The Lexicon of Sustainability: Food Terms | PBS Food

The Lexicon of Sustainability: Food Terms

By illuminating the vocabulary of sustainable agriculture, and with it the conversation about America’s rapidly evolving food culture, the Lexicon of Sustainability helps people to pay closer attention to how they eat, what they buy, and where their responsibility begins for creating a healthier, safer food system in America. Below you can explore some of the essential terms from the films:

The 100 mile diet
A common unit of measure used to denote the maximum distance food can travel and still remain local to the consumer.
– John Lagier

Antibiotic free
– Bill and Nicolette Niman

Refers to the cultivation of both marine and freshwater species and can range from land-based to open-ocean production.
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

Also known as fish or shellfish farming — refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Researchers and aquaculture producers are “farming” all kinds of freshwater and marine species of fish, shellfish, and plants. Aquaculture produces food fish, sport fish, bait fish, ornamental fish, crustaceans, mollusks, algae, sea vegetables, and fish eggs.
– National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Battery cages
Industrial agriculture’s confinement system used for egg-laying hens. Floor space for battery cages ranges from 300 cm² per bird and up; the space allocated to battery hens has often been described as less than the size of a piece of paper. A typical cage is about the size of a filing cabinet drawer and holds from 8 to 10 hens. Animal welfare scientists have criticized battery cages because they do not provide hens with sufficient space to stand, walk, flap their wings, perch, or make a nest. It is estimated that over 60% of the world’s eggs are produced in such industrial systems.

The interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.

Holistic and regenerative farming practices focused on the integration of plants, animals, soil health and biodiversity. They keep the ecosystem in balance by producing the nutrients needed to nourish all aspects of the farm with a minimum of inputs imported from off site.
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

Broiler house
Buildings with little ventilation that serve as concentrated feed lots capable of holding up to ten thousand chickens at a time.

Cage free
Chickens that are not kept in cages. This means chickens are still confined to a barn with limited or no access to outside. The term “barn-roaming” more accurately describes this principle.

They are systems where livestock are kept in very crowded situations—usually in some kind of barn or facility—and fed a diet that consists mainly of grain, soybeans, and supplements (for milk cows, this include some forage like hay.)
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton.

Carbon sequestration
Excessive carbon in our atmosphere is considered a major contributor to climate change, so practices that remove carbon from the air and capture it in the soil are increasingly in vogue (among progressive farmers.)
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

Certified organic
“Certified” means that the food, feed or fiber has been grown and handled according to strict organic standards which are enforced by independent third-party state or private organizations. Certification includes inspections of farm fields, livestock and processing facilities, detailed record keeping and periodic testing of soil, water and produce to ensure that growers and processors are meeting the standards of the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) or other third party standards.
– Oregon Tilth

Community supported agriculture (CSA)
At the start of each growing season, members purchase a subscription. Each week they get a box of fresh produce containing whatever happens to be growing on the farm. That influx of cash at the start of the season allows the grower to purchase seed and farming implements, even hire workers. Essentially, a CSA subscription is a contract between a consumer and a farmer.
– Douglas Gayeton, LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

Turning food waste into valuable nutrients that can improve soil and feed plants.
– Douglas Gayeton, LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

Connected market
When producers and consumers can envision each other – even across great distances – a product transforms from a commodity to a carefully guarded precious resources.
– David and Shannon Negus

Conservation easement
The Trust purchases the development rights to a piece of farmland to insure it stays in its current use. In exchange, these ranchers receive cash, which they can use to invest in improvements, expand operations, pay off debts etc.
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

Direct trade
It closes the gap between farmer and consumer, it’s less about the farmer and more about the company buying directly from that farmer.
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton.

Drip irrigation
A system of plastic tubing with sophisticated drippers spaced at a set distance that enables the slow, precise and targeted application of water and nutrients to a specific location at the root of the plant in a way which maximizes water utilization while preventing water evaporation, runoff and waste.

The gathering of communities to share a home cooked meal.

Eating in season
Eating food that is harvested during a particular time of the year that is best suited to the individual crop or animal due to it’s cyclical relationship with weather.

Eating in season
Wild edibles grow everywhere. You need to be aware of what’s around you. When you spend time outside, see how things change throughout the year.

