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In 1998 Glenn Roberts, a Charleston-based historic restoration consultant and thirty-year veteran of restaurant and hotel concept design, took his career in an entirely new direction.  He founded a company,[…]

The ethical responsibility to grow and preserve and sustain land-raised systems will survive, and local, land-raised cuisines will return and thrive.

Question: What will we be eating in 2050?

Glennrn Roberts: I think that because the geneticists that are still aroundrn can still exert influence on the younger geneticists coming up, I thinkrn that the ethical responsibility to grow and preserve and sustain rnland-raised systems will survive and those cuisines that are based on rnland-raised cuisines that are place-based will return and thrive.  That rnmeans that if you’re growing some obscure apple, that it actually fits rninto something larger than the straight concept of buckles or pie or rnanything, or syrup.  That it actually relates as an apple to a dish rnthat’s place-based.  That is unique to that area and that the rnland-raised ideas of these foods were always influenced by other areas. rn But they will never be homogenized, they won’t be monolithic.  You rnwon’t have the same interpretation of the land-raised plants, even if rnthey’re the same ones grown in this county and that county.  You’ll havern different interpretations of that and there’ll be more of these kinds rnof foods available.  They will never dominate, I don’t think.  We do rnhave to feed the world in some way, shape or form, and no one, including rnme has an answer with land-raised systems at this point.  I would love rnfor somebody to do that.  I think, going back to another question, if rnsomebody wants to fund something, that’s something to fund.  Is it rnpossible to develop a land-raised system that can be set in place intact, not just certain crops as we are doing through UNESCO and the rnNGO system, but the entire system.  Is it possible to set that in place rnand survive?  That’s the one we should be studying.  And we’re not. 

So,rn having said that, if everybody just takes a few of these things and rngrows them.  If I have a 3,000-acre farm and I’m doing cattle, pasture, rnwheat, corn, soy, whatever.  If I just take as my ethical rnresponsibility, like paying taxes, like defending my country, if I take rnthe pre-World War II attitude of the American farmer and the agrarian rnideal and say it’s my ethical responsibility to grow five acres of some rnsort of land-raised system, not just one grain, not just one plant, not rnjust one bean, but some sort of land-raised system... That can be my rnkitchen garden if nothing else.  It would serve me.  But that’s what I rnshould do on top of my whatever thousand of acres I’ve got.  If rneverybody involved in that does that, I think that just the kitchen rngarden movement alone, that the Liberty Garden Movement, which my motherrn remembers and everybody I know remembers that one if they’re my age andrn older, which is very cool.  I think that’s not enough.  I think that rnthe farmers that are out there that have large farms need to think aboutrn scale and need to provide expertise and provide preservation and rnprovide repatriation services.  Provide sustaining services for rnland-raised systems that keep biodiversity out there so that, down the rnpike, if we need something, it’s not 100 grams in a starving gene bank rnsomewhere, that actually not just the scientists are the only people rnresponsible for keeping these things.  This is what I really care about;rn that we actually get it out there.  And so the language we look for to rnmake this relevant has to come forward, certainly from the scientific rncommunity so you’re not making things up as you go.  And then you have rnto have integrity, but you have to have broad understanding.  It’s very,rn very difficult.  It’s very difficult to make that bridge. 

But I think rnthat farmers should just start.  That’s my current message.  Just get rnsomething and start growing it.  Because that’s what farmers do.  They rngrow things.  And I think that they don’t think that it’s their rnresponsibility because we have the USDA, we have CIMIT.  It was never rnpredicated that the people at CIMIT or CIAT, or the Asia Rice rnFoundation, or the USDA-GRAN system were going to be the only people rnengaged in this.  And then somehow it comes back to us through this rnmonolithic seed system, someday.  It was never predicated for that to rnbe.  These were agencies, all of them set up to serve the public as rnwell.  And I think the public has drifted away from that and as the rninterest for growing your own foods comes back, I think then looking 40 rnyears ahead, you see, I wouldn’t be the exception, I’ll be the rule. 

You’llrn have land-raised rice.  There’s rice grown right here in the Northeast rnright now.  Takeshi Akaogi and his wife Linda are doing SRI rice.  rnThey’re doing rice.  And the purpose of that rice is to do tributary rnwatershed protection from runoff because rice sucks it up, and then you rncan serve the Northeastern rice market with local rice production.  rnEverybody thinks this is so crazy.  In a land-raised system, it’s rnnothing.  It’s done the world over, and it always has been.  This is rnsomething that I think will be 40 years down the road.  I don’t even rnthink it will take 40 years for that.  I think that Takeshi and his wifern will probably interest enough people in the next 10 years that we may rnbe net zero on rice up here, and maybe exporting rice in the Northeast. rn That’s near and dear to my heart since I am a rice person.  But I thinkrn it’s extraordinary that it could be food that we know... it was grown inrn Vermont.  Whoever heard of rice being grown in Vermont?  Oh boy, it’s rnVermont rice.  Why not?  Okay, I live in Burlington; I’m going to have rnsome Vermont rice.  That’s what’s going to happen in the next 40 years.

Recorded on April 28, 2010
Interviewed by Priya George