Scholar in Residence Fred Kirschenmann Speaks at Green Mountain College

Feb 06, 2012, 10:22 ET from Green Mountain College

POULTNEY, Vt., Feb. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At heart, Fred Kirschenmann is a farmer—he still runs a 2600-acre family farm in North Dakota. Ever since the 1970s, when he converted the farm to a certified organic operation, he began thinking deeply about sustainability of agriculture as it is practiced today.

His inquiry led to several decades of research, study and experimentation, and today Kirschenmann is an internationally-known advocate for land ethics and sustainable agriculture. He is the first scholar in residence for Green Mountain College's new Master's of Sustainable Food Systems program and will speak at the Gorge (Withey Hall) at 7 p.m. on Monday, February 13. The title of his talk is "Two Food Stories: Which Path Will We Take?" The event is free and open to the public. Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross will be present to welcome Dr. Kirschenmann and the new students in the MSFS program.

"We now have essentially two proposals in our culture," Kirschenmann says. "The first is the 'industrial story,' which suggests what we need to do to meet the challenges ahead is to further intensify the path we have taken for the past half-century—essentially 'greening up' the green revolution."

The other story, according to Kirschenmann, is that the industrial farm model is now bankrupt, and we need to fundamentally redesign our food systems using ecological principles.

Kirschenmann points out that much of what made modern agriculture possible is based on mild, stable climate conditions and cheap oil. "Neither of these prerequisites now exist," he says. Most energy economists expect that oil prices will continue to rise dramatically in future decades. Meanwhile, freshwater resources are declining—Kirschenmann says much of the food grown worldwide is dependent on irrigation instead of direct rainfall.

"Eighty percent of China's grain is dependent on irrigation. The Chinese are drawing down their groundwater resources at a rate of about 10 feet per year," he said. 

Ultimately, Kirschenmann's message is a hopeful one. Renewable energy technologies and thoughtful water management policies can lead to a new age of mid-to large-scale farming that can provide a healthy and sustainable food systems.

Kirschenmann is a Distinguished Fellow in philosophy and religious studies in the Leopold Center at Iowa State University department of religion and philosophy. He was a member of the National Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production operated by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and funded by Pew Charitable Trusts. Kirschenmann was one of the first ten recipients of the James F. Beard Foundation Leadership awards in 2011. He earned degrees from Yankton College in South Dakota, Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut, and a Ph.D. degree from the University of Chicago, where he earned numerous awards including a Rockefeller Fellowship.

Green Mountain College's new master's degree in sustainable food systems prepares future leaders in the burgeoning food movement with a graduate level interdisciplinary understanding of sustainable agricultural production and a deep knowledge of the economic, ecological, and social forces driving food systems. The degree program is accredited by the New England Association of Schools & Colleges and is designed to provide students with the skills to conduct in-depth interdisciplinary investigations into the complex arena of their own bioregional food systems. The first cohort meets for a five-day residency this month.  The second cohort for the MSFS program will commence in September 2012.

SOURCE Green Mountain College