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Ethos Farm Project

Ethos Health – the first farm-based healthcare system, fosters the regeneration of human and planetary health through food.

Photo of Ron Weiss
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Ethos Health

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (grantor and technical assistance provider) US Fish and Wildlife Service (grantor and technical assistance provider) New Jersey Audubon (conservation and research partner) Rodale Institute (research partner), Rutgers University (research partner), Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (medical education partner), PlantPure Communities (the 501c3 fiscal sponsor of Ethos Farm Project)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 10+ years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Long Valley, NJ

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

New Jersey

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I selected this place because it is the home I love. I’ve always been very proud of my Garden State, with its plow emblazoned flag, fertile soils and temperate climate. For hundreds of years, New Jerseyans have been fruit and vegetable growers. As early as the eighteenth century, Benjamin Franklin acknowledged New Jersey’s food-growing prowess when he referred to the it as “a barrel tapped at both ends,” feeding the great metropoles of New York to the north and Philadelphia to the south. When I was growing up in the 1960s, the Garden State was still the most productive agricultural state in the nation, producing more fruits and vegetables per acre of farmland than even California. Within my lifetime, this most densely populated of all states has been a leading national producer of peaches, blueberries, cranberries, asparagus, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, spinach and lettuce. But it was never about how much we produced, it was about our terroir. Every summer, we looked forward to our NJ produce because it had the most intense flavors and aromas, deeper colors, crisper textures and juiciness far surpassing what you could buy in any supermarket. Perhaps with this wonderful food in mind, as well as the desire to preserve the state’s beautiful open spaces, the people of NJ have never failed to approve any referendum to fund the state’s farmland preservation program in the past 40 years, even during the bleakest of economic times. No wonder NJ has permanently preserved a greater percentage of its farmland - over a quarter million acres, than any other state. Unfortunately today, much of this land is being used to produce corn and soybean which go to supply CAFOs outside the state. I want to establish our food system in New Jersey to restore our great food growing tradition and feed our 9 million residents healthy, nutrient dense, chemical free food from our own state. And yes, we’ll send you some too, NYC and Philly.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Although NJ is the most densely populated state in the United Sates, it is the 4th smallest of the 50 states, measuring about 20,000 km2 in area. The state is wedged between the 2 great metropoles of Philadelphia to the south and New York City to the north, with great amounts of commerce, people and resources flowing between NJ and these two cities. Historically, NJ was the food supplier for not only itself but NYC and Philadelphia. In the summer, the states 130 miles of beautiful beaches and resort towns become the lungs of Philadelphia and NY. 111 million tourists visited NJ in 2018, spending 44 billion dollars, making tourism the 7th largest industry in NJ. 

NJ is one of the most diverse states in America with 30% of its people speaking a language at home other than English. It is a state of great contrasts: It is rich –  the second wealthiest state in the nation with more millionaires per capita than any other state  yet its cities are among the most poverty stricken in America.  It is the most densely populated state in America, yet 25% of the land mass is still covered by protected wilderness. NJ has also permanently preserved a greater percentage of its farmland than any other state. Although it remains a leading producer of vegetable and fruit crops in the US, its population generally consumes the Standard American Diet, with half of all adults in NJ afflicted with at least one chronic disease.  

The American Dream - of owning the home with white picket fence in a nice suburban neighborhood, is the hope of most New Jerseyans. This has led to sprawl that has engulfed roughly have the surface area of the state, causing significant losses of habitat and prime farmland. Unfortunately the sprawl and decaying post-industrial cities is the NJ with which most outsiders are familiar. But to those who really know her, there still remains a New Jersey of rolling countryside dotted with forests and farms, and quaint historic towns that have the feel of New England. There is a NJ of great expanses of pine barrens, as far as the eye can see, of miles of beautiful sandy beaches and bustling seaside resorts. This is our “America, the Beautiful.” An important part of this 2050 Vision is to save these sacred New Jersey places before they disappear. 

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Environment: Development has consumed greater than half of all the land area in the state. Regenerative agriculture has a very small footprint in NJ and continues to lose farmland to development. In 2050, if the rate of development continues and regenerative agriculture declines as a result, GHG emissions will soar, contributing to more extreme weather patterns.

Diets: The vast majority of NJ’s population consumes the Standard American Diet (SAD), and roughly 10% of NJ residents live in food deserts. In the past decade in NJ alone, the rate of obesity has increased by 5-10%. Physicians, poorly trained in nutrition, are unable to provide evidence-based care to those suffering from chronic diseases. In 2050, NJ’s chronic disease incidence would have overwhelmed the healthcare system’s ability to pay for care. There will be rationing of care for chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Physicians unequipped with nutritional expertise will be unable to treat causal lifestyle factors, exacerbating the problem.

Economics: NJ farmland is among the nation’s most expensive per acre, making it unaffordable for young farmers, few of which are familiar with regenerative methods. In 2050, NJ will see a shortage of farmers, further contributing to the decline in availability of local, fresh food. Skyrocketing disease will burden NJ’s healthcare system, increase health insurance rates, and lower workforce productivity.

Culture: Conventional farming culture is very resistant to changing growing methods unless the economic benefits have been proven. Furthermore, social culture is often centered on food, which is increasingly processed & hyperpalatable. In 2050, food engineering and marketing will contribute to decreased demand for fresh, local food. Industrialized farming methods will continue to dominate farming culture, decreasing access to fresh food.

Technology: Advanced technological developments in agriculture tend to be geared towards industrialized, chemical based practices instead of addressing the major concerns of small-scale regenerative farming. Historically, there has been no easy way for consumers to assess whether the produce they purchase is uncontaminated by pesticides. In 2050, ag tech developments will be centered on producing cheap, hyperpalatable food. Fresh produce will increasingly be grown with pesticides.

Policy & Governance: NJ’s policies are inadequate to protect our remaining farmland, natural habitat, biodiversity and water resources. Small food producers have little or no access to commercial kitchens. Farm Bill subsidies support industrialized ag which produces food for the SAD, while there are very few or no subsidies for regeneratively produced whole plant foods. In 2050, we will see a drop in farmland, stifling production of local food and contributing to skyrocketing chronic disease rates. NJ Food insecurity will worsen as NJ is less able to produce its own food & availability of imports becomes more unstable.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

ENVIRONMENT: Strengthen EPA’s ability to regulate poisons by improving the Toxic Substance Control Act - ban the production of chemicals suspected of being dangerous to human/environmental health. Fully realize the Ethos Farm Project’s (EFP) goal of restoring farmland to prevent run-off into the Raritan River. Utilize EFP as a model for farming methods in the state’s other watersheds. Immediate moratorium on further development of open land in NJ. Use Ethos Farm Ecosystem and Carbon Trial (EFECT) as a model to sequester carbon in soil. Produce 100% of NJ’s energy from renewable sources by 2030. Encourage production of more solar electricity. Implement and expand Ocean Wind, the nation’s largest offshore wind farm. Exempt all regenerative working farmland from property taxes.

