Food Leaders Perspectives
Desmond Jolly, Director of the Statewide University of California Small Farm Program
Desmond Jolly is a co-chair of the Roots of Change Council a cosponsor, with the Funders for Sustainable Food Systems, of the Vivid Picture Project. Mr. Jolly is an economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California, Davis, and Director of the Statewide University of California Small Farm Program as well as Director of the Small Farm Center.
He has served as Vice Chair of the National Commission on Small Farms as well as on the USDA's National Advisory Board for Research, Extension, Economics and Education. Mr. Jolly's research has focused on specialty crops, small farm performance and viability, marketing and organic agriculture.
What are your greatest hopes for the Vivid Picture Project?
It is my greatest hope that the Vivid Picture will emerge in a context where people are receptive to the need for a quantum change in the way we practice agriculture, and that this will stimulate a change of direction.
I hope that the project will create a truly sustainable way of doing food and agricultural production and marketing in our state.
Why do you think that it is important that the project is happening now?
It is important because, while we have had notions of sustainable agriculture since the mid-'70s, it is only now that many of the critical variables of the underlying conventional agricultural system are becoming apparent - the impact on our natural resources, the health of our citizenry, and the viability of our farms.
Many of these adverse affects are becoming more and more obvious - so the timing is right.
New paradigms generally have about a 25-year gestation period. The sustainable agriculture movement got going just about 25 years ago, so the time is really ripe for the paradigm to shift.
What do you think that the role of the ROC Council is in the Vivid Picture project?
The ROC Council serves to legitimize the process, product, direction, and philosophy of the project. The council also provides, at a high level, a kind of leadership and vision for many people in the food system.
The council is necessary, but not sufficient, to bring about the change.
Who do you see as the change makers? Who will implement the Vivid Picture?
The key people will be those that are the most intimately involved in the system - the farmers, food manufacturers, retailers, restaurateurs, and consumers. Policymakers also have a key role to play, either to frustrate or facilitate the evolution.
Change will happen when people see it as in their interest to change, either through being pulled, or through their own pushing. This is how change began in the organic movement - it took a few very innovative farmers who insisted on the benefit of doing things in a different way. They saw it was in their and our best interest.
The change that comes from the Vivid Picture needs to be both more rapid and broad in scope.
How does the Vivid Picture project relate to your overall life's work?
Frankly, I think that it is the logical and coherent culmination of my life's work. I have been dabbling and engaging in many of the various aspects of the project for the last 20 to 30 years.
This project brings all of the various threads together in a coherent and holistic piece that shows how the whole system could function. The project completes the picture. Conceptually, the project ties these threads together. It will take time for these concepts to translate into real change on the ground.
I probably won't live to see the transformation, but then again I may - I may live to be ninety.
Reported by Ali Edwards, Straus Communications