If you’re spending this Earth Day (it’s Sunday) north of the city–hiking or biking the Hudson, perhaps–consider an afternoon stop off at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie for a discussion with four of the most forward-thinking sustainable ag businesses in the region.
We were pleased years ago when Whole Foods launched sustainably-minded color-coding at the fish counter, as per the Blue Ocean Institute. Starting April 22 the grocer is phasing out the red-flagged fish altogether.
The International Association of Culinary Professionals, in town for their annual conference–this year’s theme is food and fashion–has a few extra seats for their food policy panel, which is being broadcast live tomorrow night at 7 pm at WYNC’s Jerome L. Greene performance space.
We’ve been making the rounds of winter farming conferences in the region–from NOFA to PASA–and we just got back from the most urban of these, Just Food’s 2012 conference at the High School of Food and Finance in Hell’s Kitchen, which included a job fair organized by Good Food Jobs and workshops advising on how to start a career as a farmer, raise money for your food startup, or launch your food-related nonprofit.
I’ve been thumbing through the short, final chapters of Joan Gussow’s most recent book, Growing, Older. They’re humorous even if the themes include dying, lifelong regrets, sea level rise and climate change. The later geological preoccupations are shared by both of us—we both garden in floodprone areas—and the balmy, 60-degree afternoons this past weekend reminded me that the future-oriented predictions of climate scientists seem more and more to have arrived in the here and now. (And, my colleagues at Edible Brooklyn tell me, the annual winter festival at Prospect Park was just cancelled, due to weather too warm to make snow.)
Last weekend I had a few seriously inspiring days at the annual winter conference held by NOFA-NY, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York. The sessions were fantastic, and I just love being around men holding babies, women talking about carcass weight, everyone knitting and yes, people bringing their own garlic to slice onto salad. Here are some photo highlights (with captions) from my trip.
This Saturday, January 21st, from 10:30 am to 5:45 pm, make yourself a some lunch and get comfortable in front of your computer for TEDxManhattan’s “Changing the Way We Eat,” a live simulcast from the TimesCenter in Times Square. Twenty speakers who know more than a thing or two about the subject of sustainable eating and farming (including Mitchell Davis, the Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation, Michelle Hughes, the Director of GrowNYC’s New Farmer Development Project, and Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States) will explore a variety of issues, and talk about our choices and their consequences.
It might not be true that Gov. Cuomo will stop plans for fracking in New York State if he receives a million letters against the natural gas drilling technique, but the rumor is good news to folks like Doug Wood, who launched amillionfrackingletters.com back in September. The site was set up to send hundreds of letters to Albany (and as many phone calls, with luck) urging the Governor to ban hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. Wood runs the Port Washington, Long Island-based nonprofit Grassroots Environmental Education with his wife Patti, and fracking has long been one of their touchstone issues. He got the idea for the campaign from a random comment likely made in jest from a Cuomo staffer.
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.