Diversified Farming Systems Roundtable

Cultivating the Paddy to Cultivate the Future: Joy and Challenges of a Small Scale Farmer in Rural Japan

March 5, 2018

Speaker: Nami Yamamoto

Japan heavily relies on imported food produced overseas including the USA. Its food self-sufficiency rate marked 38 percent (on a calorie basis) in 2016, one of the lowest countries for developed countries. On the other hand, Japan’s rural area, due to de-population, has been losing its ability not only to produce food but also to maintain Satoyama ecosystems, leaving both rural and urban areas more vulnerable to natural disasters which, with climate change, are occurring in more unpredictable manners.

However, even under these circumstances, there are people who migrate into the rural area in search for alternatives to the current food and agriculture system, which is part of the global food system since 60% of food in Japan is imported. Some cultivate paddy fields or vegetables, while others recover the abandoned land, saying no to the heavily urbanized and “convenient” lifestyles at the expenses of our neighbors’ lives and the environment of marginalized countries as well as the planet, and eventually our future generation. Nami Yamamoto is one of these urban migrants, who decided to go into the rural area and live there as new dweller with her partner and two young children, and will share the living experiences full of joy and difficulties in search of an alternative lifestyle in a rural village in Japan.

Nami Yamamoto lives in rural Kyoto running a small-scale organic farm of rice and vegetable with her partner and a small catering business with her friends using produce from their own garden or other local farmers. She is also studying for a PhD in the Agriculture Department of Kyoto University. She was born and bought up in Osaka, the second largest metropolitan area in Japan. After having spent many years living in urban cities such as Tokyo, Guadalajara, The Hague and Amsterdam, she moved into the mountainous countryside north of Kyoto where she lives with her partner and two young children. She finds it fascinating to be in the mud of the paddy fields, to reclaim the old knowledge and discover the new techniques of cooking and preserving food, and tries to find a balanced sustainable rural lifestyle as a farmer which is sustainable for all.

Farmer perceptions and preferences for achieving groundwater sustainability in California

February 5, 2018

Speaker: Dr. Meredith Niles

Management Act (SGMA), which aims to achieve groundwater sustainability across California by 2040. This sweeping policy, largely being administered and implemented at the local level, could have significant impacts on how California manages water. This is especially true for agriculture, which is the largest human use of water. This work explores how Central Valley farmers perceive groundwater sustainability, the SGMA process and implementation and the policies and behaviors that farmers support for achieving sustainable groundwater use.

Dr. Meredith Niles is an assistant professor in Food Systems at the University of Vermont. Her research examines farmer perceptions and responses to climate change and water scarcity, climate change and food security, and farmer’s adoption of integrated crop and livestock systems. Meredith has a B.A. in political science from The Catholic University of America and a PhD in ecology from the University of California- Davis. She was a post-doctoral fellow in sustainability science at Harvard University. Prior to her academic career she worked for the US Department of State and several non-profits.

Photo Credit by Lexicon of Sustainability

Documenting a Precautionary Tale

January 29, 2018

Philip Ackerman-Leist and Douglas Gayeton will share insights from their three-year collaboration in capturing the dramatic story of how the town of Mals in the Italian Alps became the first town in the world to ban all pesticides. Growing from a group of accidental activists into savvy advocates for a ground-breaking public referendum, the citizens of Mals used the precautionary principle, direct democracy, and collective action to become an international model for pesticide-free communities.

Philip Ackerman-Leist is Professor of Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems at Green Mountain College, where he established the college’s organic farm, sustainable agriculture curricula, and the nation’s first online graduate program in Sustainable Food Systems. He and his family live in Pawlet, Vermont where they raise grassfed American Milking Devon cattle. His newest book is A Precautionary Tale: How One Small Town Banned Pesticides, Preserved its Food Heritage, and Inspired a Movement. He is also the author of Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems and Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader.

Douglas Gayeton co-founded the Lexicon of Sustainability in 2009 and continues to guide the project from a series of barns on the goat farm near Petaluma, California. Douglas is an information architect, filmmaker, photographer and writer who has created award-winning work at the boundaries of traditional and converging media since the early 90’s. He is the director of the GROWING ORGANIC series for USDA, the KNOW YOUR FOOD series for PBS, and author of both SLOW: Life in a Tuscan Town, and Local: The New Face of Food & Farming in America.

