The Elders of Organic Farming

Elders

By CAROL POGASH

BIG SUR, Calif. — Among the sleek guests who meditate and do Downward Facing Dog here at the Esalen Institute, the farmers appeared to be out of place. They wore baggy jeans, suspenders and work boots and had long ago let their hair go gray.

For nearly a week, two dozen organic farmers from the United States and Canada shared decades’ worth of stories, secrets and anxieties, and during breaks they shared the clothing-optional baths.

The agrarian elders, as they were called, were invited to Esalen because the organizers of the event wanted to document what these rock stars of the sustainable food movement knew and to discuss an overriding concern: How will they be able to retire and how will they pass their knowledge to the next generation?

All this and more in this week’s edition of Jenny’s Food and Ag Update..

Food Chains

Food Chains

There is more interest in food in the United States today than at any time in our history. Yet, there is very little interest in the hands that pick our food – the hundreds of thousands of people to whom we are all connected through our purchases at grocery stores, farmers’ markets and restaurants.

Food Chains explores critical human rights issues in American agriculture from wage theft to modern-day slavery and exposes the powers that perpetuate these un-American violations of human dignity. The film stars dozens of farmworkers as well as Eva Longoria (Executive Producer), Dolores Huerta, Eric Schlosser, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Barry Estabrook, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Fair Food Austin – Now is the Time!

Now is the Time!Hello All,

We bring you exciting news from the national front veritably transforming our nation’s agricultural industry!

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, on the heels of inking a far-reaching agreement with Walmart, the world’s largest retailer — now the 12th multi-billiondollar food company committed to working together with CIW to implement its groundbreaking Fair Food Program, ensuring higher pay & a multitude of new rights & labor protections for tomato harvesters — is holding a major protest this weekend in Florida!

A caravan of Texas-based CIW supporters — from San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, the Rio Grande Valley & Austin — leaves early Thursday to join Florida farmworkers for a 24-hour vigil and march held in the HQ town of Publix, the largest supermarket chain in the southeast corner of the country.  Our Texas caravan includes members of Workers Defense Project and the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition as well as students and community members.

Upon the caravan’s return, we will be hosting a gathering of people interested in advancing the CIW’s campaign here in Austin!  Join us on Monday, March 24th at 5:30 PM at Monkeywrench Books, located at 110 E. North Loop (basically 53rd St., a few blocks west of Duval).

Already, there is preliminary discussion of organizing a protest at a local Wendy’s (the only major fast food chain to not have yet signed with CIW) in the coming weeks as well as a pro-CIW party around International Workers’ Day, the first weekend in May.  Please join us to collectively consider and develop these and other ideas!

Also, in case you’d like to make a financial gift to assist our Texas caravan as they head to reinforce the ranks of Immokalee farmworker supporters, a donation can be made here – and will be genuinely appreciated!

Looking forward to meeting with many of you Monday after next, the 24th, as we plot farmworker solidarity efforts here in Austin,

Sincerely,

Kandace Vallejo, Jordan Buckley, Heather Vega for Austin Fair Food

Vote Food: Tom Colicchio at TEDxManhattan

Change the Way You Eat

Based on Change Food’s Guide to Good Food
guidetogoodfood.wordpress.com

1. Educate yourself – Unfortunately, there is no all-encompassing guide that answers all sustainable food questions, so you need to learn what you can about the food industry and decide for yourself who deserves your support. The following books are a great place to start: Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Hope’s Edge by Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé, Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel. For more recommendations, check out Grist’s Favorite Food Books of 2010:www.grist.org/article/2010-12-20-favorite-food-books-of-2010.

2. Shop sustainable – Where do you get your food? If you answered farmer’s market, CSA or food co-op, you are already concerned with sustainability. Wherever you shop, choose local, organic and/or sustainable items over their industrial, non-local counterparts. When buying meat and dairy, look for free-range, pasture-raised, and antibiotic free. Seek out items with less packaging or skip the packaging altogether by buying bulk items with your own bags. To find sustainable farms, restaurants and markets near you, visit Eat Well Guide orLocal Harvest.

