Natural resources make agriculture possible. Air, water, and the biotic and abiotic components of soil are all prerequisites to producing food. How we continue feeding the world’s skyrocketing population in a sustainable, socially equitable way while protecting the planet’s natural resources and ecosystems for future generations is sure to be a monumental challenge.
Consider the following: 40% of the earth’s land mass has been cleared for agriculture, 70% of the world’s fresh water goes to agriculture, 30% of total GHG emissions comes from agriculture (the greatest single source), and the use of fertilizers has doubled the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in the environment, causing widespread water pollution and significant biodiversity loss.
This doesn’t mean agriculture is inherently bad or unsustainable. It means that how we view and practice agriculture in the decades to come will directly affect our health, environment and society. Couple this with the very real threat of climate change and its inexorable connection to agriculture, both negatively and positively, and what you have is a real opportunity to make positive change in the world.
Change begins with the management decisions and conservation practices of farmers and ranchers. At its best, sustainable agriculture can result in soil carbon sequestration and storage; restoration and improvement of habitat for threatened and endangered species; reduced erosion; invasive weed control; increased riparian vegetation and watershed health; interconnected wildlife corridors; open space; and beautiful views in addition to healthy food. Our collective challenge lies in how we scale sustainable farming to feed an exploding world population.
The Food List
The Five Senses
Location: Medlock Ames Winery, Healdsburg, CA
Featuring: Ames Morison and Chris James
Knowing when to harvest is the most important decision made in the vineyard each year. This was a very challenging growing season. A cold summer delayed ripening. This was followed by late summer heat spikes which caused sunburn. Both weather extremes greatly increase the risk of disease but instead of using chemicals Ames relied on organic solutions. Composting, integrated pest management, beneficial planting and animal grazing are just some of the practices which result in healthier vines and stronger grape skins where the color and tannin reside.
Ask Ames how he knows when to harvest these grapes and he says it takes ALL FIVE SENSES:
SIGHT = berries have a healthy bloom (naturally occurring waxy coating where wild yeasts live)
SMELL = the berries beautifully fragrant and “ready”!
TASTE = a good balance between sugar and acid (skins astringent, not bitter)
SOUND = seeds are brown, with a taste and “crack” when you bite
TOUCH = berries should pull off rachis with minimal effort