Agroecological Approaches for Addressing Climate Challenges in Agriculture: Processes, Predictions, and Evidence

November 13, 2017

Speaker: Timothy Bowles

Longer and deeper droughts, more intense rainfall events, and hotter heat waves will all become more prevalent as climate change progresses. Such extreme weather will further expose the vulnerabilities of highly-simplified, intensive agricultural systems, manifesting as compromised crop yields and possibly greater ecosystem disservices like nitrogen pollution. Indeed, using a combination of literature review and data synthesis I show that as precipitation patterns shift with climate change, harmful nitrogen losses from rainfed, intensive systems will likely grow worse. Strategic fertilizer management – the most commonly recommended strategy for addressing nitrogen losses – will also be increasingly ineffective. Agroecological approaches that diversify agricultural systems at multiple scales will instead be needed to address this challenge. As an example of diversification at one scale, I show the extent to which crop rotation diversity buffers against adverse growing conditions and supports short- and long-term productivity using ~350 site-years of data from 11 long-term experiments in North America. Challenges and implications for effective policies will be discussed.

Timothy Bowles is an agroecologist interested in how increasing reliance on biodiversity and ecological processes can reduce reliance on synthetic inputs and create productive, healthy, and resilient agroecosystems. He obtained a Ph.D. in Ecology from UC Davis where he used a participatory approach in working with local organic farmers to show how their management enhances soil organic matter and microbial activity to support both high yields and low potential for harmful nitrogen losses. Prior to joining the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley, he was a USDA AFRI postdoctoral fellow at the University of New Hampshire’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment where he worked to identify strategies that could reduce vulnerabilities of agricultural systems to changing precipitation patterns. He will continue this work at UC Berkeley and begin new projects focused on how to improve soil health, and assessing the barriers, benefits, and tradeoffs to doing so.

Dr. Mario Sifuentez

Food, Water, and Labor in Central Valley: Farmworkers and the Westlands

October 30, 2017

Speaker: Dr. Mario Sifuentez

This talk will focus on the history of water insecurity in the farm worker communities of western Fresno County and the exploitative practices of growers and their allies during drought conditions. Despite claims that water provides jobs for farmworkers there is little evidence to suggest that when growers get their allotment of water that improving conditions for farm workers followed. On the contrary, farmworker communities continued to suffer even while growers in western Fresno County expanded their acreage and amassed record profits all while receiving federally subsidized water. Farmworkers resisted these exploitative practices in the 60s and 70s not through unionization (the UFW showed little interest in the efforts) but through efforts to enforce federal reclamation law and the 160-acre limitation. In addition to those efforts farmworkers also challenged their conditions through cooperative sustainable farming. Nevertheless, the voices of farmworker communities have been absent from these discussions. Through these and other means farmworkers struggled to create their own narratives of water rights and water use.

Dr. Mario Sifuentez is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Merced. He received his BA, as well as his MA, from the University of Oregon in Ethnic Studies, and History. He completed his Ph.D. at Brown University in American Studies with a focus on immigration and labor. His book Of Forests and Fields: Mexican Labor in the Pacific Northwest (Rutgers University Press, 2016) analyzes the factors that brought ethnic Mexican immigrants to the Pacific Northwest and the ways in which immigrants responded to the labor conditions by demanding both labor rights and citizenship rights. He is also the co-author of “The Foundations of Modern Farm Worker Unionism: From UFW to PCUN” in Labor’s New World: Essays on the Future of Working-Class America. He is currently at work on his second project on water, food, and farmworkers in the California’s Central Valley.

Diversified Scholars in Diversified Farming

September 18, 2017

We are kicking off the 2017/18 DFS Seminar Series with a panel discussion that aims to broaden what we think of when we say “diversification” in farming systems. The frame and practice of diversity builds ecological and economic resilience at the field, farm, and landscape scales. This panel will explore the role, challenges, and opportunities for a diversity of perspectives and approaches in DFS research and practices. In particular we want to set the stage for student engagement and outreach/extension oriented work with agricultural communities. Our panel includes people at various stages of their careers working with farmers and ranchers through UC Cooperative Extension.

