Sustainable Farming Issues for 2012: Bees, a Bill, and Seeds

A heart shaped vegetable display

I’d Rather Be Gardening

As much as I prefer to write about gardening and edible landscaping, there are key issues that beg our attention and energy this year, and they have to do with bees, a bill and seeds. What they have in common is no less than ensuring fresh healthy food for your table.

I attended the 32nd Annual EcoFarm Conference recently with over 1500 other attendees from all over the United States and abroad. The conference brings together farmers, distributors, seed producers, and other stakeholders in our nation’s food system. As an avid urban gardener and passionate foodie, I couldn’t pass up this perfect opportunity to meet farmers and listen to their stories and the challenges they face. The challenges are due to our economic and agricultural policies that favor industrial agriculture, not the independent small farm.

But an energizing momentum has taken hold. Farmers dedicated to organic and sustainable practices have increasing public support, especially at the local level in communities all across the nation. It is with public support, i.e. consumers who value healthy food and ethical agricultural practices, that this movement will continue to grow and bring about change.

Here are three important topics with huge implications for sustainable agriculture that I’ll be following and writing about:

1. The 2012 Farm Bill

Not exactly a riveting subject for the average urbanite, but trust me, your voice could have a big impact in convincing the authors of the bill to include policies supportive of small organic farms. There are key parts of the Farm Bill to focus on in order to begin shifting policies in the right direction, as explained at the  CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers)  annual meeting the day before the EcoFarm Conference.

2. Your Right to Save Seeds

If you want to continue to have the freedom, nay, the right to save and plant seeds you’ll want to pay attention. A few big agricultural companies prefer to control the seed industry in its entirety, including seeds for the home gardener.  The companies that supply seeds are continuing to be bought up and consolidated.  This is alarming. I’ll be following up with seed crusader, Matthew Dillon of Seed Matters, a new initiative.

Partners for Sustainable Pollination

3. Bees and Other Pollinators

The crisis affecting bees is still with us, and the situation is no better – it’s probably worse. As Michael Pollan explained: 40% of our food is directly attributed to pollination. This means that out of every ten mouthfuls of food, four will be missing if our pollinators disappear. Bees simply don’t have enough of the right forage to sustain themselves, leading to weak colonies.  I had the opportunity to talk with Paul Kaiser of Singing Frog Farm, about his vision and work for the certification of bee friendly farms.

Each of these topic areas ultimately have to do with agricultural practices that are hostile to sustainable food production. Changes for the better will only happen with public interest and support. If you value pure fresh food and the right to produce it, this means you.

Photo: Urban Artichoke

Logo: Partners for Sustainable Pollination

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