Diet: Disincentivize the purchase of SAD foods. Remove financial incentives for farmers to grow corn/soybean. Provide families with monthly stipend to purchase whole plant foods. Build capacity to feed a growing population by raising a new crop of regenerative farmers and ensure they have access to land and can make a living. Expand educational opportunities for the public. Create a new generation of young doctors educated in evidence-based nutrition and primary care. Open primary care lifestyle medical clinics for NJ’s underserved urban populations. Fund and expand NJ Loan Redemption Program for primary care.

Economics: NJ to provide tax incentives to corporations, state institutions, and boards of education to purchase locally produced food. Model a regenerative food system after Ethos Farm Project and NJ Exurban Farm Program, focused on small scale, low-tech, intensive growing of high-value produce. Train young farmers in the EFP Young Farmers Incubator Program. Plant based diets will lower disease rates and costs for NJ health system.

Culture: Educate about the benefits of a plant-based diet and how traditional ethnic dishes can be made plant-based. Expand Rutgers NJMS Lifestyle Medicine community program to help bring fresh, local food to dense, urban communities. Engage NJ’s religious leaders to promote the theological belief of stewardship within their communities. For farmers, develop viable economic models for farming regeneratively.

Technology: Utilize emerging AI technology for labor intensive farming tasks such as harvesting and weeding. Apply advanced biotech to traditional plant breeding, developing varieties of produce that will overcome climate change, disease, and pest challenges. Reclaim and process NJ’s food and human waste to return to the state’s soils.

Policy & Goverance: Protect our environment and promote regen food production. USDA VAPG to expand regulated food preparation facilities. Work with the NJ Council on Local Mandates to promote high density urban redevelopment. Expand NJ Loan Redemption Program for primary care. Fund NJ Exurban Farm Program. Transfer responsibility of creating nutrition guidelines from the USDA to the CDC.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

My state is the Garden State. It is the most productive food growing state in the nation. It has rich, fertile soils and feeds its population and neighboring states with regeneratively grown diets of whole plant foods. Our state is fully food secure, being the primary supplier of our own healthy diets. Every New Jerseyan regardless of income level or where they live, has access to this healthy diet. New Jersey is served by an abundance of board-certified lifestyle primary care physicians whose primary passion is to prevent and reverse chronic illness by inspiring and guiding their patients to eat and live well. Thus, New Jerseyans are by and large, not afflicted with cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, obesity, and all the other diseases of chronicity. New Jerseyans - even those of advanced years - are a vigorous, healthy bunch. They enjoy a high quality of life; A significant percentage of the population devotes their time to food production, as it is the Garden State’s special home-grown food that is the primary source of the people’s vigor. Anyone with the desire, no matter their background, can be a New Jersey farmer. And who wouldn’t want to be one? Farmers make a good living and attain that American dream of “the home and white picket fence,” right here in NJ. The farmers have plenty of customers for their delicious produce as no farm is more than an hour from NJ’s densely populated, vibrant urban centers. 

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

(for reference in () see Bibliography attachment) 

Today’s date is January 31, 2050. Not many years ago, epidemics of chronic disease nearly brought the American healthcare system and the nation to its knees. But the sickness was not just confined to the people. The planet was sick, too...there were mass coral reef die-offs, melting polar icecaps, forests set ablaze, pesticides raining down from the sky, and mounting species extinctions. In 2019, the EAT Lancet Commission Report - in the first comprehensive analysis of its kind, identified the human appetite for the western diet (also known as the Standard American Diet, or SAD) as a primary cause of all this misery (1).  In essence, man poisoned himself with food, and in the process, turned Mother Earth into a giant industrialized food factory. From this crucible of despair rose the Ethos Farm Project (EFP). Founded in 2011 on an ancient NJ farm by physician and farmer Ron Weiss, M.D., EFP’s work is guided by the Hippocratic teaching that food is the most powerful instrument of healing. In implementing the EAT Lancet Commission’s recommendations, EFP has played a foundational role in regenerating the state of NJ, transforming it into the healthiest, most vibrant state in America. 

2020 was a watershed year in NJ’s transformation. A new American president who understood that healthy people come from a healthy land, was elected to office. Her first priority was to protect the earth. She reconstituted the EPA and expanded the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), banning the production of all chemicals suspected of being hazardous to human and environmental health, including ag chemicals.  America rejoined the Paris Climate Treaty and became the leader in GHG emissions reduction and sequestration. Through a combination of USDA and private grants, EFP’s EFECT Initiative (2) was fully funded. Over 30 years, EFECT has served not only as a model to protect NJ’s water resources, restore native habitat and build biodiversity, but continues to demonstrate a working agricultural soil’s enormous capacity to sequester carbon. Using EFECT as a model, the USDA NRCS in collaboration with Indigo Ag’s Terraton Initiative (3), funded the mass restoration of American farmland. This has been the most important single factor that has brought about the beginning of global cooling. In 2020, after being presented with EFP’s 2050 Vision, NJ Gov. Phil Murphy was motivated to adopt more aggressive goals of bringing NJ to carbon neutrality by 2030. The former Goldman Sachs executive worked with BlackRock (4) to invest in the rapid expansion of Ocean Wind (5) as well as the installation of solar panels, Tesla solar roof shingles (6) and Powerwall energy storage systems (7) all over the state. Murphy also placed an immediate moratorium on further development of all open land in NJ. At the same time, the state restructured regs & gave tax incentives to promote high density redevelopment of NJ’s crumbling cities. Today, Paterson, Newark, Camden and Trenton are the envy of American cities.  Next, NJ lawmakers expanded the successful state farmland preservation program & granted property tax exemption to all working farmlands maintaining organic regenerative certification (8). Enormous state funded facilities were created to compost sewage biosolids with food waste & leaves from the state’s many suburban shade trees. High-quality, finished compost was returned to the land. Life was breathed into NJ’s worn-out soils. Her fertility cycle was restored. 

And now the land was ready to restore the people’s health... 

But first the people had to change their dietary habits. Because the great quantities of fat, sugar and salt in the SAD are highly addictive, New Jerseyans needed a lot of help to shift their food preferences. Because many of the people were sick and regularly visited doctors for medical treatment, and because patients generally respect the advice of physicians, it was decided that creating a new generation of primary care physicians, board certified in lifestyle medicine (9), was a good place to start. EFP’s Lifestyle Medicine Rotation, in collaboration with Rutgers NJ Medical School (NJMS), has trained hundreds of primary care doctors in lifestyle medicine. Most of these doctors have returned to NJ to practice thanks to the fully funded and expanded NJ Primary Care Loan Redemption Program (10). The Rutgers NJMS Lifestyle Association (11) continues its vital work in at-risk urban communities, running lifestyle education programs as well as a lifestyle medical clinic. EFP’s Farm Days (12) also served as a model for educating and motivating the general public to adopt plant-based diets. The Farm Days are particularly effective in demonstrating to the state’s diverse populous, how plant-based diets can be successfully incorporated into any culinary tradition. The Farm Days became so popular that EFP could no longer accommodate the crowds. Fifteen years ago, the NJ Depts of Ag and Health decided to fund these events through a grant program. Today the Farm Days events are held on regenerative farms across the state.  

