With the launch this week of “Ohio Smart Agriculture: Solutions from the Land (OSA:SfL), A Call to Action for Ohio’s Food System and Agricultural Economy,” Solutions from the Land‘s (SfL) integrated land management model was validated by a diverse range of stakeholders from around the state who forged consensus on a mid-century vision and action plan for improving quality of life in Ohio. The work, which was enabled by a generous grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, represents the largest, most comprehensive undertaking in SfL’s history.
More than two years of effort resulted in the OSA:SfL action plan, which was released Tuesday, April 2. The action plan makes available to policy makers, planners and farm and food system advocates a variety of pathways and priority action steps needed to enable Ohio’s farmers, ranchers and woodland managers to further improve Ohioans’ quality of life through multiple solutions they can sustainably deliver from the land. (An executive summary of the report is available HERE.)
This project was led by farmers, who were joined by experts in agribusiness, health, nutrition policy, ecology and conservation, to develop the unprecedented action plan. The document reflects an exploration of ways to place farming at the forefront of resolving the extensive challenges facing Ohio today: hunger, poor health, degraded environments, broken economies, trade, tariffs and limited inclusion in global economies.
The action plan is unique in that it considers food, agriculture, the environment, and rural and urban communities as a system rather than separate challenges. OSA:SfL aimed to create new options and opportunities for farmers, agriculture, and consumers that together benefit all.
One measure of the value of the action plan is that it has drawn statements of support from many leading Ohio farm, nutrition, health and environmental organizations.
The OSA:SfL roadmap identifies “shovel-ready” actions under four major initiatives that could be implemented in the near-term:
- Make Ohio agriculture and the food system a public policy priority.
- Diversify and sustainably intensify the production of food, feed, fiber and fuel.
- Develop infrastructure and use institutional purchasing power to quantify and increase markets for Ohio-smart food.
- Implement landscape-scale, climate-smart, agriculture strategies to ensure sustainability and abate agricultural runoff.
A total of 50 recommendations were generated by the steering committee that guided the initiative, plotting the way to meet OSA:SfL’s mid-century vision and help Ohio farmers, ranchers and woodland managers further improve the state’s quality of life through the solutions they can sustainably deliver from the land.
The action plan for Ohio represents what is ultimately a new, proactive 21st-century model for agriculture. The change is needed, given that for most of the 20th century, agriculture was defined by problems, a too-often precarious position that forced U.S. farmers, livestock producers and forest land managers to look to the government for solutions. Often, litigation was pursued to affect change in farm and conservation policies.
Over the past century, response to challenges was often characterized by “silo” management, where solutions were pursed without regard for interrelated issues and needs. That singular focus constrained the response to challenges that were often being faced by all. Agriculture too often found itself on the defensive, prompting those who provide the nation with its food, fiber and energy to take a negotiating posture that hoped to only lose less.
The Ohio action plan and Solutions from the Land model represent a step forward, with proactive agricultural leadership that relies less on the government to find solutions. The SfL land management model utilizes multi-stakeholder partnerships that can, in turn, produce multipurpose, integrated objectives. This forward-looking approach calls for landscape-scale planning and implementation, while offering incentives for those who provide ecosystem services.
We invite all stakeholders to join us in piloting and improving this new “21st century” approach to managing agricultural landscapes.