmers Grow Food with Less Water
In the face of climate change and persistent droughts, a growing number of people from Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico and elsewhere are adopting the traditional farming practice.

Don Lewis Is Reviving the Grain Economy in New York’s Hudson Valley
The heritage wheat wizard is adapting grain varieties to present-day climate conditions, developing a local market, and working to diversify the food system.

After a Fraught History, Some Tribes Finally Have the Power to Rethink ‘Commodity Foods’
The USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) is both loved and reviled. Now, seven tribes have the opportunity to bring more fresh, local, traditional foods to their communities.

Nfamara's son Malick, center, with Naveen and Malaya Hoyte, Malick's cousins. (Photo by Jake Price)

Meet the African Farmer Growing Rice in New York’s Hudson Valley
Following the Jola traditions of Gambia, and made possible by the region’s warming climate, Nfamara Badjie is cultivating rice in an unusual setting—and harvesting to the rhythm of the African drum.

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In the Arid Southwest, Growing Seeds for Climate Resiliency
High Desert Seed specializes in seed crops that thrive in desert ecosystems—while preserving stories, flavor, and food sovereignty.

After Years of Pushing for Prairie Strips, This Ecologist Won a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant
Lisa Schulte Moore used to have to explain the benefits of her work to farmers in the Corn Belt. Now, over half of farmers in Iowa are willing to plant prairie strips next to cropland to improve soil health and water quality and mitigate climate change.

planting crops on the rooftop farm and urban farm at javits convention center in new york city.

A Farm Grows Atop a Convention Center in NYC
The Javits Center, home to the city’s largest rooftop green space, expanded in September to include a one-acre farm that will supply its kitchen with fresh food at almost zero food miles.

On Henry’s Farm, Experimenting with Radical Adaptation to the Climate Crisis
For the past 25 years, Illinois organic farmer Henry Brockman has observed the impact of climate change on his farm. He’s now trying to save it, and its legacy.

Since 2009, the Civil Eats editorial team has published award-winning and groundbreaking news and commentary about the American food system, and worked to make complicated, underreported stories—on climate change, the environment, social justice, animal welfare, policy, health, nutrition, and the farm bill— more accessible to a mainstream audience. Read more >

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