Economies of community
1. Transparent equal access to information
2. Democratized equal voice and ability to take action
3. Frictionless simple transactions and feedback
– Benzi Ronan

Economies of scale
Focusing on single crops and reducing input costs to a minimum—then communities can leverage their greatest assets—proximity, familiarity, and private ownership—to compete with the global food system.
– Douglas Gayeton, LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

Edible schoolyard
Planting vegetable gardens at local schools, teaching kids how to grow and cook their own meals, and sometimes putting the school garden harvests on the menu in the lunchrooms.
-LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

Experiential learning
Education through direct involvement; offering staff-led tours, workshops, internship programs, volunteer opportunities and dinners to help a community engage with local food.
Robbie McClam, City Roots Farm

External costs
A cost or benefit that results from an activity or transaction and that affects an otherwise uninvolved party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit.

Face certification
A direct contact between farmer and consumer that creates an environment for trust and faith.
– Douglas Gayeton, LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

Fair trade
A way to address disparities between conditions of small scale farmers in developing countries from Africa, Latin America, and Asia (collectively referred to as the Global South ), and those of subsidized farms and industrial countries in the Global North that have greater access to things like financing, crop insurance and other advantages.
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

Fair trade premium
A sum of money paid on top of the agreed fair trade price for investment in social, environmental or economic development projects, decided upon democratically by producers within the farmers’ organization or by workers on a plantation.
-The Fairtrade Foundation

Fair wild
An unwritten principle which guarantees a high level of sustainability and harvesting awareness regarding the practice of foraging wild food.
– Tyler Gray

Fallen fruit
People search their cities and neighborhoods for unused or unwanted things: litter, refuse…even food. Fallen fruit is often overlooked (either after its fallen to the ground or while still on the tree). It can be harvested, gleaned, or just observed.
– David Burns

Food desert
Food challenges facing low-income communities, areas without supermarkets or neighborhood grocery stores, where nutritious food is scarce or non-existent.
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

Food justice
Food is a basic right for all people.
– Blue Peetz, GRuB

Food literacy
Consumers that learn about food production and agricultural practices can determine which systems to support and which to shun.
– Erika Allen

Food security
Having consistent year round access to safe, local, affordable and culturally appropriate food that is grown, raised, produced and moved about in manners that are responsible to the environment while reflecting a consumption of natural resources that is equitable with a view to our offspring seven generations from now.
– Erika Allen

Food security
Food security has now been reinterpreted in some places as community food security, as access to fresh, healthy and affordable food not just on an individual level, but within the entire community. The emphasis is on access, but people can have access to food without being in control of those food sources.
– Professor Kristin Reynolds, New School for Public Engagement

Food shed
A geographic area that supplies a community with all of the people’s food needs.

Food sovereignty
A community’s right to decide how they’re fed. The term was coined in 1993 by a gathering of farm workers and small stake food producers from around the world. Their first meeting in Mons, Belgium led to the formation of La Via Campesina (“The Peasants’ Way”), which protects the rights of cultures to defend their control over local and regional food systems.
-LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

Food waste
“Forty. That’s the percentage of food in this country that never gets eaten, or that’s grown and never comes to market. It’s the food we distribute that never reaches a destination or sits on grocery store shelves without finding a consumer. And it’s food consumers buy but never eat. “
– Douglas Gayeton, LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

The art of finding and enjoying wild food.
– Tyler Gray

Free range
Outside the United States this term refers to a method of farming where the animals are allowed to roam freely rather than being contained in any manner. In the United States, USDA regulations apply only to poultry and indicate solely that the animal has been allowed access to the outside. These regulations do not specify the quality or size of the outside range nor the duration of time the animal must be allowed access to this space.

Front yard farmer
One who transitions a conventional, ornamental and sterile plot of earth into a place to grow food, medicine and wonder (this lush, productive, resilient and beautiful urban ecosystem also inspires and engages the neighbors).
– Trathen Heckman

Gentically engineered (GE)
GE describes the high-tech methods used in recent decades to incorporate genes directly into an organism. The only way scientists can transfer genes between organisms that are not sexually compatible is to use recombinant DNA techniques. The plants that result do not occur in nature; they are ‘genetically engineered’ by human intervention and manipulation
– Home Garden Seed Association

Genetically modified organisms (GMO)
Scientists take DNA from one plant species and add it to the DNA of another in ways that could never happen in nature or through natural plant breeding.
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

The USDA defines a GMO as an organism produced through any type of genetic modification, whether by high-tech modern genetic engineering, OR long time traditional plant breeding methods. While you often hear the GE and GMO used interchangeably, they have different meanings. For hundreds of years, genes have been manipulated empirically by plant breeders who monitor their effects on specific characteristics or traits of the organism to improve productivity, quality, or performance.

