Did you know that the median age of US farmers is now is 58? And that the number of people actually farming now equals just one percent of the population? As farmers, chefs, food vendors and policymakers gathered by the Berry Good Food Foundation explain, those trends are not sustainable. So what to do? How do you make agriculture attractive to young people? What will bring them back to the land? And how do you connect the rest of the community to their sources of food? Watch as these experts make the whole process of growing, harvesting, selling and serving food sound incredibly, what’s the word they used? Oh yes, sexy!
What a group! You know you’re watching something special when Dolores Huerta, the legendary co-founder of the United Farm Workers and Rose Hayden-Smith, the PhD author who writes the UC Food Observer blog are flanked by passionate leaders in healthcare, social justice, and organic farming – all talking about the policies and politics that lead to food deserts and swamps in some communities and abundance in others. Gathered in the historic Star Theatre in Oceanside, California, this lively panel led by Michelle Lerach of the Berry Good Food Foundation will inspire many to plant their own gardens, share their green bounty and engage on issues that address the most fundamental human need – healthy food for a thriving planet.
As the world’s sixth largest economy and provider of more than half the nation’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables, sustaining California’s vitality is paramount. And, with greater demands from a changing climate and growing population, taking a proactive approach to maintaining sustainable growth for California is critical.
Broadcasting stories of sustainability research and outreach conducted by University of California faculty, scientists and students, Sustainable California
connects users to the science-based, real-world solutions the University of California is creating to maintain the balance of natural resources, biodiversity and sustainable growth in our state.
Principal project partners include UC Water, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, CITRIS and the Banatao Institute, the Sierra Nevada Research Institute and UC Merced School of Engineering among others.
UCTV Director Lynn Burnstan expressed her excitement at inaugurating the new portal, “This is what UCTV is about, connecting Californians to the real-world, inestimable values that the UC provides all of California. We are very excited to be able to join these partners and give the public direct access to what they are doing for all our benefit.”
The launch features Water in the Balance, from UC Merced headquartered UCWater, a 5-minute journey from Sierra Nevada snowpack through the state’s system of dams to groundwater; Introduction to Conservation Agriculture Cropping Systems, from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, featuring California farmers and UC scientists working together to develop sustainable farming practices and Sierra-Net, from Berkeley-headquartered CITRIS and the Banatao Institute, featuring the development of innovative cyber-infrastructure to provide real-time monitoring of the state’s water resources.
The channel’s content is appropriate for audiences of all ages and freely accessible to the public online at uctv.tv/sustainable-cal. The integrated video, article and curriculum format of the channel, in addition to its focus on biodiversity, natural resources, and low-impact living, provides users both a look at and connection to practical solutions and approaches the UC is developing, making it a valuable resource for professional practitioners, educators, and media outlets.
“Michael Pollan has shown that an English major can do great service to science in the public interest,” said Walter Tschinkel, one of many who introduced Pollan. “Science very much needs writers like Michael Pollan to bridge the gap between scientists and the wider public… to make science meaningful, relevant, and accessible… and just perhaps to influence people and public thinking about important social, philosophical and scientific issues.”
After receiving his award, Pollan sat down with KPBS News Editor, Tom Fudge and talked about everything from the lesson Pollan learned from a woodchuck, to the carbon problem, his love of food, and how to feed the world.
The problem of getting carbon back into the soil:
“I think the future, the next set of important gains come not from [seed] breeding, but from understanding the soil microbiome and manipulating that environment.”
His relationship with food:
“I enjoy food now more than I used to… I think I’m less self-conscious about my eating than a lot of my readers are… and I think I’ve made a certain number of people that you probably know insufferable.”
“Eating well is easier if you have some money, and that’s one of the real tragedies of the food system we have – that the cheapest calories are so unhealthy.”
One of Pollan’s “Food Rules:”
“Don’t buy any cereal that changes the color of the milk.”
The difficulty of political change:
“It’s very much in the interest of political leaders to have our food be cheap even if it’s unhealthy. When you get spikes in food prices, you get political restives, you get riots, you get revolutions. And every political leader understands this. So they’re willing to put up with a lot of negative side effects of cheap food, as long as the price stays down. And this, in a way, is the biggest impediment to changing the food system.”
Feeding the world:
“The goal is for the world to be able to feed itself. The idea that we grow all the grain and dump it on the rest of the world is incredibly arrogant.”
“There’s plenty of food. We’re now growing 2800 calories per person per day… That’s for everybody living on the planet. We still have a billion who are hungry. So quantity is not the problem with feeding the world. We have to look at equity. We have to look at who controls the land. We have to look at diet. We have to look at waste.”
Watch more of this enlightening interview: An Evening with Michael Pollan: Nierenberg Award 2014.
Children in developing countries live with chronic hunger that stunts growth and weakens immune systems, while more and more people in wealthy countries grow obese. But there are starving children in wealthy countries too – families living on food stamps, making it impossible to ignore the inequality between the wealthy and the poor. As food becomes scarce, families are forced to eat cheaper, less nutritious meals, which can have devastating long-term affects on entire populations.
Within the past few years, we have witnessed food shortages like the global food crisis of 2008 and the East Africa food crisis of 2011. In Haiti in 2008, food prices rose to 50-100% of their normal price, which led to unrest, violence, and the ousting of the Prime Minister. Although some things like drought or infestations of vermin can be blamed for food shortages, many of the causes are man-made and avoidable.
Mary Robinson, formerly the first female President of Ireland and now the President of the Mary Robinson Foundation, speaks at the University of California Global Food Systems Forum to discuss these issues with experts and fellow human rights activists.
Robinson warns that climate change will only make matters worse. Rising sea levels will swallow up potential farm lands while increasing temperatures will turn farm lands to deserts. Watch “Mary Robinson – Global Food Systems” to learn more about the challenges ahead.
Check out other videos about how gardening and agriculture must feed our growing population.