By Carolyn Lochhead, San Francisco Chronicle, June 30, 2010

Farmers' Market in Chattanooga, TN. Source:

Farmers' Market in Chattanooga, TN. Source:

While the industrial farm model has generated astonishing efficiency gains and lowered the cost of food, the report found, it has imposed enormous external costs on the environment, human health, animal welfare and workers that are not included in the price of food.

Julia Kornegay, the chair of the committee that wrote the report and chair of the department of horticulture science at North Carolina State University, said the industrial farm system has become increasingly fragile and prone to outside shocks such as a sudden increase in oil or feed prices, water shortages or concerns about food safety.

“People want pure, safe, healthy, more affordable food that is fair and pays workers, including young people, reasonable wages,” Schumacher [executive chairman of Wholesome Wave Foundation] said. “The most popular undergraduate course today at Harvard University is one on food and culture. Michael Pollan is required reading at the University of Pennsylvania. Young people are driving this.”

It’s not just for slow-foodies and barefoot hippies anymore, folks. The importance of sustainable food systems is now being recognized by Washington think tanks, and even the Whitehouse. Perhaps changes to our system of big agrobiz subsidies will change, as well. In the meantime, local farmers and everyday consumers around the country are creating a hungry market for sustainable foods.

And while I’m at it, a plug for the CSA I’ve joined: Shooting Star in Suisun Valley, CA. Lily Schneider and Matthew Mccue founded the farm in 2009 and represent the growing number of young farmers at work to rebuild America’s diversified local food system.