A type of food rescue that involves collecting leftover fruits and vegetables from farms, with the food usually donated to school lunch programs, non-profits and food banks. By performing food rescues, communities can help re-distribute food that would otherwise go wasted, helping to turn food insecurity into food security.
– Douglas Gayeton, LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

Genetically modified organisms that are in most of what we eat here in the United States.
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

Grass farmer
Grass is a solar collector. It uses photosynthesis to transform the sun’s rays into chlorophyll. When cows eat grass, they convert this energy into protein and fat.
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

Grass fed
Grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning.
– USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service

A group founded to enhance the visibility of the Young Farmers’ Movement. Event formula = pie + beer + workshops + ice cream + performances + spit roasted pig + dances.
– Severine von Tscharner Fleming, Greenhorns

Growing farmers
An initiative to grow the next generation of farmers, with an ecological consciousness.
– Craig Haney, Stone Barnes Center for Food and Agriculture

Green collar
GREEN COLLAR = CUELLO VERDE workers retrained to work in agriculture = “reconvertido profesionalmente en la agricultura”
-Jose Nunez, Alba Organic Farm

Heritage grain
A heritage grain is from a seed that embodies thousands of years of unbroken human-plant co-evolution, effort and reverence.
– Andrew Still

Identity preserved grain
Labeling that protects the characteristics that define a unique grain or crop, as enhanced by a specific place, farming practice and milling process.

Land trust
A private nonprofit organization that actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting in land or conservation acquisition, and stewardship of such land or easements.

Landrace wheat
A genetic grandfather wheat that has been introduced around the world and given birth to new geographically-specific varieties wherever it has landed.

Lifecycle analysis
Compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle.
– The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

The principle that a given entity belongs or relates to a particular area.
– Jessica Prentice

Food that was produced and distributed in one’s community.

Local brings you back into a relationship with the source of your food, with the land, the animals, the plants, the farmers, and with each other.
– Douglas Gayeton, LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

Local food system
A regional food system is one that supports long-term connections between farmers and consumers while meeting the economic, social, health and environmental needs of communities in a region. A food system includes everything associated with growing, processing, storing, distributing, transporting and selling food. A food system is local when it allows food producers and their customers to interact face-to-face; regional systems serve larger geographical areas, often within a state or metro area.
– Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Demand triggers Inspiration. Capability increases Capacity. Profit encourages Expansion. Then the cycle repeats. This is how local food systems are built.
– Douglas Gayeton, LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

Local foodshed
A geographic area where food is grown and consumed; it also accounts for population density, land quality, and available distribution routes.
– John Lagier

“Locus” (latin root for “local”) + “vorare” (latin root for “to devour”) = locavore
– Jessica Prentice

Low carbon diet
The way food is grown, transported and prepared affects the amount of pollution produced. This includes airborne pollutants as well as green house gases released into waterways and soil systems. A low carbon diet involves consuming locally grown and harvested food.
– John Lagier

The Marshall Plan
At the end of World War II, cities, bridges, power stations, railways—the entire infrastructure of Nazi Germany—was destroyed by Allied bombers. Then the U.S. helped rebuild everything.
– Douglas Gayeton, LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

Naturally raised
Livestock which was raised without the use of growth promtants, antibiotics, under these certified animals are allowed to have parasitic medicine, but not given food with animal byproducts to eat.

Methods such as segregation, traceability, risk assessment, sampling techniques, and quality control management are emphasized to determine if a crop or food item contains GMO ingredients.
– The Non-GMO Project

Nose to tail
Respect the animal by using every part of it from nose to tail, in order not to waste it.

Food grown or made without the use of artificial chemicals.

Pasture raised
Animals that have been raised on pasture with access to shelter. This term is being used by farmers who wish to distinguish themselves from the industrialized “free range” term.