Sheila Barry, County Director Santa Clara;Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor, San Francisco Bay Area; PhD Student, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley
Aidee Guzman, PhD Student, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley; Graduate Student in Extension Fellow
Fadzayi E Mashiri, County Director Mariposa;
Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor, Mariposa and Merced Counties
Margiana Petersen-Rockney, PhD Student, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley; Graduate Student in Extension Fellow
Devii Rao, Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor, San Benito, Monterey, and Santa Cruz Counties
Moderator: Van Butsic, Assistant Cooperative Extension Specialist, UC Berkeley

Cropping System Diversification in the U.S. Corn Belt for Enhanced Performance and Resilience

April 10, 2017

Speaker: Matt Liebman

The development of modern, industrial agriculture has been characterized by large reductions in biological diversity, both across landscapes and within farming systems. Loss of biodiversity is particularly evident in the U.S. Corn Belt. Simplification of crop and non-crop vegetation in the Corn Belt has resulted in the production of large amounts of crop and livestock products, but has also led to multiple challenges, including soil erosion, water quality degradation, pest resistance to control tactics, new crop diseases, susceptibility to variations in weather and market conditions, and declines in populations of pollinators, natural enemies of crop pests, and wildlife species. Results of two large-scale, long-term field experiments conducted in Iowa addressing the impacts of diversification on agroecosystem performance indicate that (1) conversion of small amounts of cropland to strips of reconstructed prairie provided disproportionately large improvements in soil conservation, nutrient retention, and densities of native plants and birds; and (2) diversification of the dominant corn-soybean cropping system with small grain and forage crops led to substantial reductions in agrichemical and fossil energy use, lower herbicide-related aquatic toxicity, decreased crop damage by certain pathogens, less erosion, and improved soil quality, without compromising profitability. These patterns indicate that increasing biodiversity can be a viable strategy for improving agroecosystem health and resilience in the U.S. Corn Belt.

Matt Liebman is a professor of agronomy and the H.A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. He became a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy in 2009 and was a member of the National Academies committee that produced the 2015 report titled “A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System.” His research, teaching, and outreach activities focus on ways to improve environmental quality and agricultural productivity while reducing dependence on agrichemicals and fossil fuels. His specific interests include diversified cropping systems, weed ecology and management, and the use of native prairie species for soil, water, and wildlife conservation.

Amélie Gaudin

Building Resilience: From Theory to Management

March 13, 2017

Speaker: Amélie Gaudin

Variability and uncertainty in global climates coupled with diminishing natural resource base underscore the need to identify production systems capable of withstanding, and in some cases capitalizing on, environmental stresses. More diverse agroecosystems incorporate ecological concepts into system design and management to build resilience while minimizing agriculture’s negative footprint. Although resilience theory has much to offer for agroecosystems research, both for monitoring current systems and for planning future systems that can reconcile productivity and sustainability goals, confusion in the definitions and metrics complicate its application. We will examine how resilience theory can guide management in light of four key aspects: productivity, stability, resistance, and recovery, and we will identify breeding targets, practices and system designs that can help sustain productivity under environmental stress while maximizing positive response to favorable conditions. We will highlight some of the underlying biophysical mechanisms and propose approaches for agroecosystems researchers to monitor and assess resilience that consider the unique characteristics and goals of intensive agricultural systems.

Dr. Amélie Gaudin, an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at University of California, Davis specializes in agroecology. Dr. Gaudin completed her PhD in plant agriculture at the University of Guelph and conducted research as a crop physiologist at various CGIAR centers—including the International Potato Center (CIP) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)—before joining the UC Davis faculty in 2015.

Ernesto visiting smallholder farms in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Photo credit: Martha Caswell

Agroecology and Participatory Action Research (PAR): Critical Lessons and Reflections for the Future

February 6, 2017

Speaker: V. Ernesto Méndez

This presentation critically examined the integration of Agroecology and Participatory Action Research (PAR), as a promising approach to address current agrifood system issues. Ernesto discussed how his efforts to integrate PAR and Agroecology have evolved in the Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG) at the University of Vermont, and the challenges and opportunities that they have faced. This introduction was then used to engage the audience in a reflection about: 1) what can we learn from these experiences? 2) how do these lessons relate to the experience of the people in the audience? and 3) how can we use this knowledge to enhance the integration of PAR and agroecology for current and future endeavors?

V. Ernesto Méndez is Associate Professor of Agroecology and Environmental Studies, at the University of Vermont’s Environmental Program and Department of Plant and Soil Science, where he leads the Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG). His research and teaching focus on agroecology, agrifood systems, participatory action research (PAR), and transdisciplinary research approaches. At UVM he is also an active member of the Food Systems Initiative and a fellow of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics. He has more than fifteen years of experience doing research and development work with smallholder farmers in Latin America, with an emphasis on coffee farmer cooperatives. He is also working with a team of faculty and extensionists to address agricultural resilience in the face of climate change in Vermont and the Northeast. He has authored or co-authored over 40 peer-reviewed articles and chapters, as well as three edited books. Most recently, he was the lead editor of the book Agroecology: a transdisciplinary, participatory and action-oriented approach, published in 2016, which explores how the field of agroecology can contribute to attain more ecologically sound and socially just agrifood systems. Ernesto was born and raised in El Salvador and has worked extensively in Latin America, California and Spain.

