Ten students frolic along a path, passing flowering cilantro and Swiss chard leaves the size of elephant ears. One pauses to point out a ladybug, which leads to an impromptu lesson from gardener Suzanne Stone about aphids. Another student marvels at periwinkle-blue borage blooms, an opportunity to teach companion planting and culinary herbs.
At Nopalito, if the local corn runs out, you might as well shut the doors. It’s typical for the restaurant’s two San Francisco locations to go through 200 pounds of California-grown organic masa in a single day. The grain is at the menu’s core, used in everything from tamales, to tortillas, to house-made chips.
The founders of First Generation Farmers in Brentwood, California have spent the morning squatting and stooping uncomfortably as they hand-harvest row after row of asparagus. “This is the hardest work we’ve ever done in our lives,” says Larry Gaines, hauling a bin of asparagus to his car. His business partner, Christian Olesen, announces that he feels like puking from the effort.
Ricardo Sangüesa, a small avocado farmer, is staring out over a dry, cracked landscape. But he’s not in California; he’s in the Ligua Valley, in central Chile. Stray dogs wander through the empty Ligua riverbed, which is littered with trash. The only green he can see are the avocado trees, which grow in green squares that form a peculiar patchwork along the sides of the valley. According to Sangüesa, the river has been drained to feed the trees.
For years Dan O’Brien raised cattle on his ranch in the Black Hills of South Dakota. After enduring beef’s punishing boom and bust cycle and experiencing first-hand the environmental toll that cattle took on his land, O’Brien made a dramatic change. He started raising North American Bison*, the great icon of the Great Prairie, instead.
It’s been a busy week in food news; catch up with us here.
This week, the American Beverage Association announced that major soft drink companies were pledging to reduce beverage calories consumed per person nationally by 20 percent by 2025. This might sound like a big deal, but if you read the fine print, you’ll see that the companies are not planning to sell fewer products. Rather, they’re “expand[ing] the presence of low- and no-calorie drinks, as well as drinks sold in smaller portions.” And as author and New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle points out: soda sales are already on the decline. If the industry is serious about helping Americans drink fewer sugary beverages, it would drop its $2 million opposition to soda taxes in San Francisco and Berkeley.
Amidst heated discussions of global policy change, greenhouse gases, and emissions caps, food and farming–and the impact they are having on our changing climate—were also in the spotlight. After all, agriculture is one of largest contributors of human-caused emissions.
When Mark Abbott’s son was in fourth grade, his local elementary school recruited students and their families to participate in a fundraiser for the school. After successfully selling cookie dough and candy to friends and family, Abbott’s son remarked that he had just sold $400 worth of things the family would never eat at home. “It’s too bad we couldn’t try something healthy like apples,” said his son.
Lunch time at Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo., displays all the usual trappings of a public school cafeteria: Star Wars lunch boxes, light up tennis shoes, hard plastic trays and chocolate milk cartons with little cartoon cows. It’s pizza day, the most popular of the week, and kids line up at a salad bar before receiving their slice.
Every fall, Paul Dinberg builds a kind of thatch-roofed hut on his 10-acre farm in Ridgefield, Washington. This “sukkah,” a ceremonial structure Jews are commanded to construct and (for the very observant) live in for the holiday of Sukkot, commemorates the Israelites’ 40 years of desert-wandering. But sukkahs also have agricultural roots, possibly harking back to temporary structures ancient Jewish farmers would live in during harvest time. For a modern-day Jewish farmer like Dinberg, that gives Sukkot—which begins at sundown October 8 this year—special meaning. “We observe all the different festivals, but as a family, Sukkot is our favorite,” he says. “What gives me satisfaction is the connection to the agricultural cycle.”