Finally, the federal government stepped up to the plate. In 2022, the Democracy for All Amendment (13) was ratified, reversing the 2010 Citizens United decision.  Campaign finance legislation was passed, allowing Congress to take decisive steps in reorganizing our food system on a federal level. The responsibility for creating the nation’s nutrition guidelines was finally removed from the industry- influenced USDA and placed under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the past 25 years, the CDC’s evidence-based plant-based nutrition recommendations have served as a light, guiding Americans’ on the road from sickness to health.  Next, all subsidies for corn and soybean crops were removed from the 2023 Farm Bill. These monies were redirected through the USDA NRCS to restore American farmlands, using EFECT as a model. In addition, guidelines for SNAP and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) were changed. The purchase of “junk foods” using SNAP benefits was disallowed and NSLP prioritized the provision of healthy plant-based lunches to children. The former corn/soybean subsidies also funded a monthly stipend of $500 to each family for the purchase of whole plant foods-based foods modeled after a successful South African program (14). Forward-thinking NJ legislators added another $500 stipend on top to be used ONLY for the purchase of certified regenerative food produced in NJ and put in place directives that all state agencies and school boards preferentially purchase the same. These actions created a huge demand for locally grown food, which in turn helped to encourage the rise of a new generation of farmers in the state. Over the years, these concerted efforts enabled New Jersey to not only become self-reliant in feeding her people but transformed her into a major food exporter for the New York City and Philadelphia markets; New Jersey’s food insecurity is no more. Today, New Jersey’s food culture is regeneratively-produced plant based and local. The billions of dollars NJ used to spend annually on Medicaid recipients to sustain them in states of chronic illness (15) today goes to make them well by simply feeding them.  Today, New Jerseyans have one of the lowest rates of chronic disease in the world, with a higher life expectancy than Japan. 

Not surprisingly, perhaps the most powerful influence on transforming New Jerseyans’ diets came from their deep spiritual connection (16). In the Abrahamic religions, humans were given the caretaker’s responsibility of G-d's creation.  In the eastern religions, humans were made one with other life forms.  With funding from private grants, NJ religious leaders attended educational programs regarding the impact of SAD on the earth. The leaders were then able to inspire their congregants on the basis of theological beliefs of stewardship and oneness. This had an unexpectedly powerful effect on transforming the people’s dietary habits. 

Looking back, it is important to remember that the eater is dependent on the grower. Without regenerative farmers, the high quality of life New Jerseyans now enjoy would have never come to be. Thirty years ago, it was difficult to imagine who in NJ would grow the food required to feed millions of people and make them healthy, let alone where it would be grown. The ultimate secret to NJ’s success lay in ensuring economically successful outcomes for our farmers - creating markets and giving them access to them, changing the way they farmed. EFP’s Young Farmers Incubator Program (YFIP) (17) was created to meet NJ’s demand for more farmers. YFIP has been a major force in the transformation of New Jersey’s cities. It has fostered upward mobility for disadvantaged urban youth while at the same time providing a source of healthy food that extinguished these former food deserts. The YFIP was modified to educate established conventional NJ farmers in small scale, regenerative, low input, “lean” farming (18). At the same time, YFIP helped to trial many of the new, human-scaled farming tools that have been essential in bringing about new efficiencies to small-scale farming. It is this type of farming that has provided a good living for NJ growers. Lastly, it is the NJ Exurban Farm Program (NJEFP) - an idea born out of EFP’s 2050 Food Systems Vision, that solved one of NJ’s most vexing food system issues. With regenerative farmland REITs (19) as funding partners, NJEFP made it possible for young farmers who could otherwise have not afforded farmland or a nice home in NJ, to have both! NJEFP made it possible for young farmers to purchase high-end exurban homes on 3-5 acre lots - the same ones built long ago on NJ’s prime farmland, spurring the development of small, hyperlocal neighborhood farms throughout the state. These little farms have really become the living embodiment of the Garden State. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website
  • Instagram

Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.

Over the course of the Refinement Phase, we focused on making our Vision more tangible and feasible, engaging the expertise of our team members to get specific on implementation details. We utilized exercises in the Refinement Toolkit to identify weaknesses and unexpected outcomes of our Vision. Thorough discussion followed, which enabled us to incorporate updated findings. For example, one area of our plan that we sought to refine was Technology. We wanted to be as clear-eyed as possible about how technological advancements could potentially harm our aims, and how we could insulate our Vision against such weaknesses. Technology experts on our team provided valuable insight about the current state of agricultural technology and future trends. Using Toolkit exercises, feedback, and creativity, we strengthened the robustness of our Technology plan. Throughout the Refinement Phase, special focus on feasibility and identifying weaknesses allowed us to explore our Vision at new depths.

Please provide the names of all organizations you meaningfully partnered with to develop this latest version of your Vision (they contributed at least 10 hours of time to the Vision development during the Refinement Phase).

Rodale Institute

John Parke / NJ Audubon 

Andrew Chignell / Princeton University

Karla Cook / Princeton Studies Food 


Highlands Dinner Club

Golden Grains, LLC 

River Valley Community Grains

Sara Zayed /

Astrix Ferris Design

Nora Pugliese / Ethos Health, LLC 

John Steven Bianucci / Iroqouis Valley Farmland REIT

And the following individuals: Pankaj and Asha Gala, Joan Werner, Keren Weinstein

Describe the specific steps you took during the Refinement phase to include different stakeholders to develop your Vision, including a description (age, profile, and total number) of the stakeholders engaged, and how you engaged with each.

Benjamin Walmer of Broadloom Group & Highlands Dinner Club: Ben Walmer aided us in refining the Technology component of our Vision, and was the creative force behind the visualization with Astrix Ferris.

Andrew Chignell, Professor at Princeton U: Andrew provided key components of our Culture vision, specifically with regards to religious groups and food ethics.

Pankaj Gala, Sr Manager at Pfizer: Pankaj provided valuable insight into our healthcare system.

Asha Gala, Lifestyle Clinical Director, EPC: Asha manages health coaching and operations at Ethos Primary Care. 

Andrew Smith, COO and Chief Scientist of Rodale Institute: Andrew Smith is working on EFECT with EFP. 

Yichao Rui, Soil Scientist, Rodale Institute: Yichao Rui is working on EFECT with EFP. 

Joan Werner, Head of Investment Client Relations at New York Life Investment: Joan Werner connected EFP with investors who could potentially fund YFIP. 

Nora Pugliese, Regenerative Farmer, Head of Ethos Young Farmers Incubator Program: Nora provided insight into how to improve farm operations and expand YFIP. 

Andrew Patterson, Regenerative Farmer, Founding Member, Ethos Young Farmers Incubator Program: Andrew provided insight into how to refine YFIP. 

Sara Zayed, Medical Assistant, EPC: Sara is matriculating at NYU School of Medicine this summer and is a lifestyle medicine expert.   

Amy Hansen, Policy Advisor for the NJ Conservation Foundation: Amy Hansen provided feedback regarding potential policy proposals.  

Karla Cook, Food Systems Educator, Princeton University: Karla provided incredibly valuable insight on food education and systems thinking; she created a mid-Atlantic collaborative proposal. 

Keren Weinstein, Project Manager: Keren provided insights about marketing, education and the connection between systems. 

Astrix Ferris: Astrix is a superior graphic designer who created our visualization with Ben Walmer.

What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.

