Revolutionary Plots: Key citations on P2P in Agriculture and Food

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…everything old is new again. The resurgent interest in local foods and home-scale preservation—from canning, jamming, freezing, brewing, fermenting, and otherwise experimenting with food—is happening coast to coast. Taking up the pot and the pan, the cheesecloth and strainer, the canning jar and the wine bottle, homesteaders are beginning to reweave the web of culture lost in the toxic downdrift of the industrial food supply. Food preservation is hooked into all the values of homesteading—self-sufficiency, community resilience, DIY for fun and pleasure—a reminder that food is not something that’s done for us, but something that we do with one another. Remaking our relationship to food is one of the central homesteading pleasures and practices, a radical act that can go a long way toward growing into our role as producers rather than consumers.

— From “Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living” by Rachel Kaplan with K. Ruby Blume, Skyhorse Publishing, New York: 2011

* The Industrial Agriculture Model is not working

The “story is not panning out as planned. Chemical fertilizers have depleted soil, herbicides created superweeds, and monocropping is documented to have lower overall yields than diversified farms. And cost effective? The vast majority of farming households earn their living off-farm.”

– Beth Hoffman

“Industrial, factory-farmed food is cheap for a simple reason: because it’s over-produced. Organic, sustainable food is under-produced, making it over-priced and fueling the false perception that it “can’t feed the world.” Critics cite this affordability gap and call organic food “elitist.” Reformers retort by citing the health and environmental costs of industrial food. Both have a point. The real solution is to make organic food more affordable – by producing more of it. Organic, sustainable farmers are at a disadvantage competing with a subsidized, high-volume, industrial supply chain. As Jane Black recently said, what we need is a “level playing field.” Technology is the great leveler. It’s time to level the playing field in food.” – Ali Partovi

* Superiority of Regenerative Organic Agriculture is Scientifically Firmly Established

“The superiority of regenerative farming is now firmly established: organic agriculture outperforms and outearns conventional industrial farming. In September 2011, the Rodale Institute released the findings of its 30-year study of farming systems. Organic techniques beat conventional methods in every category, most importantly in productivity and in profit per acre. Controlling for premium pricing (the Whole Foods effect), organic production brought in three times as much per acre per year. Equally important, organic production produced slightly better yields than standard industrial techniques. Organic farming is also regenerative, rebuilding soils and retaining 15–20 percent more water, in turn improving drought resistance. These regenerative techniques consume 45 percent less energy and emit 29 percent less carbon than conventional methods.”

– Paul Doherty

* The Insufficient Politics of the Slow Food and Locavore Movements

The Slow Food and locavore movements have been rightly criticized for their class politics, for advancing a laudable goal that is unattainable by many who might choose it if they could, and for consumption excesses that they justify as being local and “slow.” Their essential message, however, that food is an intimate reflection of our lives and culture, is not a class-based assertion but a human one. The appropriate class critique lies in the fact that not everyone can afford a Slow Food meal or the labyrinthine lifestyle of the locavore, but the drive towards localizing our food sources and reimagining our relationship with food can be shared with everyone. Generating local food sources in order to provide food security for everyone is part of the bigger story of the urban food revival currently underway.

— From “Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living” by Rachel Kaplan with K. Ruby Blume, Skyhorse Publishing, New York: 2011

* Industrial agriculture and its responsibility for climate change

Brian Tokar:

“While climate disruptions are already having profound effects on those who grow our food, agricultural practices on an industrial scale are a primary source of the greenhouse gases responsible for altering the climate. The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a collaborative effort by four UN agencies and the World Bank, affirmed in a 2009 report that “The relationship between climate change and agriculture is a two-way street; agriculture contributes to climate change in several major ways and climate change in general adversely affects agriculture.” … the overwhelming share of the global food system’s impacts on the disruption of the earth’s climate systems stems from the practices of industrial agriculture. Estimates of the food system’s contribution to global emissions of greenhouse gases vary widely, from 20 percent at the low end to nearly 60 percent…. One anomalous but widely reported study suggested that livestock alone may be responsible for 51 percent of global emissions.”

* The impact of ultra low-cost entrepreneurial farming equipment

Marc Alt:

“In the developing world, the technology that is perhaps most effectively hacking the food system is the adoption of ultra low-cost entrepreneurial farming equipment. These kind of low-cost, low-tech interventions, often sold in peer-to-peer market situations are in fact one of the singularly most powerful ways to combat poverty and global hunger.”

* Revolutionary Plots?

Rebecca Solnit:

“We are in an era when gardens are front and center for hopes and dreams of a better world or just a better neighborhood, or the fertile space where the two become one. There are farm advocates and food activists, progressive farmers and gardeners, and maybe most particular to this moment, there’s a lot of urban agriculture. These city projects hope to overcome the alienation of food, of labor, of embodiment, of land, the conflicts between production and consumption, between pleasure and work, the destructiveness of industrial agriculture, the growing problems of global food scarcity, seed loss.”

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