This is Food Day, which is described by organizers as a nationwide celebration and movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. That’s something we can all get behind, and I’d like to talk a little about how it helps position us for the future.
We are part of a system that will be asked to produce roughly twice as much food by 2050, while utilizing fewer natural resources. California farmers and ranchers must prepare to meet the challenges and opportunities of a growing population at home and abroad. In Asia, we believe we’ll see an exploding middle class as we move deeper into the 21st Century, and that many of those newly-minted consumers will want the quality, safety and reliability of California products. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to Asia twice over the last year. I witnessed that interest first-hand.
We are encouraged by the vision of a World Food Center at UC Davis. The Center will address perhaps the most critical issue facing society today – how to feed and nourish a growing planet in an environmentally sustainable way. Few major universities, if any, have the interdisciplinary research strength and close connection to a diversity of agricultural crops nearby to support an enterprise like this.
Now, as we consider a sustainable food production system, we recognize that it must include producers of all sizes and approaches – from those serving the export markets, to large-scale producers, to smaller-scale operations that include the farm-to-fork movement that has attracted so much interest in recent years. The California Department of Food and Agriculture is doing its own work in this arena by opening a Farm-to Fork Office, which has a special interest in healthy food for children, and in schools. While local food procurement can sometimes be a challenge for schools, this office will work to establish best practices for procurement of locally grown produce by large-scale buyers.
Ultimately, our target is young people, as evidenced by the fact that October is National Farm-to-School Month! My friend Alice Waters said it best in her blog post on the Food Day website, “The greatest thing we can do is educate and empower the next generation.” I couldn’t agree more. The most important work we do is to teach children about healthy eating and the origins of food. If it is to remain sustainable, healthy and affordable, it will be up to them.