New Leaf New York: From Pharma to Farm


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
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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



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



The farmer as rock star
August 5, 2008, 12:47 pm
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Courtesy LA Times

Courtesy LA Times

Two interesting pieces today on the farmer-as-rock-star.  The LA Times features a budding young goat farmer, Kimberly Barnes, who is the darling of the 4-H circuit in Orange County.  Did you know there was a 4-H circuit in Orange County?  I sure didn’t.  Anyway, Barnes is generally a fantastic, responsible, and inspiring teenager whose love of goats has led her to study to become a veterinarian at Iowa State, where she’ll begin her freshman year in the fall.

“I really love showing,” she said, in part because it’s the culmination of lots of hard work.

For five years, she’s been up before the sun, milking and feeding before school. The same chores are waiting for her in the evening. She drinks the goat milk raw and makes cheese, but doesn’t sell it. This is all voluntary, with no financial payoff.

Barnes is a great example of what the future of farming could be.  I have a lot of hope for young people interested in farming — learning the newest knowledge and techniques in sustainability and soil science, it could revolutionize the way this country eats.

Getting a little more local, we’ve got Amy Hepworth and her outstanding produce.  She’s a seventh-generation farmer up in Milton, near Poughkeepsie, and produces some of the best apples New York has ever tasted.  The Park Slope Food Coop invited her to speak at a “Meet Your Farmer” event, where she was treated like a new American Idol.  Hepworth is a fascinating character: headstrong, energetic, wise-cracking, and deeply passionate about her farm.  And she eats apple maggots, believing pests are good for immunity. Continue reading



Jay Dines, Eli Zabar bug locals
July 30, 2008, 1:26 pm
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Courtesy New York Times

Courtesy New York Times

Jay Dines, owner of Dines Farms, used to sell his meat at several Greenmarkets throughout the city.  I know because I used to see his stall at the Fort Greene market on Saturday mornings.   Greenmarket has a very strict policy — one I just learned about this past Saturday, when I attended a training session for prospective Greenmarket volunteers — that states farmers must sell only that which they grow, raise, or make themselves, and if they’re making prepared food, their ingredients must be sourced locally.

Nina Planck, who used to be Greenmarket’s director, visited the farm in 2003 and raised some serious concerns about the difference between what he sold and what was present on the farm.  Dines says he sent some of his livestock to other farms to be raised when he was injured and could not build winter housing for his animals; other Greenmarket vendors say his practices hurt their credibility.  Continue reading



The case against farm subsidies
July 28, 2008, 1:42 pm
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The Freakonomics guys have published an excellent Q&A with Daniel Sumner (pictured), an agricultural economist from UC Davis.  Readers sent in their farm, food and agriculture questions and Sumner set about answering them, complete with links to original papers and research at the forefront of this debate.

In it, Sumner suggests that the US may be able to rid itself of farm subsidies within “a decade or two,” and that, if we successfully ended tariffs on imported sugar, “we would shift to the use of more sugar and less HFCS [high-fructose corn syrup].”  However, Sumner is vague when asked how to discuss the loss of subsidies, a touchy and emotional subject, with farmers themselves:

I talk to farmers all the time and find the exchanges really valuable. My experience is that farmers are smart, articulate, and very interested in an open exchange of ideas. I do not start by challenging their passions, but I am pretty forthcoming about what most economic analysis finds about farm subsidies. My experience is that most farmers do not disagree with the analysis, but that does not mean they volunteer to give up their subsidies.

Continue reading



Sisters doing it for themselves
July 14, 2008, 4:40 pm
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The New York Times reports that, according to the Department of Agriculture, 20,000 farms in the Northeast alone are run by women.  Not only that, but: “There are 80 percent more women who are farmers than there were 20 years ago in the United States, even as the number of farms has decreased.” These statistics surprised me, but in the best way possible!  Moving out of the city to work on a farm is a far-fetched fantasy of mine; I’d have so much to learn, not the least of which is learning to hate living in New York, and I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Farmers like Barbara Shinn, Diane St. Clair (who owns Animal Farm in Orwell, VT — har, har!), and Nova Kim (pictured), among others featured in the article, all happily engage in sustainable, organic and biodynamic practices, which they’re refining all the time.  Most of these farmers sell to food co-ops, farmers’ markets and CSAs.  These women are doing amazing things right here in the Northeast, and to say I look up to them would be an understatement!