Tag Archives: farming

The billion dollar growth of local food at the 2012 Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Conference

Local food is an $8 billion industry and growing rapidly every year. But all that success has brought a series of problems, mostly because the food industry is not set-up for sustainable agriculture. Which means focusing as much on the land as on the food, with such ideas as organic, seasonal, free range, grass-fed, non-GMO, and more.

The 2012 Seedstock Conference discussed those problems and successes with a diverse crowd including venture capitalists and tomato farmers, and talks covering an interesting range of topics:

  • Scaling sustainable agriculture
  • Urban farming
  • Buyers perspective
  • Digital technology
  • Investment in sustainable agriculture
  • Agripreneur Fast Pitch Competition

Each talk contained the right assortment of experts and business owners. I was particularly impressed with the buyers perspective panel where representatives from Whole Foods and Fresh Point discussed getting local foods into stores and hospitals and hotels. It was a lot more about logistics, getting food into boxes and keeping things refrigerated, than I thought it would be. They said this is mostly due to the informal nature at farmers markets - cash and plastic bags – where these farmers operate.

And often the best part of these sustainable conferences is the food. Jason Reed, the founder of Seedstock, filled the breakfast, lunch, and networking receptions with superb fare. The coffee was from local favorite Groundworks and the lunch from Chef Erik Oberholtzer, cofounder of Tender Greens, was amazing. I don’t usually eat exotic grains like quinoa, but combined with local and seasonal vegetables and with a mint lemonade drink – I enjoyed it.

It was a premier conference with sophisticated people and I look forward to the next event from Seedstock.

 

Research: cheaper food means less nutrients

A few weeks ago, I shared a study that found nutrients in the U.S. food supply are declining. Which could explain why millions of Americans, who prefer to be thin, are overeating to get more nutrients.

Another study found that industrial farming techniques – including the use of petroleum-based fertilizer – reduces nutrient levels in food, while dramatically increasing yields. This means we have abundant cheap food with lowered nutrient levels:

This article summarizes three kinds of evidence pointing toward declines during the last 50 to 100 years in the concentration of some nutrients in vegetables and perhaps also in fruits. It has been noted since the 1940s that yield increases produced by fertilization, irrigation, and other environmental means tend to decrease the concentrations of minerals in plants.

Jarrell and Beverly (1981) reviewed the evidence for this well-known “dilution effect.” Although their review has been cited over 180 times (60 times from 2000 on), few mentions of the dilution effect contain a reference, suggesting that the effect is widely regarded as common knowledge.

Common among scientists perhaps, but the public is unaware. When I share this among friends and readers there is a strong disbelief, with the most common response being - food is cheaper. Yes it is, because it has been hollowed out like a pumpkin and there’s nothing left on the inside.

And that makes it a struggle to get the message out. How do I explain the dilution effect to a public obsessed with everything but this – from diet programs to food labels to coupon cutting that encourages cheaper food?

 

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