Why Food Deserves More Attention in Reversing Climate Change

By Trevor McCoy

Our global food system carries a substantial carbon footprint, but you might not know that if you aren’t a climate scientist. While calculating exactly how much carbon is emitted by the entire food system would be impossibly complicated, experts have created emissions estimates for different sections of our food system, especially food’s greatest source of carbon emissions, agriculture.

In 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international group of scientists and experts that produces reports on climate change for the United Nations, listed Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (AFOLU) as contributing 24% of our global carbon emissions.1 By comparison, the IPCC calculated that all of land, sea, and air transportation combined represent 14% of global emissions.

It is already difficult to fully understand the process that takes place when exhaust from a car’s tailpipe makes its way into the atmosphere and affects our climate, but it is even more complex to understand how something like agriculture or forestry could contribute to global warming. Figure 1 breaks down AFOLU into its components, illustrating their contributions to climate change.

Figure 1

The IPCC has broken up AFOLU’s carbon footprint into 11 major sections. Although this graph can seem complicated, with a little guidance it is easy to understand. Let’s start by looking at the big yellow section, “Enteric Fermentation.” Although enteric fermentation might be a foreign concept, it’s just the way certain animals like cows or sheep (known as ruminants) digest their food, which is a process that is very different from the way humans digest food. These animals produce significant amounts of methane (CH4), a greenhouse gas that has substantial warming properties and is much more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).

Although an individual cow has an inconsequentially small carbon footprint, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) there are more than 1.4 billion cows in the world.2 In fact, the FAO estimates that the livestock industry is responsible for nearly 15% of humanity’s yearly carbon footprint, and cows produce approximately 65% of livestock emissions.3

I won’t go into detail on every aspect of AFOLU, but most components can simply be summarized as soil and nutrient management. However, the biggest section, “Land Use Change and Forestry,” is worth fully dissecting. This block is calculated from a wide number of different land use changes, but you can basically think of it as deforestation. Forests are incredible carbon banks, able to store several tons of carbon in every tree. So, when people remove a section of forest with the slash and burn technique, we are releasing this carbon into the atmosphere.

Most people have already heard that deforestation is bad for the planet, but what does this have to do with food? You might find it disheartening to learn that scientists from REDD, an organization established through the United Nations to protect the Earth’s forests from deforestation and degradation, have named agriculture as the most important driver of global deforestation.4

In the 10,000 years since we first began digging in the dirt, we have driven the cultivation of food to an unprecedented scale. Earth’s land surface is approximately 15 billion hectares, of which 4.5 billion are either glaciers or deserts, leaving about 10.5 billion hectares of “habitable land.”5 Since 8000 BCE, humans have converted roughly 5 billion hectares of this natural land to agricultural use, and 4 billion hectares of that land was transformed in just the last 300 years. To put it simply, in a very short amount of time we have converted about half of the world’s habitable land from natural ecosystems to agriculture. Changes to the Earth’s surface at this scale have consequences, especially when it comes to climate change. Figures 2 and 3 illustrate just how significantly we have changed the Earth in such a short amount of time.

Figure 2

Figure 3


Unfortunately, food’s role in climate change doesn’t stop at agriculture. AFOLU’s carbon footprint considers the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and land use change, but this is only the very first step of the food system. After we have grown our food, it will need to be transported, processed, refrigerated, cooked, and we will need to dispose of any food waste created along the way. The FAO estimates that food waste alone produces 8% of our yearly global carbon emissions.6 Every step of our current food system, from agriculture to waste disposal, releases billions of tons of carbon into our atmosphere, making food’s role in global warming one that we cannot afford to ignore.

While there are numerous climate activism campaigns encouraging citizens to turn off the lights, drive less, or install solar panels, food does not receive enough attention in the United States. While some cities and organizations are calling specific attention to the importance of food’s carbon footprint, many Americans have never been introduced to this information. However, projects like Drawdown – “The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming” – have been working to spread information about food systems as one the most important sectors in the fight against climate change. In fact, 8 of Drawdown’s top 20 solutions to reverse global warming are specifically in the food sector, and most of the other 12 indirectly involve food systems.7 Even Drawdown’s number one solution to reverse global warming, Refrigerant Management, is primarily a materials problem, but also an integral piece of our modern food system.

