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New York Farmers Struggle in Wake of Hurricane Irene

Many New York State farms have experienced devastating losses in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Wind and subsequent flash floods destroyed late summer crops and vegetables, while others have reported drowned cows and washed away barns. Many more farms are without power and, because of washed out roads, countless more do not have a means to distribute their milk.

The flood is particularly brutal because it comes at the height of harvest, which means it is not only a financial disaster, but also an emotional blow. In addition to losing direct sales through farmers‘ markets and grocery stores, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members might not receive further produce for months, since waterlogged produce is illegal to sell. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Sue Ujcic

Sue Ujcic is an innovative farmer and a champion of what’s possible when communities work together. She is as adept in connecting people to good food, good health, and good times as she is harvesting potatoes.

As co-owner of Helsing Junction Farm in Rochester, Washington, just outside of Olympia, Sue and her business partner, Anna Salafsky, have worked since 1992 with almost the same crew of 12 people to farm and grow 30 acres of organic vegetables, fruit, and flowers to serve their 800-member CSA program, one of the most established in the country. Much of their produce throughout the growing season is also donated to the local food bank where they deliver weekly CSA shares directly to recipients, a program funded by donations from their members, which they match.

What issues have you been focused on?

Linking low-income people with fresh organic produce. Read more

Farmigo: A Farmer’s Hi-Tech Friend (VIDEO)

Farmigo, a Web site devoted to helping Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmers, is the latest innovation helping to build a bridge between consumers and farmers. Joining the ranks of other online food exchanges such as FoodHub, FarmsReach, Local Dirt, and Market Maker, Farmigo seeks to help improve farmers’ services to their CSA members, make their day-to-day operations easier, and increase their profitability.

Founder Benzi Ronen spent 15 years developing systems for Microsoft, Netscape, and SAP. Three years ago, he jumped off the corporate train to marry his passion for food to a sustainable business that he hopes will “make the world a better place.” Ronen delved into the world of food policy and emerged with a vision to share a hi-tech solution with farmers. He began his journey by visiting more than 100 CSA farms to learn firsthand what could make their businesses even more successful. Along the way, the farmers he met all shared common traits: an entrepreneurial spirit and the desire to grow the best quality food possible. Enter Farmigo—a tool designed to help farmers do what they love best: be in the field and not behind a desk. Read more

The Breadbasket of America: New England?

On a recent Friday morning, Wheatberry Bakery in Amherst, Massachusetts, was humming with activity. Behind hand-built wooden counters set with delicate French tiles, co-owner Adrie Lester dealt a brisk business in organic scones and muffins, loaves of fragrant artisanal bread, soups, and sandwiches. In the bakery’s kitchen, her husband, Ben, kneaded a batch of dough, then paused to slip a tray of sourdough baguettes into the oven.

The Lesters opened their business in 2005 and quickly established themselves as a neighborhood fixture. But in early 2008, everything changed. Commodity crop prices went haywire, sending the cost of flour soaring. “It was catastrophic,” Ben said. The Lesters decided that basing their products on an ingredient produced thousands of miles away in the Midwest no longer made good business sense, and they began to ask what it would take to source grain from local growers. Read more

Greening Your Kitchen: Forget Free-Range, Buy Pasture-Raised Eggs From a Local Farm

A reader recently asked me if I could expand the post I did last year on “choosing the right milk” to include eggs, another food for which there a lot of confusing buying options. Although there are more details below, the short answer is that you should look for eggs that are “pasture-raised” from a farm near you. Pasture-raised is pretty much what it sounds like — they are eggs laid by hens that are raised with open access to pasture where they can scratch, peck, bask in the sun, eat and run around to their hearts content.

Unfortunately, “organic”, “cage-free”, and “free-range” classifications/certifications do not guarantee that the birds are fed a natural diet or that they live the life of a normal chicken, complete with keeping their beaks (egg-laying hens raised in factory farms routinely have their beaks cut off–a truly horrible practice that is done to prevent them from hurting each other in their extremely close living quarters), having enough room not just to turn around but also to run around in, as well as unlimited access to the real outdoors and all the sunlight, yummy grass, and nutritious bugs they desire. Read more

Drive-Through: A Truck Farm Grows in Brooklyn

When my buddy Ian suggested we turn his ’86 Dodge half-ton into a planter, I thought the pickup had finally blown its engine.  When Ian said he intended to keep the old truck on the road in Brooklyn, I figured he’d blown his.

But now, four months later, we’ve got ripe tomatoes growing in the bed (a gas station attendant ate the first one last weekend), and the transmission is going strong.  Truck Farm, as we at Wicked Delicate call her now, is a mobile CSA, with twelve (increasingly skinny) paying subscribers. Read more

Spring Inspires a Stew

I’m a huge fan of soup and stew. In fact, I make one every weekend with my pickings from San Francisco’s Alemany Farmers Market. A weekly soup is the perfect healthy option for a busy single gal about town like me. I want to eat at home, cheaply, wholesome food, every day. But, of course, I’m running around – there are meetings to attend and friends to see, yoga classes, sunsets. So, I rely on my soup to get me through. Refrigerate a little, freeze the rest. Eat it when I need the nourishment. Read more

Power to the People: Rebuilding Community in Petaluma

When I think of Petaluma, California I think of a tiny little town 30 minutes or so north of San Francisco home to antique and outlet stores, many a poet and artist, dairy cows and rolling fields nestled next to quaintly rusted industrial-scapes. I have never really given much thought to the families and seniors in line at the free food pantries. The fact is though that Petaluma has changed a lot in the last five to ten years. In 2007 there was a 30% increase in the number of seniors visiting food pantries and a similar 30% increase in the number of children enrolled in the free or reduced price meal program at school. That’s one in three kids and a reminder that all is not as it may seem.

A job-hunting informational interview led me to Petaluma Bounty and Grayson James, the Executive Director of the non-profit dedicated to transforming the way the hungry get fed in Petaluma. Read more

A Virtual Flesh-and-Blood CSA

I am trying to convince all of suburban California to buy animals whole.

Buying whole animals might sound macho. It might bring to mind flikr photos of smug carnivores committing heroic feats of nose-to-tail cookery, and mewling over every last, high-stakes moment of it. (And to folks that tackle 500 pounds of beef with such gusto, I raise my PBR beer can in congratulations.) But unless you require such theatrics, the process does not need to be so excessive. Read more

8 Ways to Eat Well in Hard Times

In this time of watching our wallets, our good intentions about eating sustainable food could easily descend into bad habits, cutting corners and disenchantment about the food system.  Instead, I’d like to offer a few ways I’ve been eating good, clean and fair on a reasonable budget: Read more