At a time when over 50 million people are food insecure and we face an obesity crisis, it’s a shame that 40% of food is never eaten. A closer look shows us that Americans are tossing 52% of the nation’s nutritious fruits and vegetables[i] – wasting produce, more than any other type of food product, including seafood, meat, grains and dairy, at nearly every level across the supply chain.
Some of this massive produce loss is happening well before it reaches retailers, as perfectly edible produce is literally being left on the field or sent to the landfill. And many of these good fruits and vegetables are never even harvested. A new report commissioned by NRDC investigates losses at the farm level. Read more
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal celebrated the Hantz Farms project to establish a 10,000 acre private farm in Detroit. The project hinges on a very large land deal offered by financial services magnate John Hantz to buy up over 2,000 empty lots from the city of Detroit. Hantz’s ostensible objective is to establish the world’s largest urban mega-farm.
I say “ostensible” because despite futuristic artists’ renderings of Hantz Farms’ urban greenhouses, presently John Hantz is actually growing trees rather than food. The project website invites us to imagine “high-value trees… in even-spaced rows” on a three-acre pilot site recently cleaned, cleared and planted to hardwood saplings. These trees, it seems, are just a first step in establishing a 200 acre forest and eventually–pending approval by the City Council–the full Hantz megafarm.
In the short run, the purchase by Hantz cleans things up, puts foreclosed lots back on the tax rolls and relieves the city of maintenance responsibilities. If the tree farm expands, it could provide a few jobs. In the long run, however, Hantz hopes his farm will create land scarcity in order to push up property values–property that he will own a lot of. Read more
Pam, who I was grateful to meet on an urban agriculture tour in New Orleans this past October, is the founder and Executive Director of the Women and Agriculture (WandA) Network, one of a group of organizations strategically thinking about food justice and women farmers in urban areas. She is the former Deputy Director of the New Orleans Food and Farm Network and currently tends a small, but vibrant urban farm called Sun Harvest Kitchen Garden located in the severely distressed Central City neighborhood of New Orleans.
Currently, she’s got an abundance of Asian greens, red leaf mustards, collards, spinach, onions, herbs that carried over from the summer like fennel, curry, basil, all kinds of mint, stevia, tarragon, rosemary. In the spring she hopes to make cucumbers, tomatoes, and parsley and green onions available to a neighboring senior center residence complex because they really want access to fresh seasonings. She also has a market garden portion that will grow for Café Reconcile, a nonprofit restaurant that serves as the primary training ground for “at-risk” students seeking to acquire skills in the food service industry. (They also make a sweet tea that made me cry and a crawfish bisque that’ll get you crawling back for more!)
What issues have you been focused on?
I have primarily been working across the city with interesting people and groups about the notion of creating a viable infrastructure for urban ag in NOLA. What does that mean?What’s the best approach to get us some concrete results? Read more
Driving around North Berkeley with Natasha Boissier is an educational experience; where others see a quiet residential area she sees streets lined with potential pickings and delights when she spots prospective bounty or familiar fruit.
Boissier is a part of a growing movement of urban gleaners who pick fruit from people’s yards (with permission) and donate this surplus produce to food banks, senior centers, and schools who can put this fresh food to good use.
Some residents view an abundant fruit tree as a problem but the 42-year-old clinical social worker sees a simple solution to excess bounty and a way to fill a community need. Read more
It is a basic tenet that a community’s food supply should be healthy and accessible for everyone. But the truth is that local communities have very little control over what they eat. Corporate producers dominate the American food system by providing cheap and plentiful food. While this may seem to be a good thing, the food and the processes used don’t necessarily guarantee the nutrition or health they purport to provide. Read more
Community is at the center of the good food revolution, and the Lower Ninth Ward section of New Orleans is home to one of the more extreme examples. Five years after Hurricane Katrina broke the levees–flooding the neighborhood and forcing its residents to decamp elsewhere–the area, largely frozen in time, has become home to a thriving community of urban farmers aiming to improve the quality of life of its residents. Read more
Monsanto has donated $4 million in seeds to Haiti, sending 60 tons of conventional hybrid corn and vegetable seed, followed by 70 more tons of corn seed last week with an additional 345 tons of corn seed to come during the next year. Yet the number one recommendation of a recent report by Catholic Relief Services on post-earthquake Haiti is to focus on local seed fairs and not to introduce new or “improved” varieties at this time.
Some tough questions need to be asked and answered before we’ll know whether or not Monsanto’s donation will help or hurt long-term efforts to rebuild food sufficiency and sovereignty in Haiti. Here are five of them: Read more
Belo Horizonte is the stuff of food security legend. BH (pronounced beh-agah), as it is known by locals, has been on the radar of food systems folks since their innovative programming began in the early 90s, and their recognition has only grown over time. Attention has come in the form of shoutouts by the Lappe mother-daughter team in Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet, the Huffington Post and Yes! Magazine and the 2009 Future Policy Award from the World Future Council, to name a few. As topics relating to food security and the future of agriculture rise on the government priority lists and health-related NGOs, more and more eyes turn towards BH for best practices. So it was with nearly four years of built-up anticipation that I arrived in BH for a whirlwind tour of all things food and ag. Read more
In Oakland, California last week, the political momentum seemed to clearly and perhaps irrevocably shift to formation of a sustainable food system for the nation. Hailing from three western states and Washington DC, 120 leading activists (from farms, ranches, philanthropy, businesses and NGOs), 15 USDA officials, and two important northern California mayors focused on the issues of food security, foodsheds, and public-private partnerships to accelerate change. The take home message from this groundbreaking summit is that an essential set of sustainable food concepts has pierced the intellectual membrane that shapes the American political scene. Perhaps it is only a matter of time until this welcome and healthy infection takes over the body politic. Read more
With a new year now here, and new season in the White House on the verge, featuring a President who successfully harnessed a burgeoning movement (one that I like to call the Transparency Movement or the We’re Not Going to Take it Anymore Movement) now is the time to put our potential into action. Read more