(See Refinement Sources attachment)

Environment: Zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 are increasing in prevalence (1) in the United States. Evidence indicates that the emergence of such diseases is strongly linked to farming practices (2). If this trend continues, the outcomes will be catastrophic; avian flu, for example, has a 60% mortality rate (3) and may one day become an epidemic.

Furthermore, in 2020, it was reported that PFAS contamination of drinking water is “far more widespread” (4) than previously reported. PFAS contamination is severe in NJ. (5) The Atlantic has also reported on the proliferation of neurotoxic environmental chemicals. (6) Concerns around hazardous agricultural and industrial chemicals informed our Policy focus.

Diets: In 2020, physicians have little-to-no training in nutrition, and the rate of obesity has increased 5-10% in New Jersey in the last decade. Increased COVID-19 mortality rates have been observed in those with chronic diseases. Interestingly, lab-developed animal products such as Beyond Meat (plant-based) are on the rise, signaling a drop in the consumption of animal products and serving as a potential bridge between animal-based and plant-based diets. Meanwhile, plant breeders at Rutgers University are working on breeding heat/drought tolerant and cold hardy crops, which will preserve food diversity and resilience to climate change. (7)

Culture: In 2020, culture is dominated by large social media platforms, and multiple celebrities have adopted a plant-based diet (like Beyonce). The term “plant-based” has become part of the cultural lexicon, signaling the potential beginning of a widespread dietary shift. However, such a tech-dependent social culture poses dangers like misinformation and platform-restricted information sharing, which further grounds our Vision in farm-based community centers, medical practices, and religious groups as drivers of cultural change. Social media will play a valuable role, but should not replace person-to-person connection.

Technology: Artificial intelligence and machine learning technology are on the rise, which will be key to phasing out hazardous agricultural labor-saving chemicals. Valuable signals in the agricultural technology space have appeared, such as AI robots used for finer farming tasks (8) and environmental analysis. (9) AI tech and machine learning will enable small farms to invest in diverse revenue streams and phase out the small farmer’s big crutch (physical labor).

Policy: In 2020, left-wing and right-wing populist politics are on the rise and in a tug-of-war, evidenced by the rise of Bernie Sanders and the election of Donald Trump. We refined our Policy focus by prioritizing policies that enjoy bipartisan support (Toxic Substance Control Act (10), repeal of Farm Bill crop subsidies (11), rejoining Paris Climate Treaty (12)) and centering our Vision on grassroots, community-led solutions that can drive widespread cultural change.

Describe a “Day in the Life” of a key food system actor within your food system in 2050 (e.g., farmer, chef, supply chain actor, food policy actor, etc.).

It’s 8AM on May 1st, 2050. It’s a warm, gentle day in Newark, NJ and I’m stepping into my primary care clinic. It feels less like a dreary office and more like a space bursting at the seams with hope. In addition to an examination room, we have a fitness center, a full kitchen, and a meditation room. Best of all is the community garden across the street: patients come in for their appointments and then bound over to check on their flourishing plots of land.

My first patient of the day is an elderly woman, Janna. I’m thrilled: I reviewed her blood work results last night and can’t wait to share the news. She sits down before me. Her vitals are excellent.

Five months ago, Janna, a type 2 diabetic, came in complaining of a cornucopia of chronic issues. She knew there were changes she could make to her lifestyle, but didn’t know where or how to start.

Determined, we dove in. I counseled her on the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet and shared scientific evidence. That day, we gave her a cooking demonstration in our kitchen and sent her home with an easy-to-follow recipe book we created in-house. The following month, she had lost weight and her aches had dissipated. I encouraged her to begin incorporating exercise, and she committed to a daily, brisk walk.

Today, she is bursting with energy. “My tomatoes are coming along great,” she exclaims, winking. After a spirited discussion about her garden, we turn to her blood work.

“Janna,” I say warmly, “congratulations. You are no longer a type 2 diabetic.”

Janna gasps, overcome with shock. She buries her face into her hands. All is quiet for a moment, then her shoulders begin heaving.

“I didn’t believe this was possible for me,” she sobs.

I reach for her hand, and we shed tears together as I share what witnessing her transformation has meant to me. Here was a woman who wanted to continue experiencing the fullness of life, despite how many years were already behind her.

Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?

A redundant food system is a resilient one. Redundant food systems ensure that failure of one component will not have catastrophic effects. By planting a variety of different crops across multiple small farms, prioritizing soil health, and investing in community-based seed saving initiatives, our food system will remain resilient. 

Farmers at Ethos Farm work to restore the health of the land by utilizing regenerative techniques to cultivate soil health. We do not use chemicals of any kind and instead employ natural methods to ensure both the wellness of soil and local wildlife. The healthier the soil, the more resistant it is to extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, boosting the farm’s resilience. Healthy soils (1) absorb more water in heavy rains, preventing run off and surface erosion, and hold onto more moisture during droughts. We have planted cover crops which improve soil fertility and quality, combat weeds and crop diseases, and enhance biodiversity in the field. We have also planted native, warm season grasses which plunge deep into the earth (as far as 16 feet) and bring up minerals that restore the topsoil. On our land, we combine animal manure with green waste, leaves, and warm season grass hay to produce a rich farm fertilizer (compost) that improves soil quality and reduces soil-borne crop diseases. In 2020 we’ve also built two Johnson-Su bioreactors (2). We will be inoculating the seeds we plant for the 2021 season with its fungal dominant compost slurry. 

Growing crops under protective tunnels helps to safeguard against weather extremes. Over the past 8 years we have participated in the USDA NRCS High Tunnel System Initiative (3). We are completing our second tunnel at the time of this writing. For Ethos Farm Project’s 2020 season, half of all produce will be grown under protective tunnels.  

In addition, experimentation at Rutgers New Jersey Agricultual Experiment Station is showing promise: Rutgers NJAES utilizes traditional, non-GMO breeding techniques (4) that improve the heat and drought tolerance and cold hardiness of crops. Such plants grown in a rich, healthy, living soil like that of EFP will undoubtedly be more resilient, and better tolerate consequences of climate change. 

Community-based seed-saving libraries are another component of a resilient food system. Seed libraries are growing in NJ (5) and preserve varieties of foods that grow best locally, ensuring that locally grown food is diverse. Importantly, seed libraries also restore a community’s power over its food supply. The more redundant components of a food system are, the more resilient the system. A community which grows its own food in small systems (be they farms, community gardens, or home gardens) and distributes the seeds locally retains control over the food supply, directly lends individuals a sense of responsibility and independence, and minimizes reliance on corporate giants for food. 

While it is crucially important to insure our food system against climate change, it is also important to take decisive action to respond to climate change. In this regard, Ethos Farm’s warm season grasses are particularly special. Not only do they act to restore topsoil, but initial research (6) indicates they are proficient at sequestering carbon in the soil. Ethos Farm has joined forces with the Rodale Institute and Rutgers University to explore the potential of these warm season grasses to combat climate change. Fittingly, on Earth Day 2020, this research project began with a day-long effort to collect hundreds of soil samples for future analysis. Farms, as the centers of life they are, may prove to be our saving grace.

Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?

