Folks across the country know something is wrong. There’s just something about the system we’ve created over several decades that is inherently flawed. Some blame the government, others big banks, still others blame political parties, but all agree that there’s something that’s just not quite working the way it should. People are losing homes, jobs, and health coverage at an alarming rate because of the societal turbulence in the enormous yet formless thing we call the economy.
“Shelburne Farms!” “Oh you got to visit Shelburne Farms?” “Isn’t Shelburne Farms amazing?” “Isn’t Shelburne Farms beautiful?” “Are they still making cheese at Shelburne Farms?” This is all I heard when I got home from my very first trip to Vermont. The night of my return to San Francisco I helped run our fifth installment of Kitchen Table Talks (on Mayor Newsom’s new sustainability directive, watch for a re-cap post) and chatted with a lot of people who are very found of Shelburne Farms. And, yes, it is amazing and beautiful and they are still making cheese there. Bread too! Read more
Greenhorn is a word I expect I’ll hear fairly often in years to come. A greenhorn, according to Severine von Tscharner Fleming, Paula Manalo and Zoe Bradbury – authors of the newly released second edition of The Guide for Beginning Farmers is “a novice, or new entrant into agriculture.” To be precise, it is a certain kind of new entrant into agriculture: one who was not raised to farm and who has no family farm to inherit but who is unconventionally and some would say irrationally choosing to become a farmer, no matter his or her lack of education and resources. Touches of madness are not uncommon among greenhorns. Gutfuls of passion aren’t either. Read more
In his nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in Denver, Barack Obama told us, “America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done… Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save.” The group of about 20 of us who were listening to his speech on a laptop as we got ready for the “young farmers seed swap” about to take place at Slow Food Nation stood straight up and smiled. “Did he say farms? Does he mean that?” As 80 other young activists, students, cooks and farmers streamed into the room, that phrase – “farms to save” – swam circles in our ears. Obama was confirming what we are all beginning to feel is mission of our generation: saving farms, rebuilding the food system, digging back into the land. He didn’t mention what kind of farms we have to save, but he did imply that the future of the economy and of our cities is bound to the future of agriculture and that the security and livelihood of our nation depends on our ability to grow food. That’s an old-fashioned idea, but it’s still a big one—even to young people. Read more
One of the lasting mysteries about food for me is how it can be so deeply personal on the plate and at the same time so very cosmically impersonal—and complicated—in the world. Learning about food systems and the politics and industry that define them has been a steady process of learning how much I don’t know and admiring those who can find a cogent and meaningful through-line to follow. I admit I was relieved when I realized a little while ago that, while there is much to be gained from tackling the large and knotty issues around agricultural production and distribution, industrial hegemonies and trade contortions, not to mention the Farm Bill (or, as Michael Pollan so aptly renamed it, the Food Bill), you can glean an amazing amount of useful knowledge across the spectrum by visiting a farmer. Read more