Despite Tech + Ag Hype, Farmers Not as Connected as You’d Think

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Eating, shopping, dating–most Americans now conduct so much of their lives online, they can hardly remember a time before the Internet Age. And while some farmers are using technology to improve their crops, in reality, most are not as connected as you might think.

The latest U.S. Census of Agriculture suggests that unlike your average urban dweller, most farmers dont have their eyes permanently glued to a glowing screen. Nearly 33 percent of American farmers lack Internet access and only 40 percent use the Internet at all for agricultural enterprises. And, according to the National Broadband Map (NBM) only 78 percent of rural residents currently have access to a broadband network–a fact that poses a problem for those using “precision farming” techniques and working with precise, high-tech tools and Big Data. There seems to be a missing link from the food chain to the World Wide Web. Read More

Not Your Grandparents’ 4-H: How a New Generation is Learning to Farm

Photo by Rafael Roy, courtesy of Kiera Butler.

Kiera Butler’s fascination with 4-H began in 2011 after she attended a county fair for the first time. A senior editor at Mother Jones, Butler grew up in “unleafy” Sommerville, Massachusetts, where country living wasn’t an option. Flush in the middle of a love affair with CSA-boxes, urban chicken coops, and Michael Pollan-inspired farm-to-table food, Butler writes about her first trip to the Alameda County Fair: “You might be wondering why a grown woman was displaying toddler-like delight at the prospect of seeing barnyard animals. The truth is I was going through a livestock phase.” Read More

Stop-n-Go: Can Traffic Light Labels Help Us Eat Better?

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In 2009, Dr. Ann Thorndike and a team of researchers implemented a change in the Massachusetts General Hospital cafeteria. Foods received green, yellow or red dots to show where foods were ranked on a spectrum of choices. As the hospital described it, “green for the healthiest items, such as fruits, vegetables and lean sources of protein; yellow for less healthy items; and red for those with little or no nutritional value.”

Known to many as “traffic light” labels, this system had been championed by everyone from the hospital’s wellness program to its VP of human resources. “Everyone was talking about it,” Dr. Thorndike says. “If we were going to do this, I wanted to study it and make sure that it worked.” Read More

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Good Food Awards’ Sarah Weiner

Sarah Weiner with Alice Waters at the Good Food Awards ceremony. Photo by Lisa Scott Owen.

Sarah Weiner has an impressive track record of making things happen. After college, she traveled to Italy to work at the Slow Food headquarters. It was there that she first met chef and food movement leader Alice Waters, who eventually hired her as an assistant. She and Waters co-created Slow Food Nation, a 2008 event that was seen by many as a watershed moment in the food movement. It was then, in her role as Content Director of Slow Food Nation, where Weiner’s vision of the Good Food Awards was born. Read More

Editor’s Note: A More Diverse + Sustainable New Year

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Starting this month, I’ll begin sharing a few thoughts here about the vision I have for a healthier, more diverse, and vibrant food system. This month, Civil Eats celebrates six years of original, award-winning reporting. Now, more than ever, people want to know where their food comes from, and more publications are covering the social, environmental, and political aspects of food. It’s such an exciting time to be involved in sharing the stories of a growing food movement. Read More

Salvage Supperclub: Feeding People, Not Landfills

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A recent photo of Salvage Supperclub stopped me in my tracks. The photo showed a dozen people happily dining inside a dumpster, with the goal to draw attention to the growing issue of food waste in the U.S. Like all reasonable people with an extreme interest in food, I signed up to get an alert for the next dinner.

Salvage Supperclub is the brainchild of Josh Treuhaft, a recent graduate of the Design for Social Innovation program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Treuhaft was a self-described “compost junkie” before he enrolled. As he tested different hypotheses, it became clear to him that “most people don’t get excited about waste. Wasting less is hard to do and it makes you feel guilty.” Read More

Nanosilver in Your Soup? EPA Sued For Failing to Regulate Tiny Pesticides

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If you haven’t heard of nanosilver, you’re definitely not alone. But that doesn’t mean these tiny silver particles intended to kill bacteria aren’t ending up in your food. There are now over 400 consumer products [PDF] on the market made with nanosilver. These include many intended for use with food, among them cutting boards, cutlery, pans, storage containers, espresso machines, water filters, baby bottles, and refrigerators.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers nanosilver a pesticide and requires products that contain–or are treated with this germ-killer–to be registered with and approved for use by the agency. But most of the nanosilver products now on the market have not been reviewed, let alone approved by the EPA. Read More