"fair food"

Headline Harvest: A sustainable Passover; watching the greens grow; saving the bees

Spring has sprung, the weather is balmy (well, getting there...) and SWYF is ripe with the latest food and farm news. Take a read:

In consumer news:
In bee news:
Bees on borage, Hunts Brook Farm, 2012 - A.Gross
In farm justice news:
And, to make you feel even more paranoid about your food, you might want to check out the Food Fraud Database from USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia Convention).

To end on a lighter note, here's really cool time-lapse footage of tomato seedlings:


Tomato Seedling Time Lapse from Dave (Splat) Le on Vimeo.

Chicken school: "Story of An Egg"

Want to school your egg-loving friends? Need some clarification on "sustainable" food labels? Watch and share the documentary "Story of An Egg," a participating film in the 2013 PBS Online Film Festival, here:


Liked what you saw? Vote for the documentary here! Check out this film and other projects by the creative people at The Lexicon of Sustainability initiative.

Hungry, underfed in the U.S.: "A Place at the Table"

Watch Jon Stewart's interview with Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson of "A Place at the Table," a documentary about hunger, food insecurity and food access in the U.S:


The free-loading argument of receiving federal food assistance is long gone: 80% of SNAP recipients are working, employed individuals. There's no reason for hunger in the U.S. As Silverbush and Jacobson suggest, we can't simply blame the problems of food insecurity on a single entity, namely the government. It's time to magnify the interconnected flaws in our food system, and, our role as citizens to speak up. This film is a place to start the dialogue:


As Jeff Bridges suggests, if another country had our rates of food insecurity, we'd be at war or, at least, outraged. "A Place at the Table" is available on iTunes, OnDemand and select theaters this Friday, March 1. There's also a wealth of information on the film's site for action initiatives, public outreach and viewing options. Take a look. Re-blog, tweet or share this post or any information from "A Place at the Table" - just get the word out!!

The Perennial Plate: Female seed savers reclaiming the food system

I'm currently working on a project that investigates seed saving networks and their role in promoting local food security and resiliency. (I know how amazingly boring that may sound...I'm working on a catchier pitch - suggestions welcome!) It largely began because I save some seeds, but I didn't know - and still don't know - fellow seed savers in my bioregion. In my early research, I'm surprised and delighted to read about seed saving in mainstream news publications on a more regular basis. I came across this beautiful, inspiring video from The Perennial Plate about female seed savers and farmers in India:


As Vandana Shiva (founder of Navdanya) states, "Most farmers are women. All seed savers are women...When women do farming, they do it for life. When women do farming, they do it for their children. They do it for nutrition. They do it for taste." This is why seed saving is so important: Seed saving preserves food, culture, history and empowers individuals. For these individuals in India, seed saving is a central, integral part of their livelihood and existence. My hope is that the more people, especially Americans and individuals in "developed" countries, who recognize the source of seeds and their corporate owners, the more they will acknowledge that seed saving is far more than a quaint hobby by backyard gardeners. Even with the prominence of GMOs, I don't think we're at a point yet in this country where seed saving is on-par with healthful, sustainably grown food dialogue. I hope we'll get there soon.

If you don't know about or follow The Perennial Plate, it's time to get on the wagon! Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine are talented storytellers who tirelessly shed light on all elements of our food system every week.

Addressing that farming commercial

My inbox was flooded - OK, more like, three or four e-mails - from friends asking if I saw the commercial. You know, "the farm one!" I promptly played it, and here it is (again) for your viewing pleasure:


I'll admit, I was moved. The voice of the late broadcaster Paul Harvey pronounces, 
God said, "I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board." So God made a farmer.
I mean, come on! It celebrates the farmer, his rugged, weathered exterior, how he (notice the dominance of males...) hauls hay, drives combines, works countless hours, and is the master of his land. For a Super Bowl commercial and a car company, not bad; thanks for drawing attention to an iconic American hero and profession.

But, that's where my elation stops. The commercial is just that - antiquated, emotion-driven imagery of the farmer. Before you call me a buzzkill, here's my reasoning in brief:

Farmers are not quite the masters of their own destinies, or at least operations. Considerable consolidation of the livestock and commodities market in recent decades make farms bigger and place farmers under contract with large processors and companies. They must continue to produce and expand to stay viable and avoid succumbing to debt. Independence is not quite a part of the mainstream farming vernacular. Further, farms are no longer quaint family establishments or passed down generationally. According to a recent NPR report, the future of farms may not include many families.

I know, I know - commercials involve suspension of disbelief; yet, I am a farmer and am also in the midst of getting my graduate degree in sustainable food systems. This commercial was ripe for scrutiny! And just so you know, I'm not cynical. I have the utmost respect for fellow farmers; it's a lifestyle that constantly tests you and you have to truly love it. I just want people to be aware of what it really means to be a farmer today, including magnifying some sad statistics. I strongly believe that reform of the food and farm system is possible, if it's not already occurring; this new food paradigm, among other features, will truly celebrate and respect the farmer. Perhaps next year we can see a few greenhorns, women and other individuals that reflect the wider landscape of American farming. (Hmmm, but what company will use this in its advertisement?)

I'll end on a hopeful note and give a shout-out to that other thing people were watching yesterday - Downton Abbey. Daisy gets it: "No farmer's his own boss. He takes his orders from the sun, the wind, the snow and the rain."