John Reganold

What Does 40 Years of Science Tells Us about Organic Agriculture?

April 11, 2016
Morgan Hall Lounge

Speaker: Dr. John Reganold

Organic agriculture has a history of being contentious and is considered by some as an inefficient approach to food production. Yet organic foods and beverages are a rapidly growing market segment in the global food industry. The performance of organic farming will be discussed in light of four key sustainability metrics: productivity, environmental impact, economic viability and social wellbeing. Organic farming systems produce lower yields compared with conventional agriculture. However, they are more profitable and environmentally friendly, and deliver equally or more nutritious foods that contain less (or no) pesticide residues, compared with conventional farming. Moreover, initial evidence indicates that organic agricultural systems deliver greater ecosystem services and social benefits. Although organic agriculture has an untapped role to play when it comes to the establishment of sustainable farming systems, no single approach will safely feed the planet. Rather, a blend of organic and other innovative farming systems is needed.

Dr. John Reganold has shaped his career by his interest in agriculture and the environment, receiving his M.S. in Soil Science from UC Berkeley and his Ph.D. in Soil Science from UC Davis. He joined Washington State University in 1983 and is currently Regents Professor of Soil Science and Agroecology. He has spent 30-plus years bringing a blend of innovative research and teaching on sustainable farming systems into the mainstream of higher education and food production.

Edible Memory: How Tomatoes became Heirlooms and Apples became Antiques

March 14 , 2016
103 Mulford Hall

Speaker: Jennifer Jordan

How do the stories we tell each other about the past shape the food we eat? Even as countless varieties of edible plants have vanished permanently from the face of the earth, people are working hard to preserve the biodiversity and “genetic heritage” not only of rare panda bears or singular orchids, but also the plants of the backyard vegetable garden. A major consequence of this work is the emergence of heirloom food—varieties of fruit, vegetables, grains and livestock left behind by modern agriculture, but now experiencing a striking resurgence. Through a close examination of apples and tomatoes, this talk reveals the phenomenon of edible memory—the infusing of food, heirloom and otherwise, with connections to the past, in ways both deeply personal and inherently social. Paying attention to edible memory reveals deep connections between food and memory, social and physical landscapes, pleasures and possibilities.

Jennifer Jordan is a professor of sociology and urban studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She is the author of Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Tomatoes and other Forgotten Foods (University of Chicago Press, 2015) and Structures of Memory: Understanding Urban Change in Berlin and Beyond (Stanford University Press, 2006), among other publications.

Barbara Gemmill-Herren

Agroecology Enters the Vocabulary of the United Nations

February 8, 2016
Morgan Hall Lounge

Speaker: Barbara Gemmill-Herren

The intergovernmental process on agriculture (thus, policy carried out on international level, between governments) has often been fraught with disagreement. While major issues are recognized with a food system that is failing to nourish a large percentage of the global population, radically divergent paradigms of the future of agriculture are proposed as solutions. Unlike agreements on biodiversity or climate change, there are no negotiated agreements between governments on commonly agreed targets in the agriculture sector. In 2014, a process was begun at the Food and Agriculture Organization to discuss and recognise alternative pathways, specifically agroecology. This process, and its status, will be presented.

Dr Barbara Gemmill-Herren, until she retired in August, was Delivery Manager, Major Area of Work on Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture Programme Specialist, Sustainable Agriculture at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). She was previously director of Environment Liaison Centre International, international environmental non-governmental organization based in Nairobi, Kenya and was an honorary lecturer in Plant Ecology at University of Nairobi, Kenya. Within the FAO, she built and coordinated a global project on Pollination Services, implemented in Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Nepal. For the last five years, she has been responsible for FAO’s work on Ecosystem Services in Agricultural Production, and has been central to FAO’s new focus on Agroecology. She has been the principal investigator for the TEEBAgFood on rice production systems. She presently works as a consultant to ICRAF (The World Agroforestry Centre), continuing to support the United Nations’ work on agroecology.

