The notion that politics only takes place in the voting booth or halls of state basically evaporated in the 1960s. We now know that political acts occur in a range of settings: in our neighborhoods, bedrooms, kitchens, and, yes, even in our gardens.
The use of gardens as a means of social engagement and a forum in which to articulate oppositional ideas is the subject of George McKay’s Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism, and Rebellion in the Garden. In the work, he chronicles the history of politicized gardens and documents some of the various ways that activists have utilized them to express their views. Read more
Imagine our cities filled with fruit trees and I don’t mean fruit trees planted by the side of the road dropping fruit on your car once they’re overripe. I mean fruit trees planted in civic spaces—schools, hospitals, parks, businesses, houses of worship, and more.
Imagine communities coming together to care for their trees, to harvest and share their fruit. These trees become a tool of environmental restoration, helping to restore the health of our soil, improve air quality, and absorb rainwater runoff. From them we learn, participate, and connect to the social and natural world around us. This is the vision of the Boston Tree Party. Read more
There’s a scene in Terry Gilliam’s 1991 movie “The Fisher King” in which a man plucks the discarded wire cage from a champagne bottle off a pile of garbage bags as he walks down a New York City street with a woman he is trying to impress. He fiddles with the wire in his hands as they walk, eventually holding up what looks like a delicate and beautiful little metal chair, fit for a dollhouse. “You can find some pretty amazing things in the trash,” he says to her. She is smitten.
That transformation of a piece of trash into a thing of beauty transfixed me then, and still does. When I traveled to Cuba a few weeks ago, on a food sovereignty study trip with Food First, I had the opportunity to be transfixed again and again. Read more
We here at Civil Eats know you want to be sustainable and stylish. We want you to continue reading our site while helping us support our indefatigable editors and writers, all of whom help contribute to the national conversation about food policy completely as a labor of love.
With the incredible generosity of cool companies like Nau, an eco-conscious clothing company based in Portland, Oregon, we are able to make the site more financially sustainable through donations. For the next few months (or until it sells out) you can snap up this fabulous breathable, wind-resistant and water-repellent eco-dress jacket, modeled by a Civil Eats fan Allison Arieff, former Editor-in-Chief of Dwell magazine, a regular New York Times opinion columnist, and food advocate.
She is featured in Nau’s “Portraits” series wearing the Chrysalis dress from their spring collection–and five percent of every sale will be donated to Civil Eats. In addition, Nau has extended to Civil Eats readers a 10 percent discount on all other clothing on their site just by using the “CIVILEATS” promotional code at the point of purchase. Read more
This week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed one of the most progressive pieces of legislation for urban agriculture in the nation. The new legislation has amended the zoning code to allow agricultural activities in all parts of the city, as well as defining the parameters by which urban agriculturists can sell their products. It doesn’t address the touchier subjects of animal husbandry or marijuana cultivation, but has created opportunities for and the legitimacy of urban fruit and vegetable cultivation.
The legislation was the result of a rare combined and cooperative effort between city officials and urban agriculture practitioners and advocates. This was accomplished mainly through the work of the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance (SFUAA), an organization of which I am a member, which formed nearly a year ago to coalesce the various efforts and projects focusing on local food and agriculture into a cohesive political voice. The coalition is made up of over 300 individual and 40 organizational members, and its formation turned out to be very well timed. Read more
On February 17, 2011, the San Francisco Planning Commission passed a resolution approving a new urban agriculture planning code that would allow a range of urban gardens and farms to be located throughout the city. The new code creates an agricultural use category with two sub-uses (Neighborhood Agriculture and Urban Industrial Agriculture) that represent different scales and intensity of food production. Read more
Walmart made big news yesterday with a press conference alongside the First Lady to announce new company commitments. Most of the mainstream media coverage of the Walmart announcement seemed to buy the company PR that it was taking valiant steps to improve the affordability and health qualities of the food it sells. Among these commitments, Walmart said it will be working with food suppliers to reduce sodium, sugars, and trans fat in certain products by 2015; developing its own seal to help consumers identify healthier products; and addressing hunger by opening Walmart stores in the nation’s “food deserts.”
Do these Walmart promises really hold big upsides for health and food insecurity? The Times seemed to think so, running with this headline: “Wal-Mart Shifts Strategy to Promote Healthy Foods.” (Am I crazy or does that read remarkably like the Walmart press release: “Walmart Launches Major Initiative to Make Food Healthier and Healthier Food More Affordable”?) Had the Times been aiming for accuracy it might better have titled the article: “Walmart Launches PR Campaign Promoting Promises to Win the Hearts and Minds of Urban Consumers.” Read more
More than any other book I’ve read in recent years, Shannon Hayes’ Radical Homemakers has forced me to examine my life choices and question my assumptions about career and consumer culture. In an era of unprecedented economic turmoil, climate change, and damaged ecology, most of us feel a sense of urgency about the need to effect fundamental and radical change in our lives. Hayes believes that this process begins in the most local place of all: the home. And she’s provided case studies of individuals–the radical homemakers in the title–who are making the kinds of changes we all need to make, describing the processes they are going through, and profiling their work to reclaim the art of domesticity while living in the midst of a consumer culture. Read more
Last week, Wal-Mart–the largest grocer in the world with over 8,600 stores in 15 countries, two million employees and sales of $405 billion–made news when it launched sustainable agriculture goals for the U.S. and emerging markets focused on regional food systems. The move is part of decade-long trend of food businesses–from producers to purveyors–adapting, or at least claiming to adapt, to the consumer demand for sustainable food.
Wal-Mart’s decision–the details of which I will get to in a moment–comes on the heels of the success of chains like Whole Foods, which also touts local foods. But unlike Whole Foods, which is considered “niche”, Wal-Mart is mainstream. Some say that this announcement is going to shake the ground under agri-business, which has vehemently fought against anyone suggesting changes to the food system for years now. But agri-business companies are not going to take this shift in consumer demand lying down.
In fact, agri-business elites have been trying either covertly or otherwise to convince the consumer that sustainable food advocates have misled them into thinking the current food system is unsafe, unjust, and unhealthy. And the evidence shows that more of the same is coming down the pipeline. Read more
I spend a great deal of my time on extremely small-scale food production. Growing, procuring, cooking, eating, and writing about locally produced food is my bread and butter. Thus picking up a copy of Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations was in some ways a departure for me. Authors Evan D.G. Fraser and Andrew Rimas are examining a world that looks to me much the same as the Grand Canyon must look to a mouse. Read more