Q&A with Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin on the True Cost of Food: The Bill Is Already in the Mail

Christine Grillo

Christine Grillo

Contributing Writer

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

When agricultural researcher and entrepreneur Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin visited the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), we were able to chat with him about what he’s up to these days. What began as an interview with this thought leader about the externalized costs of the food system and the true cost of food, topics at the heart of CLF’s research, became a conversation about regenerative agriculture, lawsuits, price tags and reform.

Working with the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance in Minnesota, Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin is the architect and engineer behind the regenerative poultry system, one of many farm operations at the the 100-acre farm in Northfield, through the Main Street Project. His approach to regenerative agriculture involves a biodiverse system of symbiotically connected livestock and perennials, building soil, cleaning water and delivering economic benefits with no chemical inputs. Read More >

Q&A with Bill Niman on the True Cost of Food: Critical Control Points

Christine Grillo

Christine Grillo

Contributing Writer

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

When rancher and businessman Bill Niman visited the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), we were able to chat with him about his current enterprise and ideas. What began as an interview with this thought leader about the externalized costs of the food system and the true cost of food, topics at the heart of CLF’s research, became a conversation about animal welfare, regenerative agriculture and reform.

Bill Niman is a well-known figure in the ranching world, having spent more than 40 years raising livestock in humane and sustainable ways. Along with his wife Nicolette Hahn Niman, he has consistently spoken out about a number of controversial issues related to livestock production, including the misuse of antibiotics, animal welfare and the climate benefits of pasture-based production. Read More >

Who Will Run the Future Farms?

Laura Genello

Laura Genello

Guest Blogger

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Do a Google image search for the future of farming, and you’ll find designs for towering vertical farms, aquaponics greenhouses, crop-monitoring drones and harvesting robots. The images are a testament to human creativity. But what’s often missing from the discussion of the future of agriculture is an answer to the question of who will run these future farms.

In many developed countries, young people from farming families continue to leave the farm, and older farmers find themselves without a successor. In both the US.and the Netherlands, there is a shortage of young farmers. Read More >

Herenboeren: Gentlemen Farmers Changing the Dutch Food System

Laura Genello

Laura Genello

Guest Blogger

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

This post is the ninth in a series – Letters from the Low Country – about food and agriculture in the Netherlands, written by Laura Genello as she studies organic agriculture at Wageningen University.

After years of working to support farmers at a Dutch agricultural organization, Geert van der Veer wanted to change the system. Dutch agricultural land prices are some of the highest in the world, and Geert met many farmers who found their businesses squeezed by low prices and increasing costs. He saw many farms disappear, and other farmers forced to take out a mortgage on their property just to survive. Read More >

Foodways and Food Insecurity in India

Victoria Brown

Victoria Brown

Research Assistant

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

My host mother Smita, whose name means “ever smiling lady,” is handsome with an infectious smile, and she stands amidst the shining metal tins and fragrant spices of her Ahmedabad apartment kitchen rolling out thepla, a Gujarati flatbread. Heating the wide, flat tava pan, she sprinkles ghee, clarified butter, over the pan, reminding me that it is “good for digestion and health.”

During the three weeks I spent in Ahmedabad, a city in the Gujarat province of India, with Smita and her family, I tried a wider variety of food and flavors than I have ever sampled elsewhere. I was repeatedly amazed by the alchemy that Smita wrought in her kitchen over peas, potatoes, and rice with her chemist’s spice box of flavors. Read More >

How Goats Saved the Family Farm

Laura Genello

Laura Genello

Guest Blogger

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Goats feed at the trough during milking

This post is the sixth in a series – Letters from the Low Country – about food and agriculture in the Netherlands, written by Laura Genello as she studies organic agriculture at Wageningen University.

On a blistering afternoon in June, I set up my tent in a sloping pasture and looked out across the hills—golden brown fields of grains, and wildflowers lining the dusty road. In defiance of my hay fever, I would be spending the next 10 days camping on a 57-acre pasture-based goat dairy in Belgium, as part of a course on organic agriculture. I’ve always been intrigued by the stories of farmers. There’s a common refrain in the agricultural history of the last 50 years: go big or get out. As farms become increasingly large and specialized, small-scale farmers struggle to compete. But the farmers at Chévrerie de la Croix de la Grise, nestled in the rolling hills of the Wallonia region, refused to follow the conventional wisdom. Read More >

Mealworms and Sweeteners: Notes from an Organic Trade Fair

Laura Genello

Laura Genello

Guest Blogger

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

This post is the second in a series – Letters from the Low Country – about food and agriculture in the Netherlands, written by Laura Genello as she studies organic agriculture at Wageningen University.

What does it mean to be organic, and what role does organic agriculture play in a sustainable food system? These are the questions in my mind as I travel out of the Netherlands and into the rolling hills surrounding Nuremburg, Germany, for the 2017 Biofach Organic Food Trade Fair, an international exposition and conference featuring organic businesses and producers from all corners of the globe. Upon arrival, it’s hard to believe that the organic industry comprises only 2 percent Read More >

CLF at the Future Harvest CASA Conference 2017

Christine Grillo

Christine Grillo

Contributing Writer

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Photo by Future Harvest.

Sometimes electrical wiring saves the chickens. Radish plants can feed the soil in winter.

These pearls of wisdom and many others were shared earlier this month at the 2017 Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) Conference. Three CLF staffers attended sessions at the conference to broaden their perspectives on how food systems can be improved to become not only more resilient but more profitable. Here are some of the things we learned. Read More >

Wendell Berry Wants Us to Get Small and Stay In

Christine Grillo

Christine Grillo

Contributing Writer

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Wendell Berry with the CLF communications team, Dec 8 2016.

Wendell Berry humors the CLF communications team with selfies and signings, Dec 8 2016.

When Wendell Berry met with a small group of us for an informal conversation at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, we promised to try not to talk him to death. “Well,” he said, “if you did, that would be the end of my troubles.”

Mr. Berry, age 82, beloved writer, poet and farmer, was in town for a two-day visit during which he talked with Eric Schlosser about what he calls “the world-ending fire.” The next day he read from his new essay, “The Thought of Limits in the Prodigal Age,” in which he discussed his vision for an authentic land economy. Intrigued by some comments he made earlier Read More >

Rice paddies double as artificial wetlands in Vermont

Sujata Gupta

Sujata Gupta

Freelance Journalist

Burlington, Vt.

gupta-rice-1Horses graze in the distance and ducks honk as Erik Andrus and I squish along the muddy path behind his house in Ferrisburgh, Vermont. Andrus’ dog, Dante, trots happily beside us. The scene is quintessentially pastoral.

Yet surprisingly little grows here. When he bought the 110-acre property 10 years ago, Andrus, who also owns a bakery, tried to grow barley and wheat. The soils quickly proved too rocky and wet for these dryland crops. But Andrus was reluctant to call it quits. “Local grains are a key component of real agricultural sustainability,” he says. Read More >