JOIN   |   LOG IN       
GO
The Big Picture > Overview

The Big Picture

The food industry is vast and complex. It could be the source of abundant fresh food and environmental health; and yet it contributes to the top health, environmental, social, and economic problems of our day. Our food supply is inherently systemic—there are no easy solutions.

In 2010, CA-based Roots of Change conducted a Strategic Mapping Project to understand the dynamics of our food system. Below is a very simple view of their results.

Other mapping projects and tools do exist, and we will share them here as their findings become available. For Catalyst Commons, we are starting with this framework to simply organize the vast amount of industry data, so that people inside and outside the industry can quickly grasp the Big Picture.

HOW TO USE THIS MAP

Below are the basic components for a healthy, sustainable food system: Levers of Change and Ideal Outcomes. The layout and arrows show the relationship between them. Of course, there are other efforts not represented here that contribute to these Ideal Outcomes. This framework is used to start to organize the vast amount of industry information.
Get the Details

The Details

The Levers of Change

A. Restorative Production
Research, Innovation, Affordability, Diffusion, Adoption

Conventional farming (including some types of organic farming such as mono-cropping) and the seafood industry are environmentally damaging to the point of crisis. In order to continue producing healthy food for future generations, agricultural producers must use methods that foster soil fertility, fresh water, and natural defenses of crops against disease, pests, weather, and so forth. In order to even have a seafood supply through the next century, fisheries must use methods that restore the ecological balance in the oceans so that marine life can thrive.

Sustainable farming practices also have the potential to greatly reduce fossil fuel dependence. The USDA estimates that making our farmland’s irrigation systems just 10% more efficient would annually save 80 million gallons of gasoline spent on pumping and applying water. Similarly, reducing repetitive fertilizer application on the 250 million acres of major cropland in the US would save approximately $1 billion worth of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides (not to mention prevent soil and water pollution). These kinds of dramatic reductions can be achieved through management-intensive, restorative farming practices.*
Related Themes: Bio-Chemicals | Organics | Precision Ag | More

B. Restorative/Neutral Processing
Research, Innovation, Affordability, Diffusion, Adoption

Prevalent food processing and packing operations create major risks not only for the environment, but for industry workers as well. Approximately 23% percent of the energy used in our food system is during processing and packaging. In the meat industry, five corporations control 80% of beef and 60% of pork processing.* All of this energy consumption and consolidation translates to a large carbon footprint, food safety issues, diminished worker safety, and degraded local economies. Smaller, sustainable producers, especially meat ranchers and fisherman, also suffer from a lack of processing infrastructure. Food processors are starting to implement a range of initiatives for natural resources management, and new processing and packing facilities are sprouting up to support regional food systems.
Related Themes: Incubator Kitchens | Meat Processing | More

C. Restorative/Neutral Transport & Distribution
Research, Innovation, Affordability, Diffusion, Adoption

Food travels on average 1500–2500 miles to get to your plate, which not only degrades the quality and taste, but generates significant waste and pollution. Shipping foods across the country or around the world requires immense amounts of packaging, refrigeration, and fossil fuels. We can’t reduce the volume of food we need to transport, but we can reduce the distances, and we need to find ways to optimize truck loads, minimize one-way hauling, use less fossil fuels, and overall reduce our carbon footprint.
Related Themes: Alternative Fuels | Backhauling | Food Hubs | More

D. Regional Food Systems

Eating “as local as possible” is a cornerstone of sustainable food systems. When food does not need to travel as far, we access fresher, more nutrient-rich foods with a smaller carbon footprint. We help our regional economies thrive by supporting local, predominately family farm businesses. And, we maintain healthy ecosystems, since producers who live on their land typically use far fewer toxins in pesticides and fertilizers. Unfortunately, over the past century, we have lost much of the infrastructure that used to support regional food processing and distribution. Opportunities abound to reform the supply chain to create value along the vertical, forming “value chains”. Ultimately, we need increased transparency and increased economic viability for farms, with more of each sales dollar going back to the producers to support themselves and pay their workers fairly.

