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Archive for the ‘Food Health and Environment Books’ Category

More agroecology!

Posted by brbuzz on August 27, 2008

You can find more of my work on participatory learning, sustainable winegrape production, and efforts to scale up agricultural partnerships at http://itrs.scu.edu/kwarner/agecobc.htm#agroecology
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What I hope Agroecology in Action does: public mobilization

Posted by brbuzz on August 27, 2008

Do you ever wonder why it’s easier to propose theories about how agriculture should be sustainable, but hard to actually implement them? As started my dissertation research, I observed that many theories have evolved about sustainable agriculture, but few studies explain how people (farmers, farm advisors, scientists) had actually put these ideas into action. More than 80 definitions of sustainable agriculture could be found in scientific publications, but I found myself more interested in understanding how people translated the ideas into action.

My study, Agroecology in Action, shows that many people are assembling different configurations of social networks, based on their understanding of sustainable agriculture, and that these are having a profound effect on American farming. I wrote this book to help theoreticians and practitioners better understand that alternative agriculture requires an alternative extension process: social learning.

I love California’s environment and I love California agriculture. As I rambled around our state’s rural landscape, I discovered that many people working in agriculture do, too, while at the same time, most urban Californians are removed from farming. This prompted me to show how farming is evolving to become more environmentally conscious. I discovered that thousands of people were working to make incremental, affordable improvements in stewardship, but these were largely invisible to the public. The environmental problems of modern agriculture get newspaper headlines. I wanted my study to take on the “big picture” question of the evolution of these “thought and practice” issues, something that is not generally reported in popular media or scientific journal articles.

My first idea for a dissertation centered on agricultural policy questions, but I soon discovered that extension strategies in sustainable agriculture were more critical, and begged for social science analysis. How do growers or consultants learn what they need to know? Why have some UC Cooperative Extension advisors and commodity groups worked intensively with grower networks to foster sustainable agriculture innovation? What extension strategies have they developed? When I about the agricultural partnership model, I realized that there were many initiatives taking place in the agricultural community with many crops that represented a “quiet revolution.” I set out to document them and to look for emergent patterns that could inform further efforts.

My initial work suggested that the “partnership model” depended on grower participation and cooperative learning in networks, and these features distinguish it from “technology transfer.” The UC Biologically Integrated Farming Systems (BIFS) Workgroup was generous in funding a portion of my study specifically investigating the role of grower participation. I used a network analysis methodology because it allowed me to look at how clusters of people were coordinating their participatory learning efforts. Over a three-year period, I conducted over 150 interviews and 13 focus groups with 84 participants. I attended more than 34 field days and agricultural partnership meetings, and reviewed over 200 reports and articles.

Each chapter opens with a narrative of how farmers, consultants, extension agents, scientists, growers groups and environmental agency officials collaboratively learned about how to make ecological principles practical in farming—in other words, useful for pollution prevention and sustaining rural livelihoods. I show the critical importance of “social learning” to foster innovation. Many great ideas for preventing pollution in agriculture exist on paper. My book explains how these networks realized their potential. The balance of each chapter provides social science analysis of how these networks negotiate the challenges of putting these ideas into action.

I wrote the book so that it would appeal to multiple audiences. General readers can engage the big issues by reading the opening narratives. Anyone interested in assembling a network for environmental resource protection will benefit from a close reading of the more formal social science analysis, which constitutes the balance of each chapter. My study suggests that pollution prevention has taken place in general proportion to the resources and effort invested in the development of integrated farming systems. This begs the question: What would happen if the same research, innovation and collaborative Extension efforts were expended on all crops?

The book concludes with a call to public mobilization. The public wants more sustainable agriculture. Many producers and scientists do as well. Agricultural policymakers and research directors are the critical missing links. This book shows how agriculture could be an even better steward of the environment, with more investment in these new forms of research and innovation. I would like to thank the hundreds of people who helped me with this study, but especially the past and present staff of SAREP and the UC BIFS Workgroup. These are the people making the difference; all I did was tell their story.

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Nutritional Analysis for Pre-Schoolers

Posted by Bob Gottlieb on June 26, 2008

Question from a Nursing Graduate Student

Q. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations of nutritional analysis programs that parents have used (and have liked using)? If not, can you suggest an analysis program that has been used extensively in research of pre-schoolers?