Central to our Vision is a paradigm shift in medicine to lifestyle medicine, defined as the evidence-based practice of helping patients adopt and sustain health-promoting lifestyle behaviors. The cornerstone of lifestyle medicine is whole-food, plant-based nutrition. Physicians who practice lifestyle medicine treat poor diets (among other lifestyle habits) as the root cause of metabolic disease, which often results from a micronutrient-poor diet. A whole-food, plant-based diet is extremely nutrient-dense and supplies the vast majority of human nutritional requirements. Even more critical, however, is its potential for not just chronic disease prevention, but also chronic disease reversal. As an example, heart disease is the leading cause of death (1) for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. A plant-based diet is the only diet that has been shown to reverse (2) heart disease, to say nothing of its powerful potential for prevention.  

Diabetes, another destructive chronic disease, is one of the US’s ten leading causes of death. Ominously, over a third of Americans have prediabetes and are likely well on their way to developing diabetes if diets do not change. There is a rich body of scientific evidence (3) indicating that plant-based nutrition is superior for treating, controlling, and even reversing diabetes. In fact, at Ethos Primary Care, many of our patients have successfully reversed type 2 diabetes under medical supervision and with the guidance of qualified and compassionate health coaches. 

Lifestyle medicine, however, hinges on the habits, motivations, and desires of the patient. How can we inspire that change? It is clear that a cultural shift is occurring: “plant-based” has become part of the cultural lexicon; multiple celebrities have publicly adopted a plant-based diet; hyper-realistic animal product substitutes like Beyond Meat burgers have hit the market to wide acclaim, a potential bridge to whole-food, plant-based nutrition. Physicians are well-placed to the take the reins and inspire a widespread adoption of a plant-based diet for disease prevention and reversal. Ethos Primary Care trains medical students and physicians with its Lifestyle Medicine Rotation, which is part of the approved elective curriculum by Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. EFP also endeavors to educate the public; its inaugural, free Farm Days welcomed hundreds of people for keynote lectures by the pioneers of lifestyle medicine. Finally, EFP is currently in talks with religious leaders to establish an educational summit about plant-based nutrition geared towards communities of different faiths. Such a workshop is meant to encourage the adoption of a plant-based diet as stewardship of the self and planet. The goal is to inspire spiritual leaders to take this message to their congregations. 

Ethos Farm Project also grows food regeneratively with a focus on nurturing the soil microbiome to ensure growth of the most nutrient-dense (4) produce possible. Soil microorganisms are intimately connected to (5) the human gut microbiome. The right gut flora is health-promoting (6), while “bad bacteria” in our gut may be responsible for promoting chronic disease. Our diets are directly responsible for cultivating the populations of bacteria in our gut microbiome; fiber-rich plant foods promote “good bacteria.” Poetically, a living soil is health-promoting – not just for plants and the planet, but for us. A regenerative food system modeled after Ethos Farm Project and the NJ Lawn to Farm Program centers small, redundant farms, ensuring that communities across the state of NJ have access to fresh, regeneratively grown food. 

EFP is particularly connected to urban communities in Newark that suffer from undernutrition. Many members of NJMS’s Lifestyle Medicine (7) group complete EFP’s Lifestyle Medicine Rotation, and then utilize their knowledge to spearhead local health education initiatives like community health fairs. Community members of all ages are educated on how to adopt a healthy whole-food, plant-based diet and are invited to grow fruits and vegetables in a local community garden. EFP is in the process of establishing a pipeline from these community gardens to its Young Farmers Incubator Program: young community garden members who are interested will be invited to apply to YFIP, and will be provided with housing and farming mentorship upon acceptance. Graduates of YFIP will receive acreage at Ethos Farm and be encouraged to join the EFP Farmers’ Co-operative, a finely coordinated system of many small farmers growing a diverse range of crops. The Co-op will operate a farm store on site and prioritize the opening of similar farm stores in NJ’s underserved urban communities. EFP, the YFIP, and their symbiotic relationship with nearby urban communities are intended to be a model for small, regenerative farms established across the country.  

Economics | Where and what will the jobs be that support living wages in your future food system of 2050, and how will these jobs impact gender equality?

Though our future food system prominently features the farmer and physician, it has much room to accommodate jobs that will require a variety of skillsets. Importantly, diverse revenue streams will enable small farms to be economically robust and create a broad range of employment opportunities, such as farming, event planning, marketing, food education, food preparation, and management. Small, redundant farms, while primarily responsible for food production, will also serve as community centers. In 2019, Ethos Farm Project set in motion its vision of EFP as a community center by kicking off its inaugural Farm Days series (1). Throughout the course of the spring and summer, community members gathered on the farm once a month; each event was a day-long affair that included a farm tour, a farm market bursting with fresh, regenerative produce, a lifestyle panel featuring Ethos staff, and a plant-based, community potluck. The cornerstone of each event was a keynote speaker, always a renowned thought leader or medical professional who educated attendees about the value and importance of healthy, plant-based living. The farm market consistently sold out at each event. This is just one demonstration of how the farm can grow and sell produce, create jobs, inspire individuals to make healthy lifestyle changes, and bring people together. 

Farm-based medical practices are also a major component of our Vision; Ethos Primary Care, EFP’s medical practice, employs a doctor, health coaches, and medical scribes. Currently, medical school matriculants are roughly 50% each male and female (2), and medical school classes are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. While becoming a physician requires costly education and rigorous training, the path to becoming a health coach or medical scribe is relatively straightforward. Both health coaches and medical scribes are essential to the functioning of a lifestyle medical practice: scribes extensively document each patient visit and create custom care plans under the doctor’s supervision, and health coaches guide patients through the practical details of making lifestyle (primarily dietary) changes.  

Remote work is a critical component of our future food system. While EFP made an investment in telemedicine long before the Covid-19 pandemic began, the landscape of medicine and health coaching has changed greatly in recent months. Telemedicine has maximized the flexibility of patient visits: though some medical visits require an in-person encounter, many can be conducted from home. Those in event planning, marketing, or food education roles at the farm may also successfully work from home. Remote work promotes gender equality, as individuals with competing responsibilities (like care-taking) can still participate and thrive. Of course, this necessitates investment in systems and platforms that enable working from home successfully. In this regard, EFP has been ahead of the curve. 

EFP is also dedicated to expanding its Young Farmers Incubator Program, a low-cost educational pathway to making a sustainable living as a farmer. YFIP provides mentoring and housing, and students are granted acreage after graduation. This program is open to all who choose to apply. 

Finally, our food system will require the advancement and usage of technology. EFP is dedicated to cultivating a collaborative effort between inventors, engineers, technicians, farmers, and investors. Engineers, inventors, and technicians will respond to the needs of farmers by creating and maintaining agricultural technology which ranges from simple, lean tools, to AI and machine-learning tech. Investors will fund the effort. The goal of such tech will primarily be to minimize the necessity for direct physical labor (which will expand the field of potential farmers), but may also enable farmers to closely monitor environmental conditions, helping to maximize crop yield and boost financial success.

Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?

Cultural, spiritual, and community traditions must be at the heart of a successful, nourishing food system, as they are the bedrock of human connection. Traditions that bring people together inspire compassion, trust, and empathy in community members, which boosts the resiliency and adaptability of a community. When individuals feel a sense of love for and commitment to their neighbors, they become personally invested in community-wide issues like health and access to food. 

