When Leah Penniman posted on Facebook about an upcoming one-week Black and Latino immersion program on her upstate New York farm, it filled up in 24 hours. The program at Soul Fire Farm is designed for young people of color, “to ease them back into relationship with the land,” says Penniman.
This farmer/educator’s life is rooted in a commitment to fighting racism and dismantling what she calls “oppressive structures that misguide our food system.” Penniman wants everyone—regardless of class, color or creed—to have access to fresh, healthful food and an understanding of how to grow their own. Read more
Oysters are big business. That might not be immediately apparent on a visit to Hog Island Oyster Company in Northern California’s bucolic Tomales Bay, where the place still has a seafood shack sensibility. The farm was started more than 30 years ago by two marine biologists who borrowed $500 from parents and a boat from neighbors and began cultivating briny bivalves in five-acres of intertidal waters.
As a small seafood business and sustainable farm, Hog Island has weathered its share of hardships, including significant oyster seed shortages and the threat of species extinction, courtesy of environmental challenges.
It has stayed afloat, though. In fact, three decades on, Hog Island has quite the cult following around the country and it has earned respect as a leader in the shellfish industry. These days, founders John Finger and Terry Sawyer preside over a $12 million operation that employs almost 200, farms 160 acres, and harvests over 3.5 million oysters, clams, and mussels every year. Read more
Berkeley’s Urban Adamah*, a city farm with a faith-based focus, is putting down permanent roots. This Jewish-led, organic operation began on a 1.2-acre vacant lot thanks to a temporary, rent-free lease, as we reported shortly after it opened to the public back in the summer of 2011. Read more
The DIY renaissance began with home cooks preserving and pickling. Fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut quickly followed. Naturally, bottled home brews found a fast following too. Emma Christensen caught the DIY bug when friends gave her and her husband a gift certificate to a local home brewing store as a wedding gift. That kicked off Christensen’s passion for brewing beer at home. And in her first book, True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home, the recipe editor for the popular cooking website The Kitchn shares her ongoing obsession with crafting all kinds of fermented beverages. Read more
Berkeley’s beloved school gardening and cooking program, where public school children plant peas, cook kale, and chase chickens–all while discovering connections to nature, science, language, math, health, nutrition and other life lessons–is in dire straits due to pending federal funding cuts. Read more
Terry Sawyer is on a mission to rescue oysters from newly hostile seas. Sawyer has been farming these briny bivalves for almost 30 years in Tomales Bay, north of San Francisco, at Hog Island Oyster Company. The business he co-owns sells $9 million worth of Sweetwaters, Kumamotos, and Atlantic oysters a year at the company’s two local oyster bars, at nearby farmers markets, and direct from the farm to hungry consumers who can’t seem to get enough of this sustainable shellfish. But Sawyer’s seafood business is threatened by ocean acidification (aka climate change’s evil twin) and he and other oyster growers are working overtime to find creative ways to save these sea creatures—and their own livelihoods. Read more
Sam Kalalau, a Native Hawaiian who lives in the isolated, rural town of Hana on Maui’s eastern edge, has a dream for his people, many of whom suffer from chronic conditions with dietary links such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Hana is known mostly for its lushness, postcard-perfect beaches, and spectacular oceans views, and less so for its fertile fields. But this produce whisperer helps run Hana Fresh Farm, a seven-acre, certified organic farm situated on a gentle slope and filled with tropical fruit trees, heirloom greens, and fragrant herbs. The 60-year-old also seeks to educate locals and visitors alike about the health benefits of homegrown foods like avocado and papaya over the canned and processed goods transported from the mainland. Read more
The meeting was held in San Francisco earlier this week at the offices of SPUR, a nonprofit created to promote good planning and good government. The focus of the discussion: an ambitious plan to overhaul Oakland Unified School District‘s inadequate and antiquated school food service. But the driving force behind what could be a model program for re-imagining school lunch in large school districts around the nation is a Berkeley-based nonprofit that has quietly been rethinking school lunch for many years.
No, not that nonprofit. The Center for Ecoliteracy recently released a detailed feasibility study that, if implemented, would amount to a massive makeover for the OUSD school food program. It includes recommendations for a newly outfitted, green central commissary with a 1.5-acre edible farm in West Oakland, refurbished existing kitchens, and the development of 14 school-based community kitchens dotted throughout the school district, which serves 38,000 students at 101 schools, 70 percent of whom are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The community kitchens are envisaged as places where budding edible entrepreneurs and local organizations with a food focus could work, for a fee, during after-school hours. Read more
Andrea Northup grew up with cows in her backyard. But it wasn’t until she visited France, and caught a glimpse of how a whole country can revolve around a robust food culture, that she found her calling.
Northup went on to launch the D.C. Farm to School Network, a nonprofit dedicated to providing healthier school food in 200 public schools and 90 charter schools in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2008. Since then, she’s been on a mission to transform school lunch menus one piece of fresh, locally grown produce at a time. And Northup has her hands full: The first orange food most D.C. kids can think of isn’t carrots, she says, it’s Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Her greatest accomplishment to date: playing a principal role in the passage and implementation of the landmark Healthy Schools Act of 2010, which makes D.C. one of the first jurisdictions in the country to provide financial incentives to schools that serve local food and offer nutrition education in the classroom.
Northup, 25, was recently honored with a Natural Resources Defense Council Growing Green Award in the Young Food Leader category. Read more
HBO has a history of tackling serious American health-care crises. In recent years, the cable network has taken on addiction and Alzheimer’s to much critical acclaim. And now the network has turned its attention to another huge health problem: Obesity and its enormous economic, emotional, social, and health cost on individuals, families, communities, and the country at large.
As Americans have gained weight in recent years, rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other obesity-related health problems have also skyrocketed. Rates of Type 2 diabetes (once known as “adult-onset diabetes”) are soaring among kids. And this is a generation of people that may well die at a younger age than their parents, largely because of medical concerns associated with excess weight.
These facts have become commonplace to those of us who have been paying attention. Still, The Weight of the Nation: Confronting America’s Obesity Epidemic serves as a clarion call to the country to take action — and fast — to combat this pernicious, complex problem that has myriad root causes. Read more