A farm table full of delicious foods.
A farm table full of delicious foods. Credit: Brooke Lark / Unsplash Credit: Brooke Lark / Unsplash

A new year brings new reflections. At least it does for me. And it can bring about new perspectives to share. In rural Canada, one often shares ideas and perspectives around a big kitchen table. Historically, it is where a lot of organizing began for solutions.

It’s true that you have to understand the problem to begin contemplating the solution. But most of the time, at least in this column, identifying the problem is on-going and happens often……you research the problem, substantiate why it is a problem, and speculate on where we are headed if the problem continues. But rarely do you have the chance, time or space to follow through on a thorough discussion of the possible avenues to take toward solutions.

Some of us understand that drastic change is required in our food systems. And some of us also understand that world hunger is a problem of distribution of resources and not anything as simplistic as simply population or production.

But as we fret and meet climate change, war, and other global conflicts head-on, such issues as agricultural production, distribution and environment may lead to having not enough food to feed the population. In other words, population numbers could be a problem — but what comes first when it comes to global hunger — population issues, lack of support for local food production, or not being prepared to produce food and distribute where it is needed.

Asking fundamental questions such as these is when the solutions might begin to happen. I like to call this creative exercise when it comes to food as the big kitchen table. On most farms the big kitchen table was where meetings have been held to organize farmers, to rally around important social issues, to protect and ramp-up services for communities, etc. That big kitchen table might now be on the farm, in the urban, at conferences, on Zoom, or sitting around and chatting over your beverage of choice.

I imagine the report I am about to share came from brainstorming and discussion by the IPES-Food – the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems. I can only imagine the discussions and conversations, zoom meetings, emails chats between this group of 23 independent experts of varied backgrounds from 16 countries covering five continents. It has lead to ground-breaking thinking on global food systems,

We have heard of slow food and the 100-mile diet. Here is another phrase that will hopefully catch-on: IPES-Food brings us the “long food movement” and explains what our agri-food systems might look like up to 2045 if we dare dream about a better food system.

Published in 2021, the report titled “The Long Food Movement: Transforming Food Systems to 2045” outlines some of the major issues — but quickly advances to how transformation might occur with farmers, communities, and sustainability at the centre. Essentially the report maps out two possible future scenarios: What could happen if agri-business is allowed to run its course; and what could happen if “instead, the initiative is reclaimed by civil society and social movements — from grassroots organizations to international NGOs, from farmers’ and fishers’ groups, to cooperatives and unions.”

The report authors ask us to “…consider what this ‘Long Food Movement’ could achieve if it succeeds in thinking decades ahead, collaborating across sectors, scales, and strategic differences, working with governments and pressuring them to act, and transforming financial flows, governance structures, and food systems from the ground up.”

Quite the challenge and an interesting read. This column has outlined some of the  major issues related to agriculture and our food systems — from land grabbing in Canada and pension fund speculation, agriculture and climate change, to urban farms, the shocks of COVID-19 on the food system, right through to the harm of pesticides like Roundup.

But, even in this column, the big kitchen table discussions where solutions are mapped out coherently and globally have been wanting.

The Long Food Movement will stand the test of time as we move into the next quarter century.

While the full report, published in English, French and Spanish versions, is more than 175 pages long, there is also a 12-page report that can help to whet your appetite. From there you can move into the longer report, replete with amazing references ripe for exploration.

The report outlines the various pathways and opportunities to a fairer, sustainable, and productive agricultural system based on the needs of the community. These pathways and opportunities call for:

  • policies that promote healthy soils, diversity in crops varieties, livestock breeds and aqua- and agri-ecological food systems;
  • deeper and more effective anti-trust and competition laws;
  • recognition of food workers, their rights, and the key role they play in food production; and ethical consumerism

IPES—Food publishes several reports in a year. Check this page to add to your 2023 reading material.

BW Lois Ross - Version 4 (1)

Lois Ross

Lois L. Ross has spent the past 30 years working in Communications for a variety of non-profit organizations in Canada, including the North-South Institute. Born into a farm family in southern Saskatchewan,...