The 44th United States President Barack Obama will be the guest of honor at the 2017 Seeds&Chips Global Food Innovation Summit. Obama will be a keynote speaker on May 9, and will also discuss food and agriculture on a panel with Sam Kass, senior food policy advisor to President Obama and promoter of the White House's health-conscious revolution.
From authors to chefs, business owners to activists, this list is a collection of change makers in every industry working to fix inequalities and problems in the food system all over the world. Their examples have inspired movements and changed minds. We hope their stories and work will inspire you as much as it has inspired us here at Food Tank.
1. Vandana Shiva
Scientist and activist Dr. Vandana Shiva is at the forefront of the sustainable food movement. Fighting against the spread of industrial agriculture, she believes high-yield production is hurting more than helping problems of nutrition and hunger in the world. Her non-governmental organization, Navdanya, has been a proponent of biodiversity since 1991 and is currently fighting the development of Golden Rice, a Vitamin A-rich variety, claiming it's not as beneficial as it seems and could have a heavy impact on the environment.
2. Frances Moore Lappe
The revolutionary Diet for a Small Planet was just the beginning of Moore Lappe's contributions to changing the food system. Her contributions to building a sustainable food system since the book's release in 1985 are numerous, including more books, academic positions and the founding of several organizations. Her most recent endeavor is the Small Planet Institute, an organization that hopes to inspire people around the world through its research on democracy, power, culture and food.
3. Doug Rauch
Rauch is connected to one of the most popular health foods stores in the U.S.—Trader Joe's. After 31 years with the company, including 14 as President, Rauch left in 2008 and in 2012 he founded Daily Table. The not-for-profit store offers fresh produce, as well as healthy, to-go meals at affordable prices for a diverse and economically disadvantaged Boston neighborhood.
4. Christopher Bradshaw
Bradshaw is the founder of Dreaming Out Loud and an advocate for an equitable food system. In DC's most marginalized neighborhoods, Bradshaw introduced new concepts of healthy eating through West African cultural values and symbols. By instilling a sense of cultural belonging, the group hopes to empower communities to make more conscious decisions about health and provide more economic opportunities.
5. Leah Lizarondo
New solutions to food waste are popping up everywhere. Lizarondo's 412 Food Rescue is a go-between for food retailers and community organizations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They aren't a food bank; instead, they deliver fresh food that would otherwise be wasted to organizations that work with food-insecure populations. They fill a vital gap in the food production system. Lizarondo also writes about food and food policy at The Brazen Kitchen and for Pittsburgh Magazine.
6. Amber Stott
Fresh garden produce was an important part of Stott's childhood and with the Food Literacy Center, she is fighting childhood obesity with her enduring love of veggies. To bring healthy eating habits to low-income neighborhoods, Stott and the literacy center teach nutrition and cooking classes where they aim to change the negative attitudes children have toward vegetables. Bringing them closer to the growing and cooking process is the first step.
7. Emile Frison
Frison is plant pathologist at the cutting edge of research in agricultural biodiversity and its contribution to nutrition and the work of smallholder farmers. He is currently the chair of the International Scientific Committee of the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation and is a member of the International Advisory Board for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
8. Ruth Richardson
With Richardson at the fore, the Global Alliance for the Future of Food strives for equity, sustainability and security in the food system. The alliance, where Richardson is executive director, focuses on the economics of food—how much do we really spend as a society on food—and advocates for solutions to our lopsided system. "I cannot stress enough how important it will be to our future well-being to fix the economic distortions in the food system," Richardson told Food Tank.
9. Nikiko Masumoto
Masumoto recently assumed the responsibility of her family's 80-acre organic peach farm in California. But she's more than just a farmer. She calls herself an "agrarian artist" and last year she published her second book, Changing Season: A Father, A Daughter, A Family Farm, in which she shares her story and experiences as a queer, mixed-race woman in the industry. A gifted speaker, she offers a new vision for a radically changed and more open farming landscape through her work as farmer, woman, artist and activist.
10. Edie Mukiibi
Mukiibi is an agronomist from Uganda and vice president of Slow Food International since 2014. He learned early on that something wasn't working for the farming communities he worked with in his country. As a student in Kampala, he found the modern agronomy practices ignored many of the traditional methods and crops with which small-scale farmers were familiar. He eventually discovered the Slow Food movement and started a convivium to connect people and share information about crop diversity and traditional farming knowledge. His current project is to create 10,000 food gardens in Africa.
11. Lindsey Shute
Touted as a "Champion for Change" by the White House, Shute is a farming revolutionary. Her family farm, Hearty Roots, is part of a Community Supported Agriculture program. Members support the work of the farm in growing organic produce and in return receive access to its freshest products as well as other benefits of its work and location. She is a proponent of young farmers' influence on the future of farming and as such, she started the National Young Farmers Coalition.
