The movement toward simpler food can be complicated. Entrepreneurs looking to start farms, farmers’ markets and food hubs quickly learn that when it comes to starting and running one – on top of the day-to-day work involved – navigating the complex maze of legal requirements surrounding such work is no joke. Luckily, some the nation’s best academic institutions are creating new programs and degrees focused on food and agriculture. One of the newest – and perhaps most bucolic – is the Vermont Law School’s new Center for Agriculture and Food Systems. Read more

Anyone who has suffered from (or lost a loved one to) cardiovascular disease can attest to its costs, both emotional and financial. We know that each of us can avoid – or at least stave off – heart disease by maintaining a healthy diet and that the most effective way to get people to eat better is to make it easier (and cheaper) to do so. Sadly, food and agriculture policy rarely reflects this knowledge. Read more

Just when you thought the market for controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was completely saturated, a new study published in the Journal of Organic Systems finds that pigs raised on a mixed diet of GM corn and GM soy had higher rates of intestinal problems, “including inflammation of the stomach and small intestine, stomach ulcers, a thinning of intestinal walls and an increase in haemorrhagic bowel disease, where a pig can rapidly ‘bleed-out’ from their bowel and die.” Read more

Manhattan’s American Museum of Natural History has officially opened its newest exhibit, Our Global Kitchen. The exhibition, which leads museum visitors on a meandering path from farm to fork, is a much-anticipated one for us at GRACE; the foundation lent support for the Growing and Transportation sections, as well as web and educational materials, so we were keen to get an early look. Read more

On Thursday, Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill signed an agreement to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program. Chipotle joins the ranks of McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Whole Foods and Subway as the 11th company to join the Program, which improves working conditions for farmworkers in a few major ways. Not only does it provide a wage increase (the famous penny-a-pound) but it also includes a code of conduct that allows workers a voice in matters concerning health and safety, worker-to-worker trainings around the protections included under the code, a complaint resolution procedure that protects workers from retaliation and a third-party audit system to ensure compliance from growers. Read more

Recently, I attended an event at New York City’s famous James Beard House that took me back to Yellowstone National Park.

Around this time last summer, I was on a tour boat on Lake Yellowstone with my family, where we learned that lake trout, a non-native species introduced around 1995 (presumably by an angler), had grown extremely problematic for the ecosystem of the lake–in particular, for the prized cutthroat trout, which is easily preyed upon and out-competed by the larger lake trout. Read more

Like many of the women I admire most, Joan Gussow has a bit of an edge to her.  One gets the impression that she doesn’t gladly suffer fools.  But as an avid gardener and longtime professor of nutrition at Columbia University’s Teachers College, she is also a world-class nurturer and a mentor to many, including Michael Pollan, whose quote on the back of Joan’s latest book, Growing, Older, reads:

Once in a while, I think I’ve had an original thought, then I look and read around and realize Joan said it first.

Joan is also a practice in dichotomy–though she bemoans new media for its “misinformation pollution” and is known best for her expertise in that old-timey tradition of subsistence farming (though on an extremely small scale), she is also an unrepentantly radical thinker and the first person I ever heard speak coherently about nanotechnology. Read more

This weekend (Friday, February 19 through Monday, February 21) the University of Oregon at Eugene is hosting a Food Justice conference, where Civil Eats’ editor Naomi Starkman and I will join Friends of Family Farmers’ Megan Fehrman on a panel on New Media and Food Activism, moderated by Michelle Branch. (Those who can make it to Eugene, you should – it promises to be a fantastic event, with keynotes from Vandana Shiva and Fred Kirschenmann, a staged reading of the play Salmon is Everything, a First Foods/Indigenous food politics panel and a FOOD: Art Exhibition.) Read more

Two weeks ago, my coworker Karen and I left the office a little early and walked across Manhattan to the Trader Joe’s store in Chelsea, where a small group had gathered making signs and chatting. Among them were members of the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a grassroots group working to improve wages and working conditions for farmworkers. Over the course of about 45 minutes, dozens more people filled the sidewalk in front of the store, including labor activists from the Jewish Labor Committee, Just Harvest USA and the Farmworker Solidarity Alliance, as well as local youths and a handful of musicians from the Rude Mechanical Orchestra.

Trader Joe’s, along with Publix, Kroger, and Dutch-held Ahold grocery chains (which include Giant, Stop & Shop, Martin’s and Peapod), are the most recent targets of CIW’s Fair Food Campaign. Over the last nine years the Coalition, together with partner organizations like the Student/Farmworker Alliance, has managed, through well-organized consumer campaigns and sometimes boycotts, to convince some of the food industry’s largest corporations (including Taco Bell/Yum Brands, McDonald’s, Subway, Whole Foods and Compass) to agree to the tenets of Fair Food: an extra penny a pound for tomatoes (nearly doubling the wages for pickers, who’ve not seen a raise since the mid-1970s), a labor Code of Conduct, greater transparency in the supply chain and incentives for growers that respect human rights. Read more