A. There is a Nutrition Data System for Research, based on parental recall of preschoolers’ intake, but we don’t know of any programs parents are able to use. The citation for the study is:

Fitzgibbon ML, Stolley MR, Schiffer L, Van Horn L, KauferChristoffel K, Dyer A. Two-year follow-up results fro HIP-HOP to Heath JR.: A randomized controlled trial for overweight prevention in preschool minority children. Journal of Pediatrics 2005;146:618-625.
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Commentary on Agroecology in Action

Posted by UEPI on June 26, 2008

“As I started my dissertation research, I observed that many theories have evolved about sustainable agriculture, but few studies explain how people (farmers, farm advisers, scientists) had actually put these ideas into action.”

From the publication Sustainable Action. Click here for the full commentary
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Upcoming Book: Food Justice

Posted by UEPI on June 18, 2008

Food Justice will tell the stories and provide the analysis about the emerging food justice movements and how the concept of food justice is changing the discourse concerning healthy, sustainable, and fresh food alternatives to the dominant global food system. Authored by Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi, with chapter contributions from Amanda Leigh Shaffer, Mark Vallianatos, Vanessa Zajfen, Debra Eschmeyer and Andrea Misako Azuma.
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“Filling in ‘Food Deserts'” Editorial by Amanda Shaffer and Robert Gottlieb

Posted by Amanda Shaffer on June 18, 2008

Amanda Shaffer and Robert Gottlieb co-authored an editorial on L.A.’s “food deserts,” which appeared in The Los Angeles Times on November 5th, 2008. Read the full article here.
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Food and the Mid-Level Farm

Posted by UEPI on June 17, 2008

Food and the Mid-Level Farm:
Renewing an Agriculture of the Middle

Edited by Thomas A. Lyson, G. W. Stevenson, and Rick Welsh

June 2008, MIT Press

Agriculture in the United States today increasingly operates in two separate spheres: large, corporate-connected commodity production and distribution systems and small-scale farms that market directly to consumers. As a result, midsize family-operated farms find it increasingly difficult to find and reach markets for their products. They are too big to use the direct marketing techniques of small farms but too small to take advantage of corporate marketing and distribution systems. This crisis of the midsize farm results in a rural America with weakened municipal tax bases, job loss, and population flight. Food and the Mid-Level Farm discusses strategies for reviving an “agriculture of the middle” and creating a food system that works for midsize farms and ranches. Activists, practitioners, and scholars from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, political science, and economics, consider ways midsize farms can regain vitality by scaling up aspects of small farms’ operations to connect with consumers, organizing together to develop markets for their products, developing food supply chains that preserve farmer identity and are based on fair business agreements, and promoting public policies (at international, federal, state, and community levels) that address agriculture-of-the-middle issues. Read the rest of this entry »

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Confronting the Coffee Crisis

Posted by UEPI on June 17, 2008

Confronting the Coffee Crisis:
Fair Trade, Sustainable Livelihoods and Ecosystems in Mexico and Central America

Edited by Christopher M. Bacon, V. Ernesto Méndez, Stephen R. Gliessman, David Goodman and Jonathan A. Fox

February 2008, MIT Press

Our morning cups of coffee connect us to a global industry and an export crisis in the tropics that is destroying livelihoods, undermining the cohesion of families and communities, and threatening ecosystems. Confronting the Coffee Crisis explores small-scale farming, the political economy of the global coffee industry, and initiatives that claim to promote more sustainable rural development in coffee-producing communities. Contributors review the historical, political, economic, and agroecological processes within today’s coffee industry and analyze the severely depressed export market that faces small-scale growers in Mexico and Central America. Read the rest of this entry »

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Agroecology in Action

Posted by UEPI on June 16, 2008

Agroecology in Action

Keith Douglass Warner

January 2007, MIT Press

American agriculture has doubled its use of pesticides since the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962. Agriculture is the nation’s leading cause of non-point-source water pollution–runoffs of pesticides, nutrients, and sediments into streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. In Agroecology in Action, Keith Douglass Warner describes agroecology, an emerging scientific response to agriculture’s environmental crises, and offers detailed case studies of ways in which growers, scientists, agricultural organizations, and public agencies have developed innovative, ecologically based techniques to reduce reliance on agrochemicals. Read the rest of this entry »

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