If you ask food experts like Michael Pollan, Marian Nestle, Gary Nabhan, Vandana Shiva, and numerous other writers and scholars what the biggest problems in our global, industrialized food system are, you’ll end up with a lot to chew on.

It’s difficult to separate the problems into discrete categories because everything is connected. Big problems lead to seemingly smaller problems, that, when allowed to fester, become open wounds – much like the foul waste lagoons on industrial pig farms that dot our landscape, or the actual wounds on human flesh caused by antibiotic resistant staph infections, which are a direct result of the overuse of antibiotics in livestock operations.

Most of the problems in the system stem from one giant problem: Concentration of power, land, wealth, and political influence in the hands of a few large players who have gamed the system for their benefit. Here are the biggest issues, as we see them, followed by suggestions for what you can do about them.

Last week while savoring the last of the stone fruit and the first crisp apples here in California, I worried about water. If you eat fruits and vegetables, you, too, should be very worried about water. This is because California, the state that supplies vast quantities of our nation’s produce, is running out. The culprit? Urban development gone wild, climate change, and generations of water transfer in a state with a high percentage land in the desert.

Reading excellent coverage of the farmers vs. fisherman water issue here on Civil Eats piqued my interest. Then, last week I heard a roomful of water experts discuss how our water issues impact food and farming. Presented by Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE), and Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), along with San Francisco Professional Food Society and Les Dames des Escoffier, the panel discussion made me more nervous and confused. What was true? After the panel I caught up with Dave Runsten, who heads up CAFF’s work with the California Agricultural Water Stewardship Initiative, to seek clarification. Runsten’s July 2010 report Why Water Stewardship for Agriculture was published July 2010 and outlines some relevant points of the debate on water issues facing the state’s urban dwellers, farmers and the food system.

September 9th, 2010 By Haven Bourque

On recent foggy morning, I drove with two food activist companions down a long dusty road in Salinas, CA towards a hotbed of contradictions. In the salad bowl of the nation, sustainable farming thrives alongside conventional farming. We were on our way to visit one of the beacons of creativity and success for the sustainable farming movement: ALBA, the Agriculture & Land-Based Training Association, which trains farm workers and aspiring farmers on 300-plus acres on two working farms to grow and market organic crops.

My traveling companions were eco-cognoscenti: Kari Hamerschlag, an Environmental Working Group senior researcher who moonlights as a California Farm Bill organizer, and Brandon Tomlinson, owner of a Bay Area organic vegetable delivery service. We met with ALBA to assess work to be done for the upcoming farm bill, and to secure supply for Brandon’s small operation. I was also there to report on what food is available and consumed in a food-forward farming environment. In many parts of the country, food deserts are as characteristic of farming communities as they are of urban jungles. What would we find there?