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  • 06/18/13--04:00: Farm Bill Update
  • UPDATE: On Thursday June 20, the House of Representatives rejected the Farm Bill. You can find more about the status of this legislation here.

    UPDATE: On Thursday June 20, the House of Representatives rejected the Farm Bill. You can find more about the status of this legislation here. »

    Post from Tue, June 18, 2013
    By: Richard McCarthy, Executive Director of Slow Food USA

    You are never going to believe this. We may finally have a Farm Bill.

    Slow Food USA has been tracking this piece of legislation since the beginning and here is where it is ending up….

    The GOOD news: The bill contains important commitments that grow the alternative:

    • $100 million for SNAP incentives;
    • $20 million for the Farmers Market Promotion Program;
    • Senior/Farmers Market Nutrition Program;
    • SARE; value-added and risk management funds for farmers to navigate uncertainty
    • Community Food Projects that place community at the center of our agricultural strategies

    The BAD news: There is much that is bad, including the House version’s $21 billion ten-year cut to SNAP. It represents half of the overall $40 billion cut. This negatively affects 2.5 million hungry people in the U.S. who depend on SNAP to feed their families.

    We care about the good, clean AND fair; and this is simply NOT FAIR.

    There is still a narrow sliver of time to make your voice heard. Contact your House Representative today. »

    The House has stalled progress in the past. Though imperfect, this Farm Bill is better than no Farm Bill. I would encourage House members to restore SNAP funding and to pass a Farm Bill.

    We applaud those of you who have rolled up your sleeves to help shape national policy. It’s no picnic. At this critical juncture, consider and share with us on Facebook...

    • Why has this Farm Bill taken so long? Is the consensus that once shepherded Farm Bills of the past now eroding?
    • From where are good, clean and fair food policies born? In think tanks or through creative action at the local level?
    • Where are existing policies preventing you from growing a new world within the shell of the old? And how will you respond?

    Once this hurdle is crossed, let’s get back to our farms, boats, dinner tables, markets, gardens, and kitchens to create the conditions that make the Slow Food choice possible.


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    The House of Representatives didn’t do it… again.  Most “in the know” politicians expected the House to pass a Farm Bill on June 20, 2013. Yet, in an oddly bi-partisan vote of 234 “nays” (172 majority Republicans and 62 minority Democrats) and 195 “yeas,” the House of Representatives didn’t pass the bill. Mainly, Republicans and Democrats aligned to say “nay” because of the magnitude of SNAP cuts (too high for Democrats and too low for Republicans).

    The House of Representatives didn’t do it… again. Most “in the know” politicians expected the House to pass a Farm Bill on June 20, 2013. Yet, in an oddly bi-partisan vote of 234 “nays” (172 majority Republicans and 62 minority Democrats) and 195 “yeas,” the House of Representatives didn’t pass the bill. Mainly, Republicans and Democrats aligned to say “nay” because of the magnitude of SNAP cuts (too high for Democrats and too low for Republicans).

    The House is now two for two. Last year, Congress failed to pass a new Farm Bill, letting the old one lapse last September. Afterward, Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) produced a limited Farm Bill extension, running to the end of September 2013, as part of a deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and expenditure reductions.

    The largely unexpected failure of this year’s Farm Bill elicited very different opinions from farm and food sectors. Dean Norton, an American Farm Bureau board member, expressed disappointment in a New York Times article: “While there were concerns over certain provisions… we were hoping for its passage and a vigorous debate in conference (that) would reach an appropriate compromise…a fair safety net for the people who produce healthy, local food and the consumers who need help putting it on their dinner tables.”

    Other groups hailed the failure. Jim Weill, of the Food Research and Action Center, is quoted in a FRAC press release: “House Members who voted against this bill because of its awful SNAP provisions have shown they care about the hungriest people in America – children, seniors, working families, unemployed workers, and individuals with disabilities – who are struggling every day to meet their basic needs and to put food on the table. The House did the right thing, and we applaud them for it.”

    Why is this important? Historically, Farm Bills have provided safety nets for both farmers and eaters. Ideally, Farm Bills provide farmers with the security of “knowns”: in an otherwise highly risky business, farmers can plan for the future—what to plant and how to invest in their farms. Farm Bills also provide food security for millions of Americans including children, the aged, the disabled, as well as those suffering economically.

    The absence of a real Farm Bill leaves important programs unfunded and important reforms undone. The Biden-McConnell Farm Bill extension included none of the significant cost-saving commodity subsidy and insurance reforms of the Senate version. This Farm Bill also failed to renew funding for a number of innovative, job-creating programs including rural development as well as minority, organic, specialty crop, and direct market farming. Additionally, the bill failed to include disaster assistance for livestock and fruit producers. On the up side, the Biden-McConnell Farm Bill included none of the Senate bill’s $4 billion SNAP cuts.

    What’s next? While the dust is not settled on the House debacle, there are several ways forward, including the unlikely scenario that the House will abandon its bill and take up the Senate bill. In a radio interview on KFGO, Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN), Ranking Member of the House Ag Committee, offered a pragmatic course, with a caveat: “I think the best solution… is to take …(the) bill, which was bi-partisan…to the (House) Rules Committee and put it on the floor, (where) it’ll pass and get to conference…if people are willing to do it.”

    Slow Food believes that everyone must have access to culturally meaningful, sustainable, and humanely produced food that is good for their health, the planet, and producers—from farm to table. To achieve and maintain good, clean, and fair food, we must advocate for policies that support our principles and against policies that undermine them. We are in the fight today for the best we can get from the 2013 Farm Bill. We are also in the fight for tomorrow—for the next Farm Bill, the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization, and local, state, and national opportunities to advocate for better, clean, and fair food.

