Media That’s All About Agriculture

 

This week, MediaProd, a company specialised in communication for agricultural and rural development, announced the premier of an initiative that will focus on youth agricultural entrepreneurship initiatives in Africa , to be broadcast through the web television (also known as web TV). The project is supported by CTA, and led by a group of young African video journalists and agricultural specialists who have worked in the agricultural sector for many years with a good knowledge of youth in agriculture.

The initiative aims at showcasing youth engaged in agriculture , in the hope that this will encourage others to become involved or at least take the first steps. Features will include youth interviews, testimonials and stories from the field, Agribusiness TV will address the following questions: How did these young people achieve success in agribusiness? What were the key factors which made their business idea work? What were the challenges faced and how did they manage to overcome them? What is the current status of youth in agribusiness in Africa, particularly in each of the various countries of focus? Where are the opportunities and how to seize them?

Showcasing farming through television, radio, film, art, and print can help the public engage in a dialogue about agriculture, nutrition, food justice, and sustainability. These forms of media allow information to travel across geographic boundaries and reach a wide audience.

In developing countries, for example, radio is often a central source of information with roughly 75 percent of households having access to a radio. And in countries with low literacy rates, radio can reach people who would not otherwise have access to information about agriculture. Worldwide, there are more than 44,000 radio stations.

In addition, farmers across the globe are accessing information via their cell and smart phones. The World Cocoa Foundation uses the app CocoaLink to inform cocoa farmers about farm safety, crop disease prevention, crop marketing, and more. iCow from M-Farm enables farmers to keep track of each cow’s individual gestation so that farmers don’t miss an opportunity to expand their herd. Similarly, Tigo Kilimo provides farmers in Tanzania with crucial weather information to properly manage their crops.

Food Tank this week highlighted 35 interesting media projects around the world.

Radio/Podcast

An Organic Conversation is a weekly show based in Mill Valley, CA and available through both radio stations and as a podcast. For the past five years, the show has featured segments focusing on sustainability, environmental challenges, innovation in agriculture, and other issues.

Farm Radio International is a Canadian-based nonprofit working with hundreds of radio partners throughout Africa to shine light on rural communities, smallholder farmers, and the threat of food insecurity and poverty. The organisation offers training for broadcasters and helps radio stations measure and improve their impact.

Farm Radio Trust works to support agriculture development in rural Malawi through radio. Their priorities include training, capacity building, and participation through information and communication technologies (ICTs), researching and documenting evidence-based agriculture practices, and promoting partnerships within radio and outside industries.

Harvest Public Media, a collaboration between public radio stations throughout the Midwestern United States, reports on food and agriculture stories. In addition to providing day-to-day coverage, the organisation manages a blog and provides investigative reports on subjects ranging from working conditions for poultry workers to food prices.

Heritage Radio Network delves into the U.S. food system and provides a platform for artisans, chefs, activists, policy experts, and farmers to share their perspectives on eating, food production, and the future of agriculture. Shows include The Main CourseTap RootsEat to the BeatCatch It, Cook It & Eat It!, and Greenhorns Radio.

Sustainable World Radio: Ecology & Permaculture Podcasts produces podcasts centred on permaculture, organics, and the environment. Each episode is an invitation to listen in on conversations with experts as they discuss the importance of sustainability in the food system.

National Public Radio’s blog, The Salt, dives into food topics such as farm to plate, nutrition advice, the latest news in food policy, and more. From audio clips to articles, The Salt satisfies every need for on-the-go, digestible food content.

The Organic Farmer Radio broadcasts two weekly segments that deal with issues facing farmers in Kenya. A project of the Farmer Community Programme, the show interviews local farmers, showcases the latest research, and dispenses agriculture information and advice.

Television and Film

Food Forward is a PBS documentary that follows food rebels. This group, which includes farmers, chefs, scientists, and educators, attempts to meet the challenges of the American food system.

Shamba Shape-Up is a reality show that focuses on struggling farms throughout Kenya. The show’s host visits different farms, meets with the farmers to learn about the issues they are facing, then interviews expert guests to provide advice. Currently, the show boasts more than 10 million viewers weekly.

Food Chains premiered at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival and has become one of the most talked about agriculture documentaries since. The film follows a group of farm workers in Florida as they push for the supermarket industry to implement their Fair Food program, which improves pay and working conditions for farm labourers.

In Defense of Food, a documentary based on journalist and activist Michael Pollan’s New York Times best selling book, simplifies conflicting media reports about what it means to eat healthy. Through traveling the world and visiting various supermarkets, Pollan debunks nutrition myths and makes adequate nutrition a digestible concept for every consumer.

