At a number of farmers markets in California, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) signs are a familiar sight, assuring shoppers that the farm’s practices meet national organic standards. This year, CCOF celebrates its 40th anniversary, having grown from a small grassroots coalition of farmers to the largest organic certifier in the United States.
“A small group of people who are committed to making things better can do an amazing amount,” says Grant Brians of Heirloom Organic Gardens, who currently sits on CCOF’s board and is the only original CCOF member remaining. Other founding members include Jerry Thomas, who started Thomas Farm in 1971, and Warren Weber (pictured above on a horse-drawn plow) of Star Route Farms, the oldest continuously certified organic grower in California.
Organic standards have come a long way since the 1970s, thanks to the efforts of such pioneering farmers. Read more
1.5 years ago, FoodCorps started small, knowing that the best way to be sustainable was to build something that could grow, smartly, over time. Here is some news about our recent growth and new opportunities. Read more
It’s hard to believe, but this year marks the third annual Good Food Awards, in which American food producers are celebrated and recognized for their work towards responsibly crafted and delicious edibles. The 2013 finalists in nine categories: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections (new addition!), pickles, preserves and spirits were announced at the end of November, and will gather at a gala awards ceremony coming up at the Ferry Building in San Francisco on January 18th. The following day, all of the winners will present their goods at a bustling Marketplace, an exclusive chance for the public to access this bevy of products in one place. Read more
“This feels like Christmas!” says the woman at the front of the line as she tucks eggs, milk, large orange carrots, and a loaf of whole wheat bread into her sweatshirt. It’s Friday in Turlock, California, grocery day for those who are served by the United Samaritan Foundation’s fleet of Daily Bread Mobile Food Trucks. Anyone can get lunch Monday-Friday at the fleet of four’s 42 stops in nine different nearby towns, and grocery bag Fridays help families make it through the weekend. If you’re low on the funds, transportation can be hard to pay for and difficult to maneuver. If you’re hungry, making it into town for a meal at your standard soup kitchen can become an all-day affair. Food trucks meet the hungry on their turf. Read more
Living in Washington, DC, I enjoyed dropping by the Dupont Circle Farmers’ Market every Sunday. The market has a robust feel to it—a sense of fullness, bounty, and dynamism.
The producers proudly display their wares under banners describing their nearby locations and sustainable practices. The shoppers browse eagerly, asking questions and loading up their bags with fresh, local food. Read more
The melons ripened just in time for our annual powwow on the Ioway Reservation near White Cloud, Kansas. The summer’s near-record heat and drought that engulfed much of the region was slightly less intense on our lands near the Missouri River, which allowed us to get a relatively good crop of blue hubbard squash, white corn, red amaranth, and yellow watermelon without a drop of irrigation. Read more
Before Whole Foods, Martha Stewart and Anthropologie got wind of Anarchy In a Jar, Laena McCarthy’s jam, jelly and preserves company was simply a way to put her passion into practice. She grew up watching her mom can food, and then in college, made the connection between those early impressions of DIY sustainability with a new curiosity for food politics.
A botched batch of strawberry jam eventually led to launching her own company in 2009, amidst what McCarthy describes in her new cookbook, Jam On, as “a food-production renaissance blossoming in Brooklyn.” Perhaps it was luck, as she says, or perhaps her key to success is her innovative ingredient combinations, sourcing directly from small farms, or choosing to recreate recipes with less sugar than usual. What began as a revolutionary idea against the norm, to share with the public pure, concentrated, clean flavors, is today flourishing from coast to coast. Although somewhat ironic, from “anarchy” to popularity, the wide approval is a heartening sign that the consumer is primed for knowing more about where their food comes from. And in this case, that food happens to be quite delicious. Read more
GMOs, trans-fats, and buying local. Food retail in underserved communities, farmland protection, and kicking soda out of public schools. That’s just a partial list of the cutting edge food and agriculture issues seizing the attention of lawmakers and advocates across the country. While hot policy topics like these are heating up everywhere, the places where they are currently burning the brightest are in the nation’s state capitols.
Though the federal government passes mega-legislation like the farm and child nutrition bills once every five years, the spirit of local innovation and the relative flexibility of state governments – to say nothing of the incessant tug of war between Washington and the states – means there’s always something daring being cooked up in state policy kitchens. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks state food and farm legislation, 41 states enacted 77 laws during the 2009 and 2010 sessions related to school nutrition, food access, and direct marketing. If one were to add in a host of legislation related to food security, food safety, and farmland protection, the numbers would be far into the hundreds every year. 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
Warren Taylor is a 60-year-old, Ohio-born entrepreneur who used to work at Safeway’s Dairy Division Headquarters when the grocer was the world’s largest milk bottling company. In 2007, he and his wife Victoria decided to mortgage family-owned rural land to start a business to process and distribute products sourced from cows that graze the southeastern Ohio countryside. The plan was to capitalize on consumer demand for products raised through environmentally sustainable agricultural methods and bring jobs to one of Ohio’s poorest counties.
Five years later, Snowville Creamery has more than 30 employees and a million-dollar payroll. Its 2012 projection is for $5 million in sales to regional grocery stores and an ice cream company. In recent months, Snowville began turning a profit. In recent days, five more employees were hired.
Today, Warren Taylor plans to drive to the state capital. The U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan is scheduled to keynote a Columbus forum entitled, “Ohio Grown: Local Food Creating Local Opportunities.” Taylor intends to advocate for the idea that dairy processors like Snowville can be the foundation for community-based agricultural economies nationwide. Read more