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

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Swoon! My heroes

I’m going to see Michael Pollan speak at P.S. 1 (in their new P.F. 1 courtyard, an “urban farm” that’s been built by architecture design contest winners just for this summer) tomorrow night at a lecture called Taking the Plant’s Point of View.  I have a feeling the content will draw much from his book The Botany of Desire, which is one that I have not yet read, luckily for me.

Some of you know that it was Pollan’s extremely popular book The Omnivore’s Dilemma that was a fiery catalyst for me — I went from a food enthusiast with intrigued by its effects on public health to a full-on sustainable agriculture geek who just had to do it for a living.  I’ve seen him speak once before, at The 92nd Street Y, with fellow high-profile locavore Dan Barber, chef of Blue Hill and creative director at Stone Barns.  He’s extremely engaging and does a great job of encouraging enthusiasm in others.

More heroes?  Of course!  A friend reminded me of The Greenhorns, “a documentary film that explores the lives of America’s young farming community—its spirit, practices, and needs.”  From their site: 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