The Large Potential of Local Croplands to Meet Food Demand in the United States

November 2, 2015
Morgan Hall Lounge

Speaker: Elliott Campbell

Local food systems may facilitate agroecological practices that conserve nutrient, energy, and water resources. However, little is known about the potential for local food systems to scale beyond niche markets and meet a substantial fraction of total food demand. Here we estimate the upper potential for all existing US croplands to meet total US food demand through local food networks. Our spatially explicit approach simulates the years 1850 through 2000 and accounts for a wide range of diets, food waste, population distributions, cropland areas, and crop yields. Although we find that local food potential has declined over time, particularly in some coastal cities, our results also demonstrate an unexpectedly large current potential for meeting as much as 90% of the national food demand. This decline in potential is associated with demographic and agronomic trends, resulting in extreme pressures on agroecological systems that, if left unchecked, could severely undermine recent national policies focused on food localization. Nevertheless, these results provide a spatially explicit foundation for exploring the many dimensions of agroecosystem sustainability.

Elliott Campbell’s research emphasizes the use of spatial analysis and environmental modeling to explore environmental policy, urban agroecology, and watershed sustainability. This work has appeared in media ranging from NPR’s “Morning Edition” to The Economist and has provided a basis for consultations to the U.S. EPA and other government agencies. He serves as Associate Editor to Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment and is the recipient of the NSF CAREER award. Dr. Campbell received his BS and MS from Stanford University and his PhD from the University of Iowa. He is currently an associate professor of Environmental Engineering at UC Merced.

Dr. Daphne Miller

Rediscovering Our Lost “Farmacy”

October 6, 2015
Morgan Hall Lounge

Speaker: Daphne Miller, MD

What protective health factors are lost when moving from an acroecological to an industrial model of agriculture? It is well documented that populations experience a sharp increase in the prevalence of most chronic diseases – including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases, cancer and depression – when they abandon a traditional lifestyle in favor of a more industrial one. While many environmental and behavioral factors are responsible for this phenomenon, research shows that the nutrition transition is an independent and significant contributor. To better understand this dietary transition, most investigations have focused on identifying the aspects of the Western diet that are potential promoters of disease such as ready access to fast food and processed food. By contrast, this talk focuses on understanding the agricultural systems underlying the nutrition transition and exploring what protective dietary factors are lost when individuals are no longer connected to a traditional way of farming based on agroecological principles. The protective benefits of agroecology will be discussed in four domains: 1) dietary diversity, 2) microbial diversity 3) medicinal foods, and 4) dietary behaviors.

Daphne Miller is a practicing family physician, author, and Associate Clinical Professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Her writings and profiles can be found in many publications including the Washington Post, the New York Times, Vogue, Orion Magazine, Yes! Magazine, Food and Wine, The Guardian UK and Harvard Medical Magazine. She is author of The Jungle Effect: The Healthiest Diets from Around the World, Why They Work and How to Make Them Work for You. and Farmacology: Total Health from the Ground Up. She is currently a Fellow at the Berkeley Food Institute.

The Heathland Centre at Lygra Western Norway

Diversified Farming Systems Utilizing Outfield Resources: Coastal Heathlands in Norway and Mid-montane Forests in Nepal

September 21, 2015
Morgan Hall Lounge

Speaker: Inger Elisabeth Måren

Age-old farming systems have evolved out of the necessity for local food production. In many of these systems, outfield resources have provided vital contributions to the infield production and yields. In these systems secondary succession is manipulated to yield certain desirable ecosystem services. Some of these semi-natural systems go back a long time, e.g. the North-Western European coastal heathlands and the mid-montane forests throughout the Himalayas. In this talk I will describe these two systems in detail and link them to the discussion of sustainable natural resource management. Are these systems out-dated or can systems like these help us develop better food production and food availability?

Inger Elisabeth Måren is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Geography, University of Bergen, Norway. Her research focuses on the dynamics in coupled human and natural systems, including natural resource management, agro-biodiversity, sustainable forest use, and food security. She works with colleagues across the social and natural sciences to elucidate links between anthropogenic activities and the environment, in Europe, as well as in Asia and Africa.

Agroecology, Farmer Livelihoods and Ecosystem Services in Santa Catarina, Brazil

April 20, 2015
Morgan Hall Lounge

Speaker: Joshua Farley, Associate Professor, Community Development and Applied Economics, University of Vermont.

