All the News That’s Fit to Eat: Poultry Processing, Vermont’s GMO Labeling Bill, and Open Source Seeds

1. USDA Criticized for “Misleading” Claims about Worker Safety in Poultry Plants (Washington Post)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) plan to speed up poultry processing lines by up to 25 percent has faced fierce opposition from food safety, worker rights, and animal rights advocates since the proposal was first floated in 2012. Now, the agency is under fire from another federal agency, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), for claiming that a recent NIOSH study shows that increased line speeds pose no additional risk to workers. NIOSH Director Josh Howard has called USDA’s conclusion “misleading.” The study, which found that rates of carpal tunnel syndrome among workers in one South Carolina poultry plant stayed roughly the same over a ten month period, is simply not extensive enough to substantiate USDA’s claims. Read more

Ever Wonder Where Mushrooms Come From? ‘How Does it Grow’ Series Answers That Question and More

Sustainable food and farming advocates have long been pushing us to learn more about our food, from decoding nutrition labels at the supermarket to shaking hands with the growers at the farmers’ market. We’ve uncovered some surprising truths, like the fact that milling grains can strip away much of their nutritional value, or that our country’s meat supply is in the hands of just four companies. Yet even as more and more Americans are beginning to ask tough questions about our food system, Nicole Cotroneo Jolly realized we often skip over the basics. Simply put, how does food become, well, food? Read more

What the Food System Needs Now Is More Infrastructure

While the rejection of Prop 37 in California has been held by some as proof of the food movement’s immaturity, a lack of rhetorical and ideological cohesion is not necessarily the food movement’s biggest problem. Grassroots efforts across the country have successfully bolstered independent sections of the food system, from small farm incubators to mobile farm stands, but there’s one piece that still remains glaringly absent: infrastructure. Without well-developed and well-financed networks and institutions to build upon, advocates for strong local and regional food systems find it difficult to connect from one end of the supply chain to the other.

That’s where local governments can come in. Small business owners, farmers, distributors, restaurateurs, and eaters develop innovative strategies to strengthen their respective segments of the local food chain, and municipalities can support this process by creating links down the line and increasing opportunities for food system purveyors to work together.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) has developed a comprehensive regional plan that includes resources and tools for local governments to support local food. Hot on the heels of the plan’s adoption, CMAP is eager to make the case that a strong local food system benefits all residents in the seven-county area, particularly from an economic perspective. They are currently in the process of helping governments develop food system-friendly codes and ordinances in order to enable more momentum in the public sector. Read more

Choosing the Lowcountry: Eating and Buying Local in South Carolina

Residents of South Carolina’s Lowcountry know that the area’s vibrant culture and scenic beauty constitute something special, something that represents more than the group of counties contained within its geographic perimeter.

Jamee Haley, executive director of Lowcountry Local First (LLF), recognizes that the unique character of the state’s southernmost region depends as much on the health of the economy as it does on the creative pursuits and hard work of the people who live there. Whether in the world of agriculture or business, she works to inspire those who share her appreciation for and dedication to their local communities to make a simple decision: “Choose the Lowcountry.”

From this request stem the organizations two primary initiatives, Eat Local and Buy Local. Read more

Farmer Knows Best: How Mentoring Programs Can Help the Next Generation of Farmers Land on Their Feet

As our ailing agricultural landscape continues to face pressure from man and nature alike, the learning curve to figure out how to take care of the country’s farmland is steep. For the youngest generation of farmers, many of whom are stepping foot in the field for the first time, the risks of the agriculture industry, from drought to debt, can easily spell failure for their emerging operations.

Georgia Organics, a non-profit with over 1,200 community members dedicated to promoting sustainable agricultural practices in the state, offers a wide array of services to support the often-tumultuous transition to farm life. The organization’s farmer-to-farmer mentoring program provides new and emerging farmers with the opportunity to learn how to tackle uncertainty and challenges from the people who understand the business best–other farmers. By providing a resource that allows information to flow from one generation of farmers to the next, Georgia Organics helps newer farmers grow while letting older farmers give back. Read more

Ben Taylor: Roots and Rhythms

Ben Taylor, son of legends James Taylor and Carly Simon, has roots as deep in the soil as he does in music, and he uses the stage as a way to spread awareness about local agriculture. He is an avid supporter of the Island Grown Initiative, a multi-faceted project based in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts that sponsors its own farm-to-school program, organizes a cadre of volunteer gleaners to harvest crops that would otherwise go to waste, educates beekeepers, and provides processing facilities for local poultry farmers.

Having heard about the program from his cousin Noli Taylor, Island Grown Schools’ Program Coordinator, Ben noted that the organization “tickled his fancy” for promoting a strong sense of connectedness within the community to the place they call home. Civil Eats recently spoke to Ben about his involvement in good food issues.

As a musician, how did you become involved with issues regarding food and agriculture?

Before I wanted to be a musician, I was looking for anything else that I could do. I’d been on a lot of wilderness excursions and I loved being in nature. When I first moved out of my home as a teenager, I went to New Mexico and worked on an organic farm out on San Juan Pueblo and that was just really cool. The guy that I worked for was this incredible natural mystic and I developed a profound respect [for him] and a different idea of what it meant to be a gardener. Read more

FoodHub Uses Online Social Networking to Get Farm-fresh Food to School Cafeterias

Sometimes it’s hard to see what’s right in front of you. For many individuals and institutions, the problem with switching to local food purchases isn’t that people are unwilling or unenthusiastic, it’s that many just don’t know where to look. With our daily lives moving at breakneck speed amidst a flurry of tweets, emails, and texts, we often find ourselves paying more attention to the screens in front of us than the world in which we live. Organizations around the country are taking advantage of this period of technological innovation by developing virtual tools to help open our eyes to the bounty of our local food systems.

One such organization is Ecotrust based in Portland, Ore. Two years ago, they launched FoodHub, a social networking tool that revitalizes regional agriculture by helping farmers and buyers find one another online, often in a matter of minutes. Read more