Saturday, September 5, 2009

Food News Round-Up: September 5, 2009

Officials want to make Madison a fruit gleaner's paradise
Madison is no Big Apple, but it soon could be filled with little ones, along with pears, plums, cherries and - big surprise - nuts.

Spurred by an interest in sustainable, local agriculture and expanding the city's arboreal variety, City officials are working on a plan to plant apple, pear, cherry and other fruit or nut trees at parks, community gardens and other city-owned properties around town.

Love-of-land connection
RICHLAND, Iowa - He quit his job and drove his wife and their four young daughters across country, a 21st-century pioneer lured to these faraway farm fields by the promise of a life-changing deal with an older stranger.

Isaac Phillips always wanted to be a farmer. But when he revealed his plans to some friends and colleagues at the Utah jail where he supervised inmate work crews, they said: a) don't give up a steady job, b) you're making a big mistake, and even c) you're crazy.

Chicken-keeping finds its place in our front yards
PORTLAND, Ore. — North Williams Avenue is a street with a soundtrack like most any other in the neighborhoods of Portland. There’s the swishing of bikes, the rustling of leaves, the whirring of motors.

But then there’s something else under those familiar notes: a tiny warble of clucks coming from a chicken coop set in a front yard.

Newspapers across the country have been splashing urban and suburban chicken-keeping across their front pages. It’s the latest thing, they said. But in Portland, it’s old hat. For the past few years, chicken keeping has found its place here.

Gardening 101: How do I become a no impact gardener?
Not all gardeners are no impact gardeners. Organic gardeners do their best to leave a positive impact on the environment. There are many ways of working toward leaving no impact. Here are just a few green gardening suggestions. Try to think of your own ways to leave no impact in the garden as well.

U.S. farmers warm to community agriculture model

* More than 12,500 U.S. farms trying new model

* Farmers see more secure revenue stream

* Consumers like quality, connection to seasons

As he finished packing corn, tomatoes and blueberries into shopping bags at a Massachusetts farm, software engineer Alex Lian said his new shopping habits had changed his attitude to food.

"As a city person, I've never had this much connection to the seasons and eating things as they're picked," the 32-year-old said as he looked out over fields at Tangerini's Spring Street Farm where his produce had been grown.

$300 a Night? Yes, but Haying’s Free
This is essentially how we talked ourselves into spending a long weekend at Stony Creek Farm in Delaware County, N.Y., a part of the Catskills so rough that most everyone who grew up there describes it as “two stones to every dirt.”

Sleeping and eating on a farm is a common way to vacation in Europe, where the ties to farming are strong and motels are few. It’s rare but not unheard of in the United States. Stony Creek Farm is part of a new way to get hay in your hair. Call it farm stay 2.0.

The owners are often young, recent converts to farming, with few acres and strongly held beliefs: animals should be raised on pasture, vegetables should be grown without chemicals, and America needs to be re-educated about food.

The promise and limits of local food
EATING LOCAL is all the rage. As someone who dropped out to become a community farmer in the 1970s, and still farms, I am delighted. As someone who later dropped back into academia to become an environmental historian, I have my doubts about how much we can grow in New England. Watching some of my best students head down the same path, I feel I owe their parents an explanation.

Farmers warned to get ready
RALEIGH -- Even if global temperatures rise slowly, climate change could slash the yields of some of the world's most important crops almost in half, according to a new study co-authored by an N.C. State University scientist.

The study, recently published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at three frequently used scenarios for global warming. It found that the average U.S. yields for corn, soybeans and cotton could plummet 30 percent to 46 percent by the end of the century under the slowest warming scenario, and 63 percent to 82 percent under the quickest.

"There are some caveats, but this is a real cause for concern," said Michael Roberts, an assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics at NCSU.

Organic Farmers Seek Healthier Future
The hills of northeastern Maharashtra are normally green and lush during the annual monsoon season. But this year's spots of brown are a sign of a trouble.In this region known as the suicide belt, the combination of poor rains, high production costs for farming, low crop yields and crippling debt can be fatal. Some 16,000 farmers commit suicide every year in India, according to India's National Crime Records Bureau. About a quarter of them are in Vidarbha. In July alone, 36 people died here.