With an estimated 12% of forest cover remaining, Brazil’s Atlantic Forest has likely crossed a critical ecological threshold beyond which it faces a collapse in biodiversity accompanied by a catastrophic reconfiguration of the ecosystem unless extensive restoration takes place in the near future. Brazil’s national forestry code requires restoration of enough forest cover to likely avoid catastrophic collapse. If small family farmers comply with the law, however, many will have inadequate arable land to sustain their families, which has triggered weakening of the code and a continued national debate over its future. We are working in the coastal mountain ranges of Santa Catarina, Brazil to develop and disseminate agroecological systems that can increase ecosystem services and economic output, reduce purchased inputs, comply with the forestry code, and improve farmer livelihoods. After describing the project, I will present the alternative definition of agricultural efficiency that drives our research: the ratio between food security gained and ecosystem services lost. I break this ratio down into an efficiency identity, consisting of economic, technical and ecological efficiency, each of which represents a leverage point for attaining a more efficient agricultural system. I assess the efficiency of agroecology and conventional agriculture in the region, and of Brazil’s Ministry of Agrarian Development and its conventional ministry of agriculture. I will conclude with our collaboration with the state program on payments for ecosystem services (PES), family farmers and agroecology cooperatives to develop policies that will facilitate the dissemination of agroecological practices at a sufficient scale to restore forest resilience in the state and beyond.

Slow Food and Ecological Economics: What Global Capitalism Cannot See

March 2, 2015
Morgan Hall Lounge

Speaker: Luis I. Prádanos (Iñaki), Assistant Professor, Spanish and Portuguese, Miami University. Originally from Spain, Professor Prádanos did his undergraduate work in Spain and Italy, and completed his MA and Ph.D. in the US. Before coming to Miami University, he was an assistant professor of Hispanic studies at Westminster College in Utah.

This presentation demonstrates that maintaining the conventional model of industrial agriculture for much longer is a biophysical impossibility due to energy restrictions (e.g. peak oil, global EROI decline, entropy, geopolitical conflicts). Although it is possible to stretch this agroindustrial model for a decade or two more, the social, political, and ecological consequences of doing so could be catastrophic. However, some international institutions (IMF, WB, WTO) are still promoting such a system on a global scale because their “experts” are trained in an obsolete economic paradigm that is blind to the biophysical realities of the biosphere. From the standpoint of a scientifically updated economic paradigm (ecological economics), it is obvious that the current agroindustrial system is uneconomical, unsustainable, and irrational. Slow Food Movement suggests (and is successfully implementing) alternatives to such a destructive model that are economically viable, socially desirable, and ecologically sound.

Photo by Maureen Nandini Mitra

Food Security Governance: Empowering Communities, Regulating Corporations

February 23, 2015
338 Koshland Hall

Speaker: Nora McKeon is engaged in teaching, writing and advocacy on food issues and social movements, following a career at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. She is the author of Food Security Governance: Empowering Communities, Regulating Corporations (2014), Global Governance for World Food Security (2011), The United Nations and Civil Society (2009), and Peasant Organizations (2004).

Today’s food system generates hunger alongside of food waste, burgeoning health problems, massive greenhouse gas emissions. Applying food system analysis to review how the international community has addressed food issues since World War II, this book proceeds to explain how actors link up in corporate global food chains and in the local food systems that feed most of the world’s population. It unpacks relevant paradigms – from productivism to food sovereignty – and highlights the significance of adopting a rights-based approach to solving food problems. The author describes how communities around the world are protecting their access to resources and building better ways of producing and accessing food, and discusses the reformed Committee on World Food Security, a uniquely inclusive global policy forum, and how it could be supportive of efforts from the base. The book concludes by identifying terrains on which work is needed to adapt the practice of the democratic public sphere and accountable governance to a global dimension and extend its authority to the world of markets and corporations.

After the Plantations: Empowering Youth to Rebuild Hawai'i’s Food System Through Action Education at the University of Hawai'i, West O'ahu

February 9, 2015
Morgan Hall Lounge

Speaker: Albie Miles, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Community Food Systems, University of Hawai’i, West Oahu.

Dr. Miles received his Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy and Management from the University of California at Berkeley in 2013. His natural science research explores the synergies between farming system biodiversity and the provisioning of globally important ecosystem services from agriculture. His social science research explores the socio-economic and political obstacles to a more ecologically sustainable and socially equitable food system. Dr. Miles teaches a wide range of courses on the topics of agroecology and sustainable food systems, and is directing the development of a new undergraduate concentration in Sustainable Community Food Systems at the University of Hawai’i, West O’ahu. Dr. Miles has an extensive background in curriculum development and post-secondary education emphasizing experiential and hands-on learning. He has held posts at the Organic Agriculture Program at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Hungry for Change: Farmers, Food Justice and the Agrarian Question

January 26, 2015
Morgan Hall Lounge

Speaker: Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Professor, Department of International Development Studies, Trent University. Trained as an economist, the focus of Haroon Akram-Lodhi’s research interest is in the political economy of agrarian change in developing capitalist countries, on the economic dimensions of gender relations, and on the political ecology of sustainable rural livelihoods and communities in contemporary poor countries.

