March11

A Term to Get Used To :: Agro-Ecology

There's many a reason I'm a fan of New York Times writer Mark Bittman, but the latest results from his op-ed article earlier this week on something I hope more of us starting thinking about: "agro-ecology."  Huh?  The term sits right in the same bucket as "sustainable" and "organic" and it's hinged on the notion that smaller, sustainable farming practices can actually feed the world.  Shocking as it sounds...and much needed rift from our industrial food industry.
Just this week, the United Nation's representative, Olivier de Schutter, presented a report entitled "Agro-ecology and the Right to Food." He urged that "Agriculture should be fundamentally redirected towards modes of production that are more environmentally sustainable and socially just." He went on to say that agro-ecology supports "small farmers who must be able to farm in ways that are less expensive and more productive.  But it benefits all of us, because it decelerates global warming and ecological destruction."

Reconstructing our food system in such a manner is indeed doable and groundbreaking farmers across the country and the globe are making a serious case.  Joel Salatin of the Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virigina is one of the most notable examples of this.  The documentary film Food Inc. featured his innovative grass-based farming methods to provide animals and the land the best possible treatment (I love the roving “egg-mobile” pictured above).  Check out more on the farm here.  I’m hoping to take my first trip down there in April when I’m next home visiting my family…so stay tuned for a full report!
Agro-ecology’s an interesting notion ponder - and to start taking part in by supporting your local farmers market or joining a CSA (community supported agriculture).  Small steps will add up over time and start making a more significant dent in moving away from big agriculture, industrial farming and food that’s not as nutritious or ethically-produced as it should be.
Thanks Mark for shedding a little more light on this.  Hope you all get to hit the farmers market on this sunny weekend!

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