“Natural”, “organic”, obesity, water, subsidies, pesticides, “local”, “healthy”, genetically-modified food, diabetes, menu labeling, workers’ rights, food labeling, food safety, international trade - the list of hot-button issues in food and agriculture could go on for pages. As the national conversation about food and agriculture gets louder, and seemingly more divisive, it can be challenging to figure out how to best address these issues.
In a recent Washington Post article, journalist Tamar Haspel posits that the reason our discussion about the food and agriculture system is fundamentally going nowhere is that we are not focusing on the actual problems. We get caught up in arguing over issues, which, although important, fail to get to the roots of it all. And it’s no wonder: digging in to find the roots of and untangling our systemic food and agriculture problems is a complicated process — as Haspel notes, “a complex set of interacting players and factors drive these problems, and solutions tend to be commensurately complex.” — and lots of smart people disagree about what to do.
Haspel asks eight leaders with their feet firmly planted in the food and agriculture system: “What’s the problem with our food? How, in other words, should we go about fixing our food system, from the ground up?” The answers — from leaders such as Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture; Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation; Michael Jacobsen, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest; and Laura Batcha, chief executive and executive director of the Organic Trade Association — include providing more support for small- and medium-size operations, maintaining improvement in school meals, bringing a broader audience of food system players in to the discussion, helping farmers convert to organic production, and increasing diversity and choice in the food system.
The article raises, in my mind, another question: how do those of us doing work in the food system, but not primarily at a policy level, go about fixing our food system? For our part, it is working with the movers and shakers in the food system and helping them build successful and sustainable businesses. It is choosing the rightly-fit business structure; creating and protecting their branding; evaluating and enhancing food safety protocols; and, drafting contracts to help open doors to new markets. It is staying up-to-date on current issues facing the food and agriculture industry and being ready to provide support and counsel on those issues and their impact on the industry. As the article notes, fixing the food and agriculture system is an all-hands-on-deck endeavor, and we’re glad to play our part.
Read the article here.