Related Themes: CSAs | Farm Retail Businesses | Food Hubs | More
E. Producer Education & Technical Assistance
Re: Innovation, Technologies, Business, Marketing, Etc.

Producers and fishermen work long hours, making it difficult to stay abreast of the latest tools, technologies, and research that are available to run their businesses better and more efficiently, profitably and sustainably. For many years, State and Cooperative Extension agencies have administered agricultural technical assistance programs, but there is an opportunity for other organizations and businesses to help provide resources and technologies to help them succeed.
Related Themes: Farm Entrepreneurial Prog | Online Tools | More

Ideal Outcomes

1. Enough Producers in Workforce
2. Healthy Land
3. Healthy Water
4. Healthy Oceans
5. Healthy Climate
6. Healthy People
7. Food Security, Sovereignty & Resiliece for All
8. Mainstream Awareness of Issues & Sustainable Food Systems
9. Functional Transparent Supply Chains
10. Economic Viability & Fairness for Producers
11. Functional Policy for Sustainable Food Systems
 
F. New Producer Programs & Enlisting

Half of the current farmers in the U.S. are likely to retire in the next decade*, and there aren’t enough youth entering the industry to take the reins. Farming is already extremely hard work, and with fewer people in rural areas to learn the trade, and with corporate consolidation of farms making it more difficult for family farms to compete in the marketplace, we need to focus on convincing young people to get into the industry, and supporting them once they do.
Related Themes: Domestic Fair Trade | Farm Apprenticeships | More

G. Farm & Ranch Land Investment

Healthy food for our growing population requires healthy soil and farmland that remains for food production, not development. The amount of arable, productive land is decreasing at alarming rates, and the majority of today’s farm owners don’t have access to the capital to reinvest in their permanent cropland. As a result, fertile land is being sold to developers and large agribusinesses that use environmentally degrading practices. Agricultural land trusts are working to preserve healthy farmland, and as land values continue to rise, private investment in farmland by conscientious individuals has become another promising opportunity.
Related Themes: Ag Land Trusts | Farm Entrepreneur Prog | More

H. Water Distribution Reform & Accessibility

Agriculture is one of the largest consumers of fresh water for irrigation and animals and one of the largest polluters of fresh water from chemical runoff into groundwater sources (the latter addressed by Restorative Production Methods).* A majority of state water managers see an imminent water shortage on the horizon, which has led to different strategies for measuring and optimizing water allocation and use, and remote sensing of groundwater levels and status in the fields. Historically, much of the effort has been focused on policy change, but there are opportunities for market-based solutions for municipalities and farmers as well.
Related Themes: Groundwater Mgmt | Irrigation | Precision Ag | More

I. Urban Agriculture
For Education & Sustenance In Food Deserts Only

Urban agriculture has many forms and locations: backyards, rooftops, balconies, vacant lots, parks, roadsides, and urban fringe; but, there is controversy whether food production in urban areas makes sense. There is agreement, however, that it does make sense if it doesn’t use land that is better suited for other uses, and its purpose is either to provide sustenance and create jobs in ‘food deserts’ or to educate communities about greater food issues.
Related Themes: Aqua/Hydroponics | Educational Agriculture | More

J. Farm Bill reform

This single piece of legislation dictates where approximately $300 billion of taxpayers’ dollars go in the food industry, and it urgently needs adjusting. Many concur that it contributes to our prevalent unhealthy food supply, environmentally damaging production methods, and extreme inequities in the distribution of food and wealth. If we revise this complicated omnibus bill, we can shift where the $300 billion is allocated, and make huge leaps forward in the reduction of obesity and diabetes, the conservation of natural resources, and the overall improvement of public health, the environment, and socio-economic issues in the food supply chain.
Related Information: Farm Bill 101 + Money Flow

See More Themes

Please help improve this resource by sending us your comments and suggestions! Email: info@catalystcommons.org.
* References: Circle of Blue, Earth Policy, Sustainable Table, USDA.

FAQs   |   Our Mission   |   Contact   |   Terms & Conditions   |   Copyright Catalyst Commons 2011
close

Join Catalyst Commons and contact us with your comments, questions or feedback. We would love to hear from you!

