At a time when our nation’s family dairy farmers are in jeopardy of losing their farms and the independent dairy industry is in a state of volatility due to the price of milk paid to farmers, higher feed costs, corporate consolidation in the supply chain–and what many believe is a flawed pricing strategy–it was a huge loss when on August 7, 2012, Bryan Wolfe, a dairy farmer and activist, was tragically killed working his haybine on his farm in Rome Township, Ohio. He was 55.
According to Arden Tewksbury, Manager of the Progressive Agriculture Organization (Pro-Ag), Bryan was a well-known and respected dairy farmer activist who continually worked to obtain a fair price for all dairy farmers. He felt very strongly that a cost of production formula should be developed (like S-1640; the Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act) to ensure all dairy farmers would have a fair chance to survive this RAT RACE that many dairy farmers are experiencing. Read More
It was an overcast but hot and humid Sunday July afternoon when 50 volunteers arrived to clear a sizable lot of land at Phoenix Press in New Haven, Connecticut, underneath their wind turbine, that is soon to become New Haven Farms’ fifth farm site.
As a founding member of New Haven Farms, it is exciting to see our urban farm sites sprout up around the edges of Fair Haven, an historic area of New Haven and one that has been home to immigrant populations for over 100 years. The mission of New Haven Farms is to promote health and community development through urban agriculture and our goal is to establish and cultivate year-round urban farms that produce nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits, in collaboration with community members who are both within 200 percent of the federal poverty level and suffering from diabetes, pre-diabetes, or have at least two risk factors for diabetes. The organization is now partnering with the Fair Haven Community Health Center (FHCHC) to rigorously build farms in the lowest income neighborhoods of New Haven, and investigate the impact of increased exposure and consumption of fresh, local nutrient-dense foods on this underserved community’s health. Its CSA program began the first week of July–called the New Haven Farms Fresh Produce Prescription Program.
Looking at the barren, rocky site at Phoenix Press gave me a rush. It may look desolate now but I can visualize a farm here, and I can imagine all the green and luscious, nutritious produce that will rise forth out of this lot within a year’s time [with the help of a lot of compost!] So when the afternoon was over and the volunteers got back on their bus, I returned home and immediately opened Sarah Rich’s beautiful book, Urban Farms and allowed myself to be inspired and imagine what this new farm site can become. This book chronicles the urban agriculture movement through gorgeous photography and thoughtful essays that would inspire any good urbanite to pick up a shovel and find a nearby community garden. Read More
Rarely does the mainstream media bother to connect the dots when it comes to our broken food safety system. Consider these two recent headlines:
• Foodborne Outbreaks Falling Short of U.S. Reduction Goals
• USDA to purchase $170 million worth of meat to help farmers struggling with drought
The latter story celebrating government action to “help farmers”—prompted by this U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) press release—was trumpeted by major media outlets across the nation without any questions raised. Of course American farmers need help during times of drought and that effort is well worth supporting, but is the indiscriminate buying up of meat really the best and only idea the feds can come up with? Read More
Last time we checked in with Civil Eats, we had just finished up an epic road trip around the U.S., documenting good food stories across the country. At the time, we didn’t think our job could get much better. Well…it has. Starting in September, my partner Mirra and I will be traveling around the world, telling similar stories, only with an international perspective. Read More
When I buy a cookbook, I am always drawn to the pictures. When I read a non-fiction book, I want a good story. American Grown, by First Lady Michelle Obama, is both–it’s an interesting hybrid of a gardening, cooking and history book, chronicling the story of the White House Garden, the importance of growing and eating fresh food. Read More
Perhaps the Fall came not in the shape of an apple, but in the form of a seed. The Fruit of Knowledge was actually a grain. When we started to cultivate the land for wheat, corn and rice, we severed our original connection to nature, and from that first act of taking ownership of the soil other ecological evils eventually sprouted. The serpent’s temptation arrived as a plow, a digging stick.
This reconfiguration of the end of Eden parable comes courtesy of Wes Jackson, founder of the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. Jackson has dedicated his life to solving what he calls “the 10,000-year-old problem of agriculture.” As readers of this website know, tilling the soil year after year comes with serious risks—release of CO2 into the atmosphere, erosion, declining fertility and, eventually, poor crop yields. Jackson has sought to address the conundrum of agriculture (today’s harvests threaten tomorrow’s) by developing perennial grains. Other researchers, including those committed to industrial agriculture, have focused on low-till and no-till methods that require little soil disturbance while still relying on annual crops. Either way, the goal is the same: To feed ourselves without cutting into the epidermis of the earth.
I was well versed in these questions of soil conservation by the time I read Masanobu Fukuoka’s classic, The One Straw Revolution, and the book hit me with the force of revelation. Read More
As our ailing agricultural landscape continues to face pressure from man and nature alike, the learning curve to figure out how to take care of the country’s farmland is steep. For the youngest generation of farmers, many of whom are stepping foot in the field for the first time, the risks of the agriculture industry, from drought to debt, can easily spell failure for their emerging operations.
Georgia Organics, a non-profit with over 1,200 community members dedicated to promoting sustainable agricultural practices in the state, offers a wide array of services to support the often-tumultuous transition to farm life. The organization’s farmer-to-farmer mentoring program provides new and emerging farmers with the opportunity to learn how to tackle uncertainty and challenges from the people who understand the business best–other farmers. By providing a resource that allows information to flow from one generation of farmers to the next, Georgia Organics helps newer farmers grow while letting older farmers give back. Read More
The food industry really hates it when you compare them to Big Tobacco. They try to deny the negative association by claiming that food is different than tobacco. Of course that’s true, but why are the same consultants that have worked for the tobacco industry now shilling for Big Food, opposing the ballot initiative that would require labeling of all foods containing GMO ingredients? Read More
Labor is embedded in every aspect of the food system, from those working in the fields, to restaurant workers, even to those baking their own bread at home. So why is labor so often left out of the discussion on local, sustainable food systems? Many organizations are now trying to change this paradigm, from new ways to organize and protest current practices to food businesses which take into account the quality of life of their employees.
These new approaches to achieve social justice in the food system and how they are a reflection of the changing dynamic of work in society will be the focus of the next Kitchen Table Talks event in San Francisco. Specifically we’ll look at national organizing around farm and restaurant labor and local efforts to create a good food economy. And we will ask the question, “Why do we all have to work, anyway?”
Panelists will include Chris Carlsson, historian and author of Nowtopia; Mariela Cedeño, Senior Manager, Social Enterprise & Communications at Mandela Marketplace; and Kay Cuajunco of the Student/Farmworker Alliance. Read More
With nearly 100 percent certainty I can assure you we won’t be hearing President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, or their respective surrogates, talking about America’s food waste dilemma (or what I and others would describe as a crisis) in the months ahead. That’s too bad since food waste is creating significant social, economic and environmental consequences for the US (and the world).
This growing crisis and the fact that discarded food provides a unique lens through which to view the water/energy/agriculture nexus (a topic of great interest to us here at GRACE and Ecocentric), prompted me to take a closer look at the food that goes uneaten and how it impacts Americans. While researching this trending topic, I learned some interesting facts I thought I’d share. Read More