12. Pedro Diniz
It might seem difficult to find a straight line between Diniz's former career as a Formula 1 racing driver and his current role as an organic farmer and agroforester. But the link is in the land of his family, on which he currently operates a 2,300 hectare organic produce and dairy farm, Fazenda da Toca, alongside his wife Tatiana Diniz. The operation is a major influence on the environmental stage in São Paulo state and in Brazil. The farm shares its mission to revolutionize agriculture through sustainable cultivation at its on-site learning center, Instituto Toca.
13. Pavan Sukhdev
Environmental economist Sukhdev sees a green future, green in its health and wealth. He was the special adviser and head of United Nation's Environment Program's Green Economy Initiative and study leader for the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study from G8+5, which looked to place a financial value on what we gain from nature and more specifically, its biodiversity. "I began my life as a markets professional and continued to take an interest, but most of my recent effort has been looking at the value of what comes to human beings from nature and which doesn't get priced by the markets," he said in his TED talk from 2011.
14. Miraci Pereira Silva
Miraci Pereira Silva is an organic farmer from the Roseli Nunes settlement in western Brazil. For years, members of her community have grown crops, such as lettuce, beans and papaya to sell locally. But their land is increasingly threatened by encroaching biofuel-linked sugarcane farms and their use of pesticides.
15. Miriam Miranda
Miranda assumed the role of feminist leader as a student in Tegucigalpa, where she also worked with women in poverty. She is of the Garifuna, an indigenous community in Honduras who have been forced off land by land grabs and resort development. The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, of which Miranda is coordinator, are fighting legal battles against the state for protection of their land and rights. Despite threats on her life and even being kidnapped once, she strides forward in the fight for her people.
16. Geum-Soon Yoon
Geum-Soon is a farmer in South Korea and president of the Korean Women's Peasant Association, which seeks to empower South Korean women farmers. She is an unwavering advocate for thousands of women in communities with high rates of domestic abuse and a lack of female control over the land despite their contributions to cultivation. The association seeks to improve agricultural policies, bring back seed diversity and provide gender equality education programs.
17. Ben Burkett
Southern-Mississippi farmer Ben Burkett knows what it takes to keep a farm afloat in the deep south. While managing his family's four-generation old vegetable farm, he also serves as an advocate for several communities in the region. As president of the National Family Farm Coalition and director of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, he supports underserved black farmers, family farms and cooperative farming, a necessity for small-scale farmers in the south, he said. In 2014, he was awarded the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award.
By Alanna Wittet
Star status can bring the opportunity for celebrities to wear many hats and draw attention to environmental and health issues. Whether they are producing or performing music for fair trade campaigns, designing ethically sourced products or growing food for the hungry, these 10 stars are using their fame and dollars to advocate for a more sustainable food future for all:
Jessica Alba: After becoming a mother and struggling to find chemical-free personal care and baby products with transparent disclosures, Jessica Alba co-founded The Honest Company alongside environmental scientist Christopher Gavigan. The company creates a variety of personal care, cleaning and baby care and nutrition products that are sustainable, transparent, ethically sourced.
Jason Brown: After leaving his NFL football career in 2012, Brown took up farming to help feed North Carolina's hungry. His 1,000-acre farm, First Fruits Farm, donates its first fruits of the harvest to local food pantries. A self-taught farmer, Brown donated more than 46,000 pounds of sweet potatoes and 10,000 pounds of cucumbers to food pantries in 2014.
50 Cent: In addition to being a member of Feeding America's Entertainment Council, 50 Cent also aids in the fight against hunger through his Street King initiative. With every bottle of his Street King energy shot sold, he funds one meal for a child in need through the World Hunger Programme. Having funded 3.5 million meals so far, he aims to provide 1 billion meals. To combat hunger in America, 50 Cent has also partnered his SMS Audio brand with Feeding America to additionally fund 250 meals with every headphone set purchased in the U.S.
Coldplay: As a global ambassador for Oxfam International, Coldplay has vocally supported and furthered the reach of the organization's mission to end global poverty, injustice and hunger. Promoting Oxfam's GROW and Make Fair Trade campaigns while on tour, Coldplay helped disseminate the message to more than 100 million people. Lead singer Chris Martin has also traveled to Ghana and Haiti to observe the effects of unfair trade on farmers.
Michael Kors: Michael Kors is a Global Ambassador Against Hunger for the U.N. World Food Programme. Since 2013, Kors' Watch Hunger Stop Campaign has helped to provide more than 10 million meals to children through the WFP's School Meals Programme, while also engaging other celebrities on the issue of world hunger through their involvement in the campaign.
Kate Hudson: Joining Michael Kors and his campaign to alleviate hunger worldwide, Katie Hudson serves an ambassador and spokesperson to Watch Hunger Stop. In helping to launch his latest watch style for the campaign, every watch sold will provide 100 children a nutritious meal.
