"good reads"

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.

Family dinners as a 20-something

Today, All Things Considered reported about the tradition of family dinners. It's a topic that seems to resonate with me more nowadays, as many of my friends are starting their families and the what-makes-a-good-kid subject is frequently addressed. I can't speak yet as a parent, but based on how my brothers and I turned out**, one tidbit of advice that I've gleaned from my childhood involves eating dinner around or at a table.

Start 'em young: Me (right) "helping" my favorite cousin Keilly.
Dinner wasn't routine; it was something we looked forward to from a young age. Dinner was our time to unload about our day. (Note to parents: Asking your child "how was your day?" as soon as they arrive home from school or their jobs is maddening; you won't get much more of a response than an unenthusiastic "good." Dinner is the time to grill your kid; they might even volunteer information.) Both my parents worked, we didn't have a ton of money and, of course, homework and after-school schedules consumed much of our time, but we still managed to eat together. Even in my mid-20s, I look forward to sharing meals with family and friends around a table.

So, I resent the reasoning that family dinners are an antiquated tradition. It's really easy to make excuses for not eating together. It often involves some iteration of being too busy. But, what does that mean exactly? Too busy to be a civilized human being for about a half-hour? Of course, the obvious reason to maintain this important social tradition is to nourish a support system and community. Yet, in my old age, my reasoning also involves a tinge of selfishness. Sitting down to eat food with others re-centers my mental state. Sitting down to dinner with family or friends forces me to reclaim a few calm (hopefully), mindful moments. It allows me to notice my surroundings, the food at my plate, and recognize and acknowledge the unique personalities and insights of my fellow diners. 

But, enough about me. What's your take on the family dinner? 

**Oh, by "turned out," I mean to suggest that the three of us are perfect, wildly successful and brilliant. Like geniuses. OK, an exaggeration, but we are all kind people, pretty smart, extremely capable individuals...and, not to be overlooked, excellent cooks.

Headline Harvest: Silencing factory farm reports; Bad news for organics; Colbert's take on climate change

It's that time again! (I would have written something clever about grabbing a blanket and getting cozy by the fire, but it was 60 degrees here in CT today...in January.) So, get comfortable in your favorite reading spot and read the latest:

In keeping with this freakishly warm weather, a word from Mr. Colbert:



In natural resources news:
In shortcomings-of-the-Farm-Bill-and-commodities news:

Headline Harvest: Monsanto doubles profits; kids offer hope through gardens; the quinoa problem

It's colder than usual outside, so bundle up and pretend it's warmer with these freshly picked headlines (I know, I know...)

In GMO/Monsanto news:
  • "Monsanto's Earnings Nearly Double As They Create A Farming Monopoly" - Charlotte Silver, for Al Jazeera, as published on AlterNet.org
    • From the article: Monsanto knows that consumers won't voluntarily buy their products - a lesson learned in Europe when GE foods there were required to be labelled as such. In America, the company and its allies have spend millions to defeat local labelling initiatives, most recently in California. But if the company successfully crowds out conventional farmers, Americans won't have a choice - with or without a label."
In consumer demand & awareness news:
  • "Can Healthy Eaters Stomach the Uncomfortable Truth About Quinoa?" - Joanna Blythman, The Guardian, as published on AlterNet.org
    • From the article: But there is an unpalatable truth to face for those of us with a bag of quinoa in the larder. The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extend that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it...In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken. Outside the cities, and fuelled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture. (my emphasis added)
  • "12 Disturbing Facts About Farm Labor Conditions" - Roque Planas, Huffington Post
In farmland news:
In kids-are-cute-and-full-of-hope news:

(From GOOD.is; to support this project, click here.)

Help fund "SEED: The Untold Story"!

In addition to trying to understand and grapple with the nuances of farm subsidies, ag. policy and the complex farm bill, I'm also beginning research on seed saving (i.e. networks, banks, growers) in my bioregion for my grad. thesis. So, of course, I was delighted to hear about this opportunity to help fund a really important documentary, "SEED: The Untold Story" through Collective Eye Films (the creators of "The Real Dirt on Farmer John" and "Queen of the Sun"). Take a look:


Seed is not just the source of life. It is the very foundation of our being. - Vandana Shiva 
SEED: The Untold Story is a new documentary film that will investigate the dramatic story of seeds, the basis of life on earth. For 12,000 years man has been nurturing and cultivating seeds to form the backbone of civilization. Now, 94% of our seed varieties have been lost and many more are nearing extinction.
SEED unveils a David and Goliath battle for the future of our seeds by examining how five chemical corporations have taken control of seeds through patents, copyrights and genetic modification. These companies are placing ownership on the seeds, literally stealing the genetic material from our ancestors who nurtured these seeds for thousands of years. As Vandana Shiva says “the threat to seed freedom impacts the very fabric of human life and life on the planet.” 
Entertaining and engaging, SEED follows heroes working tirelessly to preserve agricultural diversity as well as the rich knowledge held by indigenous cultures. These farmers, scientists, and seed collectors such as Gary Paul Nabhan, Bill McDorman, Vandana Shiva, Harald Hoven, Native American Emigdio Ballon and Winona LaDuke are the visionaries and caretakers of many of the world’s remaining seeds. On an absorbing journey following a diverse cast of characters, we will witness a brave new movement as these heroes struggle to create a vibrant web of biodiversity and resilience. 
SEED will reveal the awe, wonder and hidden beauty of seeds. It will ignite the imagination of audiences, inspiring them to be part of a new movement to help sustain seed diversity. We will unearth the resilience and power that all seeds have to sustain, enliven and enrich our humanity.
How amazing does this project sound?! Remember, Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing sort of fundraising medium; if the filmmakers don't reach their goal, the film will not be made. So, help these filmmakers with their project and get the message out there about the incredibly imperative need to save seeds, bring food sovereignty to the forefront and promote food and farm literacy!

Watch, share, and, ideally, donate, please!