For humans to win the fight against climate change, we will need to rethink and rebuild every sector of our society. If we are going to continue to thrive as a species despite the changes that our planet is undergoing, we must give food more attention.



  1. Smith P., M. Bustamante, H. Ahammad, H. Clark, H. Dong, E.A. Elsiddig, H. Haberl, R. Harper, J. House, M. Jafari, O. Masera, C. Mbow, N.H. Ravindranath, C.W. Rice, C. Robledo Abad, A. Romanovskaya, F. Sperling, and F. Tubiello, 2014: Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU). In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Edenhofer, O., R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, E. Farahani, S. Kadner, K. Seyboth, A. Adler, I. Baum, S. Brunner, P. Eickemeier, B. Kriemann, J. Savolainen, S. Schlömer, C. von Stechow, T. Zwickel and J.C. Minx (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. Retrieved from: https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg3/ipcc_wg3_ar5_chapter11.pdf
  2. Tayyibb, S. (2010). Stastistical Yearbook of the Food And Agricultural Organization for the United Nations. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/docrep/017/i3138e/i3138e07.pdf
  3. Gerber, P.J., Steinfeld, H., Henderson, B., Mottet, A., Opio, C., Dijkman, J., Falcucci, A. & Tempio, G. 2013. Tackling climate change through livestock – A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3437e.pdf
  4. Kissinger, G., M. Herold, V. De Sy. Drivers of Deforestation and Forest Degradation: A Synthesis Report for REDD+ Policymakers. Lexeme Consulting, Vancouver Canada, August 2012.Retrieved from: https://www.forestcarbonpartnership.org/sites/fcp/files/DriversOfDeforestation.pdf_N_S.pdf
  5. Max Roser and Hannah Ritchie (2018) – “Yields and Land Use in Agriculture”. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/yields-and-land-use-in-agriculture
  6. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). (2011). Food Wastage Footprint & Climate Change. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/3/a-bb144e.pdf
  7. (2017). Food Sector Summary. Retrieved from: https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/food





New Resources for Learning about Shared Kitchens and Food Business Incubators

Shared-use commercial kitchens, kitchen incubators, and other food business programs build entrepreneurial opportunities in local food systems by providing affordable commercial kitchen space. These for-profit and nonprofit facilities have been sprouting up around the country in response to the growing market for local, artisan foods. Exciting new business models are emerging and many planners are eager to learn more about them and the regulatory questions they raise. We would like to highlight a couple new resources that may be beneficial to APA members interested in the topic:

NICK Summit is an upcoming gathering of some of the nation’s leading shared kitchens and business incubators that will explore successful incubation programs and kitchen management strategies. The day-long Summit by the Network for Incubator and Commissary Kitchens will be held on October 10, 2018, at The Good Acre in Falcon Heights, MN. The day will include a keynote on kitchen innovations, a panel of impact-driven programs, exciting quick fire sessions, and opportunities to discuss sticky kitchen management issues with peers and experts in the industry. This inaugural event is a collaboration of The Food Corridor, Grow North, The Wallace Center, The Good Acre, and Fruition Planning & Management. Attendees can also take advantage of exciting events at The Inaugural Food | Ag | Ideas Week and Twin Cities Startup Week.

A new reference guide, the Shared Kitchen Toolkit: A Practical Guide to Planning, Launching and Managing a Shared Use Commercial Kitchen, was published earlier this year by The Food Corridor in partnership with Purdue University Extension, with funding from the USDA North Central SARE. This comprehensive resource provides guidance on definitions, business models, funding sources, planning considerations, and daily operations. The Toolkit is available as a free downloadable PDF or wiki.

National Planning Conference NYC 2017


Don’t forget to register for one of the biggest National Planning Conferences! Registration rates increase starting March 3!