3. Ask questions – One of the greatest benefits of buying your food straight from the farmer is talking directly with the person who grew the food. We ask our farmers all sorts of questions, from ‘what’s the most delicious way to cook this lamb chop’ to ‘what’s integrated pest management’ and ‘do you use any synthetic fertilizers’? If your local grocery doesn’t carry local or organic foods, ask the manager about it! You’d be surprised at the buying power you plus a few friends possess. Check out Huffington Post’s Seven Great Questions to Ask Your Farmer or visit Sustainable Table’s Question Guide.

4. Eat Less Meat – Eating lots of meat is not only bad for you, it’s bad for the environment. Eating less meat can reduce your chances of developing chronic conditions like some types of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Meat, especially from industrial feedlots, is hugely energy intensive, requiring thousands of gallons of water and approximately 40 fossil-fuel calories for every edible calorie. When you do want to eat meat, make sure you support farms that raise and slaughter their animals in a humane and sustainable way. For recipes and resources for going meatless, visit Meatless Monday.

5. Eat seasonal – No matter the season, our supermarkets are filled with a vast array of produce from all around the world. But just because you can find a stalk of asparagus in January doesn’t mean you should eat it! Eating seasonally means buying produce that’s grown locally and eating it right away. Local food has a lesser environmental impact, is fresher, and is produced by your community. That means eating seasonally is healthier for you, your community and the environment! To find a Farmer’s Market near you, visit Local Harvest. To find a CSA in NYC, visit Just Food’s CSA finder.  You can also find Farmer’s Markets and CSAs at the Eat Well Guide.

6. Grow your own – There’s no better way to know your farmer than to be your farmer! Growing your own food guarantees the most healthful, freshest, and satisfying produce you can get your hands on. From a few herbs or sprouts in your kitchen window, to a full veggie patch at your local community garden, growing your own food is the coolest way to go green. For NYC dwellers, find a garden through Green Thumb. If you have high hopes and a tiny apartment, check out Windowfarms!

7. Cook – Eating out poses many challenges to the sustainable eater. How and where does the restaurant get its ingredients? How much food do they throw away? What’s their water consumption? The only guaranteed way to know your food is prepared sustainable is to see the meal start to finish; from buying (or growing?!) the ingredients, through the peeling, chopping, roasting, sautéing, and plating, clear to the last delicious bite. For culinary inspiration, visit Chef Michel Nischan’s recipe page.

8. Drink Local – Approximately 33% of the 2.4 million tons of PET plastic discarded every year is from water bottles—that means 800,000 tons of plastic water bottles will sit in a landfill for thousands of years before decomposing. Bottled water is no safer than tap water; in fact most bottled water is tap water! Trash the bottle and drink your local tap instead. To uncover more facts, watch the story of bottled water at Food & Water Watch. If you need a water refill, visit TapItwater.com to locate a spout, or download their app!

9. Get Involved – Change happens because dedicated people like you support it. Decide on the issues that matter most to you and start or join the campaigns that protect them. Visit non-profits that are fighting for good, clean food like the Environmental Working Group andSlow Food USA to get started.

10. Enjoy! Eating can and should be the simplest joy we all have. Sharing a meal brings people together in a way that little else does. Knowing that the food you eat is grown with care for the environment, farmers, animals, and your own health will only add to your joyful food experience. For tips on creating a loving food environment, check out Laurie David’s new book “The Family Dinner.”

A Sense of Place

In the long, proud tradition of southern literature, writers have often drawn on the region’s unique natural heritage for inspiration and insight—from the haunting cypress swamps of Georgia, to the tall mountains of western North Carolina, to the rolling fields of the Virginia piedmont. As the South grows and changes, southern writers are increasingly exploring the relationship between nature and man. SELC’s Reed Environmental Writing Award honors these storytellers who capture in words our landscapes and traditions in transition.

A Sense of Place