Developing and Extending Sustainable Agriculture: A New Social Contract

By Luke, Simmons | Alternatives Journal, March-April 2008 | Go to article overview

Developing and Extending Sustainable Agriculture: A New Social Contract


Luke, Simmons, Alternatives Journal


Developing and Extending Sustainable Agriculture: a new social contract, Charles A. Francis, Raymond P. Poincelot and George W. Bird, eds., New York: Haworth Food and Agriculture Products Press, 2006, 367 pages.

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Agroecology in Action: Extending Alternative Agriculture through Social Networks, Keith Douglass Warner, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007, 273 pages.

As the 21st century takes hold, we face numerous challenges related to food production. With a 50-per-cent increase in our population expected by mid-century, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that another one billion tonnes of cereal grain will be needed annually to meet world food needs. To make a sustainable contribution to global food security, this additional production must be achieved without further stress on natural and social systems.

Both Developing and Extending Sustainable Agriculture and Agroecology in Action promote sustainable farming systems and practices that are based on ecological principles. Read together, they provide a comprehensive picture of the current state of sustainable agriculture in the United States and highlight the broad-based social partnerships that are needed to extend it.

Agroecology in Action, a book derived by Keith Douglass Warner from his PhD dissertation, focuses primarily on the agroecological partnerships that have developed to promote integrated pest management. He deals specifically with the perennial fruit and nut crops of central California. Warner centres his discussion on the production of almonds, grapes, pears and walnuts, crops that lend themselves to the integrated pest management and pheromone-baiting techniques that have been the entry point for many Californian growers to a more sustainable system of agriculture.

Each chapter begins with a rich, descriptive narrative of agroecological partnerships that have come together to explore sustainable agriculture. This approach successfully engages the reader, breaking up the more formal social science analysis that follows. …

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