Jamie Oliver: In addition to being a celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver further works towards building a stronger and healthier food system through his foundation, the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation. By providing food education programs and global campaigns to influence international food policy, the Foundation works to transform people's lives by both improving access to good, fresh and real foods and equipping people with cooking skills. He is also active in lobbying the U.K. government to establish a multi-sectorial Child Obesity Strategy to improve children's nutrition and reduce obesity. In 2016, Oliver's Foundation has been present at key global events including the World Health Assembly, The Nutrition Growth Summit and the U.N. General Assembly, championing policy to combat childhood obesity.
Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson: In 1985, Young, Mellencamp, and Nelson hosted the first Farm Aid concert to draw attention to the loss of family farms and to raise money to keep farming families on their land. To date, Farm Aid has raised more than US$50 million to support family farms in America by promoting food produced by family farms, supporting fair farm policies and providing resources that help farmers thrive.
By Kate Reed
This event will feature more than 40 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials and students will come together for interactive panels, networking, and delicious food, followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees.
Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Kevin Cleary, CEO of Clif Bar & Company, who will be speaking at the summit.
Kevin Cleary, CEO of Clif Bar & CompanyClif Bar & Company
Q: What initiatives have you launched recently, or are planning to launch, that will further your company's sustainability efforts?
A: One of our most exciting new sustainability initiatives is the launch of our new 275,000-square foot bakery in Twin Falls, Idaho, which is slated to open in late spring. The Clif Bar Baking Company of Twin Falls will help us meet the growing demand for our organic energy and nutrition bars. It's the first bakery we've built and we're excited to bring new jobs to a region through a business that will increase the availability of nutritious, organic food and have a low environmental footprint.
The bakery will not only be an inspiring place to work—with elegant design elements and landscaping—but will also be good for the planet focusing on zero waste, water conservation and energy efficiency. We anticipate the bakery will receive one of the highest LEED building certifications.
Sustainable aspects of the bakery will include 100-percent energy generation from renewable resources, cutting-edge processes and packaging systems to maximize energy efficiency, heat capture technology, "smart lighting" systems, a "cool roof" for improved energy efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions and organic landscaping with habitats for bees and butterflies.
Q: What drives you and your company to push for sustainability?
A: At Clif Bar, we gauge our success not on one, but on five bottom lines. We call them our Five Aspirations, and one of them is Sustaining the Planet. These aspirations are at the very core of how we operate as a business—they guide each of our decisions and we measure ourselves annually on how we perform against each aspiration or bottom line.
The guiding principle of our Planet Aspiration is to conserve and restore our natural resources, growing a business that works in harmony with the laws of nature. That principle helped lead us to transition to organic ingredients beginning in 2003, to commit to operating a climate neutral business, to build a headquarters that meets the highest green building standards and to start the Clif Bar Family Foundation, whose efforts include sponsoring a Seed Matters initiative to improve the viability and availability of organic seed.
Q: What is the biggest food related issue facing our planet right now? How is your company working to solve that problem?
A: Today, we have a food system that is facing a combination of rapid population growth, unpredictable patterns of weather and diminishing quantity and quality of natural resources of soil and water. Instead of diversifying the agricultural tools and technologies needed to address these issues, we've over-investing our public tax dollars into a narrow portfolio of agrichemical "solutions." It is an investment that will cost us dearly in the future—both in the depletion of natural resources and public health.
Today, organic receives less than one percent of public funding for agricultural research. So, it is no wonder that less than one percent of U.S. agriculture is organic. We need to make it easier for farmers to transition to organic and we need to do a better job of setting them up for success.
For Clif Bar & Company, it starts with organic ingredients. Since 2003, we've purchased more than 637 million pounds of organic ingredients and today, 73 percent of our all the ingredients we use are organic. To help support organic farming into the future, Clif Bar has spearheaded a five-year, US$10 million investment to create the nation's first endowed chairs in organic research at five U.S. universities, funded 14 graduate fellowships in organic plant breeding and given more than US$1.5 million to support the development of organic seed.
Q: Do you have any enlightening stories to share of collaboration between your business and other businesses or organizations that have changed your business practices?
A: We partner with many organic farmers to purchase the organic ingredients they grow for the foods we make—farmers who grow organic grains, fruits and nuts ranging from oats to almonds to cranberries. Our growth sometimes strains the available supply of certain organic ingredients so we've been looking for innovative ways to work with our farmers to address that issue.
For example, we source fig paste from a family farm in California that grows organic and conventional figs. With our growth as a business, we told them we need an additional one million pounds of organic figs a year. They could only meet our needs if they transitioned several hundred acres from conventional to organic farmland—a transition process that would take three years.
In a unique contract for us—for its length and its goal to help a farmer transition land from conventional to organic farming—we guaranteed the family that we'll buy all of their organic figs for seven years after they complete the transition of their farm acreage to organic. That's a win for both of us, so we entered into a 10-year agreement. That agreement alone is going to increase the amount of organic fig acreage in the U.S. by 20 percent.
