Sustainable Diet, Sustainable World: Community Supported Agriculture Makes Both Happen

In her article on the Knowledge Driven Enterprise blog, Savanna Smith reports that “When you buy your groceries, the best and brightest fruits and veggies have usually traveled across the country and sometimes across the world to get to you. This supply chain bypasses the perfectly fresh produce local to your community. Our traditional market practices have enormously high transportation and carbon costs, create massive amounts of wasted food, and may leave our local farmers with unsustainable businesses.

So what can we do to address these problems?”

Smith discusses community supported agriculture options in Northern Virginia and elsewhere. And she offers a great list of resources for further reading.

Public Health Perspectives on Sustainable Diets

Coursera offers this excellent 7-hour intro-level class from Johns Hopkins (no charge so long as you don’t need the certificate). In addition to the easy-to-follow lectures and short assessments, the class offers downloadable reports and other resources, and enables you to download the videos and slides as well.


What we eat and how we produce that food have significant effects on human health and the sustainability of our planet. But what is a ‘sustainable’ diet? A sustainable diet, as defined by the FAO, promotes health and well-being and provides food security for the present population while sustaining human and natural resources for future generations. This short course looks at the urgent need to address the sustainability of our food systems, including better understanding the complex relationship between diet and climate change. Learners explore current research on dietary shifts needed in high, middle, and low-income countries to achieve both sustainability and food security goals and discuss evidence-based strategies to promote sustainable diets. This course is offered by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and draws from the graduate-level food systems curriculum at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. You may also be interested in our eight-week flagship Coursera course, “An Introduction to the US Food System: Perspectives from Public Health”.

Introduction to Food Systems Sustainability and Public Health 

Our food system is much more than a supply chain that brings food from the farm to your plate. What is a food system? How can thinking about food as a system help us understand and address the messy overlapping issues of diet, food production, planetary health and climate change? What does ‘sustainability’ mean, in the context of food systems, and is it the same as resilience? How has COVID-19 pandemic amplified the many challenges faced by vulnerable workers and consumers? Roni Neff addresses these questions – and many more – in this opening series of lectures. 

Sustainable Diets and Climate Change

What defines a sustainable diet? Why do sustainable diets matter? And what might sustainable diets look like in the US and around the world? The answers may surprise you. In this engaging and thought-provoking set of lectures, Brent Kim will address these questions and explain recent research that compares the impact of different diets on greenhouse gas emissions and water use across 140 countries. 

Strategies for Advancing Sustainable Diets 

The final week explores sustainable diets through the lens of a public health practitioner and registered dietician. They apply the concept of a sustainable diet to different parts of the world, considering the nutritional needs of different populations and why it is difficult to define a ‘sustainable’ diet for everyone. They share evidence-based strategies for communicating about sustainable diets and how different sectors can play a role in advancing change. 

For FMN members: The course has been submitted to the continuing education calendar for credit. check back for information on approval.

Permaculture Design Courses, June and August

Master Permaculture Design Course
June 5-9th, 2019 – Fairfax, VA – Suters Glen Permaculture Farm
with Wayne Weiseman of the Permaculture Project LLC

Already have your PDC and want to take the next step? This course is designed to help you dive deeper into permaculture principles and methodologies.Students will walk away with a completed master design of their property. Class will be 8am-6pm each day with breakfast and lunch included. Early bird tuition until 4/1/19.

Questions? Please contact Christine Harris, [email protected], (804) 502-4655.
More info & registration:

72-Hour Permaculture Design Certification Course
August 31-September 8th, 2019 – Louisa, VA – Heartwood Farm with Wayne Weiseman of the Permaculture Project

LLC  Topics include: Permaculture design principles and methodologies; Soil fertility; Organic vegetable production; Native, edible, medicinal and functional plants in the landscape; Climates and microclimates; Alternative energy and natural building; aquaculture, mushrooms, fermentation, herbalism and so much more! Course will be held at Heartwood Farm. Class will be 8am-5pm each day with breakfast and lunch included and some additional evening activities with served dinner. Camping available or accommodations close by. Early bird tuition until 5/31/19.

Questions? Please contact Christine Harris, [email protected], (804) 502-4655.

More info & registration:

Permaculture breaks down to “perennial” “agriculture.” It’s a way of looking at the landscape, and designing for both ecological and economical viability. For example, when permaculturists look at ways to grow food in their yards, on a farm or elsewhere, they look to the ways that a forest is naturally structured and mimic that to create an “edible food forest” that is comprised of a similar layering structure that a forest has (top canopy, lower canopy, shrubs, herbaceous plants, groundcover, fungi and vines). Not only are they planting edible or native plants just because they like them, but they are planting in ways that allow the system to support itself (ie., incorporating nitrogen-fixing plants, beneficial insect plants, dynamic accumulators like comfrey or stinging nettle which grab important minerals from the soil which they can then use as a mulch and feed the system, etc.) In doing so, they are creating a sustainable agriculture system that is self-sufficient and requires very little work to maintain.

Permaculture is an observation-based system of design, that requires the designer to observe what is happening on their landscape at a deeper level (where is the water, sun and wind moving? how can I direct the water to slow it down and disperse it across my landscape? what microclimates are present? what animals are visiting and where are they going? what are the underlying patterns in the landscape? what plants are already here?) It is a system of sustainable agriculture but also a way of living, of stewarding our Earth and sharing with the community – it has 3 basic principles that the design work is based on 1) Earth Care 2) People Care and 3) Fair Share.

The word “Permaculture” was coined by Bill Mollison in the 1970’s who went on to write the book Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual.  In his words:
“Permaculture is about designing sustainable human settlements. It is a philosophy and an approach to land use which weaves together microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soil, water management, and human needs into intricately connected, productive communities.”

Volunteer with Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture

Ivy Mitchell, the farm education manager for Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture, is seeking master naturalists to to help with their field trips this fall. This project has been approved for volunteer hours as E252: Sustainable Growing Educator.

What it involves: Each field trip begins with a garden tour, in which you can point out parts of the plant and talk about the life cycle of a plant, as well as taste the vegetables. Then each volunteer is assigned to teach one hands-on station, while the groups of children rotate through the four stations. The two stations relating most to our mission is 1) “Pests and pollinators” (bees as pollinators) and 2) “Superb Soil” (about compost), and you can request to be assigned to one of these two stations in order to earn master naturalist volunteer hours. (The topics of the remaining 2 stations are chickens–they help eat some of the garden pests–and healthy vegetables.)

Time: Volunteers generally choose one day of the week to volunteer–Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday–through the season (fall/spring). This fall’s season runs from 27 September – 2 November, or 6 weeks, with training days during the 2 weeks before field trips begin (Thursdays or Fridays). However, scheduling can be flexible, and even if you can only commit to some of the days, Ivy can make it work.

Location: 9000 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, VA. The farm is located on Woodlawn Estate, near Fort Belvoir.

If you’re interested, please contact Ivy Mitchell at [email protected]

Support local farmers at Frying Pan Park events in February and March

Meet local farmers in the Fairfax County area to hear their stories about growing food to feed our communities.  Learn ways we can support each other and enjoy a sample of their harvests as we gather together.

February 11, 2018:  Jessie and Sean Baker, Day Spring Farms

March 11, 2018:  Allyson Gibson, Pocket Farms

Each program is from 2-3:30 PM at the Frying Pan Visitor Center, 2739 West Ox Road, Herndon VA  20171, (703) 437-9101

Cost: $10/person