The APA-FIG Leadership Committee hopes to see you in New York City this May. Check out all the exciting food systems planning related events and sessions (16 in total!), including the APA-FIG Business Meeting and Annual Networking Reception. We look forward to seeing many of you at the conference!


Hudson Valley Local Agriculture and Foodshed | Friday, May 5, 2017 | 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. | https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9107838/

Gotham West Market, Housing & Community Development Division Lunch Reception | Saturday, May 6, 2017 | noon – 1 p.m. |  https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9116698/

Modern Food Hall: Redevelopment Aid or Trend | Saturday, May 6, 2017 | 1 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. | https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9107948/

Incentivizing the Sale of Healthy and Local Food | Saturday, May 6, 2017 | 2:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. | https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9109374/

City Food Policy Advisors Kick Plans into Action | Saturday, May 6, 2017 | 4 p.m. – 5:15 p.m. | https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9109407/

Food Systems Planning: Growing Connections and Planning for Health Across the Country | Sunday, May 7, 2017 | 9:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m |  https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9109370/

The Resiliency of NYC Supply Chains | Sunday, May 7, 2017 | 9:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. | https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9107863/

Developing Vermont’s Food System through Planning | Sunday, May 7, 2017 | 2:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. | https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9110279/

Safe, Active Routes to Healthy Food | Monday, May 8, 2017 | 9 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. | https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9109887/

Food as Community Development | Monday, May 8, 2017 | 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. | https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9110192/

Big City Planning Directors on Equitable Redevelopment and Food Access | Monday, May 8, 2017 | 2:45 p.m. – 4 p.m. | https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9109372/

Faces of Food Systems Planning | Monday, May 8, 2017 | 4:15 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. | https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9108203/

Food Systems Planning Interest Group Business Meeting | Monday, May 8, 2017 | 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. | https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9116909/

Joint Food Systems Planning Interest Group and Healthy Communities Collaborative Reception | Monday, May 8, 2017 | 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. | Porchlight 271 11th Avenue, NY, NY | https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9116911/

Planning for Healthy Rural-Urban Communities | Tuesday, May 9, 2017 | 8 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. | https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9109618/

Serving Up Health Equity Southern Style | Tuesday, May 9, 2017 | 11 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. | https://www.planning.org/events/nationalconferenceactivity/9109531/


JOB OPENING: Duke World Food Policy Center – Food Policy Project Administrator


The Food Policy Project Administrator will serve as an important member of the World Food Policy Center (WFPC) planning effort, reporting to the Associate Director, and providing research, grant writing, communications and technical tool development, and outreach support for the proposed center.

The WFPC is a proposed center housed at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, currently undertaking a strategic planning phase that is building toward a full launch sometime in 2017. The vision for the center is to bridge research and policy practitioner worlds by coordinating work across disconnected food policy communities (1) obesity, overnutrition, non-communicable diseases; 2) hunger & food insecurity; 3) the reciprocal relationship of agriculture and the environment; and 4) food safety and defense. The center will engage in work from the most global at the multi-state or state level outside the US, at the US national level, and also at a very local level, investing time and resources into projects in Durham, NC and in the Carolinas. 

This is a full-time, one year contract, renewable annually thereafter contingent on Center funding. The full job description can be found here. Applicants should submit their CV and cover letter via email to Heather Griswold (heather.griswold@duke.edu). Application deadline is end of day Friday, September 9, 2016. (Note: timeline has been extended – the old date of Sept 6 is listed on the PDF for the job description)

University of Kansas Planning Students Partner with Wyandotte County on Food Policy Assistance

In Spring 2016, the University of Kansas Urban Planning Department and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas partnered together to develop three options for integrating food access and food production into the current City Wide Master Plan. The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas is a prime example of a community poised for practical, fresh food production and access policies. Healthy Communities Wyandotte (HCW), a health-focused countywide initiative, is an example of this sort of innovation. Through the work of numerous action teams, HCW works to mobilize community members to improve health, as Wyandotte County once again received the lowest health rating in the State of Kansas in 2016. Wyandotte County was recently selected to receive food systems policy and program training and assistance from Growing Food Connections to further their health initiatives. Healthy Food Happy County serves as a supplemental policy document, as directed by Growing Food Connections, that explores the viability of food systems policies within Wyandotte County.

