What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Fri, May 28, 2010 by Intern
by intern Shauna Nep
As anyone in my life will attest to, I talk a lot about the benefits of a neighborhood farm for a community. However, it is not often that I have the opportunity to contribute hands-on to the creation of one.
Fortunately- I had the chance to get my hands deep in the dirt last Friday as I joined an inspired and diverse group of volunteers in building a Neighborhood Farm at Ujima Community Garden in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Slow Food NYC has adopted the Ujima garden, which has become overrun with inhospitable weeds, to create a youth farm.
Sandra Mclean, Slow Food NYC’s Leadership Committee Chair, shared with us their plan for the farm, which includes a spiral vegetable bed (um- awesome!), a flagstone meeting area surrounded by a “Three Sisters Garden”, a chicken coop, bees, and even bean teepees that are big enough to crawl inside of. Slow Food NYC will use this amazing space to host a “Good Food and Gardens” program this summer, and WATCH high school students will care for it in the fall.
As we spent the day cutting brush, digging out stumps, clearing rocks and chopping down trees, I was mindful of how my small role would contribute to the big picture: the creation of a farm and a beautiful space to be used, enjoyed, and cared for by the community.
I cannot wait to see how it turns out.
Posted on Fri, May 28, 2010 by Intern
by intern Christine Binder
The Food Movement, Rising – New York Review of Books
Michael Pollan’s epic essay charting the emergence and character of the food movement.
Oil reaches Louisiana shores (PHOTOS) – Boston Globe
Over one month after the initial explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, crude oil continues to flow into the Gulf of Mexico, and oil slicks have slowly reached as far as 12 miles into Louisiana’s marshes.
Congresscritters Come Out Against GE Alfalfa – La Vida Locavore
Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Pat Leahy are circulating a letter to Tom Vilsack opposing the USDA’s decision regarding GE alfalfa.
Ohio Farmers Unhappy With Attack on Corn Sweetener – Associated Press
Food companies that remove high-fructose corn syrup from their products threaten the jobs of farmers in Ohio, the nation’s No. 7 grower of corn, state agriculture leaders say.
The Slaughterhouse Problem: is a resolution in sight? – Food Politics
After years of hearing sad tales about the slaughterhouse problem, it looks like many people are trying to get it resolved.
A Movable Beast – NY Times
Organic, grass-fed meat is much in demand in Manhattan restaurants, but little of it is local.
Ohio dairy farm worker charged with animal cruelty – Washington Post
An Ohio dairy farm worker has been charged with 12 counts of cruelty to animals after a welfare group released a video it says shows him and others beating cows with crowbars and pitchforks.
In E. Coli Fight, Some Strains Are Largely Ignored – NY Times
As everyone focused on controlling E. coli O157:H7, the six rarer strains of toxic E. coli were largely ignored.
DC rejects soda tax but funds better school food – Grist
The Washington, D.C. city council yesterday agreed to fully fund a recently approved “Healthy Schools” initiative but not with a controversial “soda tax” as had been proposed. Rather, the city will begin imposing a more traditional sales tax of 6 percent on all soft drinks sold in the District.
Michelle Obama applauds food industry group’s pledge to trim calories – Washington Post
In a direct response to Michelle Obama’s declared war on childhood obesity, an alliance of major food manufacturers on Monday pledged to introduce new, more healthful options, cut portion sizes and trim calories in existing products.
Posted on Thu, May 27, 2010 by Slow Food USA
This article was first printed in “Hearsay,” the newsletter of the Harris Center for Conservation Education.
The big and beautiful Red Delicious is the stereotypic but tasteless apple that has come to dominate the supermarket shelf, comprising more than 40 percent of all apples sold in big box chain stores. Add just 10 more varieties that are carried by such stores and that percentage rises to 90. In contrast, it’s not 15, it’s not 150, not 1,500, but something like 15,000 varieties of apple that have been named, grown, and eaten in North America. Clearly, the biodiversity of domestic apples is threatened. Why?
Well, in our 40 years, programs on apples have always been a popular draw at the Harris Center, and that’s no exception in the past few months, when we’ve had visits from Tom Burford (Professor Apple), and Ben Watson, of Renewing America’s Food Traditions, an alliance of nonprofits that promote food traditions and biodiversity. Here’s what they explained.
