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
The Umatilla tribes in northeastern Oregon promised to take care of the foods that promised to take care of them: water, fish, game, roots, and berries. Can they keep that promise in a warming world? Read more
Maritime museums are nostalgic places full of black and white photographs of old sails and rugged seafarers. Ornate boats hint at centuries of technological progress and suggest that craftsmanship has suffered as a result. But the old became new again recently at the Hudson Maritime Museum in New York, when a sailboat arrived to sell agricultural goods from upriver. Visitors caught a glimpse of a river-based local food economy—a vestige of the past and a harbinger of an alternative future. Read more
With their rainbow colors and odd shapes and sizes, the appeal of heirloom tomatoes is undeniable. But more than just a pretty face, these darlings of the summer farmers market also represent diversity and freedom in our food supply.
“People ask me, ‘Is this heirloom or hybrid?’” says farmer Bill Crepps of the Winters, California farm Everything Under the Sun. “You can tell that there’s something they don’t like about the word ‘hybrid.’” Read more
Anna Larsen makes a lot of calls to fishermen and keeps a closer eye on the weather than most of us. If it rains unexpectedly or the wind picks up or if the fisherman she works with aren’t able to land the salmon, halibut, or whatever she’s offering the members of Siren SeaSA, her community-supported fishery (CSF), Larsen has to think fast. She keeps abreast of what’s being caught and makes sure that whatever does come in to Northern California’s Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg–be it rock cod, Dungeness crabs, or sand dabs–makes it to her shareholders within 24 hours. Read more
Most of the people working at Spacesaver, a shelving company based in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, hadn’t heard of community supported agriculture (CSA). That was until Anna Calloway, the company’s human resources partner, found a CSA subscription service from nearby High Meadow Farm that would allow them to get fresh local produce delivered to the office every week. Read more
If farmers are known for their independent streak, four women in Yolo County, California are challenging the assumption that going at it alone is always better. Starting this summer they will join forces to offer customers premium pastured meats through the new Capay Valley Meat Co-op.
The women, who all farm about a mile from one another with their husbands, will use the co-op to buy supplies in bulk and carpool their animals to the slaughterhouse. Alexis Robertson from Skyelark Ranch, Rachel de Rosa from Casa Rosa Farm, Lisa Leonard from Windancer Ranch and Katy Vigil from Creekside Ranch will take turns selling at markets so that they can spend more time on their farms with their families. It’s a model that if successful could have major benefits for other small-scale livestock growers. Read more
Stefan Senders of Wide Awake Bakery, just outside of Ithaca, New York, is reacquainting people with local flours. The bakery uses locally grown and ground flour in its breads, and Stefan helps professional and home bakers learn to use these unusual ingredients.
“You have to be reading your dough all the time,” Senders says to students. “This is a romantic question: What does the dough want?” Read more
Marcy Coburn might just have landed her dream job. After two years at the helm of Oakland, California’s Food Craft Institute (FCI), and a year running its affiliated sustainable food event, the Eat Real Festival, Coburn will begin next month as the executive director of Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), the educational nonprofit organization that runs San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.
Every spring, vegetable seedlings sprout like so many weeds at retailer storefronts across the country. They crowd the entrance of nearly every grocery store, supercenter, and home improvement retailer, the basil smelling of sweet licorice, and the tomatoes of a tobacco-leaf pungency.
And while it’s likely a tomato start from your nearby Home Depot will produce tomatoes that taste the same as those from an organic, local tomato seedling, the growing processes behind the two, and sometimes the health of the seedlings they produce, can be quite different. Read more