Q: What changes would you like to see from the U.S. government to support sustainability in the food system?
A: As a country, we need to make deeper investments in the well-being of our rural communities in general and the future of organic agriculture specifically. We'd love to see:
- State and federal incentives for landowners to provide long-term leases of agricultural land. Longer leases would provide stability for all forms of agriculture, but they're especially important to organic farmers who need three years to transition to organic.
- Increased financial support for farmers who want to transition to organic. Offering a one-time investment to support a transition to organic would help farmers bridge three-year transition period while avoiding a long-term, subsidy-based system.
- Increased public funding for organic research and extension services, especially in plant breeding. Organic is often criticized for not providing competitive yields, but most organic farmers start at a disadvantage because they are not using seed developed for organic production systems.
Q: What was a turning point in your company and why?
A: In 2001, Clif Bar's owners, Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, turned down a US$120 million offer to sell the company. With the decision to stay independent, Gary and Kit had the chance to catalyze a new, different way of doing business—one that focused on five bottom lines, instead of just one. Our Five Aspirations—sustaining our business, brands, people, community and the planet—serve as our guiding principles for every decision we make whether it's working to reduce our environmental footprint, giving back to the community or creating a healthy and inspiring place to work.
Q: What three things do you want your customers to know about your company?
A: Kit Crawford, Clif Bar's owner and co-Chief Visionary Officer, captured it best when she said, at Clif Bar our goal is to "…run a different kind of company … the kind of place we'd like to work, that makes the kind of food we'd like to eat, that strives for a healthier, more sustainable world, the kind of world, we'd like to pass on to our children." These are the four things that we aspire to every day.
Kate Reed is a Food Tank Intern, working towards her dual masters MPH and MBA. She is currently a registered dietitian in the Chicagoland area. She is passionate about nutrition, public health and improving the lives of others.
By Tasnim Abdi
One-third of Norway's 200 wild bee species are endangered. The bee highway works with businesses, schools, organizations and individuals residing in Oslo to build bee-friendly feeding stations and accommodations. The purpose of the project is to connect the green zones in the urban environment, which include flower beds, plant corridors and green roofs. People are encouraged to plant nectar-bearing flowers for bees around the city.
A website was created to let individuals share information on how they want to contribute to the project. The participants, including companies, governmental agencies and individuals, can write about where they are planting flowers, for example. The website also shows the route in which the bees take to travel in Oslo.
According to ByBi, there are also "gray areas" where there are no sources of food for the bees. Individuals are encouraged to plant flowers in these areas.
"We are constantly reshaping our environment to meet our needs, forgetting that other species also live in it," the head of ByBi, Agnes Lyche Melvaer, said.
Melvaer also suggests that it is important to return places to the bees where they find food and live. For example, a garden called Abel's Garden was initially only covered in grass and it was later converted into a "feeding station" filled with flowers.
The bee highway is the first system of its kind designed to provide an environment where bees can travel through a city.
In the middle of Oslo's business district, an accountant firm is planting Sedum plants and two bee hives on its terrace. The bee hives can accommodate around 45,000 worker bees. Marie Skjelbred, an accountant at PwC Norway, spearheaded the project at the firm. Skjelbred convinced her employer to work with the owners of the building to finance the project.
"One should see it as a sign that companies are also taking responsibility for preserving biodiversity," Marie Skjelbred, an amateur beekeeper, said.
Skjelbred also explains that one bee produces a spoon of honey. "If we did their job, paid at the minimum wage, a pot of honey would cost US$182,000," Skjelbred, after calculating the costs, said.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, bees are responsible for around 35 percent of food production.
It is estimated that 35 percent of food production is dependent on pollination from bees.iStock
Christian Steel at the Norwegian Biodiversity Network, an organization working with amateur and professional biologists in Norway, explains that the bee highway project can help protect bees. He also criticizes the short-term solutions of the Norwegian government.
"The government seems to hide behind these kinds of private initiatives, while pursuing in parallel a policy of promoting intensive agriculture which leads to the death of many bees," Christian Steel said.
Steel also explains that there is a mutual dependence between humans and bees. "Agriculture is completely dependent on pollinators to maintain food production just as insects are dependent on diverse agriculture to survive," he said.
This initiative highlights the challenges involving protecting bees around the world.
Agnes Lyche Melvaer, the head of ByBi, explains that she is optimistic. She suggests that there is the "butterfly effect."
"If we manage to solve a global problem locally, it's conceivable that this local solution will work elsewhere, too," Agnes Lyche Melvaer said.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that there are more than 570 million farms in the world. Behind each farm—at least 90 percent of which are considered family farms—is a farmer or team of farmers, collectively responsible for growing the world's food. Food Tank is highlighting farmer heroes who go beyond cultivating the land, acting as employers, experimenters, keepers of tradition and contributors to healthy lifestyles.
