Zooming In: Sustaining the World, America, the Community and, Your Front Yard


Though “feed the world” rhetoric can often justify problematic food system practices, equitably providing food for all of our planet is a current challenge which will increase in the future. This week, we found four great pieces that address this issue from the global perspective to your front door.



Dr. Jonathan Folley, Director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, attempts this week in National Geographic to find a middle ground between industrial farming and small-stakeholder sustainable farming as a way of changing our food system across the globe. Summing up the conclusions of a panel of scientists who researched data on ways in which farming can increase production without harming the environment, Folley offers five steps that we may need to take:

Step One: Freeze Agriculture’s Footprint

Step Two: Grow More on Farms We’ve Got

Step Three: Use Resources More Efficiently

Step Four: Shift Diets

Step Five: Reduce Waste

Zooming our scale in to the U.S., Eve Andrews of Grist writes this week on how we can build a more sustainable food system in the U.S. Claiming that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, Andrews presents a fabulous interactive map showcasing one businesses in each state that are using local ingredients and the unique characteristics of their region to produce food in a sustainable way:

As someone who unironically loves this country, I challenged myself to find someone in every state in the nation who’s breaking the status quo when it comes to production of, access to, and education about food — but in a way that’s characteristic of, or addresses a particular need in, their home state. Spoiler alert: I did!"

Check out the map to see an example of who is innovating and working to move your state forward.

Adrien Schless-Meier of Civil eats reminds us that not only is it important to support local businesses who are aggressively challenging the status quo of our food system, it is also vital to work for food justice so that everyone in your local community has access to fresh and healthy food. Karen Washington has been a long time food and community advocate in New York City, and in an interview with Schless-Meier, Washington explains, among other things, her passion, her victories, her vision for the future of the food movement and the nature of her work:

When I go to wealthy neighborhoods or [visit] my friends who are white, I don’t see a McDonald’s on every block. I see nice restaurants and fruit stands. Why is that? I’m asking for the urban planners and city officials to sit down and look at the demographics."

And, finally, taking us to the layer of your food system that revolves around your house, Ellie Brown of Modern Farmer attempts to move our love of backyard gardens to our front yards. Pulling from her personal experience of wanting to garden in a home with a shady backyard she gives us wannabe-gardeners some inspiration for considering a different approach:

I’m no rebel myself but had come to realize that our new backyard was not ideal for the mini-farm of our dreams. All those gorgeous trees we fell in love with at the open house provide excellent shade and privacy, but would compete with vegetables for water and sunlight. Then there is the matter of the slope, which makes for excellent sledding but not such great plant growing. Our front yard, on the other hand, is flat and wide open. There is no ordinance where we live that prohibits growing food in front yards, so why let all that glorious sunshine go to waste?"

She gives us four solid arguments for using the space beyond your front stoop to show off your gardening skills and engage your neighbors in talking about growing food.

Changing our food system involves engaging in action and innovation at almost all of the geographic scales you can divine. It is fabulous to know that people are working at all of these levels to make our globe, country, communities and neighborhoods healthier, just and more sustainable.

INFOGRAPHIC: courtesy of National Geographic


Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson

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