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Jaspal Marwah

IMG_3963 - Version 2Jaspal Marwah is a regional planner working for Metro Vancouver, a regional planning agency, in Burnaby, BC. He is responsible for developing an action plan to implement the Metro Vancouver Regional Food System Strategy.

Kimberley Hodgson, Chair of APA-FIG, conducted this interview via email in October 2015.

What is your first and last name? Jaspal Marwah

What is your current position? Regional Planner, Metro Vancouver, Burnaby, BC

How long have you held this position? 2 years

What do you enjoy about your work? I like the variety of assignments and projects that I’m able to participate in – from technical work like processing requests to change land use designations, or assisting municipal partners in aligning their planning processes with the regional growth strategy, or championing a new plan or strategy like the regional food system action plan. My area of focus tends to also be in social planning issues, which I find rewarding to participate in. And it’s also interesting to focus on the connections and opportunities for local governments to collectively advance initiatives that are region-wide.

Similarly, what do you find challenging about your work? Working at a regional scale doesn’t have the same level of engaging technical, hands-on, on the ground type of planning work that happens at the municipal level. And political interests are always a challenge to navigate.

What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work? I’m working on an action plan to implement our regional food system strategy. My focus is on convening all of the local governments in Metro Vancouver to assess the current state of activity related to the region’s food system, to map out what’s happening on the ground in the next 5 years, and to address areas that need more effort. This initiative focuses specifically on the dimensions of the food system that local government have immediate control over and can directly engage with.

In the work that you perform, where does addressing food systems issues fit in? How has this changed over time? My involvement with food systems planning started out working with colleagues to plan and deliver a consultation series on different aspects of the regional food system, including some analysis of the feedback and outcomes. Following that, the food system portfolio migrated from a different department into the planning department, where I was able to take the lead on moving things forward in developing a regional food system action plan. Currently, food systems planning remains one of my lead projects.

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? I consider myself a planner who is fortunate enough to be involved in food policy and food system issues. Although I enjoy being engaged in the regional food system, it is only one dimension to my overall planning work.

What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with? One of the biggest challenges is in securing and sustaining political and organizational support for bringing food system issues into the local government sphere of activity. Some don’t always see the important role that local governments have in supporting the food system. Building connections among local governments helps create a network of peers and practitioners to learn from, and to develop common approaches and language around integrating food system issues into local government processes. Similarly, building relationships between local government and civil society groups seems to be a very effective approach to enabling a lot of on the ground activity.

How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field? I started off in the green development/ sustainability policy field, and wasn’t aware of food systems and the connection with planning at that time. Since then, I’ve seen the steady growth of food systems issues in general within my community, and increasingly in the realm of local government interests. It is now a burgeoning field with opportunities for practitioners and supporters in the public, private and non-profit sectors.

Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner? The colleagues and partners I worked with when I first started out in the consulting field helped provide perspective and experience to learn from and to understand the field more holistically. For food systems planning, my peers Janine de la Salle and Mark Holland have always been passionate voices and innovators in the field, and have helped bring food systems planning to the forefront of planning practice in Vancouver.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? What makes you successful in your work? What skills do you use the most in your food systems planning related work? Don’t feel constrained by job titles or even distinctions between public/private/non-profit sectors – there are many paths that lead to food systems planning. Look for opportunities to be involved in food systems issues in your community – there are non-profits that are always looking for assistance, and who are doing a lot of the ‘on the ground’ work; municipal advisory committees with opportunities to be involved as a citizen; attend council meetings for food systems issues to get a sense of the discussion, debate, areas of concern from a local government perspective; and, if one is working in a planning company that doesn’t have any food systems experience, there’s an opportunity to bring the issue to the table as part of other projects. Like any planning work, the skills involved are varied and depend on the nature of your work, but some skills are always helpful, such as: systems thinking (to consider how all parts of the food system interact), facilitation (sooner or later you’ll be involved in some form of consultation and group work) and relationship-building (positive and productive relationships with other agencies is key to advancing food systems issues).