The development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.
– Permaculture Institute

Someone who advocates preservation of the diversity of seeds available in regions due to the traditional and ecological values of the plants.

The ability to keep going even when things around you are going wrong.
– Richard Heinberg

Rooftop farm
Adds environmentally beneficially green space to cities, increases the local food supply, cools the building in the summer and absorbs rainwater (which reduces the burden on city sewer.)
– Ben Flanner, Brooklyn Grange

Rotational grazing
Rotational grazing is periodically moving livestock to fresh paddocks, to allow pastures to regrow. Rotational grazing requires skillful decisions and close monitoring of their consequences. Modern electric fencing and innovative water-delivery devices are important tools. Feed costs decline and animal health improves when animals harvest their own feed in a well-managed rotational grazing system.”
– The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

Salmon safe
Encourages the adoption of ecologically sustainable agricultural practices that protect water quality and spawning grounds of native salmon and trout.

Seafood fraud
Happens any time a customer thinks he or she is getting one thing and they’re getting another. It can be mislabeling, a weight lower than what’s advertised, or a fish the customers thinks is caught by one particular gear [method] when it’s really caught by another.
– Dr. Michael Hirshfield, chief scientist for Oceana

Seed bank
A place where seeds of various crops and wild plants are stored in an effort to maintain agricultural diversity in a particular region.

Seed swap
A gathering held by community farmers and gardeners to exchange seeds in order to maintain biodiversity.

Seed sovereignty
The farmer’s right to breed and exchange diverse open source seeds which can be saved and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled by emerging seed giants.

Soil fertility
Soil teems with a multitude of organisms which provide the necessary work for healthy plants to grow free from disease, pests and infertility. These interconnected interactions and feeding relationships (quite literally “who eats who”) help determine the types of nutrients present in soil, its depth and pH, and even the types of plants which can grow.

Sub-therapeutic antibiotics
Low level dosages used for extended periods of time on otherwise healthy cattle, mainly to increase their daily weight gain.
– Bill and Nicolette Niman

Respect Mother Earth. Respect the land. Learn from the animals. When foraging always leave something behind for whoever comes next. In this way you’re sure to find something when you come back.
– Running Squirrel

The notion that food has specific qualities defined by a sense of place.
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

Therapeutic antibiotics
A specific dose used for a limited period of time, in an amount calculated for an individual animal to cure a particular disease.
– Bill and Nicolette Niman

Means transparency, independent third party verification, and a strict accounting of the fish’s journey.
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

The tragedy of the commons
When a community shares a common resource like a pasture owned by one and all, and if each farmer, motivated by enlightened self-interest, grazes his animals as much as possible to get the maximum benefit from this shared resource, other farmers will do the same. They will overgraze the commons until no grass is left.
– Douglas Gayeton, LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

The fundamental challenge now facing ambitious farmers across the US: how to transition land from conventional farming back to its organic or “pre-chemical” state.
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton.

True cost accounting
A practice that accounts for all external costs—including environmental, social and economic-generated by the creation of a product.
– Douglas Gayeton, LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America

To creatively add value to waste so that as a whole (and without being broken down) it can be converted into another product.

Urban apiary
Beekeeping in the city.

Urban farmer
People in cities who grow food for themselves, their friends, their neighbors and the larger community
– Novella Carpenter

YIMBY (Yes in my backyard)
The community-based support of a new concept that improves their quality of life and connects them to their neighbors.
– Colin McCrate, Seattle Urban Farms

Whole wheat
Grains that contain all of their bran, germ and endosperm. Refined grains, such as white flour used in white bread, contain little if any germ or bran, and therefore significantly less fiber and fewer nutrients than whole grains.

A watershed is a land sea, such as a river valley, where all water that falls as rain or collects as dew or cloud mist and drains into a common waterway.
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

Wild certification
A certification process which gives consumers indisputable knowledge of natural wild environments and its apparent or potential subjugating influences of human interference
– Tyler Gray

Wild harvest
The collection of indigenous foods, an assembly of native plants, animals, vegetables, fruits and berries procured from the wild.
– Tyler Gray

YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard)
The community-based support of a new concept that improves quality of life and connects people to their neighbors. – Colin McCrate, Seattle Urban Farms

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