March 19, 2010

March Madness and Dan Barber

Shwooooo.... That's me taking a deep breath that Pitt got through the first round of the Big Dance, with relative ease. So now just sipping on an Old Fashion and enjoying a really bangin' game between New Mexico State and Michigan State, and catching up on a few bloggie type things...

Beginning with, this really, really, really great talk by Dan Barber, the well-known chef, writer, and uber local food advocate, at that TED thing. It begins with the memorable line, "I've known a lot of fish in my life, I've loved only two."

From there, it maneuvers to fish fed bits of chicken and then to an amazing fish farm -- three words I'd never thought I'd put together -- in southern Spain. A farm so amazing, so healthy that it welcomes flamingos and other bird predators -- flamingos that fly 300 miles round trip, every day, to eat the farm's quality output.

Also I would recommend reading an accompanying TED Q&A with Barber, in which a few Q&As caught my eye:

So you argue that acre-for-acre, over time, the yield on an organic farm surpasses that of conventional farms.

Yes. The TOTAL CALORIC yield on an organic farm far surpasses a conventional farm. That's on every credible study out there. That's not even an issue.

Let's talk about grain. Because if you're talking about feeding the world, it's really about grain. Now, if you're an organic corn farmer, by definition, you can't grow corn every year. You have to get nitrogen back in the soil. So you'll grow corn, and then you'll grow a legume, and so you'll fix the nitrogen and improve the soil structure. Now, if you're a conventional farmer, you're growing just corn and nothing else but corn. So you might look at this system and say the conventional farmer got more corn. But what that doesn't show is that the organic farmer also got soybeans, switchgrass, vetch, alfalfa ...

And this one:

Your TEDtalk presents itself as a really gentle tale, but it's actually a pretty radical proposition for rethinking food production. Talk to me about where you think agriculture has gone wrong.

When you say that agriculture has gone wrong, it sounds like you're advocating for a system that's 200 years old. I couldn't be further from that; I love technology. But I do think we're heading for a vastly different food experience, in our lifetimes. I think the conventional food system -- which is based on lots of cheap energy, lots of cheap labor, lots of available water, lots of soil erosion -- is going to be a dead man walking 20 years from now. And that's because the things it relies upon are not going to be available.

Watch the video, read the entire Q&A. It's great stuff.

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