Family farmers are key players in job creation and healthy economies, supplying jobs to millions and boosting local markets that are vulnerable to difficult climate and financial hardship, particularly because of the disproportionate amount of work required given the financial returns in farming. Farmers aren't just food producers—they're business women and men, they're teachers in their communities, they're innovators and inventors and they're stewards of the land who deserve to be recognized for the ecosystem services they provide that benefit us all.
Meet 17 farmer heroes from around the world, working for innovation, sustainability, the environment and local economy, all doing more than putting food on our plates.
1. Janki Bai (Madhya Pradesh, India): In the Madhya Pradesh state of India, Janki Bai sacrificed an acre of her semi-arid land for the digging of a watershed pond in 2013—a significant economic project for the community. Not only could she begin to grow rice on her land, but the pond, built with the help of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics quickly began to benefit farms within a half a kilometer of hers. Today, her family has increased financial stability and her community has a more reliable water source.
2. Mary Seton Corboy (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.): Founder of Greensgrow, a Philadelphia urban agriculture non-profit, in 1998 on the former site of a galvanized steel plant. Greensgrow has since become a model for sustainable food systems in Philadelphia and beyond. With CSAs, farmers markets and more, Corboy is heralded for not only growing vegetables, but changing attitudes around food.
3. Ibrahima Coulibaly (Mali): Chosen as one of six Special Ambassadors for the International Year of Family Farming in 2014, Ibrahima Coulibaly is the president of the National Coordination of Farmers' Organizations of Mali (CNOP). Under Coulibaly, CNOP has contributed to the first agricultural policy in Mali focused on family farming. CNOP has projects for food security, natural resource management and for strengthening farmers' organizational and financial capacity.
4. Jess & Matt Fealy (Mareeba, Queensland, Australia): In 2012, the Fealys moved across Australia to begin lives as family farmers. In Australia, 99 percent of farms are family farms. Their farm, Blue Sky Produce, makes them proud to contribute to their rural community. They are grateful for the opportunity to use a variety of skills: “one day you're repairing a wiring harness on the tractor, the next you're stripping down a chainsaw, the day after that you're pouring over soil and leaf analysis," the Fealys said.
5. Bryan Gilvesy (Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada): Originally a tobacco farmer, Bryan Gilvesy has become an ecological agriculture champion throughout Ontario with his sustainable cattle ranching operation, Y U Ranch. He works with Alternative Land Use Services, which supports farmers in restoring and preserving natural resources throughout Canada.
6. Thomas Harttung (Jutland, Denmark): Thomas Harttung is the Co-Founder of Aarstiderne an organic produce and meal box delivery program that now supplies more than 45,000 customers across Denmark and Sweden with fresh, nutritious food. He serves as the Chair of the Trustees for the Sustainable Food Trust, a nonprofit committed to building a food system that causes the least possible harm to humans and the environment. Harttung is also on the board of the Nordic Food Lab which is dedicated to exploring food diversity and potential in the Nordic region. He has an 18,000 acre biodynamic estate in Jutland.
7. Larry Jacobs (California, U.S.): Larry Jacobs suffered illness from pesticide exposure as a young farmer and dedicated his work to pesticide-free farming. Jacobs Farm, now 35 years old and the largest organic culinary herb provider in the U.S., won a notable lawsuit over a pesticide applicator whose application on a nearby field found its way to Jacobs's dill crop. Jacobs and his wife, Sandra Belin, have also helped a cooperative of family farmers in Baja California, Mexico, form an organic growers association called Del Cabo, which now imports millions of pounds of organic produce into U.S. markets.
8. Rahab Kithumbi (Ng'arua Division, Laikipia West, Kenya): Rahab Kithumbi began her research with observation of poultry in a farmer-to-farmer exchange visit. After the visit, Kithumbi experimented with rearing chickens and turkeys and found an increased hatching rate when reared together. Turkeys also provide food for her family and more manure than chickens, useful as fertilizer. She displayed her innovation in 2013, becoming one of the first participants in Prolinnova's Farmer Innovation Fair in Nairobi and earning the name “Mama Turkey" in her village.
9. Robert Morris & Gigi Pontejos-Morris (Padre Garcia, Batangas, Philippines): In 2005, Robert and Gigi Morris bought a traditional mango orchard in the Philippines and named it MoCa Family Farm. Certified for agri-tourism, MoCa is a “blueprint for family farming," lending insight into the business of farming. With “several small-scale business operations running at the same time," MoCa has incorporated specialty crops, niche market and branded farm products, farm accessory item sales and hospitality services. The Morris family promotes farm-to-fork and local food.
10. Edward Mukiibi (Uganda): Edward Mukiibi is the current vice president of Slow Food International. Living in Uganda, Mukiibi has experience developing community and school gardens in Africa through his Developing Innovations in School and Community Gardens project and sees great potential in Slow Food International's 10,000 Gardens in Africa goal. Mukiibi is working “to promote our own food gastronomy, to strengthen traditional food systems and communities and to defend African biodiversity."
