Michael Fields Agricultural Institute logo
At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

MFAI Director’s Blog – March 2011

Innovation Requires All of Us at the Table

If we want to build sustainability in the organic agriculture movement we must be willing to engage those in conventional/corporate agriculture. Accordingly, if food systems are to be created which provide healthful, plentiful, and affordable food it requires fluid networks. These types of networks will only be created if all farmers, all farm organizations, and leading agricultural education institutions are at the table. Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI), if we are to succeed in bringing about sustainable agricultural systems requires a densely populated network with differing ideas about agricultural methods which is open to innovation. Preaching to the choir will only get the movement so far and to bring conventional farmers in the door to discuss low input and more sustainable farming methods, organizations need not to be afraid, but welcome a discussion on how to grow and produce crops and livestock in the most efficient, cost effective manner. Probably, the biggest problem facing long term sustainability in agriculture is not the method or the means, but the mindset. Most farmers prefer to keep doing what they are doing because this is what they have invested in and been successful at in the past. The question really becomes;

“how do farmers learn and consider a change in methods which will lead to healthy food, a decent income for their families, and long term sustainability of their farming operations? How do institutions encourage farmers to explore innovation and new ways of thinking?”

How can institutions of higher learning promote new ways of thinking between organic and conventional farmers which result in opportunities to learn from each other and share innovative, sustainable production methods? MFAI will continue to explore these questions and we encourage you to send us your thoughts and ideas as we probe new possibilities and solutions.