What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school? Planning is a broad, generalized field and has as many dimensions as it has practitioners. The education helps give one a sense of the field, but the real learning really only happens after planning school once you’re practicing!

Faces of Food Systems Planning is a series of interviews with practicing planners from across North America who are engaging in food systems planning and policy work. This series is part of APA-FIG’s efforts to highlight food systems planning as an important planning topic. Click here for more information.

Municipal Zoning for Local Foods in Iowa

lcsaMunicipalities in Iowa and across the nation are increasingly recognizing the multiple benefits of urban agriculture; however, zoning regulations can unintentionally impede urban agriculture. To respond to this challenge the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University funded Gary Taylor and Andrea Vaage to develop the Municipal Zoning for Local Foods in Iowa guidebook. The guidebook provides science-based guidance and sample zoning code language designed to reduce the barriers to, and promote production and sales activities commonly associated with urban agriculture.  Although written for Iowa, the guidebook contains practical information and code language applicable to any local jurisdiction.

The guidebook addresses the following common urban agriculture uses: aquaculture, bees, chickens, goats, front-yard gardens, community and market gardens, gardening on vacant lots, urban farms, season extenders, composting, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) drop-sites, farm stands, farmers markets, food trucks and pushcarts, and urban agriculture districts.  Each chapter provides a general description of the activity, and the science-based information on standards and best practices associated with the activity; the public health, safety and welfare concerns commonly associated with the activity; a summary of the commonalities found among municipalities’ codes; and sample code language taken from municipalities that vary both in size and location.

For more information, click here.

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Helen Schnoes

IMG_20150412_170915Helen Schnoes is the Food Systems Coordinator for Douglas County, Kansas. As a recent graduate of planning school, and a recent hire occupying a newly created position, Helen provides a unique perspective on defining her food systems planning work. Her work focuses on a variety of local food system development initiatives, including food hubs, farmers markets, farm to school, food policy council support, and food system assessment. She is also an active member of APA-FIG’s Policy Working Group.

To learn more about the innovative food systems planning and policy work of Lawrence and Douglas County, click here.

Kimberley Hodgson, Chair of APA-FIG, conducted this interview via email in October 2015.