11. Kathy Ozer (Washington, DC, U.S.): Kathy Ozer is the executive director of the National Family Farm Coalition, where she has worked in farm policy for more than two decades. Ozer dedicates her work to ensuring that “family farmers and fishers can not only survive but thrive in order to support themselves, their families and their communities." She has expertise in the global credit and food crisis and the dairy farmer crisis.
12. Denise O'Brien (Ames, Iowa, U.S.): An Iowa native, Denise O'Brien founded the Women Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) in 1997 to coordinate information and networking for women as supporters of sustainable agriculture and healthy food systems. WFAN provides women with agricultural educational opportunities, an apprenticeship program, as well as tools for serving as political advocates for agriculture. O'Brien farms and raises organic chickens and turkeys with her husband on their farm in southwest Iowa.
13. Bernie Prince (Washington, DC, U.S.): Bernie Prince is the co-founder of FRESHFARM Markets, an operator of producer-only farmers markets in the Chesapeake Bay region. Since 1997, FRESHFARM has been helping to provide opportunities for local farmers and has branched into other areas, like the FoodPrints nutrition and healthy eating education program for elementary school children. After retiring as co-executive director of FRESHFARM in 2015, Prince now spends more time on her 10-acre farm in Georgetown, Delaware, where she and her husband grow organic fruit, vegetables and flowers.
14. Flora Cañete de Sanabria & Edita de Jesús Franco de Sanabria (Caaguazú District, Paraguay): Once the only women members of the Paraguayan Ministry of Agriculture's Sustainable Rural Development Project committee of rural producers, Flora Cañete de Sanabria and Edita de Jesús Franco de Sanabria have influenced rural development and agriculture decisions in Paraguay and increased the involvement and voice of women in local grass-roots projects.
15. Lindsey Lusher Shute (Hudson, New York, U.S.): National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) Executive Director Lindsey Lusher Shute is a young farmer with a background in policy. NYFC believes in affordable land for farmers, sustainable practices, fair labor, farmer-to-farmer training, diversity among farmers and independent family farms for sustaining young farmers in the future. Its awareness campaigns include topics like student loans, land access, water conservation and federal policy. The White House named Shute a Champion of Change in 2014. She has a particular interest in structural issues in family farming.
16. Mike & Gayle Thorpe (East Aurora, New York, U.S.): The Thorpes run two organic family farms—one in New York and the other in Florida—with an more than 540-member CSA. The Thorpe family began farming in 2001, supporting a 42-member CSA, always with a “[belief] in nurturing the soil" by using well-composted material for the healthiest nutrient balance. The Thorpe farms are successful examples of true family farm CSA.
17. Arkhiben Vankar (Gujarat, India): Arkhiben Vankar is known as The Pesticide Lady in her community in the Indian state of Gujarat. She developed a toxin-free pesticide from herbal plants that has shown to be as effective as chemicals on pests like mealy bugs, white flies and aphids. Not only is this pesticide safer for farmers, but Vankar's pesticide is cost-effective too.
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According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector is the single largest anthropogenic user of land. It uses approximately 30 percent of the land surface on the planet, is responsible for between 14 and 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to some estimates and accounts for more than 8 percent of human water use.
Experts have different ideas about how to mitigate the environmental impacts of livestock production, but the two most modeled and researched methods are one, increasing productivity and two, reducing demand. Increasing productivity means meeting the projected demands for meat while minimizing impacts through strategies such as improving feed efficiency, digestibility and the protein and mineral levels in feed. Reducing demand, on the other hand, means urging eaters to consume less meat products and replacing the large proportion of ruminants with monogastric livestock, such as pigs, rabbits and other animals.
But there is another strategy that could be a key piece in the global efforts to find a way to sustainably raise livestock: reducing the use of livestock feed that competes with direct human food crop production, which is called "food-competing feedstuffs" (FCF).
A recent study published in the Journal of the Royal Society set out to examine the benefits and challenges of limiting FCF in livestock diets, which they call "the consistency strategy." This approach shows promise for two reasons. First, it reframes the role of livestock in the food system as a solution to a problem, rather than merely a source of protein. Ruminants are uniquely designed to utilize resources that cannot otherwise be used for food production, including grasslands, much of which is not suitable for arable crop production and food waste and by-products such as brans, whey and oil-cakes. Instead of feeding ruminants crops that can be used for human consumption, this strategy takes advantage of the animals' ability to convert less useful resources into food. Second, limiting FCF in livestock diets will, in turn, affect production and consumption because it would lead to a reduction in supply. It would also alleviate land-use competition by decreasing the amount of feed grown on croplands.
