And Now for Some Good News: 20 Inspiring Food and Agriculture Stories

Despite the headlines, people nationwide are working together with compassion, ingenuity, and solidarity to solve problems across the food system.



To say that 2020 has been a rough year so far is the most extreme of understatements. We are living through a global pandemic taking lives, forcing us apart, and wreaking havoc on the economy and the food system; the global fight for racial justice sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in May; and the impacts of climate change that continue to harm communities and farmers with hotter and more extreme weather.

As dire as our predicaments are, and how easy it may be to get bogged down in bad news, there are some bright moments and signs of hope. Civil Eats has been steadfastly reporting on the challenges we face, and we have also highlighted important, good work taking place.

For instance, people in large numbers are reconnecting with their local food systems, boosting demand for the work of independent, small-scale farmers and fishermen, meat processors, and food co-ops.

Also of note: Many Indigenous communities are returning to traditional foodways to rebuild the food sovereignty of their tribes; community groups are finding creative ways to get healthy food to hungry people; and advocates and organizers throughout the food system are fighting for social justice and climate resilience, and making noteworthy gains.

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Despite the doom and gloom dominating the headlines, people across the country are still demonstrating compassion, ingenuity, and solidarity as they work together to solve problems and stand up for what they believe is right.

Civil Eats has shone a light on many such inspiring efforts with our reporting this year, and while we take a much-needed publishing break this week, we want to leave you with some “good news” to hold onto. Please join us in believing that, in spite of it all, there is always reason to have hope.

Community Supported Agriculture Is Surging Amid the Pandemic A CSA box share

People are signing up for CSAs in record numbers. Could the once-struggling model sustain small farms through hard times—and beyond?

 

 

Farmers in Puerto Rico are Growing a Culture of Social Justice and Climate Resilience

After Hurricane Maria, hundreds of young farmers, many women, have established bold approaches to agriculture—and their ideas are resonating beyond the island.

A Fair Food Standards Council auditor interviews a worker

After #MeToo, This Group Has Nearly Erased Sexual Harassment in Farm Fields

On big farms, protecting women and men from sexual violence has required a cultural shift. Our reporter spent weeks with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, documenting their effective methods of education, monitoring, and enforcement.

Delivering food to the Navajo Nation. (Photo © Nate Lemuel)Food as Medicine on the Navajo Nation

This Native-run coronavirus relief effort could help the Navajo Nation become more resilient over the long term.

 

Harlem Grown's Tony Hillery. (Photo courtesy of Harlem Grown)

How Black Communities Are Bridging the Food Access Gap

Amid the pandemic and racial-justice uprisings, Black organizers nationwide are getting fresh, healthy food and groceries to those who need it most.

As COVID-19 Disrupts the Industrial Meat System, Independent Processors Have a Moment to Shine

Big Meat put most small slaughterhouses out of business. Those left are demonstrating their resilience, but their limited numbers point to the need for improved infrastructure.

Logan Stern, Robin Patel, Terrence Smith, Michael Adyson Strickland, and Noran Sanford (left to right) stand in the pasture they've created outside the prison yard at the Scotland Correctional Center, which was decommissioned in 2001.

Youth Are Flipping an Abandoned North Carolina Prison into a Sustainable Farm

By transforming a decaying prison into a flourishing farm, these young men are avoiding the criminal justice system—and creating a model to share.

a woman harvesting squash in a chaos garden fieldMost Farmers in the Great Plains Don’t Grow Fruits and Vegetables. The Pandemic is Changing That.

Amid massive tracts of wheat and corn destined for global markets, some farmers are planting cover crop mixes designed to be harvested by their communities.

Milling wheat at Ibis Bakery in Kansas City. (Photo credit: Ryan James Carr)

Flour Shortage? Amber Waves of Regional Grains to the Rescue

A grain and flour expert enthusiast says the local flour revolution is tastier, healthier, and has created more robust markets.

 

Residents of the Spirit Lake reservation tending their community garden. (Photo by Heidi Zeigenmeyer)

Restoring Food Sovereignty on the Spirit Lake Reservation

With a grocery store, traditional garden programs, and an emphasis on cooking, the northern North Dakota tribe is reviving its food system through traditional foods.

hands scooping piles of lentils and other pulse cropsPlant-Based Diets and Regenerative Ag Have Sparked a Pea and Lentil Renaissance

Health and environmental concerns are driving ‘phenomenal’ growth for these humble pulse crops, which offer soil as well as dietary benefits.

kristyn leach explaining seed saving with her mustard plants.Gardening is Important, But Seed Saving is Crucial

Experts say saving seeds is an important piece of the food sovereignty puzzle. Plus: Video tips to ensure next year’s crop.

 

Vietnamese immigrant urban farmer Tham Nguyen tends vegetables at VEGGI co-op farm. Photo by Sarah Sax.

A Vietnamese Farmers’ Cooperative in New Orleans Offers a Lesson in Resilience

VEGGI Co-op has weathered Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. Now, it’s facing the twin threats of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.

Working with Airline Caterers, this Startup Nonprofit Has Delivered Over a Million Mealsdelivering airline meals to the hungry with project isaiah and gate gourmet. Photo courtesy of Project Isaiah

Project Isaiah quickly made use of idle airline catering infrastructure to provide meals to hungry people in 11 cities nationwide.

 

From left: Katie Bishop of PrairiErth Farm, Michael Boehle of Antiquity Oaks Farm, Nicholas Walter of Green Top Grocery. (Photo courtesy of PrairiErth and Green Top Grocery)

Community Food Co-ops Are Thriving During the Pandemic

Compared to supermarkets with empty shelves and long lines, co-ops’ long-term focus on building resilient foodsheds is paying off.

 

A dairy farmer delivering feed to his herd.To Avoid Dumping Milk, Dairy Farmers Find New Market at Vermont Food Banks

In Vermont, and across New England, the dairy industry is coming together to support struggling farmers and hungry families.

Freshly caught fish for sale at the Dockside Harbor market. (Photo by Mark Armao)

A San Diego Pier-to-Plate Seafood Market Is a Lifeline for Fishermen

When wholesale and restaurant markets closed down, the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market quickly built up direct-to-consumer sales in the local food shed.

Exchanging seeds. (Photo courtesy of Dream of Wild Health)

Feeding an Indigenous Community and Rematriating Seeds in Minneapolis

The nonprofit Dream of Wild Health grows food to fight insecurity and creates food sovereignty for Native Americans hit hard by the pandemic and ongoing racial justice protests.

Civil Eats TV: Regenerative Ranching in a Pandemic

Loren Poncia of Stemple Creek Ranch explains the opportunities and challenges raising livestock with regenerative practices during COVID-19.

 

Marlo Paul, M.D. (right), and Anthony Paul, Ph.D.The Doctor-Botanist Couple Healing a Community in the Rural South

In Alabama’s Black Belt, where COVID rates are high and hospitals are understaffed, Dr. Marlo Paul and her plant biologist husband, Anthony, are making house calls and providing free herbal remedies from their own farm.

Top photo by Jake Price.

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