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Farming & Resilience

“When applied to our food system, the concept of sustainability depends on who you talk to. It’s either a term that’s been rendered meaningless by marketing overexposure or the key to our survival”. – Douglas Gayeton

Sustainability is survivability. Sustainability is toughness. Sustainability is resilience. We wrap up this Food List series looking eagerly towards the future of sustainable agriculture and key tools for building a resilient food system. We share this conversation with our partners at Food Tank, who recognize the urgency of a need for a resilient food system in the face of climate challenges.

So what exactly is resilience? It’s the ability to keep going, even when things around you are going wrong. Its the fearless response of a community in the face of disaster. Resilience is creative innovations to meet challenges.

Resilience in the food system is outlined by many agricultural principles. Agroecology accentuates the resilient characteristics of ecosystems — multifunctional, regenerative, biodiverse, and interconnected. For some, to create a resilient food system means to strive for greater true cost accounting and self-reliance.

Today, our food production has become more and more concentrated, as populations swarm to cities and industrial agriculture has expanded. Urban agriculture has been sprouting throughout the country as a means of hyperlocalizing our food system and a way to broaden ecoliteracy. Urban food hubs, such as rooftop farms, also help bridge the gap between city dwellers and their food, while creating secure, activated communities.

The beauty of resilient and sustainable food systems is that they can be achieved at many different levels. Resources are available for all food operations, big and small. It just starts from the ground up. To build a resilient food system, resilient characteristics must be selected and preserved, and soil fertility must be built and maintained. From there, it’s a matter of natural processes and how species can withstand impacts.

We wrap up this edition of the Food List with an important question from Frances Moore Lappe, “What are the conditions for life?” To be an effective steward of the land and it’s resources, to be able to build a resilient food system, you must think like an ecosystem. Rather than deconstruct the elements that make up the whole, and analyze them, it’s critical to recognize the interconnection. From there, you will have a solid foundation to understanding how to build a resilient and sustainable food system.

This week's terms

Seed Sovereignty

Seed sovereignty reclaims seeds and biodiversity as commons and public good. The farmer's rights to breed and exchange diverse open source seeds which can be saved and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled by emerging seed giants.

Beyond Organic

There is a fundamental difference between the organic movement and the more recent organic industry. We need to dig deeper and look beyond narrow legal definitions to find a philosophy that truly addresses a system of agriculture that is incredibly complex and multidimensional.

Soil Fertility

Soil fertility is defined by the plant growth, typically the greater soil fertility the more plant growth. The issue is that different plants need different types of soils and have different nutrient or water requirements. Soil fertility involves having typically adequate soil carbon levels, having good tilth, not compacted, good water infiltration and water holding capacity, and both water and nutrients can be retained. It’s a value that is defined by what the plant requires to grow. And good soil fertility is critical for any crop productivity, only with fertile soils will we achieve the yield potential of a given soil. - Prof. Johannes Lehmann

True Cost Accounting

By considering all the external costs factored out of the cost of food, an economic principle called true cost accounting helps consumers understand the real cost of the food they buy.


Any species (including Gulf Coast fishermen and Louisiana Blue Crabs) that withstands the impact of all user groups upon it, while maintaining equilibrium throughout it's life cycle.

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