In 2019, EFP set in motion its vision of the farm as a community center by launching its inaugural Farm Days series. Community members gathered on the farm to learn about lifestyle medicine from staff and a keynote speaker, attend a farm tour, purchase fresh, regenerative produce, and participate in a plant-based, community potluck. The goal of these events was to inspire attendees to make healthy lifestyle changes and educate them about the importance of quality, local produce. As such, it was of great importance to make the events community-centered. Human connection is often the tipping point for individuals contemplating making healthy dietary changes. Attendees were asked to bring a healthy whole-food, plant-based dish of their choosing. To eliminate barriers to attendance, simple foods like whole fruit were welcome: a bag of oranges could suffice! Many attendees, however, went above and beyond by creating colorful, delicious dishes often inspired by cultural meals. This sparked conversation. Recipes were exchanged. People discussed their personal health journeys and reflected on the lifestyle medical information they learned at the lecture before lunch. Many attendees resolved to commit to healthy lifestyle change, feeling grounded by new knowledge – and new friends. Ethos Farm Days are to be an annual event, a new community tradition. 

The preservation of existing cultural, spiritual, and community traditions is as important as the establishment of new ones. Central to our Vision is lifestyle medicine, defined as the evidence-based practice of helping patients adopt and sustain health-promoting lifestyle behaviors. The cornerstone of lifestyle medicine is whole-food, plant-based nutrition. Of course, food is often at the heart of tradition. How can we inspire the adoption of a WFPB diet while preserving tradition? 

First, food education is critical. At Ethos Primary Care, health coaches aid patients in adopting a WFPB diet in ways that are enjoyable, delicious, and colorful. Cultural traditions aren’t phased out: instead, they are fused with lifestyle medical practices. Traditional dishes in many cultures can be prepared in a WFPB-friendly way. Not only do the flavors sing, bringing great joy and encouragement to the eater, but they also transform the patient’s health. Health is necessarily at the center of cultural, spiritual, and community traditions, because those who are debilitated by chronic illness cannot participate in activities with the same vigor as their healthy counterparts. 

Second, NJ is home to diverse religious communities, which are centers of spiritual and cultural tradition. In order to inspire a successful, enduring change in our food system, these communities must be engaged. EFP is currently in talks with religious leaders to establish an annual educational summit about plant-based nutrition geared towards communities of different faiths. Such a workshop is meant to encourage the adoption of a plant-based diet as stewardship of the self and planet. The goal is to inspire spiritual leaders to take this message to their congregations and incorporate it into community worship. 

Finally, a food system that promotes cultural, spiritual, and community traditions requires a diverse coalition of invested actors from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds. Ethos Farm Project boasts such a team: our staff is ethnically and religiously diverse. As such, each individual’s contribution ensures that events and patient counseling are made as inclusive as possible. It is important to speak to the traditions and values of every community member, making all feel welcome and cultivating a space where people of different backgrounds can come together, understand one another, and thrive.

Technology | What technological advances are needed to transform your food system into one that meets your goals and embodies the values of your Vision in 2050?

Technology is of great importance to our Vision. At Ethos Farm, we exclusively use regenerative methods to grow produce. We do not use labor-saving chemicals of any kind and focus on optimizing our soil’s mineral content, organic matter, and microbiome. Of course, such farming requires intensive physical labor. In particular, weed control, harvesting, planting, and crop maintenance are cited by our farmers as major “pain points,” significant barriers to growing large quantities of high-quality produce. Though using chemical technology is out of the question, other technological advances can be utilized to address the challenges of regenerative methods. 

Luckily, many of these technological advances already exist. For example, autonomous robots (1) have been designed to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting, freeing farmers “from stressful and repetitive tasks... while preserving the environment.” AgreenCulture’s “CEOL” agricultural robot uses artificial intelligence to analyze the environment (2), providing information on ground preparation and crop growth. While this particular robot is equipped with a tank that distributes fertilizer and pesticides, it takes little imagination to envision how such technology can be used regeneratively. Environmental analysis and real-time data-gathering about pests and disease outbreaks, for example, would be incredibly valuable to the regenerative farmer, who could utilize the information to respond accordingly. Lower-tech lean tools such as the small cultivating tractor, flail mower, roller-crimper, and flame weeder (among others) are also invaluable to the small farmer in that they serve to minimize physical labor. 

As such technology is available, the question becomes: how can they become accessible to the small farmer, who often has limited resources with which to purchase and maintain such equipment? This tech must become both affordable and scalable: affordable so that small farmers can make the initial investment, and scalable so that small farms, armed with such tech, can proliferate across the state. As such, EFP intends to found a Tech Consortium, a collaborative effort between innovators, engineers, farmers, and investors. The goal of the Tech Consortium is to develop affordable, technologically advanced labor-saving devices to be used by small, regenerative farmers. Though advanced technology can start out quite expensive, it often becomes easily accessible/affordable after several iterations (like the smartphone, personal computer, or television). 

Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?

Our future food system is primarily a grassroots initiative; however, public policy can greatly aid EFP in advancing its aims. We recognize that climate policy and toxin regulation are fraught with large challenges. However, there is so little margin left where our environment is concerned that policies must be implemented (or reversed, as in the case of commodity crop subsidies). Indeed, climate investments and grassroots efforts are powerful; coupled with effective policy, they can go remarkably far. The following are policies that we identified as being exceedingly important for enabling our future food system. 

First, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) should be expanded to tightly regulate the production of all chemicals suspected of being hazardous to human and environmental health. Currently, NJ’s drinking water is highly contaminated with PFAS (1), an endocrine-disrupting, toxic pollutant. Furthermore, labor-saving chemicals are used extensively across NJ farms; an expanded TSCA would minimize the usage of chemicals that are harmful to humans, other living beings, and the environment. 

Nutrition guidelines should be determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, nutrition guidelines are set by the USDA, which promotes commodities like sugar and corn, creating a conflict of interest. Writes Dr. Walter Willett (2) in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Although the guidelines’ direct educational influence is modest, they have major impact on Americans’ diets, because federal food policies, including standards for schools, and many federal food-assistance programs must comply with them. The guidelines’ development was carefully watched by agro-industrial interests that stand to gain or lose from their implementation.” 

Furthermore, commodity crop subsidies should not be included (3) in the next Farm Bill. Subsidies discourage crop rotations, encourage overproduction and the growth of monocultures, and increase environmental contamination through excessive use of labor-saving chemicals. 

Finally, the United States should rejoin the Paris Climate Treaty and redouble its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ethos Farm Project has set in motion EFECT, trialing the potential of warm season grasses to combat climate change. Should EFECT prove successful, future climate change-fighting initiatives can be modeled after it, helping the U.S. meet goals outlined in the Paris Climate Treaty.

Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.

These 6 Themes are intimately connected in our food system. At the heart of our food system are farmers and physicians. Physicians are to advance the lifestyle medicine movement, the cornerstone of which is whole-food, plant-based nutrition. At Ethos Primary Care, patients are counseled on how to make evidence-based lifestyle changes (Diets) to improve their health. Future physicians complete the Lifestyle Medicine Rotation and go on to apply what they’ve learned with their own patients, creating a domino effect. The adoption of a plant-based diet, as we know, is not only excellent for human health, but is also “one of the most significant ways to reduce greenhouse gases from the agriculture sector” according to the United Nations (1) (Environment). 

