The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Young panelists discuss food and society of the future


ASPEN, Colo. — What are some of the nation’s most visionary young academic thinkers studying agriculture? Who are they?

How food changes the organization of society, how computers are affecting food production and how food fits into the understanding of cities are some of the current hot topics, according to several rising academic leaders brought to the Aspen Ideas Festival for a panel called “Dispatches from the future: work, food and cities.”

Allsion Carruth
Allsion Carruth
“The digital changes agriculture, but it still requires soil,” noted Allison Carruth, a professor of English who has been associate director of the program in science, technology and society at Stanford University. This fall she will join the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles, where she said she will continue to explore the intersection of food, technology, and the arts.

Carruth’s first book, “Global Appetites: American Power and the Literature of Food,” is scheduled for publication next year. She recently told an interviewer that industrial agriculture has been a facilitator of American power, and that food has inspired new forms of art

She also has organized the “Food Justice” conference at the University of Oregon, and is associated with the journal Gastronomica, but she is not an automatic advocate for local agriculture and organic farming.

“There is a false dichotomy between global and local,” she said. “There has been a privileging of the local.”

Carruth is also fascinated with biotechnology and Monsanto, which she calls “the icon and also the attacked.” She said biotechnology should be brought “into the public sphere” so that it can be explored rather than being demonized.

Nicola Twilley
Nicola Twilley
Nicola Twilley, an adjunct assistant professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in New York, founder of the Edible Geography blog, and, with Sarah Rich, of the Foodprint Project, said she is interested in exploring the ways food and cities give shape to each other and to “expand the categories of what counts as edible.”

Showing a photograph of a mobile slaughterhouse, Twilley said she is studying the impact of refrigeration on agriculture and cities, saying that in the future, animals will not necessarily need to be raised near slaughterhouses.

She also said the latest trend in agriculture is “microranching” — the raising of insects for food.

“It’s where sushi was 25 years ago,” she said, noting the existence of cricket bread.

She is also studying the potential for in vitro meat, made in laboratories.

Twilley was also one of speakers — along with Barbra Streisand and New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin — chosen to participate in the closing session in which participants were given two minutes to talk about “one big idea.” She said there should be more analysis of the “misuse” of things and the impact of that.

Twilley is also participating this summer in Venue — a portable interview studio and multi-format event platform that is touring the United States to assemble "a media-based narrative of the greater North American landscape in the 21st century. "

After a year on the road, the Venue set-up and compiled materials will be presented in September 2013 to the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art, which has funded the project.

Twilley is undertaking Venue with her husband, Geoff Manaugh, who was also a presenter on the panel at Aspen.

Manaugh said he is studying cities from the perspective of weeds, vermin and burglars. Noting that mountain lions have taken over a neighborhood near Los Angeles, he said it’s important to understand that cities will have these wild things, and that “if we do not anticipate them then we will be at their will.”

Allison Carruth
Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture
Foodprint Project
Edible Geography
Food Justice Conference
Video: “What’s the Big Idea” Closing Session