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Food Systems and Design – A Reader


It Starts With The Soils, by James Merryweather
As James Merryweather explains in this classic text, ninety-nine percent of all food comes from our soils. As home to an enormous variety of organisms – from bacteria, to mammals – soil health determines the metabolic health of all terrestrial ecosystems.

Agricultural strategies of the past century substituted industrial inputs for biological processes. This P2P Foundation paper argues that underexploited ecological and social opportunities hold promise for a more broadly beneficent agriculture.

Thinking Like A Forest, by James Drescher
If maintaining the fertility of the soil is a core principle of ecological agriculture, so, too, is a commitment to think in longer time frames than markets – or even than individual human lifespans. We need to think like a forest.

Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives, by Carolyn Steel
The gargantuan effort needed to feed cities across the world on a daily basis has a massive and vastly under appreciated social and physical impact on people and the planet.

World Hunger: 12 Myths, by Francis Moore Lappé
It is a myth that “there is not enough food” – and 11 other myths.

The Food-Commons Transition, Jose Luis Vivero Pol
Treating food as a purely private good is denying millions of people access to this basic resource. If food were to be treated as a commons or public good, it could be produced and distributed more effectively by a governance system combining market rules, public regulations and collective actions.

AgoBioDiverse Newsletter
A treasure trove of stories – edited by two biodiversity professionals who can also write – about the people and organizations that promote more agrobiodiversity.

Open Source Seed Initiative
Diversity is the very building block of evolution and adaptation – but the story of seed has become one of loss, control, dependence and debt. It’s time to change the story. These guys have started to do that

Bioregionalism, by Raymond Dassmann
If people were allowed to sort themselves out rationally, a new array of ethnobiotic entities would take the place of nation states. Bioregionalism recognizes, nurtures, sustains and celebrates local connections with: Land, Plants and Animals, Springs, Rivers, Lakes, Groundwater & Oceans, Air, Families, Friends, Neighbors, Community, Native Traditions and Indigenous Systems of Production & Trade.

The Food Commons
People go hungry not because of a shortage of production, but because the food available is too expensive, or they lack the land to grow it on. In California, the prototype of a combined social, political and technical solution has been launched which promises to unlock the food system crisis. (The Food Commons is a semi-finalist in the 2014 Buckminster Fuller Challenge).

What Do Chinese Dumplings Have To Do With Global Warming?
Nicola Twilley, one of the best writers out there, bar none, explains all. 


Nature’s Internet, by Paul Stamets
In an old-growth forest, a handful of soil also contains millions of super-delicate mycorrhizal fungi. Linked together with the roots of plants, mycorrhiza form vast subsoil networks – ‘nature’s internet’ – in which mind- bogglingly complex interactions support the flora and food webs upon which we all rely for our existence. This vast, invisible web does more than ferry water and nutrients; it also enables long distance communication between plants.

City As Biotope: Appearing and Disappearing Landscapes
A group of architecture and design students were challenged: what is the tiniest example of biological activity you can find in this apparently empty landscape?

The Region As Mosaic
How is a region to make sense of the myriad proposals being made for its future by artists, activists, and designers? Here is one way:

Laboratory of Microclimates
This project of the Dutch artist Annechien Meier brings social and ecological surroundings to peoples’ attention.


Food Systems and Design, John Thackara texts
28 Ways In Which Food Systems Are a Design Opportunity

Agroecology, by P2P Foundation
Agroecological practices require public goods such as extension services; storage facilities; rural infrastructure (roads, electricity, and information and communication technologies) for access to regional and local markets; credit and insurance against weather-related risks; agricultural research and development; education; and support to farmers’ organizations and cooperatives.

Turn-key Food Hives (La Ruche Qui Dit Oui / The Food Assembly) 
“We see our supporters not as donors, but as social investors with a return on the investment being, not in cash, but in social, economic, and ecological benefits to society at large”.

From Farmers Markets to Local Food Hubs
A provocative suggestion from Rowan Jacobsen that we need a system of local food hubs that can process and bundle local foods and “deliver them to the places where America eats”. Rowan’s text raises the question: value-added by intermediaries, or by communities? or both?

Community Supported Baking
Regional-scale ‘grain sheds’ are being recreated thanks to a proliferation of Community Supported Baking (CSB) schemes.

London’s Peoples Supermarket and ‘Blended value’ 
The People’s Supermarket is a cooperative, for-profit convenience store with a strong ethical mission. This text answers questions like: ‘How does The People’s Supermarket operate?’ ‘How can you find and secure the right premises?’ How do you attract members, stock the shop, organise an effective product offer and keep the momentum going?

Farm Path (EU)
Agroecological practices require public goods such as extension services; storage facilities; rural infrastructure (roads, electricity, and information and communication technologies) for access to regional and local markets; and support to farmers’ organizations and cooperatives; region-specific foods and short supply chains; agritourism; nature conservation; landscape management.

One Farm, 8000 Landlords
How over 8000 shareholders own Fordhall Organic Farm in its entirety.


From Agroecology to Wind Breaks – hundreds of food system terms explained
This impressively long list is also a symptom of the dilemma: how to make sense of all this info?

Lexicon Of Sustainability: “Local”
Combining visuals with insights, a lexicon of more than 200 agricultural terms and principles is explained by today’s most innovative thought leaders. This book showcases and explores how to create a food system that benefits the environment and the people living in it.

Ecological Knowledge Systems
Ecologically sound agriculture is not just a question of changing farm practices; it also requires a transformation of systems of learning, institutions, and policies.

Agroecological practices are knowledge-intensive. They require the development of ecological literacy – not just among farmers, but in the population as a whole. Nourish is an educational initiative designed to open a meaningful conversation about food and sustainability, particularly in schools and communities

Turkish Teachers Learn How To Teach Ecoliteracy
How should teachers incorporate environmental ethics and lessons on sustainability into their classrooms? That question inspires a four-year educational ecoliteracy project — Turkey’s first — which has just begun

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One Comment

  1. Posted June 24, 2018 at 21:20 | Permalink

    thank you for taking the time to post these lists and resources. I notice there are not very many comments! You were last in Canada in 2009 it seems. I hope you come to the Toronto GTA sometime soon. We have a BayArea Climate Management Center initiatiev happening in Hamilton Burlington that would surely be a venue or sposor for you.
    best regards
    Ian G
    iagraham on fb.

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