Agriculture is a vital part of the United States. It has taken on a multitude of shapes and forms since the inception of America. At its bottom line it is crucial to survival. More than likely, most individuals working in agriculture would confess that we ought to understand agriculture better. This might include knowing where your food is coming from, how that process works, the issues the industry are facing, and where its heading in general. Wendell Berry is one of the most profound voices in the arena of agriculture. As farmer, a writer, teacher, and poet, Berry's words have an evergreen effect. This is true in that they always seem to be relevant at a times eerily prophetic. In his work "The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture", Berry states, "Creation is a unique, irreplaceable gift, therefore to be used with humility, respect, and skill." One of the most important ways that we can show respect is to be informed on the issues facing agriculture. Let's examine 3 issues in North American agriculture.
Mouths To Feed
The population is growing. That is a fact of life. According to one source, "Over the next 40 years, world population is expected to swell to 9 billion people. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that in that time global food production will need to increase by 70 percent in order to prevent massive famine." This will make the approach to the increased demand for food nothing short of an uphill climb. In turn, a plethora of agriculture trends will need to be evaluated when in comes to meeting these demands. These trends are believed to pertain to food waste, vertical farming, water supply, biofuels, fossil fuels, farmable land, and much more.
Two words are inevitably interconnected when discussing the future of agriculture: decreasing resources. The largest question marks are currently revolving around the sustainable future of fossil fuels and water. In a 2012 interview, Dr. Jon Gerber, A Coordinator for the University of Massachusetts Sustainable Food and Farming program, explained, "We have an industrial agricultural system that’s totally dependent on the assumption that cheap fossil fuels will last forever”. However, the prices of crude oil has dropped to one of its lowest points since 2009. Comparatively speaking, that drop is down approximately 50% since the summer of 2014. On the brighter side of things, this has drawn major attention to the development of biofuels as an increasingly popular form of renewable energy. If developed accordingly, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation biofuels would open the doors to a bright future in agriculture.
As time has passed, the distance between people and food sources has developed into a vast divide. Translation: people are moving to cities and are ever growing further apart from farming communities in North America. This has grown to be a great concern for the agricultural industry. The cultural shift from rural areas to the city has been on the fast track for quite some time now. As this division between food sources and people have increasingly developed, the cities people are flocking to are being commonly referred to as "food deserts". The USDA's Economic Research Service recently came to the conclusion that approximately 23.5 million people are currently living in these food deserts. The USDA defines a food desert as, "urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options." Take heart though, the cultural shift is not without hope. There are several developing movements in hopes to shorten this gap. A few examples are vertical farming and the farm to table craze. Through these movements many people are starting to recognize the importance of a healthy agricultural industry in our country. One public example of a more organized form of this effort can be found in the city of Louisville, Kentucky where our parent brand, MXD Process, is located. Louisville Farm to Table is an organization with a mission to "increase the capacity of the local food system by working to increase production, marketing, distribution and sales of Kentucky edible agriculture products and to meet the demand of Louisville's market for local foods." Some of the more visible ways this has been demonstrated is the cultivation of relationships, public forums, and open communication with the public schools. In a recent interview by Mixer Direct with Tyler Morris, the Executive Chef at Rye On Market in Louisville, when asked what the most encouraging thing about food in his city he promptly responded with “The most encouraging trend in food is literacy, a want from the public to know where their food is coming from is very strong here in comparison to other cities of similar and larger sizes”.