Thursday, October 16, 2014

Celebrate Food Sovereignty Day: Miguel Altieri (Video)

After attending a panel on agroecology hosted at Berkeley's Brower Center recently, I've started auditing the agroecology class at U.C. Berkeley to learn more from some of the experts in the field. And so it's only appropriate to mention that today IS Food Sovereignty Day - and to celebrate the role vineyards are starting to play - albeit on a minuscule scale to date - in embracing agricultural biodiversity. Just like in olden times, when farms grew not just wine grapes, and olive trees, but, as small farms, many diverse crops.

If we believe that wine is food - a concept traditionally embraced in Europe - we can think more about how wine production fits into the broader food production system using the agroecology lens. This lens emphasizes biodiversity, small scale farming, polyculture and a systems approach to managing a farm, maximizing on farm inputs and minimizing the use of fossil fuel based fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides common in California's 500,000 acres of vineyards (where 98 percent use them).

Grains grown between vineyard rows in Mendocino at Frey Vineyards
A number of wineries with organic vineyards have been evolving approaches that increasingly embrace biodiversity. In fact, a delegation of Chilean students and experts recently visited a number of these U.S. wineries in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. (More on that story in a future post).

Miguel Altieri, a world famous agroecology leader, heads the agroecology dept. at Berkeley. He's also served as a leader on food policy programs to the United Nations and has been an expert consulting on food policy for the Vatican as well as Prince Charles.

Here's a brief (4 min.) 2012 video interview in which Altieri explains the problems - how industrial ag has failed to feed all of us - and how agroecology provides solutions.

Read more about his work online at or this interview and find more videos here.

Farms that are also wineries including Preston Farm & Winery and Front Porch Farms, both in Healdsburg. Quivira also farms a limited number of crops and showcases endangered food varieties (which Slow Foods have deemed threatened) in its Ark of Taste garden,

In Mendocino, Nelson Family Vineyards and Frey Vineyards are involved in the Mendocino Grain Project, interplanting rows of grain - for local consumption - between vine rows.

Harvesting grains at Frey 
Look for more on this topic in future posts, and, in the meantime, enjoy this Altieri video.

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