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All Praise the Civics of Food Hubs

Just a few years ago there were but a smattering of “networks that allow regional growers to collaborate on marketing and distribution,” as Grist writer Claire Thompson observed, “networks that include a broad range of operations, from multi-farm CSAs to Craigslist-like virtual markets where buyers and producers can connect.”

Today, news stories about such food hubs are as frequent as a retweeted Mark Bittman article. With a big-tent definition, the USDA lists over 160 in operation from non-profits to private for-profit models. The East Coast is in the vanguard; New York, Virginia, North Carolina, and Vermont host the most. More remarkable than their media-worthy increase in numbers, is that food hubs are a wonderful example of the best face of the food movement’s transition beyond an earlier focus on labeling, markets, and matters of quantity, toward broader cultural issues of justice, sovereignty, and community. Read more

Why the Modern Tomato is Flawed: A Review of Tomatoland

First let’s get one persistent canard out of the way. Yes, the tomato is technically a fruit, not a vegetable, but for purposes of economics the USDA classifies it as a vegetable, and as such it is the second most popular vegetable in the nation after that other burger staple, lettuce. This is surprising in only one respect: A vast majority of the tomatoes consumed in the U.S. every year ($5 billion worth), are devoid of the flavor and nutritive value they once had.

Sure, that plant your neighbor gave you that’s just beginning to enjoy the summer heat will produce lots of delicious, succulent tomatoes come August or September. But in his new book, Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed our Most Alluring Fruit, two-time James Beard Award-winning journalist Barry Estabrook tells us why the modern factory-farmed tomato in most grocery stores is a poster child for nearly everything that is wrong with industrial agriculture.  Read more

One Supertoxic Chemical Down, Thousands To Go

Last week, and capping at least a decades-long battle by consumer advocates, the EPA announced a long-awaited ban on the pesticide endosulfan — one of the last legal organochlorine pesticides, a notorious group of which DDT is a member. Horrifically toxic (possibly more toxic to humans than DDT) and banned in the European Union since 2007, endosulfan remains in common — though technically restricted — use, especially on Florida tomatoes and California and Nevada cotton, according to the Pesticide Action Network, while an article in the Environmental Health News presents a much longer list of uses, including melons, cucumbers, squashes, potatoes, apples, blueberries, eggplant, lettuce and other leafy vegetables, pears, peppers and stone fruit and cotton. Read more