  1. What is your first and last name? Helen Schnoes
  2. What is your current position? Food Systems Coordinator, Douglas County, KS
  3. How long have you held this position? Since April, 2015
  4. What do you enjoy about your work? I enjoy working with a wide range of people throughout the community, and the chance to balance an appreciation for the local context with bringing new ideas to the table and learning from the work happening elsewhere. I get to staff our food policy council, a group of 23 stakeholders who advise our county and city commissions on food systems issues. It has also been rewarding to provide a supporting role to increase public input into policy change–and learn on the ground about the technical details of these processes/policies at the same time.
  5. Similarly, what do you find challenging about your work? Defining what it is! With just under 6 months at this job, I’ve learned a lot, but am still figuring out how to define the “scope” of what I’m doing. As a new role in county government, I talk a lot with my boss about what our place in the community is to support local food development and community health–and what “food systems” issues we can actually meaningfully address at the local scale. Recently, figuring out how to frame issues, especially how food “connects” issues beyond its materiality, has been on my mind. There’s a lot of powerful writing and thinking nationally about food issues and planning–but translating that into practical, on the ground action is an intellectual and professional challenge–though quite an exciting one to have the chance to tackle! On a practical level, too, I’m in a grant-funded position, so its tenure is limited in its initial composition, and dependent upon Congress. (But we are thinking about future options.)
  6. What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work? It’s a mix: Local food system development, including food hub creation and fostering wholesale opportunities for small-scale farmers; supporting farmers markets; farm to school purchasing processes; food policy council support/facilitation; communications and public messaging, including a focus on health; local food system assessment (across sectors) and planning.
  7. In the work that you perform, where does addressing food systems issues fit in? How has this changed over time? It’s everywhere! My role is funded by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant our health department received, so some of my key priorities are guided by that (wholesale local food purchasing, including farm to school and public promotion for local, healthy foods). But that work is also closely tied to other opportunities that arise in the community–including the food plan that the steering committee leading our comprehensive plan update tasked the food policy council to create for the next year, and the revision to our local urban agriculture policies, which the city commission tasked Planning with this summer. I’ve helped with public outreach and draft review.
  8. Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? With just over a year since completing my planning master’s degree, I do find that the planning lens really influences how I think about the work and how I see myself relating to the various stakeholders and community members I engage with. Attending the national APA conference in Seattle and participating with APA-FIG further help me maintain this identification with food systems planning even though some of my days are not as closely related to “planning,” per se. The chance over the coming months to help create a local food plan and update our food system assessment, however, present an exciting opportunity to really delve into food systems planning and, hopefully, anchor it locally in our long-range planning and policy priorities.
  9. What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with? When our first food system assessment was conducted over five years ago, after our food policy council formed, the report pointed to local food infrastructure and food security as key areas needing attention. This has guided a lot of work since then, including creating a community garden program on city land, receiving a USDA grant to conduct an in-depth feasibility study and farmer/buyer outreach about building a regional food hub, and creating a matching program for SNAP at Farmers Markets–launched by and still partially-funded by local government. Since arriving this past April, I’m working with the core group of farmers leading the formation of the food hub and we worked with them to apply for additional USDA funds to help launch their aggregation business. Our Chamber is working with them to disburse other start-up funds our food policy council received to support the effort. Now that we’re launching an update of that first food system assessment, we’re talking about how we can integrate labor concerns, river environmental health, and even housing affordability to continue pushing how we (and our leaders) understand and address food security. Both local food aggregation (and growing the production/viability of small-scale farmers), especially in Kansas, and food security are long-term issues with many non-local influences. However, I’ve been impressed by the continued energy in this community to maintain commitment to these efforts.
  10. How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field? Not a lot of people know what food systems planning is! (Although I do think my mom gets it now.) I’m still working on how to simply talk about the type of work I’m doing. However, as a young professional, I’m very excited to be entering the planning field at this time that food systems issues really are further establishing themselves within the profession. The question of scale is also very clear in my mind since taking a job in local government, and how influential state and regional dynamics can be–yet at times beyond our immediate sphere of action for the majority of our work. But, this intrigues me to continue thinking about alternative approaches, opportunities for coordination and collaboration, etc. Also: There’s often an urban (big city urban) bias to a lot of “national” conversations about food planning.
