It can’t be up to our farmers alone to solve our climate crisis.

60 years. That’s the time the United Nations says we have left to farm, worldwide, if we continue to use industrial techniques: destroying our topsoil with chemicals, leveling forests, and using methods that accelerate the impacts of global warming. It takes about 1,000 years for the Earth to generate just three centimeters of good, rich dirt. In my son’s lifetime, it could be gone.

When we don’t allow soil to replenish, it degrades—which leads to the release of carbon into the atmosphere. About half of U.S. agricultural lands and a third of its forests have degraded soils, which is bad news for everyone.

I’m not a farmer, but it’s in my blood. I was 8 years old the first time I spooned a layer of thick cream from a jug of fresh milk at my great aunt and uncle’s dairy farm in northern Nevada. As a teenager, my father woke before dawn to drive the tractor across the alfalfa fields. Today, the cows are long gone from the 110-year-old farm. My cousins have switched to growing teff, a 6,000-year-old, gluten-free grain that needs little water to thrive.

It’s this act of innovation, driven by their recognition of climate change, that will keep the family farm, and my youngest cousin, Miles, in business for at least one more generation. But it can’t be up to our farmers alone to solve our climate crisis.

Progress requires policy makers, food companies, farmers, and each of us pushing for a triple win: increased biodiversity, increased profit for farmers, and greater resilience to a changing climate.

We need to rapidly diversify our food system, and lift up the voices that have been quieted since our modern agricultural system was built: that of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. We need to identify and conserve our most threatened and valuable agricultural lands and soils, and invest in long-term, more sustainable production of food. We need to restore our forests, rivers, and wetlands, keeping water in our streams for fish and wildlife. These natural sponges clean and filter water as it leaves our farms, and flows into the ocean, feeding our fish with nutrients, not plastic and poison. We need to think about technology as complementing nature, not undermining it. We need infusions of capital to scale our supply, and values-based supply chains that give more power to the producers: farms and fisheries.

The hard truth is, we don’t have 60 years to lose. We may not even have 30. Building a vibrant and equitable food system across San Diego County—one that is resilient through climate change—requires a vast movement fueled by compassion, creativity, and collective vision. The transformation begins now. I hope you’ll join us.

Ocelot Company

Jena Thompson Meredith is a marketing and communications executive experienced in developing and directing comprehensive branding and outreach strategies for leading companies and philanthropic organizations. As Founder of The Ocelot Company, she combines business savvy, entrepreneurial vision, and marketing expertise to craft innovative sustainability solutions that result in tangible benefits for the environment, communities and business.

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