Can Sustainable Food Feed the Whole US?

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-99093728/stock-photo-little-girl-watching-buff-orpington-chicks-with-chicken-coop-and-barn-in-far-background-extreme.html">Stephanie Frey</a>/Shutterstock

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

In the early 20th century, political ads for then-presidential candidate Herbert Hoover promised Americans continued prosperity, or a “chicken in every pot.” But today, in a new era of ecological crises, does our ability to feed ourselves in the future hinge on a chicken in every backyard?

This was one of the ideas explored at last night’s panel of food journalists, moderated by New York Times contributing columnist Allison Arieff and co-sponsored by Mother Jones and the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR). Addressing a room of 70-90 modern farmer types, urban-planners, and Bay Area locals, Mother Jones‘ Tom Philpott, Earth Island Journal‘s Jason Mark, and former Grist.org editor Twilight Greenaway discussed issues taking up the most space on their plates, along with their vision for the future of the sustainable food movement. You can listen to their conversation here:

“The implication that we can vote with our fork will only get us so far,” said Philpott, who went on to critique the idea that consumer choice and a backyard crop alone can reverse an entrenched trend of industrialized and consolidated control of the food supply. “The infrastructure for [small] farms doesn’t exist,” he said. “The only policy solution is federal policy.”

One way to legislate change would be through anti-trust laws that dismantle Big Ag’s grasp on production, Philpott explained, but even so, the sustainable food movement is dealing with its own internal struggles in attempting to expand. “What’s the sweet spot for scale for the sustainable food movement?” asked Jason Mark. While organic farmers are still negotiating the balance between quality and affordability of their products, “It’s a rational choice to buy junk food instead of healthy food,” Mark added.

But as stubborn as the status quo may be, panelists also shared stories about small, ecology-minded innovation in the age of engineered shmeat (“meat grown on a sheet,” Twilight Greenaway explained). Greenaway also discussed polyculture experiments in the Long Island Sound, and panelists bounced insights off one another about the challenges and promises of biotech in the sustainability movement. “We’ve got this beautiful niche happening,” Philpott said of efforts to de-industrialize food production in the last decade. “But staying away from self-satisfaction,” he added, “is paramount.”

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate