New Leaf New York: From Pharma to Farm

Brooklyn Food Conference

A bit late with the cross-post, but I blogged for Farm Aid‘s about my experience at the Brooklyn Food Conference. Here’s a taste:

I attended “Our Sustainable Restaurants: A Roundtable of NYC Chefs,” led by Leonard Lopate of WNYC public radio. On the panel were Dan Barber; Peter Hoffman of Savoy and Back Forty; Bill Telepan of Telepan; David Shea of Applewood; and John Tucker of Rose Water.

A very popular panel, the discussion ranged from the chef as instrumental in changing food attitudes to seed sharing, and even tackling the accusation that choosing to eat sustainably is an elitist idea. Barber and Shea explained how chefs, first and foremost, care about taste — and food grown sustainably and responsibly, especially locally, simply tastes better. The chefs agreed that sustainable food’s higher prices, which could be seen as elitism by some, is really just a reflection of the true cost of food; Americans have been accustomed to artificially cheap food for far too long and the higher prices are a correction. As one of them noted, many consumers are learning to say, “Food is where I want to spend my money — on what I put into my body, not what I hang off of it.”

My favorite verbal nugget of the session? Telepan quipped, “If we are what we eat, then we’re fast, cheap, and easy.”

Read the rest of the post here.

Voice your support for a sustainable USDA

How?  You can sign on to this letter, for starters.  And do it quick, ’cause bloggers, journos and pundits seem to think Obama is gonna announce this puppy any day now.

Food Democracy Now, a grassroots movement of farmers, writers, chefs, and other food-and-community types who advocate a sustainable food system, drafted the letter to President-Elect Obama urging him to appoint a Secretary of Agriculture who is well versed in sustainability and will have a “broad vision for our collective future” in a way that past appointees have not.

Food Democracy Now incorporates energy, environment, public health, and the economy into the reasoning behind supporting an appointee who believes the following are of utmost importance: Continue reading

Put down that hamburger
December 8, 2008, 2:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

The meat industry has some ‘splainin’ to do.  This week and next, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including environmental ministers from 187 countries, meets in Poznan, Poland, to discuss the meat (har!) of a new treaty to help ameliorate global warming.

Though the panel has plenty of ideas on fuel, factories, and the other usual suspects, the arena of agriculture still falls behind when it comes to solutions on how to effectively curb emissions.  Some proposals include methane capture — collecting pig manure, heating it, then using the methane captured from the process to add electricity to the local power grid — or engineering feed that produces less methane in the first place.

But many believe that meat production and consumption on the scale we see today is simply not sustainable, no matter how much we reverse-engineer what goes into or comes out of our livestock.  With the higher global demand for meat, especially from developing countries such as China and India, we’re losing rainforest and other land, and expending more fuel to transport and refrigerate it; some say that our best hope is simply to reduce meat consumption altogether. Continue reading

Unemployment ain’t nothin’ but a number
November 6, 2008, 1:41 pm
Filed under: From Pharma to Farm | Tags: , , ,

Today, the AP is reporting that the government will release a report tomorrow showing that over 200,000 Americans lost their jobs in October, with a record high total of current jobless claims: the highest in 25 years.  And: I’m one of them.

Yes, the job I thought might be the “dream job,” doing exactly, precisely what I wanted to do — working for a nonprofit on sustainable agriculture and local food issues, something I wasn’t sure I could actually discuss on this blog — is no longer mine.  Due to the economic crisis, specifically the giant market flops that occurred in September, two of the organization’s major donors pulled out.  The management had no choice but to let a third of its staff go; October 6th was my last day.

I was only there for two months, but I feel I learned a lot.  I really wanted to continue my work there, of course.  I was learning so much about sustainable ag and was so excited to dive in and get some important work done.  Alas, it was not to be.  But I did write my first grant, and work directly with farmers across the country, both of which were valuable experiences.

So, I’ve been looking for work for a month now, and still haven’t received any unemployment benefits.  I’m down to almost nothing.  Moths are flying out of my wallet.  I’m crossing my fingers that the gubmint cheddar will come in this week; I think I’ve finally gotten my Department of Labor representative connected with my former employer, and they should be able to iron out the remaining details quickly.  I hope. Continue reading

A Taste of Greenmarket, but not for me
October 31, 2008, 12:16 am
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From Anjuli Ayer's Flickr Photostream

O, how I wanted to attend last night’s Taste of Greenmarket fundraiser for CENYC.  Unfortunately, it was a benefit with benefit prices ($150 a head), and, well…that’s a bit rich for this blogger.  Fortunately, however, Anjuli Ayer at A Smart Mouth did attend, and covered the whole thing beautifully, complete with photos that’ll make your salivary glands go bonkers.

The event, created to celebrate harvest season at Greenmarket, featured the city’s best known chefs utilizing the most delicious local flavors of the season: Dan Barber of Blue Hill & Stone Barns, Mary Cleaver of The Green Table, Peter Hoffman of Savoy, Gabriel Kreuther of The Modern, and tons of other talented food folk.

Am I jealous?  Uh, yes.  Will I save up for a ticket next year’s Taste of Greenmarket?  You betchum, Red Rider.

Image courtesy Anjuli Ayer

A beautiful morning, happily spent
August 22, 2008, 12:34 am
Filed under: Metrocropolis | Tags: , , , , , ,

This past Saturday, I enjoyed my first volunteering experience at the Greenmarket at Fort Greene Park.  I attended a mandatory volunteer training session at Grand Army Plaza several weekends ago, and was very surprised to learn that the Fort Greene market had no volunteers at all!  I emailed the market manager as soon as I could, and unfortunately between an Indian wedding and a very profitable stoop sale, it took me a couple of weekends to get started, but I was determined to get out there — somewhat early, even! — and be a happy helper to my neighbors.

I’m a familiar face to some of the farmers and sellers there, as I’ve been a regular visitor to the market for a few years now.  I’m excited to get to know some of them better, especially since I’ve been learning so much in the last couple of weeks about exactly how damn difficult farming can be.  I have immense respect for them and the backbreaking work they do every day just to get delicious food to hungry New Yorkers.

My first task was to pull on my Greenmarket t-shirt and affix my “volunteer” badge.  Tricky!

I heard from one of the farmers that a patron had asked him whether his peaches were frozen.  Apparently, they seemed cold to the touch, and the visitor was puzzled.  The farmer shook his head and wondered how and why anyone would think that peaches would be frozen when it’s peak peach season right now: “If they’re frozen, when were they frozen?  Why would we freeze them?”  He ticked off some other common-sense-less questions from city folk, such as “Do you bleach the brown eggs to get them white?” and “Did you go to high school?”  I chuckled, but of course the underlying realization is that many people remain, sadly, severely disconnected from their food. Continue reading

Chix and the city

Remember this guy?  Of course you do: Manny Howard chronicled his attempt to eat hyper-locally for a year — that is, food from his own Kings County backyard — and along the way he found out that chickens are smelly, your wife may come to hate your guts, and you can’t stop a freak Brooklyn tornado.  And he didn’t make it for a whole year, but I give him an A for effort.  To be fair the concept was a little silly, but he did prove a point — readers understood all the tiny, possibly unforeseen details of eating very locally.

Some Californians have got the same idea in their heads.  Sonoma once had chickens running “wild” in the town center, until the population began to grow and parents complained that their children were getting pecked.  This week, the Sonoma City Council was considering allowing once again for residents to own chickens, roosters and rabbits in their homes.

Raising rabbits and poultry are a step toward self-sufficiency and provide healthier meat and eggs, proponents contend.

“Every single person should keep chickens,” said Bob Cannard, a former city councilman who has had chickens for nearly 40 years. “If everybody kept three chickens for every person in the household, we would change the nature of this country.”

Of course, Sonoma isn’t the pastoral near-utopia it used to be; some were especially concerned with the noise that roosters might create. Continue reading