Each December the Stone Barns Center up in Westchester hosts a two-day, sold-out “Young Farmers Conference” that draws hundreds of new-to-farming folks and gives them a chance to hear inspiring speakers, learn hands-on methods, exchange ideas, make new friends, envision policy changes, break bread together and generally suck the marrow out of 48 hours. The conference was held Thursday and Friday, and Henry Sweets, a 29-year-old gardener and freelance writer from the Ohio River Valley, attended. He spent the past summer as a field vegetable apprentice at Stone Barns, and is currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio while he plots (pun intended) his return to New York. While we’d like to note that unlike Henry we love vegetables just as much as bacon, we present Henry’s report from the literal fields.
In the 1930s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt saw that American farmers were producing too much; they weren’t earning off their extra work or surplus. In came the New Deal with the first-ever Farm Bill, set to end overproduction by paying farmers to grow less. In the ’70s, a man named Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture at the time, thought that idea was nuts, and so he paid farmers instead to “get big or get out”–referring of course to farming by the thousands of acres and those devoted to just a few crops. It was a perfectly good idea at the time for a country still discovering the value of its land and thenew global marketplace, which seemed to have no problem taking on the surplus. We couldn’t know then what has happened, which has also included farmers growing more crops for secondary, inedible products like corn syrup and cow feed rather than feeding us.
I sat down to a friend’s dinner table last week with a hunk of acorn squash roasted in brown butter, a mixed greens salad with a yogurt vinaigrette, root vegetable fritters, various jars of home-pickled and home-jammed produce, bread with goat cheese and red wine (a nice spicy one, for under 20 bucks)–all grown or produced within 30 miles. The meal was made by a 20-something farm intern in upstate New York, who’d love to hear good news next week. That’s when The Farm Bill, renewed every five years (most recently in 2008), might reach the legislature more than a year before it should.
We’re sure you listen to every single episode of the two weekly Heritage Radio Network shows hosted by Edible Manhattan staffers. Both are produced by the amazing Jack Inslee (we like to call him Jack in the booth), who also hits the streets in rain sleet and last Saturday’s snow to report on behalf of the network. Here’s his reportage from the Occupy Against Big Food rally held at Zuccotti Park last weekend, where Marion Nestle and Anna Lappe spoke to the crowd.
For those seeking a way to use Occupy Wall Street as a way to discuss much-needed shifts in public food policy, be sure to head to the entrance of Zuccotti Park at 140 Broadway tomorrow at 1 p.m. for “Occupy Against Big Food.” With help from Food Democracy Now, local food activists are organizing a series of speakers that will include some serious heavy hitters in food policy and reform.
Raisins have a reputation of being the Halloween treats that remain at the bottom of the sack long after the sugary lollipops and chocolates have been devoured. If the enthusiasm for vegetables at Eat NYC–held Monday night at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School on W. 93rd Street–was any indication, dried fruit might be able to hold its own this Halloween.
Editor’s Note: What follows is a guest post from Casey Knapp, a fifth-generation dairy farmer at the 600-acre Cobblestone Valley Farm in Preble, N.Y. In addition to milk for Organic Valley, his family’s farm produces 10 acres of organic strawberries, pastured poultry, beef, pork and free-range eggs plus 3,000 yards of compost. Knapp is a also a senior in agricultural science at Cornell University, and recently took part Organic Valley’s 2011 “Who’s Your Farmer?” tour, a three-week fall road trip for 18 young farmers to colleges, fields, greenmarkets and community events through the Pacific Northwest and California on a veggie-oil powered school bus.
What’s Food Day, you ask? Sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, it’s a little like Earth Day, except the end game is six goals that center on increasing access to healthy, fresh food for those of all ages and backgrounds; supporting sustainable agriculture; and ending diet and nutrition-related illnesses through policy change and public awareness.
Just as at Occupy Wall Street, there were many diverse messages placed upon placards at Occupy Times Square last night, like the two shown…
You may have thought that there were labor laws to protect young kids from 14 hour days picking pesticide-sprayed tomatoes, but that’s not necessarily the case, according to director U. Roberto Romano’s documentary about underage migrant workers on American farms. The film, released earlier this year, was hard to catch in theaters but is now out on DVD today. Called The Harvest or La Cosecha, it was backed by actress Eva Longoria and follows three children as they work the fields in Texas, Florida and Michigan.
Today at 3 p.m. on THE FOOD SEEN, our photo editor Michael Harlan Turkell interviews former Washington Post reporter Jane Black and Brent Cunningham, the couple currently writing a book on Huntington, West Virginia–the rural town where Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution taped it’s first season.
I’ve been a fan of Mark Bittman’s cooking and eating advice since I first saw his quirky, easy-to-follow “Minimalist” recipe videos. But he really knocked it out of the park with his latest column in the Sunday Times where he argues decisively, with nifty infographics, that good, healthy food can in fact be cheaper than the fast food alternative.