    Charity Kenyon and Ed Yowell, Slow Food USA Regional Governors


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    Twenty-eight years ago I left Brunswick, Georgia and my family’s land. I found myself in the U.S. Army at my first duty station in Schweinfurt, Germany. As I walked up to the barracks someone hollered from a window, “Where are you from, private?” I shouted back, “Georgia!” From the other windows I heard people screaming, “We got us a Georgia boy. I haven’t had any good home cooking in a long time.”

    Matthew RaifordTwenty-eight years ago I left Brunswick, Georgia and my family’s land. I found myself in the U.S. Army at my first duty station in Schweinfurt, Germany. As I walked up to the barracks someone hollered from a window, ‘Where are you from, private?” I shouted back, “Georgia!” From the other windows I heard people screaming, “We got us a Georgia boy. I haven’t had any good home cooking in a long time.”

    Even though I was not a cook in the military, over the next nine-and-a-half years, I found myself cooking meals and reminiscing on family dishes with other soldiers.

    After leaving the military, I ended up at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, where I learned so much more about comfort food. There I learned how to make Coq Au Vin, Asparagus with Sorrel Butter, Lamb Tagine and Peach Crepes with Crème Fraiche - all different from the kinds of comfort foods I had been cooking.

    Throughout my culinary career, I have been asked often for my best Fried Chicken recipe (see below). As a classically trained chef, I found it offensive that people would presume that my repertoire would be mostly Southern recipes learned from my family’s matriarchs. Just a few weeks ago, a guest said to me, “This is the best fried chicken I ever had. Your grandma must have taught you this.” Years ago, I would have been incensed at this assumption. Now, my response is, “Funny you say that; I didn’t really know how to cook great fried chicken until about five years ago.” The shocked look I get is priceless to me.

    The history of Southern food is more complicated than just “food influenced and cooked by African American slaves.” No one group of people can hold the entirety of Southern food - what everyone was eating depended on the slave labor in the kitchen. It was the Native/Indigenous people, French, Spanish and West African, among others, that heavily influence Southern food. Many of these foods were created out of seasonality and necessity with readily available spices, vegetables, fresh caught fish and wild game.

    I don’t have all of the answers about Southern food. However, I do know that Southern food is what the world considers comfort food. No matter where I go, people get extremely nostalgic and homesick once we start talking about buttermilk biscuits, fried chicken and potato salad.

    As a chef and a farmer, I enjoy being able to raise and slaughter my own chickens, then marinate the meat in buttermilk and spices, deep fry and eat this meal with friends and family. Thankfully, that’s not the end of our meal – we have added Potato and Carrot Au Gratin, Zucchini Sauteed with Shiitake Mushrooms and, even, Peach Crepes with Crème Fraiche.

    Buttermilk Fried Chicken
    By CheFarmer, Matthew Raiford
    Yield: 8 Servings

    Chicken, fresh and cleaned
    4 chicken thighs
    4 chicken breasts
    4 chicken legs
    4 chicken wings

    Marinade
    ½ cup kosher salt
    ¼ cup granulated garlic
    ¼ cup freshly ground black pepper
    ¼ cup smoked paprika
    8 cups buttermilk

    Chicken Coating
    8 cups all-purpose flour
    1 cup kosher salt
    ½ cup freshly ground black pepper
    1 cup granulated garlic
    1 cup smoked paprika
    1 cup dried oregano

    Fry Oil (Enough for frying chicken)

    Place all chicken in a large bowl. In separate bowl mix ½ cup kosher salt, ¼ cup granulated garlic, ¼ cup black pepper, ¼ cup smoked paprika. Sprinkle this seasoning mix over chicken and toss to coat. Pour buttermilk over seasoned chicken and mix again. Cover chicken and place in refrigerator to marinate for 3-12 hours. In a larger separate bowl, mix flour with remaining spices. Set aside.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees, after chicken has marinated for desired amount of time. Remove chicken from buttermilk; separating white meat from dark meat (do not throw out buttermilk) and place chicken on lined sheet pan. Bake in oven for 12 - 15 minutes, remove and let cool to room temperature.

    Warm oil in a skillet to 350 degrees. Place chicken in seasoned flour mixture to coat, then dredge into buttermilk, and then back into seasoned flour for a second coating. Fry the chicken in batches and cook until golden brown. Place golden brown chicken on clean lined sheet pan and return to oven to cook for 12-15 minutes. Check chicken for doneness with a thermometer for an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Remove from oven and enjoy.

    By: Matthew Raiford, Chef and Farmer


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  • 07/12/13--18:28: Got Good Food?
  • The Good Food Awards—the first national initiative to recognize American craft food producers who stand out in both taste and sustainability—is looking for America’s best food producers.

    Good Food AwardsAwards will be given to 100 winners in five regions of the US (north, south, east, west, central) within ten categories: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, pickles, preserves, spirits and oil.

    A blind tasting with Paul Bertolli, Michael Bauer, Wall Street Journal Columnist Kitty Greenwald, and 150 other food movement leaders will determine this year’s winners.

    Winning products receive the Good Food Awards Seal, a mark that “ensures an exceptionally delicious product that also supports sustainability and social good,” meets or exceeds the Good Food Awards sustainability criteria and use 100% certified organic ingredients.”

    The winners will then be showcased in San Francisco at a special one-day “Good Food Awards Marketplace” at the iconic CUESA Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on January 18, 2014.

    Encourage your favorite local producers and artisans to enter online at www.goodfoodawards.org. The deadline for entries is July 31.


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  • 07/17/13--05:17: Nourish Your Garden
  • It’s the height of the gardening season and, with any luck, your garden is growing and thriving. When everything kicks into high gear like it is now, plants need a lot more nutrition and support to produce those luscious tomatoes, fruits and veggies that make a home garden so memorable. Here are three techniques that will help support and nourish your hard-working garden at this time of year, and one for getting a “second season” from your garden.

    It’s the height of the gardening season and, with any luck, your garden is growing and thriving. When everything kicks into high gear like it is now, plants need a lot more nutrition and support to produce those luscious tomatoes, fruits and veggies that make a home garden so memorable. Here are three techniques that will help support and nourish your hard-working garden at this time of year, and one for getting a “second season” from your garden.

    Fish Emulsion

    Fish emulsion feeds the soil and plants with biologically available nutrients while increasing soil and microbe health. All fish emulsions are good organic nitrogen sources, but they also supply phosphorus, potassium, amino acids, proteins and trace elements or micronutrients that are really needed to provide deep nutrition to your soil and plants.

    One of the benefits of fish emulsion is that they provide a slower release of nutrients into the soil without over-feeding all at once. It is usually applied as a soil drench, but some gardeners swear by using it as a foliar fertilizer as well. For use as a soil drench, mix equal parts water and fish emulsion and apply 1/2 to 1 cup of the mixture to the roots of each plant once every other month during the growing season. To use as a foliar fertilizer, mix 1/4 cup to a gallon of water and spray on the leaves at the end of the day as the temperatures start to cool down. Apply twice a month.

    You can buy fish emulsion at a reputable garden supply store, or you can make your own with a little time and patience. And here’s a tested and well-shared recipe for the Best Homemade Fish Emulsion.

    Milk and Molasses

    Milk and molasses are two techniques that not many gardeners know about. Flower growers have used molasses to feed the blooms for decades, in order to get stronger and longer lasting blossoms. Molasses supplies trace minerals along with bio-available sugars to feed the plant immediately.

    Using milk in your garden may come as a surprise to most, but it has been used for thousands of years, and on closer inspection, really makes sense! The amino acids, proteins, enzymes and natural sugars that make milk nutritional for humans and animals are the same ingredients that nurture healthy communities of microbes, fungi and beneficials in your compost and garden soil. Not only is milk a soil and plant food, it is a highly effective fungicide and a soft-bodied insecticide! Soft-bodied insects (like grasshoppers) don’t have a pancreas to process the sugars, so they are driven off from milk when it is applied to leaves. The fungicidal properties have been researched and proven from Brazil to New Zealand and Canada, especially for melons and tomatoes.

    To make a milk/molasses mixture, mix 2 cups of milk into 8 cups of water and stir in 1/4 cup of molasses for the first feeding, then 1 – 2 tablespoons for each application after that. Use as a soil drench, applying 1 cup to each plant on a weekly basis. This will really help feed your garden at the peak of its production.

    It might seem a bit crazy to suggest thinking about planning and planting your fall and winter garden at the peak of the summer heat – but that is exactly what you should start! For most parts of the country, planting a second garden in August of cooler season greens and vegetables will give you another season of delicious veggies from your garden, after the first season has slowed down. Think kale, beets, carrots, Swiss chard, leeks, spinach, lettuces, garlic and onions. All of these are pretty easy and very familiar. Maché, radish, mustard greens, kohlrabi, parsley, radicchio, sorrel, turnips and cress are a little less common to most gardeners, yet are delicious and extremely nutritious. Give it a try this year and enjoy your “second season” gardening.


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    Biodiversity is an environmental necessity. The vast, distinct combinations of DNA needed to create the foods we eat and the world we live in are a resource that needs protecting. Without this resource we risk famine and disease.  Without it, we lose the resiliency to adapt to our changing world. This dire reality is a good reason for Slow Food to embrace the need to support biodiversity through projects like the Ark of Taste and Presidia. Still, there may be an even better one: wonder.

    Biodiversity is an environmental necessity. The vast, distinct combinations of DNA needed to create the foods we eat and the world we live in are a resource that needs protecting. Without this resource we risk famine and disease. Without it, we lose the resiliency to adapt to our changing world. This dire reality is a good reason for Slow Food to embrace the need to support biodiversity through projects like the Ark of Taste and Presidia. Still, there may be an even better one: wonder.

    I visited Spence Farm in Fairbury, Illinois recently, where the farmer’s capacity for wonder is reaping a rich harvest. The Travis family, in their eighth generation of working that land, take inspiration from the wealth of biodiversity. Most recently they imagined rice growing on their farm. They don’t have any experience with the grain, or any wetland to grow it in the rice paddy fashion usual in tropical climates. So, they sought out a rare dry land variety traceable back to the Asian mainland. It’s growing pretty well. Two rows, alive so far. Just enough to save seed for next year, and more than enough to feed Will Travis’ boundless imagination for what the future of his family farm could be.

    The Travis’ share their inspiration too. I was with a group of chefs from Chicago and Champagne that day. As we walked the Travis’ fields the chefs kept nibbling on what grew around them. We tasted fava bean leaves: pretty good. The berries of asparagus after it had gone in to its frond stage: not so good.  “What’s this?” “Can I eat it?’ “What will I do with it?” We speculated on how the foraged diets of the Guinnea Hogs (an Ark of Taste breed) effects the flavor of their meat, and how best to work with that flavor. The fire of creativity was lit in these chef’s eyes. Protecting biodiversity is much more than simply storing genetic information. It is protecting the raw material that feeds the fire of human creativity, of imagination, of wonder.

    Megan Larmer
    Manager of Biodiversity Programs

    Slow Food USA


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    Is it possible to operate a truly organic and sustainable farm today? In the short documentary “Where the Food Grows”, New York-based film student Noah Throop finds out.

    Is it possible to operate a truly organic and sustainable farm today? In the short documentary “Where the Food Grows”, New York-based film student Noah Throop finds out.

