Amidst this week’s hue and cry over the Hobby Lobby decision rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court was this piece by Lisa Hymas on grist.org regarding a similar lawsuit, Eden Foods, Inc. v Kathleen Sebelius. As Hymas’s post notes, “Eden Foods is a Michigan-based business that bills itself as ‘the oldest natural and organic food company in North America.’”
But like the owners of Hobby Lobby, Eden Organics’ owner, Michael Potter, objected to provisions of the Affordable Care Act that addressed birth control coverage by medical insurance plans. Hence Eden’s lawsuit.
And just to be clear, sustainable ≠ progressive, either:
On its website, Eden Foods talks up its commitment to organic and local farming, social responsibility, and even the LEED green-building standards. “One of our founding principles is sustainability,” says the company’s marketing director, Sue Becker. “It guides us today.” But it’s a sad, desiccated version of sustainability that would deny women the ability to decide how many children to have, or whether to have children at all.
From Conrad Hackett of the Pew Research Center:
[F]aced with apparent indifference to stern warnings from state leaders and media alarms, cities across California have encouraged residents to tattle on their neighbors for wasting water — and the residents have responded in droves. Sacramento, for instance, has received more than 6,000 reports of water waste this year, up twentyfold from last year.
Some drought-conscious Californians have turned not only to tattling, but also to an age-old strategy to persuade friends and neighbors to cut back: shaming. On Twitter, radio shows and elsewhere, Californians are indulging in such sports as shower-shaming (trying to embarrass a neighbor or relative who takes a leisurely wash), car-wash-shaming and lawn-shaming.
Conversations with vendors at the local farmers’ markets always touch on the drought and how it’s affecting them and neighboring farms. Some of the stories are just crushing, so driving home past thick, verdant lawns, or seeing pools of water covering the sidewalk after overwatering grates more and more.
I hold in my hand a small, perfectly ripe Sugar Cube melon from Weiser Family Farms, and that means summer is truly upon us.
Because while “indivisible” is certainly hopeful, “founded by farmers” is closer to the truth.
Enjoying, on this Fourth of July, a piece by Tom Wolf published last year in Modern Farmer. And thinking about a visit to Monticello.
“I see the dying trees, the burned-out shrubs. I talk to all the other Freds — there are a lot of them,” he said. “My fear — and it’s a real fear — is that if it doesn’t rain next year, this valley will face a reality that will rival the Great Depression.”
Farming can be liberating, satisfying…and terrifying. Diana Marcum’s piece in today’s Los Angeles Times captures the fear during the current drought.
Cory Bernat has compiled an interesting online collection of posters from World War I and II. Some have been reproduced frequently; not surprising when many of the messages are still timely.
“Waste No Food”
Get a War Garden Going
Fascinating, though, that a Google search for vintage agricultural posters yields much that is expected, unexpectedly peppered with thumbnails of Farrah Fawcett posters from the 1970s.
But at times like this in California, when the drought is threatening the life of many farms, this ancient technique might be worth considering:
By tapping the moisture stored in soil to grow crops, rather than using irrigation or rainfall during the wet season, dry-land farming was a staple of agriculture for millennia in places like the Mediterranean, and much of the American West, before the rise of dams and aquifer pumping.
During the rainy season, farmers break up soil then saturated with water. Using a roller, the first few inches of the soil are compacted and later form a dry crust, or dust mulch, that seals in the moisture against evaporation.
Then again, there’s also the concept of farming on water…
B. R. Cohen, writing in the spring issue of Gastronomica, hits the nail on the head:
What matters for the future of healthy food is not just farmers’ markets, CSAs, urban farms, food hubs, and the like—-the particular individual innovations of the foodsheds-—but the ways they interact and overlap.
Because it is true: none of the individual features of a local food system are ideal. CSAs are not a solution for everyone, nor are urban farms or Whole Foods or farmers’ markets. But the disadvantages of some could be covered by the advantages of others, and in the multitudes come strength. The future of healthy food is not a series of discrete innovations arrayed along a distance-to-proximity axis, that is, but a collective of overlapping cultural and organizational ones.
Very important. Plus some excellent suggested reading selections at the end of the essay.
N.B., this is the first issue of Gastronomica with its new emphasis and new subtitle: The Journal of Critical Food Studies.
Food safety experts say hand washing doesn’t occur enough in general, whether workers are bare-handed or wearing gloves. A study by the Centers for Disease Control on hand washing and hygiene behavior in restaurants found that workers who wore gloves were less likely than those not using gloves to wash their hands when they should.
