When scanning the dining options in your cafeteria, do you notice any descriptions that are meant to make the food more attractive, such as “cage-free,” “local,” or “sustainable?” I do. With these labels, it’s clear that food service management companies are trying to sell more food by appealing to their customers’ values. But I’ve also taken note of which values the food service management company does not use to market their products—for example, “supports small- and mid-size farms” or “living wage for workforce.” These observations made me curious about which values these companies choose to prioritize, and why. Read More >
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 >
Should farmers who raise thoroughbred horses receive the same regulatory exemptions as those who grow vegetables? How about farmers who grow tobacco, flowers, or corn for ethanol, or who raise animals for fur coats? These are the questions that emerged in the forefront of my mind as I waded through the hundreds of pages of data contained in the recently released 2017 Census of Agriculture. The census is a treasure trove of information that paints a picture of the current state of farms, farmers, and farming in the United States—and, importantly, it reminded me that agriculture is not limited to food production. Read More >
The world is beginning to understand that our food systems play a role in climate change—and that by improving our food systems now we might be able to mitigate some of the more devastating shifts in climate yet to come. With more than 20 years of experience investigating the negative consequences of our food systems, especially industrial food animal production, the Center for a Livable Future has gained tremendous insight into the associated externalities of the predominant model, one of which is climate change. Other externalities we’ve focused on include antibiotic resistance and environmental degradation, to name a couple.
Across the board, I’ve noticed expanded interest in the connections between food systems and climate action, from the United Nations to nonprofit sustainability organizations to chefs to research institutions to Google to the Prince of Wales. So finally, the interest and will to make positive change is there, from a wide group of stakeholders. But I fear we don’t have much time. We must get our act together and be bold—but I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to do this in a way that’s not only practical, but fair. Read More >
In 1933, President Roosevelt’s New Deal included the creation of the first-ever Farm Bill, a response to the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, the epic drought disaster that was devastating the agriculture sector in the United States. Today, the goals and impact of the Farm Bill couldn’t be any further from what was intended almost 90 years ago. Read More >
Would you apply for a job that requires bending over for about nine hours a day to pick fruits or vegetables? Would you want a job that offered employee housing that didn’t have running water or electricity? What if your employer didn’t have to comply with minimum wage laws or child labor laws, didn’t have to pay overtime, didn’t have to provide insurance or workers’ comp, and you weren’t allowed to unionize? Not interested? Fair enough, neither are the vast majority of US citizens. According to the most recent National Agricultural Workers Survey, 75 percent of all crop labor in the United States is done by immigrants from Central America and Mexico, and about half of all crop workers surveyed reported being in the country illegally. Read More >
A Bloomberg School graduate student focusing on Health Education and Health Communication, Kenai’s full-time field placement at the Food System Lab has piqued new interests and expanded the way he thinks about community health.
The Food System Lab is an urban teaching farm in Baltimore City that operates on the grounds of Baltimore’s Cylburn Arboretum. Read More >
In college, I rocked some Girls Love Dirt mountain biking socks, and the environmental club I founded was called Dirt First, a Simpsons reference for those of you who are fans. Let there be no mistake: this woman still loves dirt, but for growing food, dirt is not our best option. For that, we really want soil. Read More >
Last year the US District Court of Appeals took a huge step forward to protect public health from pollutants released by industrial-scale livestock facilities. This March, however, Congress negated the Court’s ruling when it passed the FARM Act. It was easy to miss this undermining of the 2017 decision since Congress rolled the FARM Act into the 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill as a rider.
What is the FARM Act?
The federal Fair Agriculture Reporting Method (FARM) Act is a formal, legislatively guaranteed exemption for industrial-scale livestock producers to the laws requiring other industries to report releases of hazardous materials. Read More >
Let’s imagine we’re at a vegetable farm in rural Vermont. The weather has been so perfect this year for growing carrots, spinach and squash that our farmer can’t harvest everything she’s grown. She won’t want to risk the expense of harvesting and transporting the veggies that retailers won’t buy because they look a little funny; she won’t be able to sell them if the markets are saturated; and she may not be able to find affordable farm labor to help her pick the crops and get them to their destinations. Some of those veggies bursting with nutrients and fiber will go uneaten, becoming part of what we call “on-farm food loss.”
Now let’s visit the home of a family suffering from food insecurity. Perhaps an elderly couple isn’t getting quite enough to eat. Or maybe an older teen is skipping meals so his younger sister can have more. Read More >