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Vote with Your Food: In Pursuit of Sustainable Farming

A guest blog from Ignite Channel 

Men pour fresh fish into buckets of ice.

Where does your fish come from? 
Photo by Kimberly Bryant

Every time we eat, we're placing a vote either toward our old, environmentally harmful food system, or a new, sustainable one. As both chef and scholar, Dan Barber holds an interesting perspective on sustainable fish farming: he's not only interested in helping the planet, but is also concerned with serving his customers delicious food. In his in-depth TED Talk, Barber explains the ins-and-outs of creating a sustainable eco-system for farming that benefits the earth and animals, as well as produces delicious food.

Barber says that, in addition to increasing organic and local farming, we also "need to radically reconsider what agriculture looks like." This includes paying more attention to innovations like agroforestry and perennial wheat polycultures; naturally resilient and ecologically stable, these approaches are equipped to deal with our current and future food challenges:

"The conventional food system -- which is based on lots of cheap energy, lots of cheap labor, lots of available water, lots of soil erosion -- is going to be a dead man walking 20 years from now."

When those resources become irrevocably depleted, Barber warns that we'll be forced to change. If we haven't spent time and effort creating a sustainable system to take its place, there will be a lot more food deserts in our future.


A school of fish swims in the ocean (Wiki)

Barber cautions, "for the past 50 years, we’ve been fishing the seas like we clear-cut forests. It’s hard to overstate the destruction."

 With all of Barber's knowledge of the intricate inner-workings of agriculture, sustainable farming, and cooking, it is telling that he, too, feels that one of the most important things we can do to help our health and planet is to simply "diversify our diets — if we eat less processed food, or switch to animals raised on grass instead of corn — it supports a healthier system."

He also points out that food justice is a topic on which we can take action immediately -- the average person has agency to make a change today by simply voting with their fork and spoon. Our individual eating habits really do have the power to sway the industry toward sustainable change -- or continue digging deeper into our planet's increasingly limited resources:

"I think it’s important to get people to realize they have a very powerful set of decisions to make when they eat. And those decisions have a huge effect on how the world works. That’s very powerful!"

We are grateful to Kimberly Bryant and the Ignite Channel for granting us permission to use this article.