Coming soon: Feed, a food system podcast
Welcome to feed a food system podcast. I'm Matthew Kessler.
And I'm Samara Brock. And we've been engaging with food system issues for years through our work on farms, around policy tables and at universities.
This podcast is presented by TABLE, a food systems collaboration between the University of Oxford, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and Wageningen University.
We often agree that our food system is in need of transformation. But we don't agree about what that transformation should be, or even what the real root causes of the problems are.
We hope to foster dialogue between those who sit on different sides of food system debates. So tune in if you engage with food and farming issues and want to look at the food system differently.
We'll be getting into the weeds of different issues - Discussing power in the food system, how we measure success and the evidence that supports different claims.
For the first series of conversations, we'll be speaking about scale in the food system.
So why are we looking at scale? Matthew?
That is exactly what I asked my boss at TABLE, Tara Garnett. Tara is the former founder and director of the Food Climate Research Network. Tara is a researcher at the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University and an essential player and launching the table collaboration.
Tara Garnett 01:21
Why scale? Our food system is increasingly globalized. We produce foods for markets that are 1000s of miles away, we consume foods from around the world. Is this a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Is it an inevitable thing? Could it be done differently?
Tara spoke about a few different ways that we can understand scale.
Tara Garnett 01:45
When you think about scale, you bring in ideas about whether the food system should be increasingly global, or whether it should be localized? And if so, why? So how does this link to ideas about food, the value of markets, of interacting with different people, different cultures - Comparative advantage, ecological comparative advantage?
Right, this is where raising crops in growing conditions that are more favorable rather than growing them in more energy intensive or input intensive ways closer to home. And then there's another way to think about scale.
Tara Garnett 02:22
You have to think about scale in terms of power. So, on the one hand, you have increasing concentration in the food system, particularly for certain commodity crops, for example. Or certain types of animal products. Is this a good thing? Or is it a bad thing? And then what is the role of large scale and small scale farming? Smallholders are a kind of a fact of life There are an estimated 1 billion smallholders across the world. Is this a reality that we should accept and a reality that we should promote or are there benefits to enabling or encouraging smallholders to move into different occupations so that the land could be managed more, and I'm using inverted commas here, efficiently. Again, subject of loads of debates.
We've got local versus globa,l power in the food system, the spatial dimension of small and large scale, and what else?
Tara Garnett 03:19
There's the moral dimension, we think about, again, this local global thing - Is it inherently more worthwhile to relocalize the food system because one is valuing people in their hand more than further afield? Is that is that the thinking behind it? Or is there an idea that global trade can benefit everyone?
And another dimension that we don't often think about - but it's often acting in the background of our planning of farming and food systems - Is the temporal dimension.
Tara Garnett 03:51
This idea, we think about the past food system and the future food system. And people talk about tradition. What do we mean by the past? What do we mean by tradition? Traditional diets? Are they inherently good? Or do we think of culture as inherently always in flux? So what is our what is our baseline of a good landscape? Is it the landscape of 50 years ago, 150 years ago, 10,000 years ago? And how does our baseline assumption about what a good landscapeis, a good relationship with the natural world, how does that inform our ideas about how we ought to move forward?
So there's a lot to cover in this series. We've got questions of whether we should be increasingly globalizing or localizing, examining the scale of power in the food system, small versus large scale farming, and the moral and temporal dimension of the food system. And what would you say is our goal of looking at scale in this way?
Tara Garnett 04:53
I don't think there's a sort of right and wrong answer or a sense that people perhaps have the moral high ground and others don't. I think what we want to do with this project is to explore the often very sincere views that people have about why the world is the way it is, and what a good food system looks like. And I think scale is a good way of approaching these questions.
So stay tuned if you'd like to hear engaged conversations and deep dives into a range of topics with guests who sit on different sides of these issues, we'll be discussing different points of interventions to transform the food system.
Rob Bailey 05:33
If you can shift patterns of demand and consumption towards more sustainable and diverse diets, that is often going to be much more impactful than continually trying to focus on the production side of things.
Lauren Baker 05:50
When you actually address, you know, something like food insecurity, you probably can't do that by delivering food and creating community gardens. But you need to work, you know, across these sort of jurisdictional scales, work with partners and allies.
And we'll be speaking about how past policy decisions have led us to this moment.
Jennifer Clapp 06:07
Those policy responses over the past 70 or so years to past food crises and those pushes for efficiencies in the system in a way set us up for the vulnerabilities that became really evident in the wake of the covid 19 pandemic and the food crisis that ensued.
If you'd like to continue this conversation, please subscribe to the feed podcast on your favorite app, so you can listen as soon as the episodes come out. For more information, visit us online at table debates.org. This episode was mixed and edited by me. Matthew Kessler, music in this episode by Blue dot Sessions. Thank you for listening.