Photo by Della Chen
At the crux of most debates on the future of food production is one often-contentious point of comparison: the viability of organic versus conventional farming methods. On one hand, our growing populations require an affordable, nourishing, and immediately available food supply — a demand that many point to as a reason to favor conventional, higher-yield methods. On the other, organic farming advocates argue that sustainable practices will have a further-reaching, more positive impact on local economies, communities, and the future at large than conventional methods can even begin to offer. Entering the fray is writer Sam Fromartz, who recently posted a response on his blog to an essay by journalist/author Marc Gunther.
Sam's piece offers an even-handed take on why number-crunching crop yields doesn't paint a broad enough picture to ultimately answer the question of organic versus conventional:
"The problem with this argument is not that the yield calculations are wrong. The problem is that yield studies are inappropriate by themselves in measuring what's 'sustainable,' in determining what might 'feed the world,' and which methods actually end up using more land in a particular situation. That’s because farming does not occur in a vacuum where yield is the sole measure of success."
He goes on to speak candidly explore the limitations of counting solely on yield calucations as indicators of success, specifically in regards to environmental impact and famer livelihood. He also highlights alternative methods to getting the most out of a single crop, like addressing pre- and post-harvest food waste. An illuminating read!
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