Hunger and obesity sit side by side in the world today because a food system dominated by money, markets and profits allows those with money to obtain above and beyond their needs while those without cannot get the fundamentals of life. The result is a growing polarization of global agriculture, between a small number of haves and an ever-increasing number of have-nots. In Hungry for Change, Haroon Akram-Lodhi explains how capitalism was introduced into farming and how it transformed the terms and conditions by which farmers produce food. Written in accessible language and incorporating accounts from farmers and agricultural workers, this book explains how the creation, structure and operation of the capitalist world food system is marginalizing family farmers, small-scale peasant farmers and landless rural workers as it entrenches us all in a global subsistence crisis. Building upon the idea of food sovereignty, Akram-Lodhi develops a set of additional solutions to resolve the current crisis of the world food system.”

Cosponsored by Food First.

Practitioner and Expert Panel on Soil Health and Ecosystem Services

November 3, 2014
Morgan Hall Lounge

Soil health is the basis for the ecosystem services that soils deliver to society, such as plant growth, erosion control, and pollutant mitigation. Its great importance to agriculture has prompted the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a national Soil health Initiative to meet the challenges of farming in the 21st century. The NRCS has identified four key management practices that lead to soil health, while helping to ensure that soils will be resilient in the face of climate change and increasing demand for food as the world population grows and developing economies improve.  However, important questions remain as to how these practices should be implemented and their results assessed.  For example, does managing for soil health differ from the management practices in organic farming? Can soil health be quantified or is it only an intangible, qualitative concept?  Our panel, which includes academic, agency, and grower perspectives, will discuss these and other big questions that are driving new research and stimulating changes in the way agriculture is done today.

Dennis Chessman
, State Conservation Agronomist, USDA
Gil Eshel, Researcher, Soil Erosion Research Station, Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development, Israel; Visiting Fellow, Berkeley Food Institute
Celine Pallud, Associate Professor, Ecosystem Science, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley
Carl Rosato, Farmer and Owner, Woodleaf Farm
Moderated by Garrison Sposito, Professor of the Graduate School, Betty and Isaac Barshad Professor, Emeritus, Chancellor’s Professor, Emeritus, Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley

Social Action and Agrifood Movements: Diversity, Aims and Outcomes

October 6, 2014
Morgan Hall Lounge

From Slow Food to better school food to Occupy Big Food and well beyond, the agrifood arena has become a hotbed of social action and concern. Media pundits, food commentators and everyday enthusiasts now speak almost offhandedly of a “food movement.” However, beneath the broadbrush of a “food movement” lies considerable diversity in social movement antecedents and commitments, levels of organization and forms of action. We readily view diversity, perhaps especially agrobiodiversity, as a valuable and desirable attribute of farming systems.  How should we think about the implications of an agrifood movement field manifesting diverse and sometimes contradictory forms of social action? Drawing primarily on the North American context, this talk presents a developing sociological framework for considering diversity, divergence, change and impacts of both unorganized and more organized social action and initiatives related to agrifood issues.


Clare Hinrichs is a professor of Rural Sociology at Penn State University and a Visiting Fellow at the Berkeley Food Institute this Fall. Her work centers on the social dynamics in transitions to sustainable food and agricultural systems, and has included both discipline-focused research projects and larger multi-institutional, interdisciplinary collaborations.  She and her students have worked recently on the development, organization and outcomes of local and alternative food initiatives; the social impacts of sustainability and other quality standards for food and agriculture; and emerging knowledge systems and practice to support sustainable regional food and energy security.

Urban Foraging: Low Hanging Leaves

September 8, 2014
Morgan Hall Lounge

Wild foods are less considered in conversations of urban food systems. However, foraged foods might represent an untapped resource of accessible and nutritious foods.

Speaker: Thomas Carlson, Lecturer, Integrative Biology; Curator of Ethnobotany, Jepson and University Herbaria, UC Berkeley

Diversified crops at Full Belly Farm. Photo by: Paul Kirchner Studios.