With today’s mass marketing, a relatively few large nurseries control what gets planted in large commercial orchards. These supply the big box stores, which in turn want volumes of big and pretty apples. Trouble is you can’t tell a book or an apple by its cover! What’s needed here is apple counseling and a drink to the past.
Supporting the growing number of small-scale “micro” cider, restoration, and specialty orchards, including CSAs, may be the answer. Specialty growers, including backyard “citizen pomologists,” are relearning the art of grafting and the science of selecting varieties that please the palate and meet objectives – from getting an early-season “apple fix” to growing late-season storage apples, like the new disease-resistant Gold Rush that taste great well into the winter months. The art of grafting is key, since seeds of any apple are all genetically different and grow into trees that only rarely produce apples with the taste of the parent tree. So, both branches that bear the desired varieties of apples and a good virus-free root stock are required for grafting.
Posted on Wed, May 26, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Christine Binder
On Friday, May 7th, Congressional Representative Michael Arcuri stood in the lunch line and thanked the school lunch ladies for his meal along with the 5th grade classes at the Martin Luther King Elementary School in Utica, NY.
Last month, Debra Richardson, co-chair of Slow Food Mohawk Valley, spoke to students at the school about fruits and vegetables and led them in a letter writing activity in support of the Time for Lunch Campaign to help school serve healthier food. They wrote to Representative Arcuri on paper plates, asking for “healthy fresh food” full of “nutrients and vitamins” to “help make them strong.”
Representative Arcuri’s visit was in response to these letters. While at MLK Elementary, he sat down in the cafeteria to talk and eat lunch with the students, which included a healthy, locally-made butternut squash cookie. The Congressman was also shown the recently donated refrigerator that houses a daily delivery of fresh fruits or vegetables to serve as a snack through a grant from the Department of Defense.
According to Richardson, “that donation shows how a community can, in part, address its own needs. Now what we need from our Congressional representatives is their attention on the upcoming legislative actions and to fully fund the Child Nutrition Act. That can make a real difference on their end.”
Posted on Wed, May 26, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Rike Weiss
Tucked away in the foothills of the Ko`olau mountain range on the lush windward side of O`ahu, the apiary and honey house in Wai`ahole Valley were the destination for a Slow Food group of about 15. Not equipped with enough veil beekeeper suits, we did not visit the actual hives, but had the opportunity to observe bees at work in a single frame in the honey house.
Three years ago the Varroa mite that has spread, infested, and killed bee colonies around the world over the past century, arrived on O`ahu and devastated the Wai`ahole colonies. Bee keepers George Hudes and Charlie Reppun almost gave up in despair. We breathed a collective sigh of relief to learn that, thanks to the availability of organic mite control methods, not only are they back in production, but production throughout the state is flourishing. Our food supply, for now, is secured.
While tasting a variety of honeys in an astounding range of colors—from palest straw color to dark auburn—our group heard about the basics of bee keeping. The gestation cycle from egg to full-fledged female worker bee is 21 days, 24 days for males or drones, and 16 days for queens. Once hatched, worker bees fulfill multiple functions: from cleaning and comb building to feeding larvae and serving their queen. After four weeks in the hive, they’re ready to leave and start foraging, collecting pollen and nectar from the abundance of plants in the fertile valley.
As soon as the honey combs are filled, the frames are removed, uncapped (removal of the outer was layers), and placed in a centrifuge for extraction. From there, the honey is transferred to a settling tank, where impurities float to the top. After about 12 hours, the untreated, unfiltered honey is ready for bottling. It was impossible to determine clear favorites among the assortment of honeys for sale. Spring harvests tended to be lighter in color and taste. Many of us left with numerous jars from smoky-tasting ochre colored honey to the late-harvest fall variety.
Posted on Mon, May 24, 2010 by Intern
by intern Shauna Nep
The next Farm Bill isn’t scheduled to move through Congress until 2012, but the House Agriculture Committee has already started gathering input—two-and-a-half years ahead of schedule.
Perhaps that’s good, considering how important the bill is. Both directly and indirectly, the Farm Bill impacts who can farm, how they farm, the types of food that can be grown, and the price of certain foods at the grocery store. In general, farm policy is a big part of the reason fast food is cheap and healthy food is harder to find. So what happens with the 2012 Farm Bill is a matter of concern for everyone, not just farmers.