    The focus of Throop’s documentary is Hayters Hill, a family-run grass-fed cattle and free-range chicken farm in Byron Bay, Australia. The film offers a rare view of the daily operations, trials and triumphs of a modern family farm as we follow farmers Hugh and Dave along in their daily tasks.

    We recently caught up with Throop to chat about his inspiration, his Australian experience, and hopes for our food’s future. Check out his interview below.

    What inspired you to make this documentary? What do you wish for the public to take away from this film?

    During my junior year at Skidmore College, I chose to spend four months studying environmental studies abroad in Australia. I spent much of the semester narrowing down my focus for a film.

    Having grown up on a small farm myself, I am aware of the emotional and gratifying force of growing your own food in your backyard. I have also become increasingly aware of the great disconnect between consumers and producers of food. I therefore chose to portray the lives and farming practices of the family at Hayters Hill Farm because I sought to use film to foster greater public discourse on food production. My film is meant to invigorate viewers to reenter a lost dialogue between themselves and their food.

    The farmers you feature, Hugh and Dave, mention that, ideally, they would have a closed loop operational system (therefore not having to export any processes, like butchering, outside of their farm). The current conditions make it almost impossible. What do you think the biggest hurdle is in reaching this closed loop system? Do you think it’s possible?

    Unfortunately, there are significant obstacles that both Hugh and Dave encountered on a daily basis. They would ideally grow their own grain for their stock of cattle and chickens, but the availability of land space is constricted. As far as state regulatory effects on their cattle and chicken operations, unless they were to go through a lengthy, complex certification process to be declared organic, they are unable to do so at this point. As Dave discusses in the film, it becomes difficult to avoid shortcuts.

    The struggles they face are quite possibly similar to those faced by many small-scale farmers around the world who are attempting to provide for their families while caring for and nurturing the land. But their struggles and difficulties should not detract from what these farmers do. Their business allows for close communication between themselves and their customers. This transparency has lasting benefits that far outweigh the convenience and cheap price of industrialized food in a supermarket.

    Tell us about your favorite farm experience.

    I had many memorable experiences while filming this documentary and working at Hayters Hill Farm. The work on the farm is exhausting and endless, but there is an obvious passion and joy that each of them brings into their craft that makes the process worthwhile. Observing this behind the camera and developing close relationships with my subjects and their work was the most rewarding aspect of the project. I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to trace the path of the food produced here, “from paddock to plate.” There is no greater satisfaction than ending a day eating the food that you helped to produce and create.


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    A decade ago "heirloom" triggered images of your grandfather’s pocket watch or the delicate veil your great-grandmother wore at her wedding. Talk about "heirloom" nowadays and images of luscious tomatoes in the colors of the rainbow appear before your eyes.

    A decade ago "heirloom" triggered images of your grandfather’s pocket watch or the delicate veil your great-grandmother wore at her wedding. Talk about "heirloom" nowadays and images of luscious tomatoes in the colors of the rainbow appear before your eyes. Heirloom veggies have become a staple around farmers markets and even in some quality supermarkets you will be able to find striped Chioggia Beets or tri-colored carrots.

    The word "heirloom" describes "a family treasure, passed down through generations." As such, some smart folks started using it to describe vegetable and fruit varieties whose seeds still represent the varietals in their original form: before hybrid-breeding and before genetically modified organisms (GMO). So how did we get from one to the other?

    UNDERSTANDING HEIRLOOM TERMINOLOGY

    Heirlooms:
    Farmers have always been selectively breeding: By choosing the strongest plant or the one with the best yield, they developed seed stock that was best adapted to their land, its microclimate and soil conditions and promised a plentiful harvest. These varieties, which have been kept alive by generations of farmers, are open-pollinated and at least 50 years old are usually called "heirlooms."

    Hybrids:
    This is produce bred from two genetically different parents in order to create a new variety with specific traits. For example, a plant with exceptional yield is crossbred with one that has superior disease resistance. While hybrids are usually the result of a lab situation, it is a process that could have occurred in nature.

    Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs):
    GMOs cross absolutely unrelated species, nothing that could ever happen in a natural setting. Example: In order to create a tomato with frost resistance, scientists inserted genes from the winter flounder (note: no GMO tomatoes are currently commercially cultivated).

    REDISCOVERING VARIETY

    Most of the vegetables grown commercially are hybrids as they allow farmers to grow more efficiently with increased yield, disease resistance, uniformity of fruit and shelf life. Unfortunately, for all this progress we had to sacrifice something along the way: flavor, nutritional value and biodiversity. Tomatoes are now bred so they can be shipped green and ripen on a truck – flavor stopped being the tomato’s raison d’être. Research also points to a loss of nutritional value.

    Most importantly, though, we are losing variety. "The trend for hybrids has dramatically reduced biodiversity worldwide,” said Richard McCarthy, executive director of Slow Food USA. "In the United States alone an estimated 90 percent of our fruit and vegetable varieties have vanished. This is not only a cultural loss, but it is posing a great risk for food security.

    Luckily, many eaters are rediscovering the variety of textures, flavors and smells that heirloom varietals offer us, motivating farmers to experiment with heirlooms for commercial production. Heirlooms are also in high demand by home gardeners. "I’ve always grown heirloom-only gardens with great success," says LaManda Joy, award-winning community garden organizer with the Chicago-based Peterson Garden Project and author of The Yarden. "Heirlooms aren’t limited to tomatoes. There are lots of things you can plant now to enjoy in the fall ... purple Brussels sprouts (Red Rubine), beautiful white chard (Italian Silver) and curved yellow beans (Sultan’s Golden Crescent)."