At Ethos Primary Care, patients attend their appointment and then visit EFP’s farmer’s market, where fresh, regenerative produce grown by our farmers is sold. Ethos Farm serves not only as a model for small, regenerative farms in NJ, but has also set in motion EFECT in partnership with the Rodale Institute and Rutgers University. EFECT is trialing the potential of warm season grasses to effectively sequester carbon, combatting climate change (Environment). 

Additionally, as Ethos Farm Project is home to a medical practice, farm, and budding community center, it serves multiple purposes in our food system. First, it creates jobs across various disciplines: medicine, farming, management, health coaching, event planning, marketing, food education, food preparation, and engineering, among others. It also reduces healthcare costs, as patients often become free of chronic disease by changing their diets and lifestyle under the guidance of a physician and health coach (Economics). By serving as a place where community members can gather, meet one another, learn about lifestyle medicine, and improve their health, it establishes new cultural traditions and preserves old ones (Culture). Cultural shifts can inspire widespread dietary changes; we have seen the food industry evolve and innovate (2) in response (Economics). As cultural shifts often boost public consciousness around issues, they can also motivate significant policy changes (like expansion of the Toxic Substance Control Act, which enjoys bipartisan support) (Policy).  

Finally, regenerative agriculture is a growing movement. Labor-saving, toxic chemicals can be phased out entirely by a combination of lean, low-tech farming tools and high-tech artificial intelligence. Cost is a barrier to widespread adoption of such tech. Through a Tech Consortium and the clear-eyed, growing demand for a healthy, sustainable food system, technology will become affordable and accessible (Technology). This tech will make growing regenerative produce easier than ever, satisfying the appetites of plant-based eaters, making small, redundant farms economically viable, and preserving the planet. 

Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.

There are several trade-offs we have considered that we may need to make to attain our Vision by 2050. First, as we know, the state of politics in the United States is highly contentious. Advancing policy proposals, even seemingly straightforward ones, is often laborious and challenging. If upcoming Farm Bills and the USDA are not restructured as described, grassroots efforts must be redoubled: we must establish lifestyle medicine as a core part of the medical school curriculum to reform the guiding ethos of medicine, amplify public education (including food education) efforts, and focus on tech advancements that will make small, regenerative farms as profitable as possible. 

As transforming an eater’s palate takes time and effort, we believe that processed, “fake” animal products will suffice as a bridge between animal-based and whole-food, plant-based diets. Such products, though not optimal for human health, are significantly less resource-intensive than their meat counterparts, and can play an important part in protecting the environment. Eaters who eat such products often find the transition to whole-food, plant-based diets easier, as the psychological “jump” is not quite as steep. 

EFECT is currently in progress; the goal of the project is to determine whether warm season grasses can sequester significant amounts of carbon in the soil. If, however, the resulting data does not support this, resources should be diverted to planting forests as a means of sequestering carbon dioxide. 

Finally, NJ farmland is frequently threatened by development. EFP’s goal is for NJ to become self-reliant due to the proliferation of small, redundant farms across the state that grow diverse crops. However, if NJ’s land base is acquired for other ends, we should explore indoor, urban agriculture using controlled environment systems as a way to accomplish these goals.

3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?

There are three key milestones EFP aims to achieve in the next three years for our Vision to be on track. 

1. The formation of a Tech Consortium consisting of innovators, farmers, and investors: The primary reason small organic farmers have difficulty making a living is high labor costs. Forming a consortium that could design and produce reasonably priced, high-tech labor-saving devices and tools and get them into the hands of these farmers would make the profession economically viable. 

2. Expand education programs to help shift dietary preferences: Community-based education programs should be robust; EFP should establish Ethos Farm Days as an annual event, expand its Lifestyle Medicine Rotation at Ethos Primary Care, and establish a lifestyle medicine curriculum at New Jersey Medical School to educate the next generation of doctors. 

3. Full funding of Ethos Farm Ecosystem and Carbon Trial: EFECT has the potential to demonstrate that planting of native warm season grasses could offer a shovel-ready solution to climate change, as well as generate soil carbon sequestration data that could support the development of carbon markets. EFECT began on April 22, 2020; EFP has submitted pre-proposals for additional grant funds. 

10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?

In 10 years, the USDA should be restructured so that its only concern is food production. To eliminate USDA conflicts of interest between promoting food production that is injurious to human and planetary health and the responsibility of safeguarding the environment and human nutrition, the USDA must take the following actions:  

1. Transfer responsibility for creation of nutrition guidelines to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;  

2. Transfer all food entitlement programs including SNAP, NSLP and WIC to the Department of Human Health and Services, which will administer them using CDC evidence-based nutrition guidelines; 

3. Transfer Natural Resources Conservation Service to the EPA. 

The Farm Bill is legislated every five years: the next two are in 2023 and 2028. Over the next few years, EFP and team will support the effort to transfer responsibility for creation of nutrition guidelines to the CDC. Once the above programs are removed from USDA, and thus from Farm Bill funding, support from urban and conservation-minded legislators for Farm Bill crop subsidies will likely fall, making it more likely that Farm Bill crop subsidies supporting harmful industrialized food production will be repealed. 

If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?

If awarded $200,000, Ethos Farm Project will utilize the funds as follows: 

$70,000 will be budgeted to Ethos Farm to: 

1) purchase labor-saving tools such as a small cultivating tractor, flail mower, roller-crimper, and irrigation system, in addition to assorted tools 

2) support the Young Farmers Incubator Program by establishing a pipeline program from Newark, NJ, creating a system to ship produce across the state, and cultivate an online presence to build the farm’s customer base 

3) advance EFECT 

$50,000 will be budgeted to Ethos Primary Care to: 

1) expand and improve the programming of the Lifestyle Clinical Rotation in order to train more medical students and physicians 

2) cover the administrative costs of establishing relationships with more medical schools and post-graduate training programs 

3) refine patient lifestyle programs and create new ones 

$50,000 will be budgeted to public education programs, such as: 

1) Ethos Farm Days 

2) Ethos Theological Summit 

3) Ethos Staff Webinars 

$30,000 will be budgeted to marketing efforts, like: 

1) advertisements for public education programs 

2) advertisements for EFP’s farm market 

3) creation of online content (newsletters, videos) and website maintenance 

4) advertisements for Ethos Primary Care 

If you are chosen as a Top Visionary, The Rockefeller Foundation would like to share your Vision widely with a global audience. What would you like the world to learn from your Vision for 2050?

Our Vision is based on a simple premise: the world and all its beings can live in harmony with one another. We know that eating whole, plant foods can prevent and reverse debilitating chronic diseases, optimizing human health. Lovingly growing these plants in a living, chemical-free soil will nourish human beings, protect our food supply, combat climate change, and restore the earth. Our food system, fraught as it is currently, is at war with itself because of competing interests: humans are playing a precarious tug-of-war with the environment, which is responding in kind. Ethos Farm Project is only a revolution in that it is a restoration. When we prioritize the rights of nature above all and work together, we will find that the earth gives back to us in kind: healing itself, and healing us. 

