Back in January, Organic Valley staff members Jerry McGeorge and Theresa Marquez wrote a very interesting article for the Organic ValleyRootstock magazine titled: Feed the People –or In Quest of a World Food Plan, Part One. In it they talk about the need for a World Food Plan.
As a person who lives in a semi-affluent area of the world, I rarely see hunger or poverty. I am sheltered from the reality that over 1.2 billion people are starving at this moment and roughly 100,000 people will die today because of malnutrition. Yet, our farm plays an integral role in providing food for the world. (You can learn more about hunger on our planet by visiting the World Food Programme)
Often, I hear the chorus singing as farmers it is our “duty” to the feed the world. Producing more and more is the only solution given to us. I understand the numbers that show we will have to produce as much food in the next 40 years as has been produced in all of human history. I also understand that world hunger is not just a product of not enough food being produced. Economics, politics, infrastructure, climate, etc all play a role in this complicated subject.
In Jerry and Theresa’s essay they state:
The big question is not who but how can we feed the world. And if we have an honest dialogue, there will be more than one answer… It is essential that any Plan to Feed the World must consider the conservation of resources for future generations and preservation of diversity. As we look toward the future, it is not just about feeding people. It is, as we know – people feeding themselves. We will need both SHORT and LONG TERM solutions, and they will have different goals, and they are likely to contradict each other. All forms of food production must have a role—even the tiny alternative agriculture sectors such as organic (1% of total agriculture) if we are honestly considering the long term impacts of our food production.
Often organic producers are tagged as not doing our part to feed the world. We are only producing for an “elite” group of consumers. Organic producers are criticized for not producing “enough” to feed those starving populations. As by choosing to using production methods that don’t result in the most milk per cow or bushel for acre, we are forcing starvation on others.
While this argument seems valid, I always have to take a step back and look at the big picture. In the spring of 2007 our farm was at a cross-roads. Tim had graduated from college the pervious December and was interest in joining the operation. Also, Sarah and Steve no longer lived on the farm full-time and could no longer give of their “free” labor. The current economic situation on the farm would not allow for two families to live comfortably. Furthermore, due to county zoning and urban sprawl there would be no way to increase our herd numbers. We had two options: Downsize the herd to a manageable size for just Jon and Lisa or increase the value (i.e. go organic) of what we were currently producing and bring Tim on as a partner.
Let us consider what would have happened if had we went the first option. First off, the herd size probably would have decreased to about 60 cows. In Minnesota, it is estimated that each dairy cow provides 12 off farm jobs. By decreasing our herd we would have decreased the potential of 480 jobs. Also, there would have been the lost of tax revenue from a lost of over all income. Hopefully, you are making the connection that our farm, by being organic, provides more economic stimulas and good (i.e. more jobs=more money for food= less poverty) than if we had continued to be conventional.
Do I have the answers for a World Food Plan? Heck no, but I do know that the way our family choses to farm is only helping solve the hunger problem and not creating it. If by choosing to farm organically, means that a small farmer in Ecuador is able to find a market for her products and therefore feed her family and keep them out of poverty, I see nothing wrong with that. Or if a farmer in Zimbabwe is able to plant GMO corn which are resistant to drought and disease and therefore feed his family, I see nothing wrong with that.
Of course I understand all the arguments against GMO technology and things are not black and white (Believe me, I have worked for organizations where I have had to defend both sides, I get it). But at the end of the day if our world’s nations are creating policy that allows farmers to farm in ways that give them a livable income while not depleting our precious natural resources and in turn create more jobs and more access to healthy foods, can we agree that this would be a good World Food Plan?
What are your thoughts on a World Food Plan? Visit the Organic Valley Blog: Organic Sense and share your thoughts. I would love to see discussion by all sides and walks. We need to stop preaching to the choir and reach out to everyone involved in the solutions to solve world hunger. If our world is really going to need to feed 11 billion people by 2050, we need to get started now.
Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, http://www.zweberfarms.com