    Pick up the quirky looking veggies at the market, experiment with heirloom varieties in your garden and enjoy the world of flavor that comes with biodiversity. Are you ready to heirloom?


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    Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson is a fascinating analysis of the true nutritional content of today’s fruits and veggies.

    By Annie Donnelly, Slow Food USA intern

    Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson is a fascinating analysis of the true nutritional content of today’s fruits and veggies. Although often considered the key to optimal health, the available produce we have today is actually vastly less nutritious than the varieties of our hunter-and-gatherer ancestors.

    Even though we (mostly) no longer have access to these super-nutritious varieties, we do have Robinson to skillfully guide us to the most nutritious choices in today’s markets.

    As a food science junkie, I found Eating on the Wild Side amazingly compelling. I purchased the book about a week ago, finished it in a handful of days, and have already referenced it more than a dozen times in the kitchen (confession: I may have also used it in the grocery store… twice).

    Not only does the text offer a history of how each species of fruit or vegetable came to its modern state, it also explains how these evolutions impact us today.

    One example of these fascinating changes is my favorite vegetable, the carrot. Robinson shares the little-known tidbit that in sixth-century Europe carrots were actually red, yellow, purple, and white. It was not until an urge to honor the House of Orange (a dynasty at the time) overcame plant breeders in the Netherlands that the orange carrot came to be. And through this selected breeding, we have lost a number of the nutrients and antioxidants found in the red, yellow, purple, and white carrots of the past. Robinson goes on to share how to maximize the nutrition of our current orange carrots (and some ways will definitely surprise you!).

    Robinson’s analysis of our fruits and vegetables suggests that, throughout our history, little thought has been given to what’s actually in our produce. Rather, we just cultivated the yummiest, prettiest, and most easily attained foods. We see this playing out today in our processed foods; however, it is oddly refreshing to hear that our alteration of nature didn’t just begin with big agriculture, chemicals, and processing plants – it began the second we set down roots to farm.

    That said, Eating on the Wild Side is not all doom and gloom. It offers a fresh twist on nutrition: not telling us what we “should” or “should not” eat for optimal health, but rather how to maximize our food’s nutrition whenever we can.

    So, even if the closest you get to a plant-based diet is periodically enjoying an iceberg wedge salad, give this book a read – you’ll be surprised how far our food has come!


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  • 08/04/13--00:32: See you at the market
  • In small town squares and big city centers, farmers markets delicately balance new food innovation with old food traditions. These community-centered markets celebrate the dignity of labor that brings nourishment from field to fork, and provide a safe haven for newcomers to become old friends.

    By Richard McCarthy, Executive Director of Slow Food USA

    Of all food system innovations in the U.S. over the last 20 years, the resurgence of farmers markets may represent the most important DIY expression of community involvement and reinvention.

    In small town squares and big city centers, farmers markets delicately balance new food innovation with old food traditions. These community-centered markets celebrate the dignity of labor that brings nourishment from field to fork, and provide a safe haven for newcomers to become old friends.

    National Farmers Market Week kicks off this Sunday, August 4 and runs through Saturday, August 10.

    I hope you will join me for this year’s celebration at your local market. And when roaming your market this week leaves you hungry to do more, take your support of Slow Food values to the next level with these meals:

    Host a “Grow” Dinner
    Use the five principles of Oxfam’s “Grow Method” to plan your meal (1) reduce food waste, (2) cook and buy food efficiently, (3) buy only what’s in season/local, (4) reduce meat consumption, and (5) buy products that benefit small-scale producers.

    Have a “Meatless Monday
    Give up meat one day a week with these top 10 seasonal recipes from our friends at Meatless Monday. Eating less meat and more nutrient-rich vegetables can help reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity – and save water and fossil fuels, too.

    The more we can connect these environmental issues to our everyday choices, the more effective we can be in changing the future of food in this country.

    See you at the market!


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  • 08/07/13--02:32: Everybody Say Cheese!
  • From Sept 20-23, the city of Bra in Italy’s northeast will once again host four days of Cheese!

    By Slow Food International

    From Sept 20-23, the city of Bra in Italy’s northeast will once again host four days of Cheese! Coming from across Italy, Europe and the world, cheesemakers will be presenting a staggering range of fromage to visitors, participating in workshops and guided tasting sessions and discussing critical issues facing the world of artisan dairy production today.

    The theme of this ninth edition of Slow Food’s biennial event is the Ark of Taste – a project to catalog traditional food products at risk of disappearing – because protecting a cheese means saving breeds, pastures, landscapes and the knowledge preserved by rural communities. Visitors are encouraged to join the Save a Cheese! campaign by nominating a dairy product for the Ark.

    In addition to biodiversity, the event will address other issues important to cheesemakers such as raw milk and starter cultures, the abandonment of mountain pastures and increasing cases of food fraud.

    The program of Taste Workshops offers a unique insight into cheese from a particular region or style: taste French cheeses under the guidance of Laurent Mons, sample cheeses from the Pyrenees with Montserrat Ferrer, or discover the cheeses of South Africa, the Balkans and other far-flung places.

    During the four days of the event visitors can taste and buy cheeses often impossible to find. The streets of Bra’s historic center will be filled with the stalls of the Cheese Market, produced by Terra Madre communities and artisan producers from all corners of the world. The Via degli Affinatori will showcase of the art of cheese agers, including masters such as Jason Hinds from London’s Neal’s Yard Dairy.

    This year the Great Hall of Cheese will highlight producers from the British Isles among its array of 150 cheeses available for tasting, situated side-by-side the Enoteca with its complimentary selection of 800 Italian wines. The best of Italy’s ‘cheesy’ regional cuisine will be available from the Tasting Booths, Street Food stalls and the Pizza Piazza.