Khwada tells the dramatic story of Indian shepherds and the struggle they face over the acquisition of their land by the Indian forest department. The film has been praised for its realistic portrayal of a “shepherd family and the obstacles they face while struggling to make ends meet.”

Land Rush, a BBC documentary, follows the Sosumar project, a partnership between the African Development Bank, Africa’s leading sugar producer Illovo Sugar, an American agricultural developer, and Mali’s government. The film portrays the development of the project as thousands of farmers throughout Mali are confronted with the possibility of losing their land.

More Than Honey is a documentary by Swiss filmmaker Marcus Imhoof that delves into the world of bees and the people that keep them. The film ultimately tells the story of mankind’s relationship with, and reliance on, nature.

Occupy the Farm covers the social movement resisting the commercial development of public land by telling the story of 200 urban farmers who plant crops as an act of protest. The ensuing battle that takes place between the protestors and the University of California raise important questions about food sovereignty and university-level education and research.

Real Food Media Project is made up of two core projects. Food MythBusters offers an alternative point of view on the standard agribusiness conversation. Real Food Films includes an international film competition that centres on sustainability, agriculture, food, and more.

The Moo Man is a British documentary that focuses on the struggles of an organic dairy farm in Sussex, England. The film was selected as one of the competitors in the World Cinema Documentary category at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Magazines/News Sites

Acres U.S.A. Magazine is a national magazine in the United States focused on sustainable agriculture. For more than four decades, the magazine has covered diverse topics including cover cropping, composting, insect control methods, and farm value-added processing.

Agriculturas: Experiences in Agroecology is a Portuguese language magazine that is published quarterly by the Advisory Services for Alternative Agriculture Projects in Brazil (AS-PTA). The magazine spreads awareness about agro-ecology and encourages knowledge sharing, collaboration, and the social implications of sustainable agriculture.

Civil Eats, named the James Beard Foundation’s 2014 publication of the year, publishes articles that address critical issues about the food system through a daily news format. A range of diverse topics, including labor issues, organic agriculture, the environmental impact of the food system, food waste, and much more, are covered by the online publication.

Commons Magazine focuses on stories highlighting the philosophy that some resources ought to be shared and managed by the community, also known as the commons movement. In addition to covering social justice and environmental issues, the magazine examines agriculture through the lens of true cost accounting, sustainability, and food justice.

The Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN) was founded in late 2010 to provide in-depth stories on a wide variety of food system, agriculture, and environmental topics through an independent, non-profit model. FERN’s news tool, the Ag Insider, is a daily newsletter covering topics such as agriculture business and policy changes.

Farming Matters is a publication of AgriCultures Network, a global network that strives to facilitate knowledge between practitioners, academics, and communities of agroecology. The magazine explores agroecology, family farming, and other topics.

GRACE Communications Foundation promotes sustainable solutions to food, energy, and water issues. Its Sustainable Table project spreads awareness about the benefits of local agriculture and celebrates sustainable food. GRACE’s Eat Well Guide serves as a convenient resource for consumers who are looking for restaurants who source food locally across the United States.

Grist, a nonprofit news source, has offered environmental news with a sense of wry humor since 1999. Topics focus around the role of agriculture and the food system in environmental degradation and climate change.

Indie Farmer is a United Kingdom-based magazine dedicated to farming, food, and culture. It provides readers with interviews from small farmers in addition to photo stories featuring various farm and food ventures.

Modern Farmer recognises the increasing interest and importance of agriculture to people from multiple walks of life. With that in mind, the publication, both online and print, is a source of independent journalism that focuses on food, farm, and culture.

Mother Jones is a nonprofit news outlet covering topics such as politics, education, food, and more. Tom Philpott, an award-winning food writer with Mother Jones since 2011, covers a variety of topics pertaining to food politics in his blog. From the latest in food science, to climate change, to practical nutrition advice, Philpott encompasses all topics foodies and environmentalists alike are interested in exploring.

The Organic Farmer (TOF) is a Kenyan magazine that provides information, especially to smallholder farmers, about farming practices that are ecologically friendly. The organisation also offers a radio program, videos, and an Ask TOF section on their website for farmers to learn more about organic farming.

Urban Agriculture Magazine, a Resource Centers on Urban Agriculture & Food Security initiative, provides a platform for knowledge transfer and discussion of urban agriculture research, news, and policy.

Participant Media is a media company that offers viewers compelling stories that inspire social change. Media projects include movies such as Food, Inc. and An Inconvenient Truth, the popular digital division TakePart, and their television network Pivot.

