SFT Chief Executive, Patrick Holden spoke at two major conferences taking place in the US this week: Slow Money 14 and the New York Times Food for Tomorrow conference.

Held at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Food for Tomorrow brought together over 200 executives, chefs, researchers and NGO leaders for a day and a half discussion on the food issues that we face today, namely how to feed the growing population in the developing world and tackling the poor diets of the developed world.

Mark Bittmann – How to change the food system

New York Times columnist, Mark Bittman, opened proceedings with a must watch speech on how to change the food system and feed the nine billion. Despite the headline, Bittman argues that the concept of feeding the nine billion is a distraction from the real cause behind hunger and malnutrition – poverty. If we want to feed the world we need to tackle inequality, as Bittman so accurately puts it, “hunger and malnutrition are not about agriculture, they are about economics.”

Panel Discussion: Can sustainable scale – and how?

Critics ague that the only way to feed the world is through large-scale agriculture. But with small-scale, family farmers producing 80% of the world’s food, is there another way? Michael Pollan moderates this panel discussion on scaling up and asks is there something inherent in sustainable agriculture that means it must stay small? With panelists Patrick Holden, Food Tank’s Danielle Nierenberg, Ron Shaich, founder of Panera Bread, and the executive vice president of Walmart’s grocery division, you can be sure of a lively discussion.

Keynote: The Great Challenge – Farming, food and climate change

There are two sides to the connection between food systems and climate change. On one hand, food is a key driver of climate change, responsible for between 20-30% of greenhouse gases. On the other, changes in agriculture hold the potential not just to mitigate these impacts, but to actually help remove carbon from the atmosphere. Climate change alters the question of “how to feed the world” in important ways, rendering many of the traditional arguments – for higher productivity at all costs – open to debate, as explored by Michael Pollan.

Panel Discussion: Big Ag, Big Food – How being good for the environment is not about size

Can one operation raise over 4 million pigs a year sustainably? Pig farmer and vice president of The Maschhoffs, Julie Maschhoff, thinks so. Big agriculture and transparency don’t always go hand in hand, but Food for Tomorrow have brought together three representatives from the industrial side of farming to discuss a range of contentious topics including the definition of sustainability, the economics of organic versus conventional, how to reconcile sustainable practices with profitability, antibiotic use, GMOs, pesticides and nutrition. So can big be good for the environment? We’ll let you decide…

Panel Discussion: Global Overview – Feeding the world, sustaining the global food economy

Is there a way to increase food production and, at the same time, make sure it is done in a way that is sustainable? How do we create a healthy food system in the face of growing population, changing climate patterns and declining natural resources? This panel discussion looks at the critical link between food and water for today, and for the future.

Panel Discussion: Who will farm – and how?

Where will the next generation of farmers come from? What role will urban farms, mobile technology, social media and consumers play in shaping and influencing our future food producers? Panellists Thomas Harttung, Ricardo Salvador, Chellie Pingree and Seth Watkins discuss their version of who our future farmers will be. One thing is for certain; each and every one of us will need to become more involved in the way our food is produced.

Featured image by Moose Winans

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