Visitors From China
Earlier this month, Main Street Project welcomed a delegation of Chinese farmers, NGOs, researchers and foundation staff to Northfield as part of an 11-day study trip sponsored by the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). The group came to meet with farmers and NGOs, and to learn about both industrial and alternative food systems in the U.S. with a focus on agroecology and cooperative approaches.
China’s rapid industrialization and urbanization over the past 30 years have come at a tremendous cost to the natural environment and public health. Rural land, water and communities have been poisoned by heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Complex and poorly-regulated supply chains have increased the scale and severity of food safety threats. And the nutritional shift from traditional foods to a highly processed, meat- and calorie-rich diet has brought an epidemic of obesity-related diseases.
Following a brief presentation in our office and a delicious lunch of our Main Street Project chicken prepared by Owatonna restaurateur Jose Herrera, the group toured our research farm and asked questions about the way our model blends animals and crops and optimizes labor, space and energy use. Interest was high in part because our model offers a roadmap that includes both individual farm enterprise planning and a system of clustered small-scale production that allows aggregation without losing ecological integrity and family ownership/control.
Although the visit was short, we’re still smiling. Educating groups like this one, and helping them imagine how Main Street Project’s model could be adapted to work in their region, gets to the heart of our work to replicate Main Street Project’s highly efficient system around the world.