As the only very small scale farmer there, with 5 acres as opposed to the 11,000, 7,000, and 500 acres represented, I talked about the need for and challenges with sustainable farming. I explained how farming has the largest impact on the two major issues of our time: climate change and increasing inequality. How does a small farm address those issues and what can we do together?
The audience consisted of Plant and Microbial Biology undergrads, postdocs, and grad students, and they asked important questions about farming economics, environmental considerations, science’s role in farming, and making existing resources useful to farmers. When asked what scientists could do to support farmers, two of the panelists said, “You should do research on GMOs to prove that they’re safe for people.” When asked about how us farmers are responding to the drought, one farmer said, “All plants use the same amount of water.” Another said, “California is a net importer of water, if we consider water used to make clothes, cars, electronics.”
Let me set the record straight: mangoes and wheat use different amounts of water. Different plants use different amounts of water.
Sure, we might import a lot of water, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful about how much we’re exporting. It doesn’t make sense for us to ship flood-irrigated Delta rice to Japan when they’re only using it to feed their pigs. They’re only buying it because of the Pacific trade agreement.
How can we get on the same page and rethink our agricultural system?