A lot of ink, airtime, and media megabytes are being used to cover the huge number of elections going on all around the nation right now. One of the most important is getting very little coverage, even though it affects every single person in my home state and indeed the US in very personal ways. It is the race for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. Read more
I spend a great deal of my time on extremely small-scale food production. Growing, procuring, cooking, eating, and writing about locally produced food is my bread and butter. Thus picking up a copy of Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations was in some ways a departure for me. Authors Evan D.G. Fraser and Andrew Rimas are examining a world that looks to me much the same as the Grand Canyon must look to a mouse. Read more
When then-governor Bush ran for president under the banner of “compassionate conservatism,” it seemed to me then (as it does now) that he did not know the meaning of either word. I was reminded of this on Friday during Stephen Colbert’s congressional testimony before a House subcommittee on immigration, a gig he got because of his support for the UFW’s Take Our Jobs campaign. The campaign’s purpose is to point out how vital migrant farm workers are to our food system, and how difficult the work is, while also demonstrating that they are not “taking jobs from Americans.” Fact is most Americans won’t take those jobs for one (or both) of two reasons: The hard work and the low pay. Read more
A few years back I was in a church basement in Oklahoma City preparing a meal for a busload of Florida farm workers on their way home from California. They had gone there to stage a protest at Taco Bell parent corporation Yum! Brands HQ. Their humble request? Two cents more per pound of tomatoes picked by their compatriots in and around Immokalee, Florida, so that they might be lifted out of near-and-actual slavery.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers eventually won that fight and many others like it, but their lives in the tomato fields there are still by no means easy. It’s backbreaking work in the hot Southwest Florida sun, with long hours, poor housing and little to no free time.
Recognizing though that there are unemployment and immigration problems in this country, the Godfather of a farm worker movements – The United Farm Workers – has come up with an innovative solution. Their suggestion: Take Our Jobs! That’s right, all the folks who are out of work and feel that undocumented workers are taking jobs that should go to American citizens like themselves are invited to apply online and join the exciting field of manual farm labor! Apply now! Read more
In much the same way that Michael Pollan has told us in recent years not to trust our nutrition to the nutritionists, essayist, sage, and father of modern agrarian thought, Wendell Berry, instructs us that we should never have trusted our economy to economists. At least not to the ones who have been (mis)handling it for the last hundred years or so. Read more
Here in Iowa we have an event called RAGBRAI – The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa – the oldest, largest and longest non-competitive ride in the world. Simply put, roughly 15,000 of us dip our back tires in the Missouri River one July Sunday Morning, then pedaling past the cities, fields and farms we dip our front tires in the Mississippi River 6 days later, having ridden an average of 465 miles.
When the ride started 38 years ago, riders rolled past countless fields dotted with little lean-to style huts – shelters for the hogs that have been raised here since the European settlers came in the early 1800s. Since then, though, the huts have all but disappeared, replaced by long, narrow steel buildings with pairs of 6-foot exhaust fans on each end and large lagoons outside. Read more
It has often been said that the reason television is called a medium is because it is neither rare nor well done. For forty years, PBS has been defying that axiom, consistently providing some of the best television on television. They also have the only serious nightly news show left.
Possibly the best thing they offer is POV, the easiest way to see serious documentaries by strong filmmakers unless you are a obsessive film junkie with scads of time on your hands and you live in New York or LA. Even for a show as impressive as POV though, their plans for April 21st are unique.
In conjunction with the showing of Robert Kenner’s Oscar-nominated film Food, Inc. (trailer) that day, POV is helping to organize potlucks in people’s homes all across the country. The idea is to get groups to share a healthy, sustainably-sourced meal, watch the film, and discuss – thus helping to spread the gospel of real food. Read more
Folks across the country know something is wrong. There’s just something about the system we’ve created over several decades that is inherently flawed. Some blame the government, others big banks, still others blame political parties, but all agree that there’s something that’s just not quite working the way it should. People are losing homes, jobs, and health coverage at an alarming rate because of the societal turbulence in the enormous yet formless thing we call the economy.
Ever feel like you were playing checkers and the other guy was playing chess?
That’s the sort of feeling I get often when I watch many of the recent spate of food documentaries to be released. Activists announce that this or that is wrong with the food system, and on the rare occasion when something appears to be getting done about it, the folks who are doing things badly simply change their tactics, but not their strategy.