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The Future is Rural: Food System Adaptations to the Great Simplification

Jason Bradford

February 19, 2019

The Future is Rural challenges the conventional wisdom about the future of food in our modern, globalized world. It is a much-needed reality check that explains why certain trends we take for granted–like the decline of rural areas and the dependence of farming and the food system on fossil fuels–are historical anomalies that will reverse over the coming decades. Renewable sources of energy must replace fossil fuels, but they will not power economies at the same scale as today. Priorities will profoundly shift, and food will become a central concern. Lessons learned from resilience science and alternatives to industrial agriculture provide a foundation for people to transition to more rural and locally focused lives.

Jason Bradford, a biologist and farmer, offers a deeply researched report on the future of food that reveals key blind spots in conventional wisdom on energy, technology, and demographics. The Future Is Rural presents Bradford’s analysis from his career in ecology and agriculture, as well as a synthesis of the historical and scientific underpinnings of the astonishing changes that will transform the food system and society as a whole.

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Supplementary Materials

Data: Source data for ‘In Focus: Diet and Land Modeling’ (pages 80-88)


Resilience.org: “The Future is Rural: The Unexpected Consequences of Energy Descent” 
Radio EcoShock: “Reversing Urbanization”
Go Green Radio with Jill Buck: “The Future Is Rural”
KunstlerCast: “Chatting Jason Bradford, author of The Future Is Rural”
Down to Earth: Planet to Plate Podcast: “Envisioning a post-carbon food system”

See also

Bradford, Jason C. “The Future Is Rural: Societal Adaptation to Energy Descent.” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 79, no. 3 (2020): 751–98. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajes.12335.

Dr. Bradford is available for interviews and guest appearances.

View the media kit and contact us to request an interview.


At the time I came across this report, I was looking for a a strategy to analyze our local food system. As a gardener, local food advocate, homesteader, and member of a local food advisory group I came to believe that we needed to understand our food system so we could better use our time, energy and resources, to make it more vibrant…
Before I found this book I was floundering, but Chapter 5 offered a plan for doing a descriptive analysis. Bradford has created a Land and Diet Model. It is a program that will show if a local food system can feed itself, based on 2800 calories per person per day. All a user needs to do is put in their agricultural Census Data. That a region could potentially feed itself is very empowering and may offer an alternative narrative.
—Doug Welch, Amazon.com review