Stacey Slate is the former deputy managing editor of Civil Eats and community manager for the Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley, CA. She is currently helping to build edibleschoolyard.org, an online network to connect teachers, parents, and advocates of the edible education movement and to encourage them to share best practices and curriculum.
Farming without soil has taken root in fish tanks and window frames. But above 10th Street in Manhattan’s West Village, John Mooney is hydroponically farming produce on the roof of his soon-to-be restaurant, Bell, Book & Candle. He is the first chef in the U.S. to grow all of his produce on a rooftop farm.
Eighty diners a night sample whatever is in season—greens, garbanzo beans, summer squash, lettuces, tomatoes, broccoli rabe—for 10 months out of the year. On the roof, hydroponic towers circulate water to plants through a closed circuit. At its base, each tower has a nutrient-rich reservoir which pumps water upward. As water trickles down from a center passage, plant roots receive their nourishment. The towers use 12 minutes of energy an hour, running on three-minute cycles.
Mooney’s produce is free of typical soil disease and pest infestation. Since he has produced it all himself, it’s also incredibly affordable. Start-up costs can be steep for hydroponic systems, but with their promise of efficiency and high-yield, “roof-to-table” hydroponics may provide New Yorker’s with another way to maximize their valuable, cramped real estate.
Check out Nightline’s report on the chef and his garden.
Paul Greenberg would have had one less chapter to write in Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Foodhad fellow author Mark Kurlansky’s 2000 best-seller Cod caused a swift change in the way cod are harvested today. Although Kurlansky provided crucial information about the deleterious effects of industrial fishing, we left the responsibility of change to others. Greenberg is now attempting to revive the “bad human behavior of former times” to consciousness. His Pollan-esque investigation into our food chain—by way of salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna—is as much an exposé on the fishing industry as it is a comment on “Modern” man’s desire to rule a larger food chain than was intended for him.
Asked whether organic is marketing hype, the audience in attendance at the Intelligence Squared April 13th debate in New York City, voted against the claim, 69% to 21% in favor of it. The remaining 10% were undecided by the end of the evening. Read more
Until the New York City beekeeping ban was lifted on March 16th, city honeybees were categorized under Section 161.01 of the New York City Health Code as “venomous insects.” But these “wild animals,” as classified by code, are actually quite different from their wasp, yellow jacket, and hornet relatives. Domesticated for their passive nature, honeybees are vegetarians that eat the same honey coveted by humans. Now a sanctioned right, beekeeping on rooftops provides supplemental income to keepers, but even a small yield provides a hobbyist with enough incentive to foster a colony. Read more
TED is a non-profit devoted to broadcasting innovative ideas spoken by persuasive thinkers. Its website spreads information through “TED talks,” a video component that spans a wide range of topics. Here is a selection of TED videos focusing on issues from the political food world—child obesity, industrial meat production, school nutrition programs, ecologically safe fish farming, food access within an urban landscape, re-envisioned permaculture—presented by some of the top enthusiasts and specialists. Read more
An 18-year-old Dolly Freed describes the philosophy of “possum living” as follows: “It’s easier to learn to do without some of the things that money can buy than to earn the money to buy them.”For five years in the late 1970’s, this teenager and her father lived off the land outside of Philadelphia, managing a small budget, eating from their garden and choosing to actively disengage from the commercial world surrounding them. Her 1978 manifesto, Possum Living, reflecting the back-to-the-land movement of that time, is now reissued. Although she does not make an ideological case for a return to the land as others had proposed, her participation with homestead living nevertheless aligns herself with proponents of a sustainable movement. For this reason, Possum Living has new relevance and deserves a new audience. Read more
At a farmers market in Los Angeles, Chip Brantley bit into a plum-apricot hybrid, known as a “pluot,” and contrary to expectations found that it was not mealy or tasteless but remarkably sweet and juicy. As Brantley knows, lately consumers have been experiencing unmemorable plum-eating experiences. Why do the nicest looking plums often taste unremarkable?
In Brantley’s account, The Perfect Fruit, his fascination with the breeding and production of stone-fruits is told through a story about mad scientists and ambitious businessmen, leading him to the San Joaquin Valley to investigate the consumer and producer ends of the market. Read more
This Saturday, New York City will be the first participant in a series of international conversations surrounding food and the city. The event is organized by The Foodprint Project, a collaboration between Nicola Twilley and Sarah Rich, a founder of Civil Eats. Their objective is to use food as a lens to study local connections between food and geography, food and social behavior, and food and our future.
Taking their cue from the research of Kathe Newman, who theorized that a spatial analysis of cupcake proliferation could also reveal the flow of capital investment in cities, Twilley and Rich hope to navigate through and uncover New York City’s changing socio-economic patterns by inviting panelists and curious New Yorkers to engage in a discussion centered on the city’s foodscape. Read more
In 2007, a research vessel stationed off the coast of eastern Canada cast two fishing lines, each with 1,500 hooks, in order to estimate how many cod were left in this region’s waters. They caught only a few fish. Eleven years earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney had declared a moratorium on cod fishing with the goal of rebuilding the species’ population back to a secure, if not profitable, number. The Arctic cod population, like that of Western Atlantic bluefin tuna, Chesapeake Bay scalloped hammerhead shark, Atlantic salmon, North Sea haddock, Southern Atlantic snowy grouper, East Gulf of Mexico red snapper and American plaice, is reaching what director Rupert Murray foresees as “the end of the line.” His so-titled documentary examines the decline of our ocean’s diverse species while proposing immediate solutions. Read more
Last week in Trafalgar Square, British historian and freegan Tristram Stuart served lunch to 5,000 people. The meal was made from 6 tons of food that would otherwise have been thrown away by farmers, supermarkets and wholesalers because of failed cosmetic inspection, overproduction or expired sell-by dates. All of the food was perfectly edible. Although not strictly a hunger relief event, the meal was a practice in mindful eating and food redistribution. In Stuart’s view, we could be doing even more to cut waste on a global scale. His newest book, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, demands that we eat all the food we buy and become informed about larger inefficiencies in the food system. Read more