Please share a visual that communicates the structure and operation of your food system in 2050. Describe the visual.

*** Visualization is attached as attachment**** Using the Rights of Nature model as a meta-system foundation for our visualization, the Ethos Farm Project Stakeholders are arranged radially to express the flow of interconnections that impact Eaters, who are our prime Stakeholders, as well as the most consequential system of systems, the Environment. 

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Team (31)

Ron's profile
Pankaj's profile
Pankaj Gala

Role added on team:

"Senior Manager, Pfizer, Inc.; Ethos Farm Orchardist"

Daniel's profile
Daniel Gimenez

Role added on team:

"Professor of Soil Science, Rutgers University"

Yichao's profile
Yichao Rui

Role added on team:

"Soil Scientist, Rodale Institute"

Joan's profile
Joan Werner

Role added on team:

"Head of Investment Client Relations, New York Life Investments"

Andrew's profile
Andrew Patterson

Role added on team:

"Regenerative Farmer; Founding Member, Ethos Young Farmers Incubator Program"

Nora's profile
Nora Pugliese

Role added on team:

"Regenerative Farmer; Head of Ethos Young Farmers Incubator Program"

Asha's profile
Asha Gala

Role added on team:

"Ethos Primary Care Lifestyle Clinical Director, certified MBSR instructor"

Andrew's profile
Andrew Chignell

Role added on team:

"Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Princeton University"

john's profile
john parke

Role added on team:

"Stewardship Project Director at New Jersey Audubon"

Sara's profile
Sara Zayed

Role added on team:

"Founder of Posifitivy, a lifestyle health blog for young women; Ethos Primary Care Medical Assistant; Matriculating Medical Student and Vilcek Scholar at New York University Grossman School of Medicine, Class of 2023"

Benjamin's profile
Benjamin Walmer

Role added on team:

"Architect, chef and founder of Broadloom, a multidisciplinary architectural and integrated design practice, and Highlands Dinner Club, a farm to table mobile culinary laboratory"

Mark's profile
Mark Mifsud

Role added on team:

"Environmental Sustainability Major at Ramapo College of New Jersey, Class of 2021"

Andrew's profile
Andrew Smith

Role added on team:

"Chief Operating Officer and Chief Scientist, Rodale Institute"

saul's profile
saul bautista

Role added on team:

"Founder of Rutgers NJMS Lifestyle Medical Group, which is dedicated to building a healthcare system in Newark, NJ, that empowers its people. The foundation of this system is focused on addressing the lifestyle factors and social determinants of health."

Larry's profile
Larry Mahmarian

Role added on team:

"Co-Founder of River Valley Community Grains (RVCG); RVCG's mission is to "Restore the soils, water and health of our communities" by helping farmers use regenerative methods to produce nutrient dense grains"

Gwen's profile
Gwen Coveny

Role added on team:

"Graphic design, marketing communications, and content support”"

John Steven's profile
John Steven Bianucci

Role added on team:

"Director of Impact - Organic Farmland Real Estate Investment Trusts - work with investors to finance agriculture."

Renee 's profile
Renee Koubiadis

Role added on team:

"Executive Director Anti-Poverty Network of NJ"

Amy's profile
Amy Hansen

Role added on team:

"Policy Advisor for the NJ Conservation Foundation."

Scott's profile
Scott Clucas

Role added on team:

"NJ Farmer"

Karla's profile
Karla Cook

Role added on team:

"Princeton Studies Food"

Gal's profile
Gal Hochman

Role added on team:

"Northeast Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, President. Dept of Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey"

Keren's profile
Keren Weinstein

Role added on team:

"Inner INK LLC"

David's profile
David Leon

Role added on team:

"Chief Executive of Farmer’s Footprint"

Thomas's profile
Thomas Moke

Role added on team:

"Conventional Farmer"

Dan's profile
Dan Rubenstein

Role added on team:

"Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University"

Astrix 's profile
Astrix Ferris

Role added on team:

"interiors architect specializing in hospitality and food service design"

Walter's profile
Walter Willett

Role added on team:

"Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health"

Anu's profile
Anu Ramaswami

Role added on team:

"Professor - School of Engineering at Princeton University"

Mark's profile
Mark Mandler

Role added on team:

"Sound Technician"

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Attachments (19)

A Vision by Wendell Berry.mp4

A poem by Wendell Berry narrated by Ron Weiss, MD, music "Nimrod" from The Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar Cast: Recorded on Ethos Farm at dawn, 5:30 AM on 5/8/20 - song sparrow house wren red-wing blackbird northern cardinal mourning dove fish crow canada goose eastern phoebe tufted titmouse American robin The headwaters of the south branch of the Raritan River

Refinement Phase Sources List.pdf

Here is a list of sources that correspond to references in each Refinement essay.

05-24-20 inspiration supplement Food System Vision Prize (Ron Weiss).docx

Collaborative Proposal - Mid-Atlantic Good Food: A Six-Way Collaboration

A day in the life of Stakeholder - Ethos Primary Care Patient Ruth.docx

Ruth, a Ethos Health Stakeholder, describes how her life has been transformed

Rodale Ins White Paper - Power of the Plate.pdf

Dr. Ron Weiss is one of the physician authors of Rodale institute's new white paper "Power of the Plate", where farmers, doctors and scientists present a vision for a healthier future: regenerative healthcare.

The Power of the Plate_ Fact Sheet Final.pdf

The Case for Regenerative Organic Agriculture in Improving Human Health - fact sheet compliment to Rodale Ins white paper "The Power of the Plate"

Ethos in the Media_May2020.docx

Various publications where Ron Weiss, MD and Ethos Farm Projects are discussed.


List of reference internal documents, publications and websites referred in the full Vision 2050 statement.

About Ethos Farm.pdf

The history of Ethos Farm, from Ron Weiss, MD's early vision to present day triumphs and ongoing initiatives

Ethos Farm Project Summary.pdf

Explanations of the Ethos Farm Project programs (Ethos Young Farmers Incubator Program, Ethos Farm Ecosystem and Carbon Trial Initiative, and Ethos Farm Days)

EFECT Document.pdf

Technical document with in-depth information on the Ethos Farm Ecosystem and Carbon Trial (EFECT) Initiative.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Itika Gupta

Hi Ron Weiss congratulations on putting together that is very grandiose and compelling. For refinement, how might you detail out the Vision to bring in more stakeholder perspectives, define feasibility of the applications?

Photo of Ron Weiss

Hi Itika -
Thank you for posing these important questions. Do not worry...even though you do not see anything posted, our team has been hard at work refining our initial grandiose and somewhat naive vision. We will share soon.
Meanwhile, we do have a request for you...One of our team members, Karla Cook of Princeton Studies Food has formulated an exciting collaborative proposal involving five(!) Rockefeller teams, effectively creating a "super vision" for the food system of the Mid Atlantic region of the United States. Would you be able to assist us by approaching each of the other Rockefeller teams to assess their interest in participating in this "super vision" and arranging a way for us to communicate jointly?

Photo of Itika Gupta

Hey Ron Weiss this sounds extremely exciting.
Absolutely I would be happy to assist. Drop me an email at and lets arrange for a quick call to discuss how I can support your supervision idea :)

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