Sustainable Food and Farming: Reflections


Over the past few months, I have posted a series of reflections on sustainable food and farming here at  This is my 12th post of the series and it seems like a good time to pause for a moment and have a look back.  If you find this summary useful, perhaps you would share it with your friends and colleagues.  I hope these blogs will find their way into classrooms as a way to start meaningful conversations about sustainable food and farming.  This can only happen with your help.

We began the series with an introduction to sustainable food and farming by asking “is sustainable agriculture sustainable?”   While there are many ways of thinking about sustainability, I suggest that only an agricultural system founded on ecological principles could possibly be sustainable.

My second post explored the relationship among the three generally accepted “pillars of sustainability”; environmental integrity, economic vitality,and social equity.  I presented symbolic representations and contrasted a competitive model (the venn diagram) with a living systems model (concentric circles).

Then we turned practical and had a look at some real-world examples of the principles we were exploring with “Sustainable Food and Farming part III: Lets get Practical.”

We then took a hard look at three ecological principles that contribute to a more sustainable agriculture:

  1. Use current solar income
  2. Everything cycles (waste equals food)
  3. Enhance biological diversity

Next, I introduced a way of thinking about our place in the larger world and asked “why should we care?”   In this post I presented a model of interconnectedness that claims the quest for a more sustainable agriculture may be motivated by self-interest, provided we accept an expanded and holistic understanding of “self.”

Just as I finished this last post, the Walmart Corporation announced they were making a major investment into local food systems.  Hmmmmmm….. this needed some exploration and I used the foundation created in the first seven blogs to examine the big news.

As I was wondering if Walmart was truly committed to the social equity “pillar” of sustainable agriculture, I was challenged by a faculty colleague who told me quite bluntly that social equity and justice has nothing to do with sustainability.   Another hmmmmmmmm….. so I shared my own thinking on sustainability and social justice.

One of my students got my attention with the bold statement that “we can’t expect human behavior to change until we change societal structures, like policies and regulations.” Hmmmmmmmm…..  lots of things to think about these days.  I don’t think that is quite true…… and I shared my thoughts about “which comes first” – policy change or personal change.

For me the answer is simple…. neither.  First we change our minds!  My next post suggested that we must learn to speak from the heart if we are to encourage people to think differently and maybe try to behave in a more sustainable manner.

But of course, not everyone wants to listen to our pleas to behave more sustainably.  My last post presented a way of  thinking about people who “just don’t want to think about all of this stuff.”

So here we are at the end of a series of  blog posts that present a framework for how I think about sustainable food and farming.  I’ve got lots of ideas of where to go next, but I’d love to hear from you.   What questions or thoughts do you have about this series of 12 blog posts?


I’d appreciate it if you would share this post with your friends.  And for more ideas, videos and challenges along these lines, please join my Facebook Group; Just Food Now.   And go here for more of my posts.

2 thoughts on “Sustainable Food and Farming: Reflections

  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed resading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

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