  11. Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner? I like to tell people that I chose to attend Cornell for my planning degree as much for its location in Ithaca, NY, given its strong local food scene, and its standing as a land grant university with cooperative extension, as any of its “prestige.” There were so many people there that contributed to how I think about food systems and planning: Mildred Warner was an amazing (and demanding) advisor, and John Forester imbued an important level of self-awareness about the process and place of planners. I had the great fortune to overlap in my two years there with Becca Jablonski, and meet others she works with, including Ken Meter. I have a handful of peers who also pursued their own food systems planning focus and we bonded over our shared commitment to this area that many of our classmates rarely even knew existed (at first). My program also encouraged us to take courses outside of planning, so leveraging law, business, development sociology, agricultural economics, and natural resource courses provided a breadth of perspectives about issues central to food systems work. Volunteering with a community local food networking group and interning with Martha Armstrong at Tompkins County Area Development in Ithaca were very formative and helped get a bit of reality to balance my coursework “up on the hill.” From my volunteering I met Jeanne Lecesse, who now with Growing Food Connections, has provided helpful guidance about being a young planner on the job market interested in food systems. My food systems work is also very much shaped by two summers in Sitka, Alaska, and subsequent work with Nic Mink to research wild salmon and help launch Sitka Salmon Shares, a sustainable wild seafood business built upon the community supported fishery model, adapted for Midwestern consumers. Since graduate school, I’ve had the opportunity to intern with the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota and work with the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture–two pioneering groups in my home state who have worked for decades to build capacity and connections that have significantly impacted small- and medium-scale agriculture and the state’s local food system. I draw from all of these experiences for my current work.
  12. Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? What makes you successful in your work? What skills do you use the most in your food systems planning related work? I feel I could still gain much from what others answer when asked these questions! That said, I am a strong believer in always following your passions, putting yourself out there for different opportunities (some will be dead ends, others will work out), and having a driving curiosity mixed with entrepreneurial spirit. Find people who inspire you and from whom you can learn, and ask questions. (I’m currently reading Food for City Building by Wayne Roberts and think that’s a pretty accessible and over-arching primer for thinking about this type of work, though of course context-specific to Toronto.) The ability to think critically/creatively and make connections (with people, across issues) is really important in the rather nebulous realm of food systems planning. Take an optimistic perspective, most of the time. A lot of this work comes down to communication with others, building relationships, and thinking strategically of both the short and long term. Synthesizing information and tailoring arguments for different audiences is important. Be humble and listen. I’m hoping to build my more technical skills regarding specific policy interventions, financing options, public facilitation processes, etc. Though I don’t use it, I appreciate that I persevered through a GIS course to understand data analysis and presentation better, and how to utilize it as needed. Being able to conduct meaningful evaluation is also important. I’ve done quite a bit with Survey Monkey, for example, and benefited from exposure to survey design while in school, as well as use of Excel for basic analysis and presentation. Related–knowing where to go for other examples of food systems work, data sets, etc. is helpful and something to continually develop. (And, luckily, FIG and GFC are working on this!) I personally think there’s an under-appreciated importance for food as culture and the power of stories. I reflect on this quite a bit, even though I don’t often utilize it in my day-to-day work so far. Gravy, a podcast by the Southern Foodways Alliance, is excellent on this front and one of my favorite things right now.
  13. What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school? Knowing more about local government, its processes and financial aspects, though varied across place, could have provided a richer foundation for a lot of our planning discussions. Despite getting pretty advanced with math in high school and college, I hadn’t had a statistics course until grad school, and it was a WHIRLWIND from which I learned a lot, but would have probably gotten more out of, and better leverage now, with additional coursework. When I wrote my application for planning school, I actually said that I wanted to enter the program not to be a planner, but to gain the tools of the planner to influence food systems change. However, I now have deepened my appreciation for the larger field of planning, and value that professional identity much more than I anticipated I would three years ago. So, I’m probably the opposite of a lot of planners–where I’m the food systems girl who’s enjoyed expanding my perspective through planning, instead of the planner who’s beginning to integrate a food systems perspective.

Faces of Food Systems Planning is a series of interviews with practicing planners from across North America who are engaging in food systems planning and policy work. This series is part of APA-FIG’s efforts to highlight food systems planning as an important planning topic. Click here for more information.

3rd Annual Yale Food Systems Symposium: New Alliances That Shape A Food Movement

2015 Yale Food Systems Symposium

Registration is now open for the third annual Yale Food Systems Symposium: a student-led collaboration between Yale Law School, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale School of Public Health, and Yale College.

This year’s conference, “New Alliances That Shape a Food Movement,” will be held on October 30th & 31st, and feature keynote addresses from Olivier De Schutter, Dorceta Taylor, and Ricardo Salvador.

  • Who: Open to academics, practitioners, students, and interested members of the public
  • Date: Friday October 30th & Saturday October 31st
  • Location: Yale Law School, Sterling Law Building – New Haven, CT
  • Fee: You must register to attend, but tickets are only $30 (or free for current Yale students) and include two meals: dinner Friday and lunch Saturday.

Register here!