Participatory Research Methods for Agricultural Extension

May 5th, 2014
Morgan Hall Lounge

Presenter: Jennifer Sowerwine

How can farmers be engaged with agricultural research?  Jennifer Sowerwine is a Research Associate, with the University and Jepson Herbaria at UC Berkeley and leads a number of innovative and participatory research projects within key agricultural sites of California.

Photo by Alfrea Wellness

Developing Seeds in Diversified Farming Systems

 April 28, 2014
Morgan Hall Lounge

Presenters: Kevin Murphy, Mathew Dillon, Charlie Brummer
Moderated by Liz Carlisle

Seeds are an essential part of agri-food systems. Without seeds, we would not have food crops to feed humans and animals; and without the thousands of years of plant breeding that farmers have carried out, we would not have the countless varieties that enrich our food cultures. With the rise of industrialized agriculture, highly concentrated seed companies, and GM crops, seed diversity has begun to shrink greatly. In recent decades, the vast majority of seed R&D effort and spending has focused on conventional crops. This means that organic and diversified farmers often use seeds that are poorly adapted to their conditions. That is, the historic practices of developing seeds in their farming and agrobiodiversity contexts are being lost.

This panel will explore the role of seeds and seed breeding in fostering sustainable agriculture. Specifically, we will look at how seeds can be developed for the conditions of diversified farming systems (e.g., multiple crops, intercropping, pest control/ecosystem services). How can seed development help diversified farmers better adapt to their changing environments, especially climate change? What is participatory plant breeding, and how might this give greater control to farmers and breeders over what seeds they can use? How can alternative breeding programs be developed in the current US and international agri-food system?

Food Chain Restoration: Recovering Monarch and Bee Populations in the Face of Climate Change and Herbicides

April 23, 2014
338 Koshland Hall

Presenter: Gary Nabhan

Because of dramatic declines in monarch butterfly, honey bee and bumblebee populations in North America, some ecologists and farmers are concerned that the risk of “food web collapse” is becoming more probable in insect-pollinated fruit, vegetable and forage crops in North America. To achieve “food chain restoration” of sufficient magnitude to avert the “extinction of ecological relationships” involving migratory and center-foraging pollinators, a broad array of stakeholders must be engaged in supporting on-farm habitat restoration and population recovery to ensure food security. The Make Way for Monarchs Alliance and Borderlands Restoration L3C are but two of many organizations now attempting to build broader partnerships for collaborative conservation of pollinator habitat in working landscapes west of the Mississippi.  Our strategies for designing and maintaining hedgerows, filter strips and other pollinator habitat in the face of climate change will be highlighted.

Gary Paul Nabhan is the W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable ood Systems at the University of Arizona, and a MacArthur Fellow. He is also an orchard keeper and co-facilitator of www.makewayformonarchs.org, a milkweed-butterfly recovery alliance. Along with bee ecologist Steve Buchmann, his co-author for The Forgotten Pollinators, he was among the first to sound the alarm about bee and butterfly declines in the mid-90’s. His latest book is Cumin, Camels and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey, has just come out from the University of California Press.

Pollinators as a Poster Child for Diversified Farming Systems

March 10th, 2014
Morgan Hall Lounge

Presenter: Claire Kremen

As well as being a Professor in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, Dr. Kremen is also the director of the Center for Diversified Farming Systems and the co-faculty director of the Berkeley Food Institute. Her work on pollinators has attracted national news coverage and is of great importance to California agriculture.

Biodiversity on the Farm: Inefficient, Unproductive, Only for Luddites?

February 10, 2014
Morgan Hall Lounge

Presenter: Judith Redmond, Co-founder and Co-owner of Full Belly Farm

Full Belly Farm is a 350 acre certified organic farm located in the beautiful Capay Valley of Northern California. They are committed to fostering sustainability on all levels, from fertility in their soil and care for the environment, to stable employment for their farm workers. Full Belly’s system includes: growing and marketing over 80 different crops; providing year-round employment for farm labor; using cover crops that fix nitrogen and provide organic matter for the soil; selling produce within a 120-mile radius of the farm; and planting habitat areas for beneficial insects and wildlife. The farm owners are Andrew Brait, Judith Redmond, Paul Muller, and Dru Rivers. With help from about 60 employees, the farm produces an amazing diversity of vegetables, herbs, nuts, flowers, and fruits year-round. The farm also has a flock of chickens, a herd of sheep, a tribe of goats, and several cows. Judith will address the roles of biodiversity on the farm.

Food and refreshments provided after the talk.