This study analyzed several livestock production scenarios and found that the consistency strategy can produce sufficient quantities of food while significantly lessening environmental impacts as compared to a business-as-usual scenario. In the most extreme case, where animals are exclusively fed from grassland and by-products, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 18 percent, arable land occupation would be reduced by 26 percent and freshwater use would be reduced by 21 percent. This scenario would also result in reducing protein intake per capita from livestock products by 71 percent.
The study authors emphasize that their method is a complement, not a substitute, for other strategies of increasing efficiency and reducing demand. The consistency strategy would work in tandem with existing efforts to create an even more effective solution to shape the future of sustainable livestock production.
Lani Furbank is a writer and photographer based in the DC metro area, where she covers the intersection of food, farming, and the environment for local and national publications. Follow her on Twitter @lanifurbank.
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British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver will be launching his Food Revolution May 20. The global campaign aims to address the global health crisis by facilitating debate and inspiring positive change in the way children access, consume and understand food.
Oliver is looking to engage as many revolutionaries as possible to sign up and join the revolution to fix the broken food system. This campaign will be an ongoing effort to create lasting change to help the world feed the future. From May 20 onward, the new Food Revolution website will be uniting revolutionaries and showcasing food revolution events and stories from around the world.
Oliver's website explains that millions of children are eating too much of the wrong food while millions more don't get enough good food to grow and thrive. As a result, nearly 1 billion people in the world are hungry, while another 1 billion people are overweight or obese, according to the Worldwatch Institute. Solving this problem requires securing access to fresh, nutritious food for every eater on the planet.
In addition to signing up online to stay informed about the latest Food Revolution news, Oliver has laid out several steps for people to get involved:
Get cooking. Oliver is sharing 10 simple and nutritious recipes to encourage people to cook and learn essential culinary skills. He's inviting everyone to join him in cooking during a Facebook live event on May 20.
Get the kids involved. Parents and teachers should discuss these issues with kids to inspire them to appreciate food. Oliver has provided a special recipe and lesson plan for schools that's designed just for kids. There's also a collection of resources online for parents to get kids excited about food.
Show your support. Once you've joined the movement, invite your friends and family to do the same by sharing the campaign on social media or organizing offline events. You can use these materials to spread the word (but not for commercial use).
Become an ambassador. To take it a step further, join the team of volunteer food ambassadors who promote food access in their communities. You can apply here.
Lani Furbank is a writer and photographer based in the Washington, DC metro area, where she covers the intersection of food, farming and the environment for local and national publications. Follower her on Twitter @lanifurbank.
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Since 1950, the number of people residing in urban areas has increased by more than 3.1 billion. It is projected by the United Nations (UN) that by 2050, 66 percent of the world's population will be living in cities.
The rise in urban inhabitants has led to growing global concern over a slew of challenges—including food security, land scarcity, social equity and economic opportunity. In response, communities around the world are digging into their urban landscapes and cultivating foodscapes that can provide green space, nutritious food and increased incomes for farmers, while reducing food miles and creating greater community integration and inclusion.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), nearly 1 billion people worldwide are now engaged in urban agriculture. From Nairobi, Kenya to Brooklyn, New York farmers and eaters are finding ways to green their cities.
Ron Finley, a noteworthy renegade in the urban agriculture revolution, has been transforming the streets of South LA since 2010. Affectionately known as the Gangsta Gardener, Finley's rebellious introduction into agriculture is explored in the documentary, Can You Dig This. An inspiring story of four unlikely gardeners, the film calls for people in one of America's most notoriously dangerous neighborhoods and beyond, to “put down their guns and pick up their shovels."
Between April 22-29, organizations around the country will host screenings of the film. On April 30, community farms and gardens, in collaboration with Ron Finley and the Can You Dig This team, will celebrate National #PlantSomething Day—a day of action and service that encourages all to get involved in the urban agriculture movement.
In solidarity, Food Tank is highlighting 24 organizations that are helping to green cities around the world.
Abalimi is an urban agriculture and environmental action group located outside of Capetown, South Africa. The organization supports and assists groups and individuals looking to improve their livelihoods through organic farming.
A nonprofit that promotes social and environmental justice in Montreal, Canada, Alternatives' Feeding Citizenship is growing healthy food to fuel healthy communities. The project engages the community through horticultural training programs while supporting school and neighborhood gardens.
Located just 2.5 miles from the Seattle city center, community members, local institutions and volunteers are coming together to grow a place for education, cultural exchange and recreation. With the multifaceted goal of revitalizing public land, improving public health and increasing local food security, the group is cultivating a number of vegetables, fruits and nuts. Redefining what it means to have access to local, organically grown produce, all food is free for the taking.
Through youth programing, farmer training and community workshops, Toronto's largest urban farm aims to ensure local food security, provide increased economic opportunity for the city's residents and create an intergenerational, multicultural place of learning.
Since 2004, Cidades Sem Fome has been transforming São Paulo, Brazil's unused and neglected land into community gardens, school gardens and agricultural greenhouses. Through these efforts, the organization improves diets, encourages social integration of historically marginalized groups and creates jobs.
