Agriculture 3.0: a New Paradigm for Agriculture
Study Topic: As a 2013 Nuffield Scholar, Gayl is seeking to redefine what it really means to be sustainable in food and farming, by asking: ‘If Agriculture 1.0 is subsistence farming that uses traditional farming practices, and Agriculture 2.0 is industrial agriculture, which is creating serious health and environmental concerns in Canadian communities and communities world-wide, then what might Agriculture 3.0 look like, that offers farmers more choice and also addresses the many concerns about feeding 9 billion by 2050? (Please note that the use of version 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 is tech talk, used to indicate the version of software used by computers).
Gayl chose to travel through Europe because of the potential impact that industrial agriculture (Ag2.0) could have if it was adopted in areas that have preserved their culture, traditional foods and distinctive landscapes by continuing to practice traditional farming (Ag1.0). The lure of industrial farming and the cash it generates is hard to resist. Can these regions leap from Agriculture 1.0 to Agriculture 3.0 if the knowledge of a clear set of indicators and practices was transferred to them, as was achieved with the telephone, progressing from “telephone 1.0″ (ie. the telegraph) directly to “telephone 3.0″ (cellular technology)?
Objectives of Study Tour:
• Explore whether there are characteristics of Agriculture 1.0 that can be applied to developing indicators for Agriculture 3.0.
• Find working examples of Agriculture 1.0, including food traditions, sacred rituals, knowledge transfer from one generation to the next, local food systems, indigenous food systems, and practices that produce food while also preserving ecosystems and biodiversity (ie. pastoral landscapes).
• Determine which farming practices could help restore health: health of our soils, increased nutritional levels in plants, healthier animals, healthier farms and farm families, healthier ecosystems, and nutritious food that increases the vitality of individuals and the health of communities.
• Identify new marketing ideas that support direct market farmers so that they can better operate viable businesses.
• Offer a vision for more choice in Canadian agriculture.
1. Literature review to:
a. redefine sustainability and potentially incorporate the sacred, and
b. inventory farming practices that have stood the test of time and extract best practices from the knowledge embedded in these resilient traditional food production systems.
2. Study tour that includes:
a. countries in Europe with traditional food and farming practices and direct marketing strategies, and
b. “lived practice” (to quote French sociologist Danièle Herview-Léger), or research from on the ground, even if only briefly.
3. Use of Horns of the Dilemma and Natural Systems Thinking to work with groups of young farmers to define Ag 3.0 as a new paradigm for agriculture that reconciles the paradox of Ag1.0 and Ag2.0.
4. Pilots for an online ordering system and a five county 5 Star Food Hub collaborative in mid-western Ontario.
5. Exploring 3 case studies in detail:
Case 1: Preserving biodiversity and culture with Ag1.0 in Transylvania
Case 2: Cuba and self-sufficiency, the only post peak-oil agricultural system in the world proving that small farms can feed nations
Case 3: Local food and traditional diets, that includes interviews with local food stakeholders in Gozo, Malta (Ta Mena Estate), Austria (Bio vom Berg), France (Comptoir Paysanne) and Gayl’s own pilots back home in the Ontario.
6. Production of a knowledge guide of best practices for Agriculture 3.0 for innovative farmers who want choice, which includes a ‘score card’ of the indicators of Ag3.0.
The idea behind best practices is that there are already many excellent ideas out there and many different ways of doing things. The guide suggests possible choices farmers can make to operate more resilient farm businesses and to respond to consumer demand as we witness a conscious shift that is helping shape the future of agriculture.
• Farm direct marketing is active and very much a part of a way of life for Europeans. Local food just is and does not need to be labelled, because it always has been the way of food in these countries, without having to think about it.
• Despite poverty and employment issues, young farmers in Transylvania believe they are in the best place in the world “should something ever happen” to the global supply system. They also believe in preserving their landscape, one of the most biodiverse regions in Europe.
• Maintaining biodiversity (Pagan Snow Cap Region, Transylvania), landscapes (Gozo, Malta) and in many cases livelihoods, in areas where industrial agriculture practices are not yet used predominantly is dependent on continuing with traditional food and agricultural practices.
• Traditional farming practices have stood the test of time and demonstrate that they are resilient and often sustainable socially and environmentally.
• Travelling from undeveloped to developed European countries by train, one witnesses hands-on highly skilled and knowledge based food production shift to hands-off, low skill operation of tractors going back and forth all day long. Is this truly what farmers want?
• When working and speaking with young adults under the age of 30, it is clear that a new generation of consumer is here and that this generation is far more conscious than the two generations before. They are beginning to change our food systems. They want to be involved, know how their food is produced and that it is nutritious.
• Since agriculture is a sector that works so closely with Nature, natural systems offers a template for what it means to be sustainable (by demonstrating resilience). The 3 legged model for sustainability may work for human designed systems of industry and corporate structures, but it is wobbly when applied to the sector of food and agriculture that is so dependent on the natural system.
• For agriculture to contribute to a healthy world, we need to go back to the basics, with a mission statement of nourishing communities, not feeding the world.
My report is available at www.nuffield.ca, and Appendices (a very large file) is available upon request through Dropbox.