Conventional vs organic agriculture: Cornelia Harris, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

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Part of THV's July 2014 institute, "Farms & Food: Teaching the Hudson Valley from the Ground Up." From a full-day field experience, "Our Ecosystem, Our Health: Exploring the Benefits of School & Community Gardens," in Poughkeepsie, NY. Particpiants visited gardens at Krieger ES, Poughkeepsie HS, and the Poughkeepsie Farm Project with Cornelia Harris, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and Jamie Levato, education coordinator for the Poughkeepsie Farm Project.

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  • Ask participants about their concerns
  • My point-of-view: I am, first and foremost, an ecologist with a definitive soft spot for vertebrate animals. There are many other versions of this kind of a talk!
  • A story: at the screening of Food, Inc., a Stonyfield executive says to the Wal-Mart executive – “Funny, I’ve never been inside a Wal-Mart. I boycott you guys”. Meanwhile, last year Wal-Mart became the top retailer of organic foods in the country, including Stonyfield yogurt products.
  • Fact: large-scale, monocropping, industrial organic exists
  • By 2005 corn yields in the Midwest and China were about the same, but Chinese farmers were using about 525 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per acre compared with 83 pounds in the Midwest, and farms in northern China generated nearly 23 times the amount of excess nitrogen than those in the Midwest. Meanwhile, farms in western Kenya uses 1/13th what the U.S. farms uses, and corn yields remain paltry. Vitousek et al, Science, 2009
  • Rodale Institute motto: Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People
  • About 50% of the world’s food comes from small farms
    Globally, one in eight people are malnourished (UN; 2012)
    The United Nations has adopted a goal of halving the numbers of undernourished people by 2015; as of 2009, the number of undernourished people has actually increased instead
    One in six Americans experiences food insecurity (one in four in Poughkeepsie!)
  • Emphasis on adapting farm design and practice to the ecological processes already occurring in the fields and landscape
  • ×