Top questions for global agriculture

After my cross-country trip, you cannot imagine how many emails (over 1,000) and magazines and other reading materials had accumulated for my review. It was a bit daunting, but I have a pretty good system for dealing with emails. (Read my previous post on email.)

This morning I chose to start on my stack of reading. Even though reading industry periodicals is literally on the bottom of my to-do list each day, I felt it was time to catch up.

One of the periodicals that I find most fascinating is California Farmer, which I previously wrote about here. Len Richardson, the editor and frequent writer is deeply embedded in our industry and provides a broad perspective on our future challenges.

The January 2011 issue featured a short article (“Top questions for Global Agriculture”) on the future of global agriculture. Len starts the article with this statement:

Anticipating a world population of 9 billion people by 2050 (we are currently at 6.97 billion right now), global agriculture faces the daunting challenge of increasing food production by 70 to 100 percent in the next four decades, without significantly increasing prices. [Note: For a current world population count, go to to see just how fast we are growing.]

To better focus on the overwhelming task at hand, a team of 55 agricultural and food experts from the world’s major agricultural organizations, scientific societies and academic institutions recently identified the top 100 questions that must be answered to achieve such a dramatic increase in global food production.”

(The full list of 100 questions were published in November in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. Click here to download the full paper.)

How many of us think about what it will take to feed our families and the world when our kids are adults? We see the plentitude in our local supermarkets and farmers markets, we go to Costco or Wal-Mart and see pallets of food and we probably never give it a thought. So, it’s good to know that some of the greatest minds in the world are thinking about it.

I have a personal connection to the dialogue about the future of agriculture in California: A.G. Kawamura, immediate past Secretary of Agriculture under Governor Schwarzenegger, is a long-time personal friend and we are scheduled to have dinner together soon. A.G. is a farmer and he and his brother own Orange County Produce. He is a great thought leader and I look forward to sharing some of his insights with you in a future post.

Jackie, A.G. Kawamura, Frieda and me at a produce industry convention

Meanwhile, I hope you will consider doing something in your personal list of priorities, to support the future growth of agriculture in our world. Whether it is participating in a community garden, making a financial contribution to an agricultural organization or participating in Future Farmers of America in your community – just do something! (Our company supports EARTH University in Costa Rica, which teaches young people from our poorest nations how to develop enterprises to feed their own people.) Anything and everything you do will make a difference.

Changing the way America Eats Fruits and Vegetables.