I think I’m starting to write a PhD dissertation posing as a book tour stomp speech. My emerging platform is 50/50/500 from the research for my book, Blessing the Hands that Feed Us, summarized in a sentence in my TEDxSeattle talk.

The assertion is that we can commit to a redundancy strategy for global food security, as well as increasing the nutritional value of food and rural prosperity and a host of other goods by committing to 50% of our food from the global corporate industrial system and 50% from regional (within 500 miles) sustainable small and mid-scale farms.

I am quite sure industrial agriculture isn’t going to fold up its tent and go away – nor do we want it. Most of us get most of our food from that system, some of which is our basic calories, some out of season fruits and vegetables, some CAFO meats and industrial egg, dairy and chicken operations.

But there are foods that don’t ship or hold their flavor/nutrition as well (or no better), freshness and storage: fruits, vegetables, sustainably raised meat animals. Root, tuber and bulb crops (think carrots, potatoes and onions) could go either way but can certainly be profitable and well grown on 20 acres or less.

This sounds reasonable, no? But getting there will change just about everything about how we now eat. Ten percent is a goal that community activists can reach. Town by town, county by county, this effort is already underway. It’s so exciting to track. Community gardens, hoop houses, farmer’s markets, local food in grocery stores, coops, rooftop gardens, vertical gardens, Growing Power food desert gardens, sustainable ag schools. The next 10% would probably be available through local and regional ordinances and small- to  mid- scale food processing and distribution systems. The next 10-30%, though, will have us question big assumptions upon which our nation – and most nations – are founded: property rights, international development that supports transformation of sustainable local economies into mono-crops, corporate food monopolies, commodity derivatives. Every part of our economy that touches on food will touch on this  50/50/500 goal.

What is elegant is that it sets up parameters for design rather than polarities for an epic fight where many die. I think it is a juicy problem, one designers and innovators and engineers and whole armies could bite down on, so to speak, and chew. My percentages may be way off. I chose them for elegance, with some research behind them. But if I did have the patience for a PhD, I’d take this as my thesis, prove myself wrong and then improve my model and prove that right.

What do you think?

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