    Read more about Cheese 2013.


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    A lost treasure of American horticulture has resurfaced in Sumter, South Carolina. The Bradford Watermelon, a ridged dark gray green red-fleshed watermelon with white seeds and splendid taste, has been preserved by eight generations of the Bradford family since the late 1840’s.

    By Janette Wesley, Southeast Ark of Taste Committee, Slow Food USA

    A lost treasure of American horticulture has resurfaced in Sumter, South Carolina. The Bradford Watermelon, a ridged dark gray green red-fleshed watermelon with white seeds and splendid taste, has been preserved by eight generations of the Bradford family since the late 1840’s.

    It was a modern namesake of the original creator – landscape architect Nat Bradford – who called me this week, telling me that he kept the Bradford growing. I met him, reviewed his photographs against the classic description of the melon’s characteristics, and concluded he had the real deal. One of most legendary of the country’s ancestor watermelons had survived to the 21st century.

    Recollections by Nat:

    “At the age of ten, my two brothers and I were introduced to the Bradford Family watermelon field. My grandfather, Theron Bradford, (I’ll refer to him as my “Papa”) enlightened us on the history of our watermelons and how to plant them.

    The most important thing I learned is to never, never, never let the watermelon cross with another variety. This was ensured by planting them at least a mile away from any other patch. For three generations, these watermelons rotated in one little field far away from other patches and well out of sight.

    As far as descriptions go, words cannot do justice. If you ask anyone in the family what they think about “store-bought” melons, you’ll get some variation of “never as good as a Bradford.” I will, as unbiased as I can be, admit that there is a uniqueness to our melon that I have never experienced outside of our fields.

    If you placed our watermelon beside the store-bought sorts, ours might look a bit peculiar: sort of like an alien, oversized, green cucumber. It hasn’t been updated to easily accommodate the modern refrigerator… no matter how you slice it.

    Any other melon I’ve had is so firm that I usually get spritzed with juice when I attempt to gouge in with a spoon. But the Bradford meat is tender, succulent and goes right through the white of the rind. The greatest of all attributes, of course, is sweetness. The Bradford is the sweetest watermelon I have eaten in my entire 37 years. It is precisely these peculiarities that I find so perfectly attractive. It’s why I’m so proud of our little melon, and why I’m so proud to be a part of its legacy.

    Our little family fruit left its field and went on a journey a century and a half ago. It became popular. Then one day it slipped out of popularity and into history… save a small remnant.

    This remnant continued relatively hidden in a small family field, passed on from one generation to the next, popular to the Bradford family and a handful of close friends looking forward to the next year’s bounty. I look forward to seeing where it goes next!”

    The Bradford Watermelon is currently under review by Southeast Regional Committee for boarding to the U.S. Ark of Taste catalog. Know of other foods that are in danger of extinction?  Nominate them for preservation and protection through the Ark of Taste.


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  • 08/18/13--08:16: From the Land
  • I garden to get fresh air. I garden to be physically productive. I garden to feed my family by means other than a paycheck spent at the grocery store. Most important, I garden to remember. My mother always spent some part of her life laboring in the earth. No matter where my family lived, no matter what was happening with my mother’s busy, glamorous, Hollywood career, she never strayed too far from some patch of dirt.

    Max Brooks, as featured in The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family & How We Learn to Eat, published by Roost Books.

    I garden to get fresh air. I garden to be physically productive. I garden to feed my family by means other than a paycheck spent at the grocery store. Most important, I garden to remember.

    My mother always spent some part of her life laboring in the earth. No matter where my family lived, no matter what was happening with my mother’s busy, glamorous, Hollywood career, she never strayed too far from some patch of dirt. I remember her citrus orchard in our secluded, half-acre Beverly Hills home, and how as a little boy I used to snack on the French sorrel from the patch next to our front door, and how she would raise holy hell if I tramped through her rows of lettuce or string beans in the back of the house.

    That was when I first learned the joys of watching plants grow, when I brought home a germinating pea in a plastic cup of dirt. It was part of a school project, the third grade’s attempt to introduce us to agriculture. That little pea went into our garden, along with a few beans and corn kernels. It taught me about the value of patience, and the anticipation of seeing how much progress each morning would bring. I remember nothing tasting as sweet as the corn that I planted myself.

    I remember summers on Fire Island, where my mother and her sisters fenced off a tiny plot of salt-soaked sand between our families’ two beach shacks, and how they worked all summer with sprinkler hoses, sacks of soil, and seed packets, all so that for the last few weeks in August we could enjoy fresh greens with the fish my cousins and I caught for dinner. She taught me the importance of fish as fertilizer; how her friend Dom DeLuise christened her strawberry guava tree with a wheelbarrow full of fish heads.

    She had grand plans for our new house in Santa Monica, which was finished in 1984, when I started the seventh grade. The sloping backyard would be terraced, irrigated, and lit for a day/night gardening experience. Every night dinner included at least one item “from the land.” I’m not sure if that line came from Dom DeLuise or Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth. Either way, the phrase was as much a staple in our house as the chard and kale and radicchio served at our table every night. And after dinner my mother would lead us in ritual mass slaughter of our enemy, the nefarious cut worm. Flashlights in hand, we’d descend onto the hillside. My mother was an expert in counterinsurgency as well as hand-to-hand combat. Gleefully she picked off each squirming pest and, with her trademark theatrical “HHAA!” crushed them beneath her heel.

    My mother didn’t believe in pesticides, or even chemical fertilizers. She liked to say that she invented the word “organic” long before anyone had even heard of it. She was the first mother among my friends’ families to pay attention to ingredients on food labels and to question what industrial farms were spraying on our store-bought produce. She always insisted that gardening was the only way to ensure what we were putting into our bodies.

