Thursday September 11, 2014

Food Fight: Round Two - The case for small, local and organic farming

Listen 7:11

In round one of the 180 Food Fight, we heard from agricultural economist Al Mussell. He made that case that large scale, intensive industrial agriculture is the most sustainable way to feed a hungry planet. He says that small scale organic producers use up a lot more land to produce the same amount of food.

"As we increase the food supply to feed a hungry world, we have to bring more and more land into production and that's very environmentally damaging." We heard back from a lot of our listeners about that interview. And one of those listeners was Wendy Holm who also happens to be an economist and agrologist.


"When you start putting fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides onto soils to increase yields in the short term, you basically destroy those soils in the long term."

Wendy Holm


Holm says that overly intensive agriculture is an obstacle to sustainable food production. She says that intensive agriculture takes a heavy toll on the environment that smaller producers can avoid. "When you start putting fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides onto soils to increase yields in the short term, you basically destroy those soils in the long term."

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Wendy Holm wasn't the only one to take issue with our Al Mussell interview. Robin Turner is co-proprietor of the Roots and Shoots Farm and a past president of the Ottawa Farmers Market Association. He says that Mussel is wrong to say that people shop at farmer's markets for sentimental reasons, or a sense of moral obligation. Turner says that people are turning to the local markets because the industrial food system has failed them.

"You can call it niche, artisanal, or what-have-you, but people are shopping locally because it is filling an intrinsic capitalist need in both the consumer and the marketplace."