Good food for all – locally, organic, diverse
Future workshop on agriculture and food
By Nina Treu
Our vision for 2048 centres around the questions what people will be eating and where food will come from. During the winter of 2019, around 20 visionaries – farmers, members of social movements and scientists – got to the bottom of these questions. They met at Kommune Waltershausen in Erfurt, a commune in a former doll factory, that has a large garden and produces its own food.
In 2048 there will be: good food for all, local value chains, a diversity of production plants, a circular economy.
In 2048 there are no more: Profits, dumping wages, environmentally destructive ways of farming.
Good food for all
The central feature of our vision is that everyone should not only have enough to eat, but that everyone should be able to eat good food. In 2048, the human diet will be healthy and sustainable (cf. EAT Lancet study). It will also be diverse, as everyone will be able to choose the foods and dishes autonomously. Most protein will be gained from plants, and the remaining, although much lower consumption, of meat and animal products will drop continuously. The logic of profit and efficiency regarding food will be overcome: Everyone will have access to food and be able to take proper time to eat. There will be many local supply possibilities, such as communal kitchens, communal food centres and collective food supply in schools and companies. Cities and villages will be “edible” spaces – food will be grown and harvested everywhere. We will have understood that food enhances our lives and will celebrate it.
Today’s agricultural system exploits soils and many farmers. A lot of money flows into large farms instead of supporting local and sustainable smallholder farms. This will have changed completely by 2048. The logic of profit will have made way for diverse types of business and farms. More people will be working here, enjoying more time and more personal contact with their customers. A radical redistribution of land and capital has enabled a new principle of commons: there will be no private land ownership anymore. Further, every intermediate product as well as products formerly seen as waste will be used as resources to enable a circular economy.
Specialised but re-localised distribution
The distribution of goods will still largely be shaped by specialisation and division of work. However, thanks to locally organised processing and distribution, food will no longer have to travel around the globe before ending up on our plates. Everywhere, there will be small bakeries, butchers, mills, dairies and others. The variety of goods in cooperative stores will be smaller but qualitatively better. Children and youths will build a natural relationship with food production early on and will, therefore, be more interested in working in this area.
With the help of comprehensible technology
In 2048, technology will still be used as a replacement of hard manual labour or, where necessary, to improve the quality of the product. Processing technology will be used matching the resources, not the other way around. The technology in question will be easily intelligible, repairable and adopted to its use. Low-tech solutions will be popular (e.g. Kon-Tiki). The development of new technologies will be based on participative research and oriented towards practical relevance and the needs of their potential users. This will allow for effective mechanisation and digitalisation where necessary and favoured.
And the way forward?
This vision is faraway. Obviously, the social dimensions of agriculture and food cannot be changed in isolation. To overcome profit orientation and private ownership of production means as well as to enable a comprehensive democratisation, we need a great transformation. Here are a few ideas on what could happen regarding agriculture and food.
Using times of change
The climate crisis changes the conditions for agriculture. During the summer of 2019, there was a broad discussion in the German public about diminished harvests due to heat, drought, weather extremes and changes in rain patterns. Being able to see and feel the ramifications of climate change brings about changes in thinking about it, within the general public as well as politics. Our strong dependence on imports, increasing food prices and the possibility of shortages all open the discussion for new and sustainable food concepts organised around the idea of solidarity. The search for a holistic policy on food, that considers the needs of farmers, employees and the ecology, comes into focus.
Around the Berlin Internationl Green Week in January 2020, protests by conventional and organic farmers as well as by political actors still took place separately: On Friday, the conventional group’s “Land schafft Verbindung” (transl.: land connects), on Saturday, the organic alliance’s “Wir haben es Satt” (transl.: We’re fed up). In the following years, however, the protest movements will realise that their commonalities outweigh their differences. In the end, both are striving for an agriculture fit for the future that does not demand too much from farmers or the ecology. Finally, these movements will come together and will be able to take the protest to every corner of rural and urban areas. Furthermore, they will join with other movements such as climate justice groups, the struggles of care workers and (queer-)feminist activists. This will bring about a food justice movement within the whole of Europe.
Plenty of diverse and practical actions
In several strategy meetings this movement will come up with a diverse range of actions aside from demonstrations. For instance, there will be disco chops, political community kitchens, agricultural festivals and tea breaks with several thousand bakers, farmers and seed producers. Collective field trips to sustainable food pioneers will establish their ideas, such as recycled fertilisers from local value chains. Cooperative food hubs and grocers as well as community supported agriculture will become more visible and will be imitated. Furthermore, civil disobedience will affect ports trading fodder, factory farms or especially destructive producers.
Due to the methods of transformative community organising, more and more farmers will start to participate in political activities. They will self-organise, develop their own structures, such as collective farm stores and weekly markets, and build new processing chains. Supported by trade unions, employees will collectively take over their supermarkets and turn them into cooperative groceries offering regional products.
Inspiring and empowering agricultural education
To support these changes, the system of education will be expanded and reorganised. Besides, its contents will be adapted. Furthermore, advanced training, advisory centres and cooperative training in networks, such as the Slow Food Youth Academy, will be fostered. Systemic relations will be taught considering the whole value chain. Universities will provide study programmes on nutrition policy and on plural agricultural economics. Economic sciences will be re-oriented towards a democratic social-ecological transformation. Salaries of apprentices and trainees in the agricultural sector will be increased to render working in agriculture more attractive.
Changing power relations
The mass of new actors and strong alliances will put pressure on politics and research. Changes in the power relations within the farmer’s association will enable it to overcome its conservative approach and develop progressive food policies for all. 2025 will see the first minister of agriculture supporting small-holder organic agriculture, instead of yet another minister from the CSU. Thanks to the suspension of the compulsory membership in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, sustainable businesses can form new associations.
These changes will also affect the political system. Municipalities and cities will increase their support for non-conventional agriculture. They will ease access to land, financial support, consulting and networks. They will offer unused spaces to social-ecological actors and give small enterprises option-rights for purchases. All these measures will be accompanied or initiated by an increasing number of community food councils.
The subsidies policy of the EU, including the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), will be changed and oriented towards small-holder organic agriculture. Regenerative agriculture, agroecology and agroforestry systems will explicitly be considered as well. Subsidies for destructive types of agriculture will be cancelled.
Neoliberal trade agreements will be turned into solidary ones. The exit of powerful countries, such as Germany, from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will make it obsolete. Instead, the regulation of trade will again be embedded within UN institutions, which themselves will be democratised. At the same time, new supranational and transnational alliances will be formed from below.
All these developments will be supported by critical, but constructive, media coverage. Not only the marketable products of farmers, but also their other contributions to a healthy humanity and ecology will be acknowledged. These contributions could mean supporting biodiversity, the creation of a healthy soil or capturing CO2 in the ground. There will be more stories, podcasts and videos about the daily lives of farmers. New genres of superhero series about farmers and science fiction movies about ultra-modern villages will change our perception of conservative farming. This will push for a great transformation of food production and eating habits. A future-proof agriculture can only be built together because food affects everyone.
Nina Treu is working at Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie in the project “Future for all – just. ecological. achievable.”