As the climate crisis heats up, agriculture is in the hot seat, not only as a contributor to climate change, but also as a potential solution. Eric Toensmeier has spent the last several years tracking both. A lecturer at Yale University, a senior fellow with Project Drawdown, and the author of several books on permaculture, Toensmeier is also the author of the newly-released book, The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security.
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What does San Francisco taste like? The Mission District’s light, floral, almost citrusy sweetness comes from the many blooms that flourish in the city’s balmy banana belt, while the Presidio’s rich caramel and coffee notes take after the native manzanitas and wild sages that trails down to the coast.
That’s just a sample of the neighborhood honeys you might taste at City Bees. “People are blown away that each honey is so unique,” says San Francisco beekeeper Robert MacKimmie. “They immediately equate it to wine tasting.” Read more
Three years ago, an explosion at a West, Texas fertilizer plant killed 15 people and injured another 260. In January, the Chemical Safety Board, the federal agency that investigates chemical disasters, released their final report. The conclusions are sobering: More than a thousand communities nationwide are home to similar fertilizer production facilities that store fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate—the agricultural chemical that caused the deadly explosion, and there are 80 facilities in Texas alone. Vanessa Allen Sutherland, the chairwoman of the agency, told reporters: “It’s possible for another type of incident like this to happen.” Read more
It takes serious sisu to grow food in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Sisu is a Finnish word—the peninsula has more people of Finnish descent than any place outside Finland—that translates roughly as fortitude or stoic persistence. It appears on bumper stickers and souvenirs around the U.P., as the region is known. A deep reserve of sisu is a requirement just to get through a U.P. winter, let alone to make a living by farming. Read more
In Lincoln Smith’s basement, shiny, solid Red Oak acorns dry in racks stacked up to the ceiling. A bucket of Sawtooth acorns—a failed storage attempt—sit next to his refrigerator, the contents chewed into beehive-esque patterns by weevils.
Storage is just one example of all there is to learn about acorns as a sustainable food source, Smith says.
“Some of the Eastern Native Americans would bury whole bags of acorns in the riverbank,” he says. “It’s kind of amazing that something that was buried in the riverbank for a year could be edible food.” Read more
It can seem like no one cooks anymore. Most grocery stores (and even some gas stations) have a wealth of pick-up options for hungry people at the end of a long day of work. Processed meals have made it into the organic aisle with brands like Amy’s and Annie’s. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that since 1970, the number of meals eaten away from home has risen from 25 to 43 percent of total food spending per household.
And if Michael Pollan’s new documentary series, Cooked, which begins streaming on Netflix today, is any further evidence, the spread of processed foods and Western diets is taking out cooking, one family at a time. Read more
While El Niño rains have brought some relief to drought-stricken California, Governor Jerry Brown appears to be concerned with the impact extreme weather could continue to have on agriculture in the state. His 2016 budget proposal includes almost $3.1 billion for programs that address climate change and the allotment for agricultural programs jumped from $15 million in 2015 to $100 million. Read more
Jahi Ellis is in survival mode. His island is the 91 acres of farmland he owns in Vidalia, Georgia, nearly 200 miles outside of Atlanta. His current shelter is a shed on his family’s land. His four-year land redemption agreement ends next fall and if he doesn’t come up with the near $60,000 he owes, he could lose it all. Organic farming—and the price premiums it brings—is one of his last strategies for saving his family’s 144-year-old vegetable farm. Read more
When the days turn cold and dark, farmers celebrate. After months of unrelenting labor, they’re finally able to sit down and relax, spend time with family, and connect and commiserate with their colleagues in this rapidly evolving industry.
Farming conferences dot the landscape throughout the winter months. One of the most popular, high-profile gatherings is the Young Farmers Conference, hosted by Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture as a key part of their Growing Farmers Initiative. The conference has sold out for many years running, the 250 attendees are selected through a lottery system, and it routinely attracts big names from the food world, such as Wendell Berry and Mark Bittman. Read more
At first glance the chapters in Simran Sethi’s new book, Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love, read like a list of foods we are often told to avoid: wine, chocolate, coffee, beer, and bread. But Sethi says she’s never bought into restrictive diet trends and instead argues convincingly about the deep importance of these humble foods—foods that human beings have been imbibing for millennia. Read more