Free seminar and Q&A session sponsored by the ProSocial Commons
Widespread and substantial diversification of current agroecosystems appears fundamental to meeting many grand challenges in agriculture. Despite urgent calls for diversification on regional scales, particularly in regions dominated by industrialized, low-diversity agriculture, strategies for diversification on such scales are in the early stages of development, conceptually and practically. We outline such a strategy, and its implementation by the Forever Green Partnership, a public-private-NGO coalition in support of agricultural diversification in the U.S. Midwest region. Our strategy supports the introduction and scaling of multiple novel crops in a region, which requires the development of many interdependent supporting elements, including supportive markets, infrastructure, policy, finance, and R&D. The core of our strategy is the development of sustainable supply chains (SSCs) for a set of novel crops. We define SSCs as rudimentary systems of these supporting elements for novel crops, linking on-farm crop production to end-use markets while advancing economic, environmental, and social sustainability criteria that are demanded by stakeholders. SSCs provide a scaffold upon which fully-developed support systems for multiple novel crops can be constructed, thus driving regional diversification. SSCs cannot be “built in a day”; rather they must evolve as the production of novel crops expands over time and space, and as new challenges and opportunities emerge. Therefore, regional diversification requires a system to sustain this evolutionary process across time and multiple novel crops. We posit that an effective system can be built from two crucial elements: a process of conscious and concerted cultural evolution, and a polycentric network that organizes and supports that process. We outline this system and its conceptual basis, its implementation by the Forever Green Partnership, and associated challenges and accomplishments.
Nick Jordan is Professor of Agronomy & Plant Genetics, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, where he conducts research on agricultural ecology. His teaching is focused on experiential learning and action education in agricultural systems, aiming to help students address complex challenges and opportunities in agriculture and its interconnections with society. He co-directs the Forever Green Initiative (https://forevergreen.umn.edu). The Initiative is developing and commercializing a set of new crops that advance the continuous living cover of farmland with crops that produce marketable commodities. The Initiative integrates and leverages collaborations and networks, built over decades, that span public, private and NGO sectors, with a shared goal of scaling continuous-living-cover agriculture.
Links to material that can be read beforehand:
Jordan, N.R., Dorn, K., Runck, B., Ewing, P., Williams, A., Anderson, K.A., Felice, L., Haralson, K., Goplen, J., Altendorf, K. and Fernandez, A., 2016. Sustainable commercialization of new crops for the agricultural bioeconomy. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 4.