As the sun crested the Berkeley hills early yesterday, I logged on to the Washington Post’s live feed of its daylong conference, The Future of Food. For the next 8 hours, I enjoyed a veritable feast of thoughtful, well-evidenced and deeply inspiring calls to embrace a new agriculture, rooted in community and ecological resilience. The messengers included the Prince of Wales — who seamlessly knitted together the challenges of our failing global food system with a clear vision for the future — Eric Schlosser, Wendell Berry, Vandana Shiva and many more.
I strongly encourage folks to listen to these eloquent speakers; several of the video clips from yesterday morning are already up on the site. The main messages from the conference affirm what many of us know to be true. And yet, it is still something to see such a high-profile event take place in the belly of the beast.
Here's a pastiche of some of my favorite quotes from the day:
Eric Schlosser: Today chemical companies and biotech companies like to dismiss organic food as something trendy and elitist. But who needs organic food more than anyone else are the 2 million farmworkers who pick by hand almost all the fresh fruits and vegetables in the U.S. … and their children need organic food too.
Prince Charles: We are told ceaselessly — ceaselessly! — that organic or sustainable agriculture cannot feed world. I find this claim very hard to understand, especially when you consider the findings of an impeccably well-researched UN-led International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development…[which] concluded that small-scale family-based farming systems adopting agroecological approaches are among the most productive in the world.
Wendell Berry: There is no justification, ever, for permanent ecological damage.
Fred Kirschenmann: Nature doesn’t do annuals, it doesn’t do monocultures.
Marion Nestle: If we want to make changes in our food system, we have to get Congress to make the changes. If we're going to do that we need to change campaign laws, and we need to change the way Wall Street operates.
And this one from the Robert Ross, president of The California Endowment, encourages food movement activists by saying essentially, “Yes! You are on track!”
The only way to confront power is to craft a movement that wields power.
So let's get back to it!