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Environmental and Urban Studies Program and Bard Center for Environmental Policy present

How We Feed Ourselves. A Look at Large- and Small-Scale Farming Practices in the U.S.: Can We Feed Ourselves and Protect Our Natural Resources?

A Panel Discussion

Saturday, October 26, 2013

[How We Feed Ourselves. A Look at Large- and Small-Scale Farming Practices in the U.S.: Can We Feed Ourselves and Protect Our Natural Resources?]

This panel discussion highlights the current challenges facing the agricultural industry in America as it tries to feed a growing population with limited and declining natural resources. Panelists will cover a range of controversial topics about the food we eat, everything from public health and environmental impacts, to tax policy and access to land, to protection of natural resources. Panelists Eshel, Feder, and Phillips are Bard College faculty in both the undergraduate Environmental and Urban Studies program and Bard Center for Environmental Policy graduate program. We hope you can join us. 

Introductions by Corinna Borden, Food Sustainability Advocate for Chartwells, at Bard.


Gidon Eshel, Research Professor of Physics and Environmental Science, Bard College (bio here)

Dr. Eshel will discuss the public health and environmental impacts of food production and consumption in the U.S., with a focus on food-related environmental footprint minimization through diet modification and shorter supply chains. Feeding the nation has a massive environmental imprint. As a sector, food-related greenhouse gas emissions are only modestly smaller than those of the two largest sectors, industry and built environments. The food sector is by far the largest consumptive potable water user in the U.S., and in most industrial nations, and it is the overwhelmingly dominant source of algae-generated water pollution. Along with a sedentary lifestyle, the U.S. food system is also the most significant source of degenerative diseases, with a price tag that is hard to unambiguously characterize, but is undoubtedly in the billions, and with a clear adverse impact on expected human lifespan. The public health and environmental costs of the U.S. food system are intimately related; with few important exceptions, what is environmentally costly will also undermine your health. Can these two problems be tackled in concert? Dr. Eshel will talk about how the price of tackling them together is far smaller than the sum of their individual costs. 

Kris Feder, Associate Professor of Economics; Co-Director, Environmental and Urban Studies, Bard College
 (bio here)

Dr. Feder will discuss how U.S. tax policies systematically favor large farms over small, favor energy- and capital-intensive methods over labor- and skill-intensive methods, and favor ecologically destructive practices over ecologically sound ones. These tax policies also raise farmland prices and make it harder for small farmers to get access to land—particularly near urban markets. Correcting these tax biases would raise needed revenues and promote efficient land management while reestablishing the family farm as a pillar of American culture.

Jennifer Phillips, Professor of Environmental Science, Bard Center for Environmental Policy (bio here)

Dr. Phillips will discuss two competing paradigms for how to conserve "nature" and still produce enough food for 9—10 billion people - we can increase high input farming intensity in "sacrifice zones" or we can transition to a managed agroecosystem approach that combines protection of natural resources with food production but is likely to use more land. Both approaches have merit but she argues that the latter, integrated method that includes high levels of planned and unplanned biodiversity, rotationally grazed livestock, and substitution of knowledge and labor for fossil fuel inputs can help protect water, soil quality and biodiversity, can support carbon sequestration, and will reduce the footprint of farming on natural resource use.


12:00 - 2:30 PM   Farmers Market, outside RKC
12:15 - 1:15 PM   Season brunch by the Bard Farm, RKC Lobby (pre-registration is required)
1:15 - 2:15 PM     Farm Panel, RKC 103

Download: Farm Panel Poster.pdf

For more information, call 845-758-7071, or e-mail

Time: 1:15 pm – 2:15 pm

Location: Reem-Kayden Center Laszlo Z. Bito '60 Auditorium