Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Channel Catalog


    0 0

    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


    0 0

    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.


    0 0

    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?


    0 0

    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!


    0 0
  • 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!


    0 0
  • 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.


    0 0

    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.


    0 0
  • 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.


    0 0
  • 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.


    0 0

    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.