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How Farmers are Creating Resilient Local Food Systems

The food system depends on a healthy environment, but poor agricultural practices are responsible for environmental degradation. Beekeepers continue to lose 30 percent of honeybee colonies during an average winter—likely due to pesticides and other agrochemicals. Soil degradation is occurring at staggering rates, with soils being depleted 10 to 40 times faster than they are being replenished. And up to 100,000 plant varieties are currently endangered worldwide.

The increase in food prices in 2008, Russian wildfires brought on by excessive heat and drought in 2010, and, most recently, the worst drought in more than 100 years in California—all are warning signs that farmers and farmers’ groups, global food producers, industry leaders, researchers, and scientists must address the planet’s food security in the face of weather volatility and climate change.

This week, Food Tank and The Lexicon of Sustainability are spotlighting farming and resilience through The Food List, a cross-media messaging campaign that provides the vital tools needed for fixing the food system.

Farmers depend on just a handful of crop varieties: according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), approximately half of farmland—more than 60 million hectares, or 150 million acres—in the U.S. is planted with corn or soy. This lack of diversity limits farmers’ ability to adapt to varying weather patterns and climate change.

“The question is not whether systems this brittle will break down, but when and how, and whether when they do, we’ll be prepared to treat the whole idea of sustainability as something more than a nice word,” wrote food author and activist Michael Pollan.

A more resilient agricultural system is needed, especially in the face of climate change. “With 80 million more mouths to feed each year and with increasing demand for grain-intensive livestock products, the rise in temperature only adds to the stress. If we continue with business as usual on the climate front, it is only a matter of time before what we [saw] in Russia becomes commonplace,” said Lester Brown, U.S. environmental analyst, founder of the Worldwatch Institute, and founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute.

Family farmers and food revolutionaries are working to create this paradigm shift by restoring ecological resilience in their local communities. Many farmers are diversifying their cropping systems and working together on projects to preserve biodiversity in fields and on plates.

According to Dr. Bianca Moebius-Clune, Soil Health Division director for the U.S. National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), farmers are improving soil’s “ability to take in and hold ‘water in the bank.’ They’re even creating wildlife and pollinator habitat—all while decreasing risks from extreme weather and harvesting better profits and often better yields.”

Here’s how family farmers, food heroes, and organizations around the world are working to create resilient local food systems that are immune to the shocks of climate change and ecological disturbance.

Adapt-N is an interactive tool developed by researchers at Cornell University, designed to help corn growers reduce nitrogen applications based on site-specific recommendations. The website is part of a suite of decision-support tools from Cornell to help farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change in the U.S.

DivSeek, an international partnership launched in January 2015, use big data to catalog the physical and genetic information held within international gene banks, and to make it available online. The initiative, involving 69 organizations from 30 countries, enhances the productivity and resilience of global crops by giving breeders and researchers access to information through an online portal.

In the Philippines, Dr. Wilson Cerbito, Assistant Regional Director of the Department of Agriculture, addressed the First Agriculture Summit on May 7, 2015, noting the Philippines is the third most vulnerable country in the world to climate change. The event outlined strategies for improving productivity of rice and root crops through technologies and practices that promote ecological resilience.

Full Belly Farm received the California Leopold Conservation Award for its land stewardship and conservation efforts. Judith Redmond, a manager of the farm, demonstrated resilience in the face of extreme drought by changing her crop choices, implementing drip irrigation, and reducing her reliance on groundwater. The creek that usually irrigates her crops ran completely dry last year, but Redmond was still able to water her land using micro-irrigation.

La Red de Guardianes de Semillas (The Network of Seed Guardians) is preserving rare plant varieties and culturally important seeds in Tumbaco, Ecuador. The community model for seed-saving fosters the exchange of cultural knowledge between small farmers, trains growers on permaculture techniques, and works to preserve biodiversity throughout Ecuador. The coupling of cultural heritage and biological heredity in something so small as a seed gets at the heart of the resilience concept: the more biologically and culturally varied a system, the more buffered it is against disturbance.

The Lexicon of Sustainability is spreading the word about agricultural resilience through information artworks and inventive media campaigns. Douglas Gayeton, multimedia artist and the organization’s founder, emphasizes that “there are farmers who believe in biodiversity instead of monoculture. Farmers who build soil fertility without depending on chemicals. Farmers who go beyond organic.” By defining terms such as true cost accounting, The Lexicon of Sustainability seeks to describe a vision for resilience through engaging stories.

Who do you know about that is creating a resilient local food system? We want to know! Share them with me at Danielle@foodtank.com.

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