Gardener’s Delight: Seed Pack Art for Spring

There’s no better way to celebrate the beginning of spring than to stock up on seeds and get ready to break new ground. Gardening always keeps you guessing, because you never know from one season to the next what might delight you, and what might disappoint you. Inevitably, some seeds sprout and thrive while others rot, wither, or fall victim to fungus or critters. That’s life. Read more

Making a Racket: Christopher Leonard Goes Behind the Scenes in the American Meat Industry

Factory farmed chickens have it bad, but in Christopher Leonard’s new meat industry exposé The Meat Racket, it’s the farmers who get plucked. Leonard, a former agribusiness reporter for the Associated Press and now a fellow at the New America Foundation, subtitled his book The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business, and he’s not kidding about the “secret” part. When Leonard set out to investigate how four huge companies came to more or less dictate the state of our meat supply, he ran into balky bureaucrats and fearful farmers. Read more

Farm Aid & MakerFaire: Go Forth & Be Fertile, Not Futile!

For such a young nation, we’re having an awful lot of senior moments. Where the hell did we misplace those keys to a peaceful and prosperous future? Where’s our legendary American ingenuity? Why do we throw up our hands when the pie isn’t big enough instead of just rolling up our sleeves and rolling out more dough? But not all senior moments are bad. When 94 year-old Pete Seeger unexpectedly strolled on stage at Farm Aid last Saturday in Saratoga Springs, NY, the crowd went wild. Clutching his iconic banjo, the sharp-as-a-tack senior delivered a soft yet stirring rendition of “If I Had a Hammer.” Read more

GMO OMG: Mop Tops Take on Monsanto

GMOs–aka genetically modified organisms–weren’t on GMO OMG filmmaker Jeremy Seifert’s radar till he and his wife Jen became parents and assumed the awesome responsibility of nourishing three young children. How much genetically modified food were they unknowingly feeding their kids? Are these foods safe to eat? Are GM crops safe to grow? Read more

Food Politics, Illustrated

You’re far more likely to get a stomach ache than a belly laugh from food news on any given day; there’s not a lot of humor in stories about contaminated food, diet-related disease, abused livestock, exploited workers, malnourished kids, and bone-headed agricultural policies. But this seemingly bleak beat has given cartoonists a surprising amount of fodder. And Marion Nestle, the noted NYU nutrition professor, public health advocate, and tireless food politics blogger/tweeter, has compiled the cream of this non-genetically modified crop in her just-published book from Rodale, Eat Drink Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics. Read more

Let’s Ask Marion Nestle: Who’s Got The Power to End Hunger in America?

Environmental advocate/writer Kerry Trueman checks in with food politics pioneer and NYU nutrition professor Dr. Marion Nestle, whose most recent book is Why Calories Count, with Malden Nesheim. Read more of Nestle’s insights at food politics.com and follow her on Twitter @marionnestle. Nestle is currently working on her next book, Eat, Drink, Vote: The Illustrated Guide to Food Politics, due out from Rodale in September 2013. Read more

Beyoncé’s Bubbly Branding Falls Flat

Environmental advocate/writer Kerry Trueman checks in with food politics pioneer and NYU nutrition professor Dr. Marion Nestle, whose most recent book is Why Calories Count, with Malden Nesheim. You can read more of Nestle’s insights at food politics.com and follow her on Twitter @marionnestle. Nestle is currently working on her next book, Eat, Drink, Vote: The Illustrated Guide to Food Politics, due out from Rodale in September 2013. Read more

Going Undercover in the Belly of Our Beastly Food Chain

Tracie McMillan’s The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table takes us on a vivid and poignant tour of a place we don’t really want to go: the mostly hidden, sometimes horrible world of the workers who form the backbone of our cheap, industrialized food chain. Sound grim? It is, at times, but McMillan’s lively narrative and evident empathy for the people she encounters make her sojourn into the bowels of Big Food and Big Ag a pleasure to read.

From the fields of California’s Central Valley to the produce aisle of a Michigan Walmart, and lastly, the kitchen of a Brooklyn Applebee’s, McMillan gives a firsthand account of the long hours, lousy wages and difficult conditions that are par for the course in these places. This is tricky terrain for a white, relatively privileged, middle-class American woman, and McMillan navigates it with grace and humility, remaining acutely aware of the pitfalls inherent in such a project.

I sat down with McMillan recently to chat about her populist odyssey and found her to be just as down-to-earth and plucky as her prose. Read more

Sow Seeds, Not Greed: Farmers Gather on Wall Street

It’s been a long time since farmers congregated in downtown Manhattan–around 350 years, to be exact. The folks who populate Wall Street and rural America don’t cross paths much these days. It’s easy to forget that Wall Street used to be rural America; in 1644, the area contained so many cows that the Dutch colonists had to erect a cattle guard to keep them from straying. Livestock farmers literally established the boundaries of Wall Street.

Today, the bronze bull–that icon of the OWS movement–is the lone farm animal you’ll find in the financial district. And the barricades are back, but only to keep Zuccotti Park’s mic checkers in check. That surprisingly fertile concrete plaza has yielded a bumper crop of grassroots activists, to the discomfort of (most of) the 1 percent and the shills who bill them. But the voices of farmers–a.k.a. the 1 percent that grows the food that 100 percent of us eat–have been largely missing from this movement to reclaim our democracy, despite the fact that food has become a commodity that enriches a few at the expense of the many. Read more