    My father had other ideas. While careful never to say this to her face, he made sure I knew that her ties to the land went back to her “Italian peasant heritage.” Maybe he was right. As far back as I can remember, my grandma kept a small plot of tomatoes and basil next to her little house in Yonkers. Her father had been a grocer during the Great Depression, and as a result, my mom bragged, they never went hungry. My mother used to talk about visiting her grandparents and the smell of basil heavy in the air. She once took a cooking class in which the scent of chopped basil – and the sense memories it conjured up – made her break down and cry.

    Maybe it was nostalgia, maybe it was her heritage, maybe it was her way of counteracting an increasingly toxic society, maybe it was all these, but that hillside micro-farm in Santa Monica was her masterpiece. She was just as proud of it as of any of the little golden statues she’d won for pre-tending to be other people. By this point, however, I was quickly losing interest in the kind of growing associated with plants. I was moving into adolescence, and, in my mind, basil had been replaced by boobs.

    For twenty years, I lived as an urban hunter-gatherer. Food was just something to keep me going during the day, and plants were just something old people cared about. Any interest in agriculture came from my general curiosity about survivalist culture (which I translated into my first book). Any connection to my Italian heritage came from learning how to make a decent marinara sauce (from canned ingredients), and that was only to impress the girl who would one day become my wife.

    Then my mom got sick. A lifetime of label reading and organic food turned out to be useless in the face of uterine cancer. We were all living in New York at the time: my parents, me, my wife, Michelle, and our newborn son, who was lucky enough to spend a few precious hours with his grandmother. It was an artificial existence, and apart from nuclear subs or the international space station, I’ll be damned if any life is more removed from nature. The only places I ever saw trees were in the cramped, over-manicured, urine-soaked corrals that passed for parks. The only time I ever planted anything was in Valhalla cemetery in Yonkers.

    A few years later we moved back to California, and while I waited for my new home office to be finished, I set up a temporary work space in my parents’ – my father’s – house. I figured it was a way to save the money I would have thrown away on renting an office. It was also a way of staying physically close to an eighty-year-old man who was alone for the first time in his life. From the attic window I could look down on the garden, overgrown now, neglected and brown. I’m not sure exactly when I picked up the mattock and got to work. I’m not sure when a one-time visit to Armstrong garden center became a weekly (sometimes daily) habit. I’m not sure when I started permanently wearing a Leatherman multi-tool on my belt or when I set up pots and plastic sheeting and grow lights in a corner of my father’s attic. Those three years are still very much a blur.

    Gardening is now an integral part of my life, as much as it ever was to my mom. Tomato plants are growing again on her hillside, as well as basil and potatoes and sometimes a few more exotic crops like cotton, tobacco, and a lot of sugar cane. I also have a few coffee plants, one of which started as a houseplant I gave my dad for his bathroom window. It’s taken a few years, but we’re just getting our first big crop of beautiful purple berries.

    As supportive as he was of my mother’s hobby, he simply tolerated it. But my dad now takes an active role in mine. Together we go through the tomato plants, picking the best for sandwiches and sauce. This season we’ve made sixty-two jars of marinara, more than enough for an entire year. My father has also invested in several fruit trees; last June we were drowning in peaches.

    Neither one of us is particularly religious, so keeping my mother’s garden alive seems the best way to honor her memory. “She’d be real proud of you,” my dad says over a bucket of harvested Brandywines. “She would,” I respond, “but she’d be pissed about the mess.”

    I won’t say I feel her presence when I’m working in the soil, but memories of her are never far when I’m digging a hole for fish guts, or tasting this season’s strawberry guava (we still have that tree!), or killing slugs in the small plot of my own house. Like her, I don’t use pesticides, and like her, every kill is personal. Sometimes on weekends my son helps me defend our crops. I explain to him, like “Grandma Annie” explained to me, that while it’s never good to kill, sometimes it’s necessary when protecting our food. Most of the time I go out alone at night, flashlight in hand, with the reverence of a religious ritual. I’d like to believe that there is such a thing as an afterlife, that a part of my mom still exists somewhere. I hope, as my dad says, that she’d be proud of me for continuing her tradition, and that maybe, just maybe, she watches over my nightly pest hunts, smiling at each theatrical “HHAA!”

    HOMEMADE YONKERS, NEW YORK,
    ITALIAN TOMATO SAUCE

    Only the salt and olive oil are store-bought; all other ingredients are homegrown. Portions tend to be rough and peasant-y and depend on the number of people eating.

    MAKES ABOUT 1 QUART

    Roma tomatoes, roughly 4 blenders full
    (I also like to mix in a few homegrown Brandywine and cherry tomatoes for flavor)
    Basil, 1 fistful per quart of blended tomatoes
    Garlic, 1 half clove per quart of blended tomatoes
    Salt
    Olive oil, 1 tablespoon per quart of tomatoes

    Puree the tomatoes, basil, and garlic in a mixer with as much water as needed to allow for blending. Add salt as needed for taste. Add olive oil. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring, all day (yes, all day), until the liquid has reduced to a sauce

    Either serve immediately or pour into jars and freeze.


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  • 08/22/13--08:00: Food Waste: What We Can Do
  • America is a country of consumption. We are constantly buying, selling and using all types of products to meet our ever-growing needs. This cycle is no different for our food. Yet, it’s increasingly apparent that as much as we love to buy and sell, we have a serious problem managing our leftovers.

    By Annie Donnelly, Slow Food USA Intern

    America is a country of consumption. We are constantly buying, selling and using all types of products to meet our ever-growing needs. This cycle is no different for our food. Yet, it’s increasingly apparent that as much as we love to buy and sell, we have a serious problem managing our leftovers.

