Recent Articles About Faces & Visions

Ben Taylor: Roots and Rhythms

Ben Taylor, son of legends James Taylor and Carly Simon, has roots as deep in the soil as he does in music, and he uses the stage as a way to spread awareness about local agriculture. He is an avid supporter of the Island Grown Initiative, a multi-faceted project based in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts that sponsors its own farm-to-school program, organizes a cadre of volunteer gleaners to harvest crops that would otherwise go to waste, educates beekeepers, and provides processing facilities for local poultry farmers.

Having heard about the program from his cousin Noli Taylor, Island Grown Schools’ Program Coordinator, Ben noted that the organization “tickled his fancy” for promoting a strong sense of connectedness within the community to the place they call home. Civil Eats recently spoke to Ben about his involvement in good food issues.

As a musician, how did you become involved with issues regarding food and agriculture?

Before I wanted to be a musician, I was looking for anything else that I could do. I’d been on a lot of wilderness excursions and I loved being in nature. When I first moved out of my home as a teenager, I went to New Mexico and worked on an organic farm out on San Juan Pueblo and that was just really cool. The guy that I worked for was this incredible natural mystic and I developed a profound respect [for him] and a different idea of what it meant to be a gardener. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Albert Straus

Albert Straus is a dairy farmer and President of Straus Family Creamery located on the beautiful shores of Tomales Bay and the Point Reyes National Seashore, 60 miles north of San Francisco. He is an outspoken advocate for sustainable, non-GMO dairy production, farmland protection and environmental stewardship.

Albert’s family farm, which has been operating for more than 65 years, began when his father, Bill Straus, began farming there 1941 with just 23 cows. Ellen Straus, Albert’s mother, read the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in the early 1960s and began the family’s strong commitment to environmental sustainability.

In 1993, the farm became the first certified organic dairy west of the Mississippi River, making Albert an industry innovator and organic pioneer. The creamery, which he founded in 1994, is a leading producer of the highest quality organic milk, yogurt, butter, sour cream, and ice cream. In 2004, Albert introduced methane-digester technology to convert dairy waste into energy, which today not only powers the farm but also powers his car. The extensive sustainability program that Albert implemented at the dairy and creamery also includes a closed-loop water reuse system; production of milk in reusable glass bottles; and an employee carpool program.

What issues have you been focused on?

Primarily it’s the financial viability of our family farm. Specifically, the lack of availability of certified organic, verified non-GMO feeds for cows. There’s pressure on farmers to grow GMO crops for fuel and not for food. I’m also focused on helping consumers and farmers keep GMOs out of our food supply. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Y. Armando Nieto

Over 1,000 people have gathered in Oakland, California to attend the Community Food Security Coalition Conference today, an annual gathering that, as Nieto says, is “a real opportunity to organize and a call to action to take back our food system.” We are just steps from the tent city housing a lively group of Occupy-ers and the boarded Bank of America and Wells Fargo storefront windows along Broadway Street. In light of these converging movements and the urgency of communicating the needs of the 99 percent, it’s fitting to highlight and champion the work of Y. Armando Nieto, Executive Director of the California Food and Justice Coalition. A child of the 60s, he is a staunch supporter of rising up and speaking your mind. Nieto is also a veteran of the environmental movement and a seasoned executive and development professional who is applying his business acumen towards good food for all. Let him inspire you to rise up and take a stand for what matters most to you and your community. The time is now. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Ken Meter

Ken Meter is a very smart guy. He’s also incredibly friendly and, I hear, very fun to hang out with. He’s vocal about how the government needs to stop throwing cash at commodities and start investing in communities and as author of 70 regional farm and food economy studies, his job is to shed light on the realities of food systems change with the hardcore lens of economics. One of the most experienced and dedicated food system analysts in the United States, Ken’s work integrates market analysis, business development, systems thinking, and social concerns.

As president of Crossroads Resource Center, Ken has over 39 years of experience in inner-city and rural community capacity building and is passionate about engaging low-income people in creating solutions for themselves. His pioneering study of the farm and food economy of Southeast Minnesota, Finding Food in Farm Country, helped strengthen a collaborative of food producers and led to the creation of the Hiawatha Fund, a regional investment fund. His work serves as a national model for analyzing rural economics and has been adopted by 45 regions in 20 states across the U.S. and in one Canadian province.

What issues have you been focused on?

I focus on how local farm and food economies work and how to foster an effective movement to build stronger locales. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Deborah Kane

Deborah Kane is the Vice President of Food and Farms for Ecotrust, a Portland, Oregon-based conservation and economic development group that has their hands in a variety of powerful pots including a USDA-backed online service called FoodHub that helps connect farms of every size with schools, hospitals, caterers, restaurants, and distributors. Deborah is also the publisher of Edible Portland. She was invited to the White House a few weeks ago to brief President Obama on FoodHub, which she hopes will go national next year.

What issues have you been focused on?

I’m very focused on connecting producers to domestic markets. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Fred Stokes

Thomas F. “Fred” Stokes was born and raised on a small diversified family farm in Kemper County, Mississippi. At the age of 17 he enlisted in the Army and later completed Infantry Officers Candidate School and received a commission. His 20 years of military service included two tours in Vietnam. He retired in 1972 as a Major. He returned to Mississippi and has been involved in the cattle business and active in agricultural and rural life issues ever since. Fred is deeply concerned about the disappearance of the family farm and ranch and the decay in rural America and is widely known as an outspoken critic of U. S. farm and trade policy. He was instrumental in founding Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) and Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA). He currently serves as the Executive Director of OCM and on the board of CPA. He and his wife of 50 plus years live on their small cattle farm in East Central Mississippi.

What issues have you been focused on?

Our issue is making the marketplace a fair game as it affects farmers and ranchers in rural America. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Sue Ujcic

Sue Ujcic is an innovative farmer and a champion of what’s possible when communities work together. She is as adept in connecting people to good food, good health, and good times as she is harvesting potatoes.

As co-owner of Helsing Junction Farm in Rochester, Washington, just outside of Olympia, Sue and her business partner, Anna Salafsky, have worked since 1992 with almost the same crew of 12 people to farm and grow 30 acres of organic vegetables, fruit, and flowers to serve their 800-member CSA program, one of the most established in the country. Much of their produce throughout the growing season is also donated to the local food bank where they deliver weekly CSA shares directly to recipients, a program funded by donations from their members, which they match.

What issues have you been focused on?

Linking low-income people with fresh organic produce. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Helene York

Helene York is both an educator and coach for Bon Appétit Management Company, the socially responsible food service company that operates more than 400 on-site cafés for universities, corporate employers, and museums in 31 states. She is also the director of the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation, whose mission is to educate chefs and consumers about how their food choices affect the global environment and to catalyze changes in the supply chain. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Siena Chrisman

Siena Chrisman is the Manager of Strategic Partnerships & Alliances at WhyHunger in New York City. She joined WhyHunger in 2005; in her current capacity, she works with organizations and advocates around the country to build the movement for a healthier and more just food system. She is the editor of Green Roofs: Ecological Design and Construction (Schiffer Publishing, 2004), and holds a BA from Mount Holyoke College. Originally from Amherst, MA, Siena lived in Italy prior to moving to New York, teaching English, doing odd jobs, and learning what a culture looks like when it values food. She now lives in Brooklyn, where she cooks, bakes, composts, and is anxiously awaiting warmer temperatures so she can start planting in her community garden plot.

What issues have you been focused on?

In my work at WhyHunger, I’m fortunate to focus at both macro and micro levels, working with national level organizations and local grassroots groups around the country. Read more