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Perspective ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Sustain. Food Syst. | doi: 10.3389/fsufs.2019.00096

Transitioning to sustainable agriculture requires growing and sustaining an ecologically skilled workforce

  • 1Stanford University, United States
  • 2University of California, Davis, United States
  • 3Other, United States
  • 4University of California, Berkeley, United States
  • 5The James Hutton Institute, United Kingdom
  • 6California FarmLink, United States
  • 7University of California, Santa Cruz, United States

In the face of rapidly advancing climate change, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity, it is clear that global agriculture must swiftly and decisively shift toward sustainability. Fortunately, farmers and researchers have developed a thoroughly studied pathway to this transition: agroecological farming systems that mimic natural ecosystems, creating tightly coupled cycles of energy, water, and nutrients. A critical and underappreciated feature of agroecological systems is that they replace fossil fuel- and chemical-intensive management with knowledge-intensive management. Hence, the greatest sustainability challenge for agriculture may well be that of replacing non-renewable resources with ecologically-skilled people, and doing so in ways that create and support desirable rural livelihoods. Yet over the past century, US agriculture has been trending in the opposite direction, rapidly replacing knowledgeable people with non-renewable resources and eroding rural economies in the process. Below, we suggest how US policy could pivot to enable and support the ecologically skilled workforce needed to achieve food security in the face of climate change.

Keywords: sustainable agriculture, agroecology, Agricultural policy, Diversified farming systems, ecological skilling, New farmers

Received: 28 Jun 2019; Accepted: 11 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Carlisle, Montenegro de Wit, DeLonge, Iles, Calo, Getz, Ory, Munden-Dixon, Galt, Melone, Knox and Press. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Liz Carlisle, Stanford University, Stanford, United States, liz.carlisle@gmail.com