As Executive Director and co-founder of the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC), Lindsey Lusher Shute has united thousands of farmer-activists and supporters from all 50 states. NYFC is now in its fifth year of advocating for beginning farmers, helping them overcome significant hurdles.
Shute has a history of agricultural action: Before starting NYFC, she transformed an abandoned lot in Brooklyn into a flourishing community garden. Along with running the Coalition, she and her husband, Ben, are raising two daughters while farming 25 acres of vegetables and managing a flock of laying hens and a dozen pigs on Hearty Roots Community Farm in New York’s Hudson Valley. We talked with Shute about her work. Read more
On February 8, Rancho Feed Corporation issued a recall on more than 8.7 million pounds of meat that had been processed in its facility over the last year. No illnesses have been reported, but the Petaluma, California-based slaughterhouse allegedly defied the law and circumvented U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections, slaughtering and selling meat from diseased cows. Read more
Last August, 28-year-old Tara Whitsitt took a vintage school bus and filled it with fermented foods, live cultures, and a “fermentation station” before setting out on a yearlong project to travel the United States. In just six months, Fermentation on Wheels has already made 27 stops in six different states. Read more
Lately I’ve been realizing that I married well. Not in the typical, societal ladder, Downton Abbey kind of way. Far from that. More like in a homesteader’s kind of way. Forget investment accounts and family crests, when it comes to spring water, pickles and chicken coops, we are set! And most recently, we hit the jackpot. My husband just landed a job at our local feed store, which in itself doesn’t sound like the most lucrative position, but this isn’t your basic feed store. Read more
Wendell Berry has said that eating is an agricultural act, but what about drinking beer? A thirst for fermented beverages may have inspired the world’s first farmers to plant crops some 13,000 years ago, yet today beer is rarely part of the larger conversation about where our food comes from. Read more
Today, most of us see “local” as shorthand for fresh, delicious food that comes with a story attached—and that serves an alternative to consolidated, anonymous, commodity-based farming. But that hasn’t always been how the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sees it.
USDA is known for creating, subsidizing, and promoting industrial agriculture. So the agency’s effort to dip its toes into the local food movement in 2009 with its Know Your Farmer Know Your Food program (KYF2) raised eyebrows and questions. Could USDA really help create a thriving bottom-up food system? Or would it spread the term local, and the ethos behind it, so thin as to make it meaningless? Read more
Nic Welty employs himself full time year-round raising lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens in three low-cost passive solar greenhouses, which together cover less than one acre of land.
His Nine Bean Rows farm near Traverse City, MI, is one of many smaller, diversified, often first-generation farms in the country that defy expectations, particularly among bankers and others with money needed to finance the new food enterprises.
Most find it difficult to pencil out the possibility that such a niche farm business could reliably make enough money to grow. Yet as Welty explains, “This business is good enough to take a cash advance on a credit card and run with it.”
The fact that many smaller niche farmers must do just that is alarming to a growing group of activist lenders and small farm business advisors. They say it’s high time to line up resources behind the nation’s new farm entrepreneurs and the new jobs, food supply, and local commerce they are building. Read more
A physicist, a chemist, and an economist are stranded on a desert island with nothing to eat when a can of soup washes to shore. The physicist says: “Let’s smash the can open with a rock.” The chemist says: “Let’s build a fire and heat the can first.” The economist says: “Let’s assume we have a can-opener.”
The attacks coming from economists against the local and sustainable food movement sound a lot like this joke: The arguments are based in flawed assumptions, obfuscated by fancy charts, big words, and complex calculations. Read more
Recently, I attended an event at New York City’s famous James Beard House that took me back to Yellowstone National Park.
Around this time last summer, I was on a tour boat on Lake Yellowstone with my family, where we learned that lake trout, a non-native species introduced around 1995 (presumably by an angler), had grown extremely problematic for the ecosystem of the lake–in particular, for the prized cutthroat trout, which is easily preyed upon and out-competed by the larger lake trout. Read more
For four years Kim Allen has served as garden program manager for Berkeley Youth Alternatives (BYA), which provides a minimum-wage, internship program for socio-economically challenged adolescents ages 14 to 18. Some come to the garden through word-of-mouth from family or friends, others as part of mandated community service. Read more