Provide bridge loans & incentives for struggling commercial farmers in order to facilitate & phase in more sustainable food practices.
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
We selected Wisconsin because it is one of the states hit the hardest by farm bankruptcies in 2019.
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.
Farm flooding in 2019
In Wisconsin farmers are struggling to deal with damages to their crops from flooding as well as hotter and longer than normal seasons. From apples to blueberries, early growth stages that normally occur during April and early May are now all over the place. This current warm spell has advanced the growing season by more than three weeks. One would think this is a good thing but the heat and humidity is causing fungal diseases in fruit crops.
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
Today farmers use one third of our planet’s surface to produce food. In 2019 American farm bankruptcies jumped 24% amid Trump’s trade war and increasing bad weather. Farm debt this year is projected to be a record-high $416 billion dollars. In 2016, 87.3% of food and beverage purchased by US consumers (including both groceries and eating out), were from domestic production. Take a moment to think about this and what this actually means. Domestic production at 63% is already at a tipping point not only for consumers but for the food and beverage industries as well! Imagine a world with fewer farmers, more consumption, shrinking farmlands and no safety net. Around the globe, food production, distribution, management and waste continue to threaten our planet and livelihood. Today 7.3 billion people consume 1.6 times what the earth’s natural resources can supply. By 2050 the world’s population will have reached 9 billion. So, how do we produce more food for more people without expanding the land and water already in use? By improving efficiency and productivity while reducing waste and shifting consumption patterns, we can produce enough food for everyone and take better care of our planet.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
The world’s top 10 food & beverage companies combined market value is $1.124 trillion. If each of these companies donated 1% of their market value, we would not only be able to secure funding for the US Farmers’ Bridge Fund but would also have seed money for launching a Global Farmers' Bridge Fund. For our initial phase we will focus on 2 of the largest food & beverage manufacturers in Wisconsin; MillerCoors & Birdseye. We would like to invite the FAO, USDA, FSA & Cornell's Climate Smart Farming to participate in our project. Our advisory board will consist of today’s experts in high diversity sustainable farming systems. The US Farmers’ Bridge Fund Initiative’s overarching goal is to get commercial farmers to rethink food production & to embrace more sustainable practices via financial incentives & carbon credits so they can: 1. Minimize mechanical & chemical damage of farmlands by phasing out the use of toxic materials (pesticides, fertilizers, fungicides) & incorporate probiotics for plants that absorb more CO2 & boost yield. 2. Better protect soil by increasing soil organic matter (which will promote better drainage), reduce tillage, promote cover cropping, the use of windbreaks, use more compost & manure. 3. Promote diversity by using new cultivars (like sugar belle oranges to combat greening) that are more robust, flood/drought tolerant & new species that seem to match a particular region's changing climate. 4. Precision growing that promotes farms in regions where they will prosper. As practiced in ancient times, grow desert crops in the desert. IE California should become the date capital instead of the water consuming almond capital, water crops should be grown in wetlands. 5. Intelligent planting ie phase out growing alfalfa as feed for livestock because it uses 4 times as much water than wheat. Some crop varieties have greater tolerance for moisture stress than current dominant crops (ie switching from spring to winter wheat will help alleviate moisture stress). 6. Efficient water management forecasting tools that embrace terrace farming, the use of swales, ancient water irrigation techniques, rain caching cisterns & other water conserving tips like using organic water retention fertilizer. 7. Better pick pack & ship methods as well as storage. IE convert unused grain silos into Yakhchāl style refrigerated storage facilities. Freeze dry produce on premises. For shipping use sturdy paper sacks that have been laced with dried spices that kill bacteria. 8. Create Farmer User Groups for idea exchanges & foment state reps to lobby for more green incentive based tax deductions & carbon credits. 9. Spread the word by inspiring struggling farmers with a Farm Make Over TV Show. 10. Provide safety nets & therapy for farmers in distress (including funding for potential farm relocation)
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.
Healthier soils will absorb more CO2 (4.38 metric tons of CO2 per acre as compared to traditional commercial farm lands), will grow healthier produce which will ultimately help create healthier diets and a more resilient environment! Strengthened communities = stronger economies = less illnesses = less suicides = less flooding and soil erosion! Our planet and all who share it will be happier and far better off than we are today. Case in point: The number of farmers committing suicide has steadily increased over the past 3 years. These numbers spiked after the tariffs. In summary, the US Farmers' Bridge Fund will help extend lifelines, improve livelihoods, absorb more CO2 and bring about more balance and equity. Furthermore, the participating Wisconsin farming communities will run on renewable energy, become better prepared entrepreneurs and much more resilient and adaptable than they currently are. By being more open minded, flexible (moving farms to higher ground if necessary and having funding available to do so), they will become more adept at tweaking their farming practices. As such, by listening to farmers' challenges, creating custom solutions that include precision based soil remedies and adapting more circular based-holistic solutions to farming, this project will set the example for other national and global farmers to follow. The success of this high diversity sustainable farming system including a comprehensive climate change knowledge base and forecasting apps for mitigating climate change will serve as a platform and spring board for future ease of replication.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Water and Flood Calculator Tools for Farmers
Climate Change Tools and Forecasting Calculators for Farmers
If you were to ask me how to describe our vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future in one word, I would pick "karuna": Compassionate Environment -- Compassionate Diets -- Compassionate Economies -- Compassionate Cultures -- Compassionate Technologies -- Compassionate Policies! This may come across as a trite statement but it is what we all need to strive for, more compassion in our everyday lives and choices. In life, nothing is stagnant as we and the world around us is in constant movement. By having a more compassionate "relentless realignment" approach, safety nets and a one stop shop forecasting tools knowledge base, farmers will become more adept at navigating and offsetting the impacts of Climate Change.