    According to the USDA, food waste makes up 30-40% of the American food supply. That’s about 133 billion pounds of food wasted per year. To make this waste a little more real, this hefty percentage means that, per person, we throw away about $391 a year, or $33 a month, in food alone.

    This discarded food journeys from our garbage bins into landfills, where it is then left to decompose and emit harmful methane gas into our atmosphere.

    Food waste hurts our economy and environment substantially. And it’s especially disturbing considering that one in six Americans currently relies on some form of food assistance in order to eat.

    As troubling as our current food waste predicament is, there are a number of promising solutions emerging. This June, the EPA officially issued a “ Food Waste Challenge”  with activities across the nation to inform and aid large-scale producers (including processors, local governments and retailers) on how to “ reduce, reuse and recover” their food waste.

    There are also national organizations like the Society of St. Andrew that work directly with American farms to deliver excess harvest to outlets that serve the hungry. The Society of St. Andrew also has specific projects, including “ Potato and Produce,” a program that salvages loads of potatoes and other produce that is rejected by commercial markets or factories and redistributes them to feed the hungry.

    Services like Ample Harvest offer another unique solution. Through the Ample Harvest website, “ backyard gardeners” can find a food pantry near them that is ready and able to accept donations of gardener’s excess bounty. This garden surplus is then redistributed to hungry families. Ample Harvest’s solution benefits both the home gardener and the families who rely on food assistance, as these families often have very limited access to fresh produce within their assistance programs.

    Even closer to home are websites like SustainableTable.org, a website that offers information, practical solutions and tips on how to reduce and/or redistribute personal food waste. Sustainable Table also provides links to other services and organizations where individuals can find more information and volunteer opportunities.

    Food waste is a big issue in America, but even small changes from the everyday consumer can help. By redistributing the waste of large-scale farms, sharing extra harvest from our own backyards, and making conscious changes in our own homes, we can solve our food waste dilemma: one diverted food scrap at a time.


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    What does it take to be an organic famer in modern-day Italy? What struggles do small-scale farmers face as they try to provide local, clean, and sustainably grown food for their region? Food First’s Katie Brimm finds out, when she chats with Giorgio Cingolani, an organic farmer and rural community advocate in Italy.

    By Katie Brimm Food First / Food Sovereignty Tours

    What does it take to be an organic famer in modern-day Italy? What struggles do small-scale farmers face as they try to provide local, clean, and sustainably grown food for their region? Food First’s Katie Brimm finds out, when she chats with Giorgio Cingolani, an organic farmer and rural community advocate in Italy.

    In this insightful interview, Cingolani discusses the importance of food sovereignty, his advocacy work, and why it’s so important to guarantee good, clean, and fair food for all.

    Katie Brimm: In addition to leading the upcoming Food Sovereignty Tour, you work as a small farmer and food activist in Italy. How did you get involved in this work?

    Giorgio Cingolani: Growing up among peasant children in a period when the modernization of agriculture was still to come, I had the opportunity to observe and appreciate the value of practical, hands-on knowledge. This led me to obtain a BA in Agronomy and doctoral degree in Agricultural Economics in Berkeley, California. Afterwards, I worked in applied economic research, workers union organizing, and international work with rural populations.

    In the 1980’s I started to do advocacy work addressing the right to food and ecological issues in Turin [Italy] as a member of Movimento Nonviolento (MN), an Italian association that promotes nonviolence. Along with this work, I still consider my work with unions and my direct involvement with peasants essential to my personal political development.

    In 2000 I inherited 9 hectares [approx. 22 acres] of land from my father that I decided to convert into an organic farm. Farming has both been an exciting next step in my life as well as a great opportunity to improve my food advocacy work- it has given me the opportunity to expand my network and relationships with people involved in the direct production and consumption of food.

    KB: As a producer, what are some of the challenges you face and how you and your community are working for change?

    GC: The major challenge so far as a producer is the marketing of our products. Organic producers are still a minority here, although the numbers of producers and organically farmed areas are increasing.

    Nonetheless I have managed, like other organic producers, to practice direct sales to organized groups of consumers. This helps in reducing costs and gives the opportunity to reach a broader audience and involve them in food rights advocacy work. I’ve noticed an increasing interest from consumers, especially young couples, for improving the quality of their children’s diet, as well as awareness about the dangers of industrial agriculture and decreasing the distance from production to consumption.

    KB: It seems some of the challenges faced by the Italian food sovereignty movement may be parallel to what we’re seeing in the US. Do you see what is happening within social movements in Italy as a reflection of broader conditions in the global food movement?

    GC: The Italian food sovereignty movement reflects both the broader conditions in the global food movement and the history of class struggle in Italy.

    The Italian food system was shaped by two ideologies: the capitalist-orientated Christian Democratic Party and the socialist and communist opposition, both of which pushed for the modernization of the food system. The modern Italian conventional food system was shaped after WWII: the production, processing and consumption of food became oriented towards increased efficiency. Powerful processing industries were decisive actors for shaping food practices from farm to fork. Food policies, both in the production and distribution aspects, were biased in favor of capital and urban areas, against peasant labor interests.

    However, this framework of values, policies and practices in the food system over the years has recently been disputed because of its unsustainability. The growing influence of safety incidents, food crises, public protests against genetically modified food and debates over the globalization of food production and consumption have introduced the need for changing the rules of the game. The public has pressured the European Union and national governments for agricultural policies that promote more sustainable food regimes. The Italian Food sovereignty movement really emerged from these pressures and contradictions.

    Cingolani will be a co-leader for Food First’s Food Sovereignty Tour to the Piedmont region of Italy. For more information on the Piedmont tour and the Food Sovereignty Tour organization, please visit: www.foodsovereigntytours.org.


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