Iconic Oyster Farm Fights Climate Change as Demand Soars

Hog Island Oyster Leases. Photo Courtesy Hog Island Oyster Co

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 Mother Orchard Project: A Gold Rush of Heirloom Fruit

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In the summer of 1970, a group of friends followed an old stagecoach road into the woods of California’s Gold Country. They were hunting for mining relics and pioneer oddities hidden in the forest, but what they found was even more rare: antique fruit trees.

There, perched 5,000 feet in the Sierras, was a thriving fruit orchard, branches heavy with rare varieties of apples, plums, cherries, and pears. Without pruning or pesticides, the trees had been alive since the Gold Rush—a far cry from the commercial fruit trees of today, which last fewer than 35 years. Read More

This Breeder is Working on ‘Organic Ready’ Corn That Blocks GMO Contamination

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For nearly 15 years, Frank Kutka has been working to save prevent genetically modified (GMO) corn from cross-pollinating with organic and other corn varieties. Kutka, a plant breeder, has been developing what he calls “Organic Ready” corn varieties that have the ability to prevent cross-pollination.

“We need corn that organic farmers can grow without fear of GMO contamination,” says Kutka, who is in the fourth year of a five-year breeding project funded by the Organic Farming Research Foundation. Read More

Low-Fat vs. Low-Carb: The Winner is Neither

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Welcome to round 3,752 of the Diet Wars. This week’s opponents have been battling it out for decades, each with hordes of devoted fans. In one corner: carbohydrates. In the other: fat. Both have taken their share of punches throughout the years, and they are back for more following the release of a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

A much-cited New York Times article on the study titled “A Call For a Low-Carb Diet” reads: “People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades.” Read More

What a Difference a Cage Makes: California’s Humane Egg Battle

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Update: The 6-state lawsuit mentioned in this piece has since been thrown out by a U.S. District judge.

 

Ed Olivera is making a sizable investment in his San Jose, California-based egg operation this year. And just in time. He and other egg producers in the state now have less than four months to meet new, more humane standards for laying hens set to go into effect on January 1, 2015.

Olivera is “taking out partitions,” between the battery cages many of his laying hens live in, making the remaining cages larger. He’s also putting in a brand new building filled with an “enriched colony system,” or enriched cages, which will house 200,000 hens. Cal-Maine Egg Farm InvestigationThe standard battery cage is only 67 square inches (see the photo to the right), and has a footprint smaller than a letter-sized piece of paper, but the new cages hold more birds and allow around twice as much space (116 square inches) per bird. Now the legal standard for all laying hens in Europe, enriched cages are still a new concept in the U.S. (See an example from the EU below.) Read More

5 Reasons the Tyson-Hillshire Buyout is a Big [Meat] Deal

Photo by Capital Area Food Bank of Texas.

Although it has been in the works for months, the merger of Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands went public the week before Labor Day, when the U.S. Justice Department approved the deal. The merger brings together the largest meat processing company in the U.S. (Tyson) and the 11th largest (Hillshire), for $7.7 billion. And even if you buy mainly sustainable and grassfed meat, this merger is worth watching. Read More