Louisiana Lawmakers Put Corn Belt Farms Before Gulf Shrimpers

The Gulf Dead Zone is 2.7 billion problem, but the problem starts upstream. "Bayou La Batre harbor aerial view" by Adrien Lamarre, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual Library.

Agriculture field run-off is the main contributor to the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, an oxygen-deprived swath of ocean the size of Connecticut. Fertilizer from farms throughout the Midwest washes into the Mississippi River and eventually makes its way into the Gulf. This pollution kills everything in its wake and threatens Louisiana’s $2 billion a year seafood industry with yearly losses to shrimp farmers alone estimated between $300 and $500 million.

And in what could only be described as a case of national sticker shock, a newly released study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that fixing the problem would cost an eye-popping $2.7 billion a year.

The Gulf Dead Zone isn’t the only agriculture body of water imperiled by farm pollutants either. Des Moines, Iowa and Toledo, Ohio have both been in the news recently as residents in both cities struggle with fertilizer run-off in their drinking water.

There are five basic ways to address the problem. Read More

Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of The Day. Or Is It? [Audio]

Photography by Viktor Rosenfeld, used under a Creative Commons license.

Armed with a healthy dose of caffeine chronopharmacology, we embark on a global breakfast tour that exposes the worldwide dominance of Nutella, as well as the toddler kimchi acclimatization process. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., we trace the American breakfast’s evolution from a humble mash-up of leftover dinner foods to its eighteenth-century explosion into a feast of meats, griddle cakes, eel, and pie—followed swiftly by a national case of indigestion and a granola-fueled backlash. Breakfast has been a battleground ever since: in this episode, we not only explain why, but also serve up the best breakfast contemporary science can provide. Read More

Seeds: The Heart of Organic Innovation

Seed Matters director Matthew Dillon (left) and Seed Matters organic bar...

Matthew Dillon learned a tough lesson about seeds early in his career. Dillon was the executive director of the Abundant Life Seed Foundation at the time. The former organic farmer says he had become “obsessed with heirloom conservation and the importance of conserving genetic diversity,” and had spent time building the Foundation’s seed bank. Then one day, Abundant Life’s office—and seeds—was ruined in a fire. Over 5,000 rare plant varieties went up in smoke. Read More

As You Sow, So Shall You Reap: Mormons and the Land

North Ogden Utah Peach Orchard

This is the second installment of our ongoing Faith in Food series. Read the first installment here.

On a hot summer day two years ago, Michael Larsen, a Rexburg, Idaho father of five, answered a call for volunteers from a bean farm near the Utah border, bringing with him his two young daughters. In a scene recalling an Amish barn-raising, he describes many hands making light work of hoeing the sun-baked, pancake-flat field, each group working two or three approximately half-mile-long rows. Read More

Dig In! 5 Places to Grow Urban Food

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With nearly 80,000 people crammed into four square miles, the city of Somerville, Massachusetts, is easily the most densely populated in New England. But in spite of spatial constraints—or perhaps because of them—the Somerville community has prioritized supporting urban agriculture. With limited space and a hankering for homegrown food, residents are squeezing gardens and greenery into as many places as possible. Read More

How Microplastics from Fleece Could End Up on Your Plate

Are there microplastics in your lake?

You wouldn’t eat the tiny plastic fibers that come off your fleece jacket, would you? Research released last week suggests we might be eating the fish that do. The study–the first of its kind–found that Great Lakes fish are swallowing micro-plastic fibers [PDF] that have found their way into the waste stream from washing machines. And the fish that ingest them include species sought after by Great Lakes anglers, among them: brown trout, cisco–also known as “lake herring”–and perch. Read More

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree

Pingree-cow-medium

Chellie Pingree is not your average member of Congress. Before joining the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009, she had a long career as a state lawmaker in Maine. But before that, she spent more than a decade managing a yarn business using wool spun from sheep she had raised herself. The business boomed, and soon yarn stores and catalogs across the country were carrying Pingree’s products. And she did all of that after starting an organic farm on North Haven, a tiny island off the coast of Maine, when she was barely out of her teens. Read More

This Chef and Seed-Saver are Resurrecting the Flavors of the South

Sean Brock. Credit Peter Frank Edwards from HERITAGE. Copyright (c) 2014 Artisan Books

Like every rural kid who has ever worked in their grandparents’ garden, Sean Brock took for granted the local, home-grown food that surrounded him as a child growing up in Southern Virginia.

“I had no idea how lucky I was to grow up poor in the middle of nowhere,” says Brock. “I wanted to do all the stuff I saw on TV and didn’t want to work in the Goddamn garden. Then it was all I wanted to do, all I gave a shit about.” Read More