Glad to read the California Senate voted 32-0 to repeal the law that prohibited ungloved contact with food by staff in restaurants and bars. There are many, many more ways state legislators could strengthen food safety laws. This wasn’t one of them.
The decision was announced today; slip opinion available on the Supreme Court’s website.
Contrary to some of the headlines this is not a decision about the quality of Coca-Cola’s beverages, but a ruling that one player in a market (in this case, POM Wonderful) may bring a Lanham Act claim against another (e.g., Coca-Cola, one of POM’s competitors in the fruit juice market) because such claims are not preempted by federal law (i.e., a regulation of the FDCA).
A six-month investigation has established that large numbers of men bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand are integral to the production of prawns (commonly called shrimp in the US) sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.
The investigation found that the world’s largest prawn farmer, the Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, buys fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves.
Men who have managed to escape from boats supplying CP Foods and other companies like it told the Guardian of horrific conditions, including 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings. Some were at sea for years; some were regularly offered methamphetamines to keep them going. Some had seen fellow slaves murdered in front of them.
While India has supposedly leapt to first place in the shrimp production race, Thailand still produces 183,875,406 pounds (that’s one hundred eighty-three million + pounds), according to 2013 data.
Soylent’s creators have forgotten a basic ingredient found in successful tech products, not to mention in most good foods. That ingredient is delight.
Been following Soylent for some time now and it’s hard to decide what aspect of it is most depressing. While that post is in the works, I was somewhat relieved to see this piece, in the New York Times, reflecting so many of the thoughts I’ve had.
In celebrating the All-Stars of the farmers’ market — asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, emmer wheat — farm-to-table advocates are often guilty of ignoring a whole class of humbler crops that are required to produce the most delicious food. . . .
Perhaps the problem with the farm-to-table movement is implicit in its name. Imagining the food chain as a field on one end and a plate of food at the other is not only reductive, it also puts us in the position of end users. It’s a passive system — a grocery-aisle mentality — when really, as cooks and eaters, we need to engage in the nuts and bolts of true agricultural sustainability. Flavor can be our guide to reshaping our diets, and our landscapes, from the ground up.
The thoughtful Dan Barber of Blue Hill on what some of the missing elements in achieving a sustainable food system might be. And how crucial chefs and consumers are.
The Sunday morning Hollywood Farmers’ Market is one of L.A.’s greatest certified farmers’ markets, and despite some trying times in recent years (threatened loss of permits, leadership crisis) the market and its organizer, SEE-LA, seem to have rebounded. Good thing, too, because it’s one of my favorites.
Now the market is seeking a new director. This isn’t a light job: The market needs someone with significant experience who understands city, county, and state regs and who can work with 160 or so weekly vendors throughout the year. Someone who can get their feet dirty on a farm or at City Hall and feel equally comfortable.
Interested? Here are the details.
Do you know Robert Egger? Have you heard about the DC Central Kitchen? Do you know about the LA Kitchen? You should.
As with so many questions, the answer is a resounding “it depends”:
[M]ost farmworkers work long, hard hours under circumstances most Americans wouldn’t put up with. In addition to undertaking dangerous and highly repetitive tasks in the hot sun, modern farmworkers have been stripped of basic rights, harassed, held against their will, and deprived of breaks and pay.
Do these grim realities apply on all farms? Surely small and organic farms—-the ones you see at your local farmers market-—offer workers a better living under humane circumstances. Don’t they?
Anecdotally, the answer is a resounding yes. Many small-scale producers pride themselves on treating their employees well. But dig a little deeper, and it gets complicated, fast.
Twilight Greenaway writes about the Agricultural Justice Project and their “Food Justice Certified” label.
Thanks to Bored Panda for this introduction to Vyacheslav Mishchenko’s stunning snail photography.
What’s especially fun is the Daily Mail piece with the shots leading up to the kissing snails shot. Yes, you read that correctly. Kissing snails. I’m not even going to quibble with the Mail’s description of the snails “locking lips.” (Snails have lips?)
(The photographer is also on Facebook, for those who want to see more of his work.)
It’s been a month of administrative tasks and behind-the-scenes work, and while I’ve felt it, there’s not been much visible here. That’s about to change and regular posting resumes this week.
Thanks to all of you who’ve asked, and continued to follow.
Good to get that out of the way. In case you were worried.
Modern Farmer recently considered the prevalence of evil Monsanto memes, and why the company seems to have perennial public relations problems:
If you set aside for a moment from the usual debate about whether GMOs are bad or good, a curious fact emerges. For a rich and powerful company that seems to excel at nearly everything it does, Monsanto sucks in one important aspect: spin control.