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Food Systems Reform - What will it take?

Elaina Michael, December 31, 2022


I often find my mind formulating ideas around how to reform our food systems and analyzing why the current systems are failing us. What better a topic could one be pondering on New Year’s Eve anyways? Nevertheless, I have written this piece to combine two of my most recent thoughts that address each of these topics of discussion.


Business as usual, or is it?

A business exists because it sells products and services that there is a market for. The invention of technology, from the printing press to the internet, are advancements that have allowed reproduction of products and services, thereby making an “uncommon” physical or digital saleable item common and cheaper. With a fee to the mass manufacturer (this may even be a digital platform) the business can now benefit from their single creation not once, but many times! {Such is not the case with the delicious ciabatta rolls pictured below}


sourdough bread
Ciabatta rolls that I formed and baked at Crumb Brothers, a bakery I worked at in Logan, UT.

This led me to question how agriculture could possibly compete on the same playing field as other industries. According to an April 2021 Forbes Magazine article titled, How billionaires got so rich in 2021, the top two sectors that minted the most billionaires (13% of all billionaires for each sector, out of all the sectors) are Finance & Investments and Tech.

When we look at technology, every app, subscription to an online service, or purchase of a downloadable or online course, the actual saleable item only had to be created once, but the final product can be sold an unlimited number of times!

Take the financial services industry for example - an industry which, in fact, attributes much of its terminology to cattle ranching. One can purchase as many shares (the original term being akin to buying a "share" of the herd) as they like…with maybe a few stipulations, but otherwise each share will increase or decrease in value equally.


In agriculture, the same exact plant cannot be sold many times and shares of the herd are limited to the herd size.


Mass producing living things throws a wrench in the system


Ducky, the cow, at Cache Meadow Creamery in Preston, ID with her small attention-loving friend.

As I write this, I am reminded of modern-day experiments to defy agriculture’s historic limitations, such as the pursuit of lab grown meat and indoor hydroponic plant factories, poultry and swine confinement facilities, and feedlots for cattle.


Humans have been, and are, trying to industrialize everything for the sake of maximum efficiency, which requires controlling as many variables as possible. Humans are creatures that find comfort in categorization and structure and we fear uncertainty. However, in the case of agriculture, man’s attempt to build in certainty has produced side effects that go unnoticed and have accumulated, resulting in even greater uncertainty as to the prolonged viability of life on our planet.


Stop forcing the “square peg into the round hole!”

We are entering yet another movement (earlier ones were “sustainable” and “organic”), this time it is called “regenerative agriculture”. However, there have always been those who have sensed that the more controlled that agriculture becomes, the more wrong that it feels. This community of thought sees the negative impacts blatantly staring us in the face - environmental deterioration and degradation, nutrient density decline, and lack of phytochemical content and micronutrients in food resulting in increasingly bland-tasting fruits and vegetables.

Gleason Bison, bison tenderloins seconds before my husband pulled them off the smoker.

Instead of settling for obvious inferior quality products and their associated byproducts, what if we accepted the fact that agriculture is unlike any other business model?

Time to look outside of the box

I propose we think of a completely different approach to support regenerative, holistic, agricultural businesses…and no, I am not proposing more taxation (although, a decent portion of government dollars are being put towards federal funding opportunities to support climate smart agriculture, funding which I work to help my clients secure).


My suggestion is this: What if medium to large businesses and corporations were required to ensure that every person employed by their company was spending X percentage of their income on food that was raised regeneratively, or towards farms that were at least in the process of transitioning, from distributors like Azure Standard, for example? Until that goal was achieved, the CEO and other high-level executives of a company would not be allowed greater than X percentage of take-home pay. The company would also be required to host regular mandatory informational sessions for their employees featuring local producers and giving them the opportunity to share their stories and educate about what raising food for the rest of us entails. Everyone has a role to play in our food system, yet few consumers know how to take responsibility.


"The current industrial food model is broken. People are waking up to the fact that food choices matter, and no healthcare plan is going to solve the issue of eating industrial goop sold as food." - John W. Roulac, Kiss The Ground

That is my proposition. This proposition might make many who read it a bit tense or disgusted by the idea of more “rules and regulations”. However, I hope that this idea is enlightening to most and received with an open mind. While it is not THE solution, perhaps, it spurs a chain of thoughts from those who read this.

Do you have thoughts and ideas about transforming our food system? I will be regularly engaging in written and video discussion this year with whomever is interested – contact me at refonteventures@gmail.com



I am a proud affiliate of Azure Standard - a distributor, a family, and a farm.

Do you want to take responsibility for your role in the food system? You can learn more and get started with Azure, free for members to join, here!

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Elaina, you are absolutely correct. Our food system is broken. Solution. Well I am biased but I believe it starts at the farm growing food regeneratively/sustainably in a cropping system whereby you have complementary crops grown together. With a more nutritious food supply coming from the farmer/soil you then have a foundation to tackle the rest, since the product (food) has already been improved it will inherently change the next steps in good system. Farmer opinion. Very good post. Donnie.

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