Who will be tomorrow’s farmers?

In this second blog-post published on June 5 for the FCRNProfessor Michael Hamm C.S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture – Michigan State University and Director of the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems explores the future of farming. Who will farm? How will they access land? “How will they gain the skills to farm in environmentally friendly ways and continuously improve as new practices emerge?  Where will they learn to manage a farm business in a profitable and sustainable way – that is in a manner that provides a good livelihood for them and their families, produces significant amounts of food, and improves the resource base?”

He takes as his example the situation in the US but what he says applies equally well to the Europe. Thus:

“In the U.S. we import more total food per capita (link is external) (227 pounds per person in 1989 – 358 pounds/person in 2009) and fruits/vegetables (link is external) each year.  These imports primarily represent food diversification and off-season fruit and vegetable access.  The U.S. has had an increasing fruit/vegetable trade deficit since the mid-90’s with the largest share coming from Mexico (36% of total produce imports in 2011) – a country with a projected 30 million population increase (link is external) over the next thirty-five years.  We should ask (at least) two questions – do we continue down a road of fruit/vegetable trade deficits from countries with growing populations and fresh water sufficiency challenges?  Put another way, is the U.S. model of food sourcing scalable to an urbanized world of 9 billion?  What happens if the U.S. eater shifts consumption to a healthier diet with increased fruit/vegetable consumption and less meat/total calories?  I think these questions argue against a business as usual approach in the 21st century.

It is estimated (link is external) there will be two urban for every rural resident in 2050.  An increasingly urbanized globe needs to feed itself, yet there will be fewer people living in those rural areas that provide the bulk of food.  How do we (as a global community) insure food security for an increasingly urban population? How do we move from coerced resilience (link is external), that is resilience driven by human inputs, to resilience that is driven by the ecosystems in which food production occurs?”

And he looks at the options for feeding the US population in 2050: “expanding food imports, possibly to the detriment of urban consumers in those exporting countries’;

vs “producing a greater share within our borders and reducing pressure on other countries’ food production. Can we produce it closer to the point of consumption and minimize fresh water migration?  Can we do this not as a reactionary or nationalistic response to global trade but as a conscious strategy for resiliency improvement and global food security cooperation?”

The full piece can be found here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.