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New York to Lead on Food and Climate Policy? Bill de Blasio and the “Foodprint” Resolution

Can progressive food and climate change policy and programs in the U.S.’ largest city begin with a “whereas”? New York may be about to find out. In 2009, a then-member of New York’s city council agreed to support a “Resolution to Reduce NYC’s Climate ‘Foodprint’” drafted by organizations with varied priorities but a shared rationale: Food and agriculture are significant contributors to global warming. New York City (NYC) could reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and, at the same time, create a healthy, sustainable, and equitable food landscape for its eight million residents. Read more

Big Apple Takes on Big Gulp

The controversy surrounding New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent plan to ban sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces ranges from praise for taking on “America’s expanding waistline” to deriding him as a “nanny” for infringing on our personal choices and freedoms. But what’s largely missing from the debate is a real critique of the true villain in this battle—Big Food. Read more

In Conversation with Joan Gussow

Few would argue that Joan Dye Gussow is the mother of the sustainable food movement. For more than 30 years, she’s been writing, teaching (she is emeritus chair of the Teachers College nutrition program at Columbia University), and speaking about our unsustainable food system and how to fix it. (This excellent article by journalist Brian Halweil showcases her work in detail.) Now more than ever, her ideas have wings. Michael Pollan, for example, has said, “Once in a while, when I have an original thought, I look around and realize Joan said it first.”

Gussow lives what she teaches, growing most of her own food year-round in her backyard. The New York Times profiled her last spring as she was rebuilding her garden after it was destroyed by a flood. When I asked her about her newly rebuilt garden, she said, “It’s given me 10 additional years of life, at least!”

I spoke to her recently about how far we’ve come, the future of the food system, and her new book, Growing, Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life, and Vegetables.

Read more

Roof To Table Farming (VIDEO)

Farming without soil has taken root in fish tanks and window frames. But above 10th Street in Manhattan’s West Village, John Mooney is hydroponically farming produce on the roof of his soon-to-be restaurant, Bell, Book & Candle. He is the first chef in the U.S. to grow all of his produce on a rooftop farm.

Eighty diners a night sample whatever is in season—greens, garbanzo beans, summer squash, lettuces, tomatoes, broccoli rabe—for 10 months out of the year. On the roof, hydroponic towers circulate water to plants through a closed circuit. At its base, each tower has a nutrient-rich reservoir which pumps water upward. As water trickles down from a center passage, plant roots receive their nourishment. The towers use 12 minutes of energy an hour, running on three-minute cycles.

Mooney’s produce is free of typical soil disease and pest infestation. Since he has produced it all himself, it’s also incredibly affordable. Start-up costs can be steep for hydroponic systems, but with their promise of efficiency and high-yield, “roof-to-table” hydroponics may provide New Yorker’s with another way to maximize their valuable, cramped real estate.

Check out Nightline’s report on the chef and his garden.

Dispatch From the Bronx Food Summit

New York City is one of many cities around the country that is placing a renewed emphasis on food access. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has launched the FoodWorks initiative to address production and distribution, while Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has announced FoodNYC to reform food policies in the City. Both of them showed up on Saturday for the Bronx Food Summit, an event organized by Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who of all the political leaders there probably has the most at stake in bringing healthy food into this city: his constituents live in a neighborhood that is both the nexus of New York City’s produce markets and home to a population suffering the consequences of limited access to that very produce. Read more

The Spring Garden

After hiding indoors all winter, nothing beats the brisk chill of the early spring in my rooftop garden. Cleaning up the dead branches left from the year before, turning the compost, the sweet smell of worm poop in the air as I work amendments into the cool soil. But most exiting are the first green fronds that have begun to emerge — perennials and even volunteers — and the protected annuals springing forth from the previous fall planting. Read more

Seed-Starting 101: Crafting a Seed-Starting Schedule

This is the first post in a six part series on the basics of starting seeds.

From the soft comfort of a fireside rocking chair, your garden holds endless possibilities. You can picture–taste, even–the sweet tang of your certain bushels of tomatoes, the crisp crunch of cucumbers, the melting delicateness of a pile of stir-fried snow peas. All of this dreaming is essential–and at least partly true–but luckily February moves along, and wispy garden dreams must solidify into concrete garden plans if you hope to bring your visions to fruition, so to speak.

There are many garden plans to be made–questions of fencing, fertility, and size, among countless others–but one of the most vital is planning your schedule for starting seeds. Read more

Help Legalize Beekeeping in NYC: Speak Out!

New York City urban beekeepers (and lovers of honey, fruit and flowers): tomorrow is the big day to let your legislators know that you want beekeeping to be a legal activity by giving an oral testimony at the public hearing on the issue between 10am-12pm, 125 Worth Street, Room 330.

Beekeeping is currently illegal under the health code of NYC, which prohibits the possession, keeping, harboring and selling of “wild animals” and “venomous insects.” However, beekeepers are becoming commonplace in cities across the United States. These cities have realized that bees are essential to a thriving natural environment, including as a support to urban vegetable gardens.

Just Food, an organization that seeks to expand access to healthy food to all New Yorkers, has spearheaded the campaign to get this antiquated law changed. Nadia Johnson from Just Food sent over some of of the organization’s testimony. Hopefully it will inspire you to come along and speak your mind on this important subject: Read more

NYC, Taking Food Policy to the Next Level at the Food & Climate Summit

While delegates debate what to do about climate change in Copenhagen, citizens will gather in New York City tomorrow at New York University for a climate summit all their own: one that puts much-needed focus on how the food we eat contributes to climate change. A collaboration between Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office and Just Food, an organization that focuses on increasing access to fresh food for all New Yorkers, the Food & Climate Summit will feature some of the best minds on food issues, all discussing our carbon “foodprint,” like Marion Nestle, Wangari Maathai, Vandana Shiva, Colin Beaven (AKA “No Impact Man“), and Joan Gussow. Read more