Email: info@catalystcommons.org

Phone: 415.598.8676

Fax: 415.358.4131

Blog: http://blog.catalystcommons.org

Catalyst Commons Team:
Melanie Cheng - Executive Director, Om Organics
Joseph McIntyre - President, Ag Innovations Network
Kate Seely - Program Manager, Om Organics
Kasi Boyd - Research Assistant, Om Organics

Main Collaborators:
Ag Innovations Network
Progressive Ideas Network, Commonweal Institute
Mission Markets
Roots of Change
Wallace Center at Winrock International
Connective (fka International Futures Forum, US)

Other Contributors, Phase 1:
Elena Pons - Research Consultant, The Springcreek Foundation
Sarah Kennon - Director, Hot Studio
Renee Anderson - Founder, Propellance
Cody Andresen & Sarah Haertling - Studio Percolate Design & Photography

See the About page at blog.catalystcommons.org for more information.

close

Join

All fields are required, except those noted as optional.
First name:
Last name:
Email:
Password:
Confirm password:
I want to add:
Organization name:
Street address:
City:
State:
Zip code:
Primary phone: (xxx-xxx-xxxx)
Another phone number: (xxx-xxx-xxxx) optional
Organization type:
Founded in: year (4 digits)
Website: optional
Geographic focus: (state, region, national, outside US, other)
Number of employees: full-time part-time optional
Organization stage:

Short description of your organization's mission or focus (just a few sentences):

Funders: optional
Which Levers of Change apply to your organization: select all that apply

Does your organization manage more than one project with its own budget and fundraising?

Yes No
If you checked Yes, we will be in touch soon to gather more information.

Are you seeking funds right now for your overall organization or your project(s)?

Organization Projects Both None Not sure
If so, we will be in touch soon to gather details.
By clicking Join, you are agreeing to the Terms & Conditions.
Foundation name:
Street address:
City:
State:
Zip code:
Primary phone: (xxx-xxx-xxxx)
Another phone number:
(xxx-xxx-xxxx) optional
Are you a 501(c)3 organization? Yes No
Founded in: year (4 digits)
Website: optional
Geographic focus: (state, region, national, outside US, other)
Which Ideal Outcomes are your foundation's focus: select all that apply
Which Levers of Change are your foundation's focus: select all that apply
Total grantmaking: $ optional
Range typically granted to an organization or project: From $ to $ optional
Desired stage of organizations or projects that you fund:
select all that apply
Preferred use of funds:
select all that apply
Organizations and projects you've funded: optional
Are you open to being contacted about new granting or PRI opportunities? Granting PRIs Both Neither
Do you currently have an open RFP? Yes No
If you checked Yes, we will be in touch soon to gather more information.
By clicking Join, you are agreeing to the Terms & Conditions.
Fund or Institution name:
Fund manager name, if applicable
Street address:
City:
State:
Zip code:
Primary phone: (xxx-xxx-xxxx)
Another phone number: (xxx-xxx-xxxx) optional
Organization structure:
Founded in: year (4 digits)
Website: optional

Other managed accounts, if applicable:

Geographic focus: (state, region, national, outside US, other)
Which Ideal Outcomes are your focus: select all that apply
Which Levers of Change are your focus: select all that apply
Manager assets under management, if applicable: $
Fund or institution assets under management: $
Amount typically invested in or lent to an organization or project (range): From $ to $ optional
Desired stage of organizations or projects that you fund:
select all that apply
Types of funding offered:
select all that apply
Preferred use of funds:
select all that apply (optional)
Portfolio organizations and projects: optional
Are you open to being contacted about new investment or lending opportunities? Yes No
Do you currently have an open RFP? Yes No
If you checked Yes, we will be in touch soon to gather more information.
Investor eligibility: Accredited Non-accredited
Minimum investment: $
Minimum term:
Target rate:
Status: Open Closed
By clicking Join, you are agreeing to the Terms & Conditions.
Thank you for joining Catalyst Commons! We will let you know when we make updates to the site, and to gather more information, if applicable. If you have any questions or comments in the meantime, please email us at info@catalystcommons.org.