Cleveland Crops offers agricultural and culinary training to adults with disabilities in Cleveland. Outfitted with season extension techniques, their urban farms remain productive through the long, cold winter months in this former rust belt city.
A nonprofit in Mexico City, Cultiva Ciudad manages a school garden program and assists at-risk youth in societal reintegration through the teaching of urban gardening skills. Additionally, in collaboration with Centro de Autismo Teletón, they operate a therapeutic sensory garden for children on the autism spectrum. Its education program, pollinator garden, herb spiral and sensory tunnel give children the opportunity to connect with nature.
Based in Bangkok, Thailand, EnerGaia uses otherwise unusable urban space to grow healthy food—namely, sustainable algae products. Their rooftop spirulina farm allows them to address nutritional and environmental problems that plague the city.
In Mumbai, Fresh and Local transforms underutilized urban space into edible landscapes. With an emphasis on community integration and organic growing, the organization is advancing India's urban agriculture movement.
10. HK Farm
Since 2012, a group of farmers have been growing organic produce on a 4,000 square foot rooftop in an industrial neighborhood of Hong Kong. In an effort to rally other urban agriculture supporters, HK Farm frequently curates exhibitions, coordinates community events, leads educational workshops and collaborates with local schools and businesses.
11. Green Grounds
A grassroots organization, Green Grounds educates and supports residents of South LA as they transform their lawns into edible landscapes and urban farms.
12. Grow Calgary
Grow Calgary, Canada's largest urban agricultural farm, is operated by a dedicated group of volunteers. With the goal of providing healthy, local food to all Calgarians, the farm's output is donated to a community owned and operated food bank.
Thirty-three meters below London's bustling streets, Growing Underground is using the latest in hydroponic technology to grow pesticide-free produce. In addition to drastically reducing water usage and eliminating the concern of agricultural run-off, this urban endeavor significantly reduces the miles traveled by the city's favorite salad leaves and microgreens.
Keep Growing Detroit aims to create food sovereignty in Detroit through urban agriculture programs, including Grown in Detroit, a network of family and youth community gardens throughout Detroit; the Garden Resource Program, which provides participants with garden resources such as seeds and Detroit-grown transplants; and The Plum Street Market Garden, which models appropriately scaled, production-focused urban agriculture, trains urban growers and volunteers and offers hands-on educational sessions.
The Mazingira Institute provides training and support for urban farmers in Nairobi, Kenya. The NGO has trained about three thousand urban farmers and organized youth and women's hubs.
16. Mbuyoni Garden
At Mbuyoni Elementary School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Regent Estate Senior Women's Group has helped to establish a garden that spans one-sixth of the school's land. After early morning tilling and tending, crops are harvested and served for lunch in the school's cafeteria. The project not only addresses malnutrition, but also familiarizes the students with native plants.
17. New Roots
An essential component of the International Rescue Committee's greater efforts to help communities build a secure and sustainable future, New Roots provides recently resettled refugees with the training, tools and land necessary to grow fruits and vegetables in their new neighborhoods. Present in 22 cities, this initiative is helping families become self-sufficient across the U.S.
Not Far From the Tree, based in Toronto, Canada, mobilizes a team of volunteers to pick fruit trees when a homeowner can't keep up with the season's bounty. The harvest is then split equally, with one-third offered to the homeowner, one-third to the volunteer and one-third delivered by bicycle to a local shelter, food bank or community kitchen.
19. Our School at Blair Grocery (OSBG)
Located in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, OSBG is an independent alternative high school and sustainability education center. Coupling GED-prep with the tenets of sustainable community development, they seek to empower “at-risk youth to make New Orleans the (next) City That Ended Hunger."
Pocket City Farms transforms abandoned urban space into productive, organically grown garden plots. They are currently constructing a community learning space that will double as Sydney, Australia's first urban farm.
According to The Urban Food Project, 88,000 Birmingham, Alabama residents live in a food desert. In an effort to provide the community with fresh, local, healthy food, this project assists corner store owners in the buying, marketing and selling of fresh, local produce.
Using permaculture principles, Siyakhana has transformed a once unappealing inner city plot of land into a productive vegetable and medicinal herb garden in Johannesburg, South Africa. Additionally, the organization advocates for improved food policy in the country and offers training and work opportunities to the community's marginalized.
In the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, 680 women are now producing pesticide-free vegetables for their families. The remaining produce is sold at market or to a nearby cafe. The association is working toward zero malnutrition and along the way, empowering and uplifting the entire community.
A multicultural and educational urban farm in Vancouver, Canada, The World in a Garden strives to engage the community, particularly youth, in the development of a just and local food system. In an effort to ensure fair food around the world, they are currently piloting projects in Costa Rica and India.
Find an urban agriculture project near you, secure tickets to a Can You Dig This screening or consider hosting a screening at your local theater to join us in celebrating National #PlantSomething Day on April 30.
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