How to Grow Democracy
"Food democracy" has become the rallying cry of an emerging grassroots movement. It certainly sounds good--but what exactly does it mean? "Eating local," as more and more people strive to do, is part of it. At the most basic level, though, food democracy requires a transformation of the food industry, so that workers and consumers can exercise control over what they produce and eat. As the Small Planet Institute defines it, "Food democracy means the right of all to an essential of life--safe, nutritious food. It also suggests fair access to land to grow food and a fair return for those who labor to produce it.

Food democracy concerns itself with the future as well: It implies economic rules that encourage communities to safeguard the soil, water, and wildlife on which all our lives and futures depend." The vision is compelling, but how can it be made concrete? What are the obstacles to democratizing the food system, and how can they be overcome? For this forum, we asked five leading figures of this country's food movement to reflect on how food democracy can be achieved, here and now. Their responses follow.

My Introduction to ‘Local Food: how to make it happen in your community’
September 17th sees the release of the first in a series of ‘how to’ books published under the imprint of ‘Transition Books’ (due soon, guides to money, working with local government and cities). Entitled ‘Local Food: how to make it happen in your community’ it is the work mainly of Tamzin Pinkerton (who was recently interviewed here at Transition Culture) with bits from me, and it is really quite brilliant. Rather than being an intellectual exercise, it is really about the nitty gritty of setting up local food projects, drawing largely (but by no means exclusively) from the successes and failures of Transition initiatives around the world. It is packed with examples, tips, links, ideas and inspiration for rebuilding food resilience where you live.

Drought Withers Iraqi Farms, Food Supplies
Iraq has one of the largest oil reserves in the world, but it's running out of another valuable commodity: water.

Iraq's ancient name, Mesopotamia, means the land between two rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates, which flow into Iraq from Turkey and Syria. But water is now so limited for agriculture that Iraq imports 80 percent of the food Iraqis eat.

During the holy month of Ramadan, traditional foods that typically come from Iraqi farms are getting harder to find.

Four crucial resources that may run out in your lifetime
We're living in lucky times. Living standards - in the Western world, at least - are the highest in history. It's an era of relative peace and plenty that would amaze our ancestors. But it's not going to continue forever; we're already stretching many of our natural resources to their limits, and the world's population will jump from 6.5 billion to around 9 billion over the next 50 years. Get ready for a painful correction - here are four interconnected resources that are headed for a catastrophic squeeze within our lifetime.

US families turn to food stamps as wages drop
The number of working Americans turning to free government food stamps has surged as their hours and wages erode, in a stark sign that the recession is inflicting pain on the employed as well as the newly jobless.

While the increase in take-up is often attributed to the sharp rise in unemployment – which on Friday hit 9.7 per cent – the Financial Times has learnt that some 40 per cent of the families now on food stamps have “earned income”, up from 25 per cent two years ago.

It's time to get serious about food security in Surrey
The problem here is twofold. First, British Columbians cannot grow nearly enough food within our own borders to feed ourselves. Second, the conversion of agricultural land goes hand-in-hand with the expansion of suburban sprawl.

Our vulnerability to food insecurity becomes a problem if we run into peak oil and food becomes extremely expensive to transport over long distances, or if an international crisis sparks the closure of borders, making it difficult to import food.

Study: 1.6 billion face water, food threat in Asia
KATMANDU, Nepal – Effects of climate change including the melting of Himalayan glaciers threaten water and food security for more than 1.6 billion people living in South Asia, according to a study released Wednesday.

India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Nepal will be most vulnerable to falling crop yields caused by glacier retreat, floods, droughts and erratic rainfall, said the study financed by the Asian Development Bank.

Big stores counting the cost of ban on GM food
Britain's food giants have privately warned that they are struggling to maintain their decade-long ban on genetic modification and called for the public to be educated about the increasing cost of avoiding GM, The Independent reveals today.

As major producers such as the US and Brazil switch to GM, supermarkets are now paying 10 to 20 per cent more for the dwindling supplies of conventional soya and maize, according to a report by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

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