So far, the House Agriculture Committee’s hearings suggest that the top debate for this Farm Bill will be whether government support programs are being used responsibly and effectively. Another issue will be the USDA’s current emphasis on an approach to rural development that’s broader than just making payments to big corn and soy farms.
While we’re piecing out the upcoming issues in this debate, it’s helpful to look at a few windows of opportunity in the upcoming bill:
-Could there be more incentives for farmers to grow fruits and vegetables, and not just commodity crops?
-Could accepting food stamps at farmers’ markets help to combat obesity?
-Should sodas be banned from the food stamp program, similar to the program’s existing bans on tobacco and alcohol?
-Could a “whole-farm revenue” concept for crop insurance replace the present system that encourages production of a single crop, and instead encourage more diverse crops?
-Could an expansion of the green payments program incentivize sustainable farming rather than overproduction?
Fortunately, Congress is talking like it’s open to change for the 2012 Farm Bill. Ag Committee Chairman Colin Peterson says that he is looking to make fundamental changes, and that everything’s “on the table.” USDA’s Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has emphasized the importance of local food systems.
Posted on Wed, May 19, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
Greetings from Detroit, where I’m attending the 5th Annual Farm to Cafeteria conference.
On Monday, as a lead-up to the conference, I acted as one of the judges for the Healthy Schools Campaign Cooking Up Change contest, in which 3 high school finalist teams, and two college finalist teams competed to create the best (tastiest, most innovative, and in line with school purchasing and IOM nutrition standards) healthy school lunch. Any of you who have been following our Time for Lunch campaign and the battle in Congress right now for more money for school lunch know that making a healthy and delicious school lunch for only $1—what’s left after overhead & payroll—is incredibly hard. The kids were articulate and adorable and cooked up some tasty treats! The highlights for me were a chicken breast crusted with pesto and, yep, corn flakes; a cornbread casserole with beans, cheese, and tomatoes; and the winner, a meal that included a tepary bean quesadilla! You can read an interview with the kids here, and please note that their supremely delicious beans are a Slow Food Ark of Taste product.
I kept hearing about this beautiful movie, “Grown in Detroit,” and the amazing and inspiring school that lies at the heart of the film. Tonight I got to see the movie, as part of a conference-run movie night complete with Applegate Farms hotdogs (delish), popcorn and root beer. I left the theatre with a DVD clutched in my grasp, to show to all of my friends and colleagues, and anyone else who wants to borrow it. Catherine Ferguson Academy, run by Asenath Andrews, the principal we all wish we had, is a public school in Detroit for pregnant teens and their babies. The school has a farm ( a “big garden with animals” says Andrews), one that teaches lessons in life cycles, business, biology and hard work; that provides revenue for the school and its students; and that brings fresh, delicious food into a community that finds these foods in short supply. Food is the palette here for myriad learning opportunities—including, as one girl mentioned at the talk-back after the showing, that by taking care of these farm animals she learned about taking care of her own daughter. I can’t say enough wonderful things about Ms. Andrews, the beautiful and thoughtful girls both in the movie and on the panel tonight, and about this movie, which you can see by going to this web site and paying what you can (how cool is that?), or by organizing a screening in your community.
Posted on Fri, May 14, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Jenna Schweitzer
This article first appeared on Generation Response, one of Emory University’s campus publications.
In her office, Julie Shaffer has a life-size cardboard cut-out of a farmer, a Georgia map that shows which Georgia farms provide what produce to Emory, and wooden cooking utensils on her desk. Her colorful office is filled with all sorts of stuff; it not only reflects Julie’s colorful personality, but her array of responsibilities as well.
Since August 2008, Julie has been the Sustainable Food Service Education Coordinator at Emory. Before that, she worked at a public high school for 30 years teaching AP art in drawing, painting, and design. So how did she get from teaching art to teaching about sustainable food? “I’ve always had an interest in food and cooking and growing food,” Julie explains, “I’ve always liked to eat.” However, it was more than her love of food; it was her love of Slow Food.
Slow Food, which has grown into a worldwide network of volunteers, began in Italy in 1986 to resist the opening of a McDonalds near the Spanish Steps in Rome. Slow Food Emory’s Rachel Levine explains, “Slow Food is stopping to think about the broader picture of the food we eat with an appreciation for what we put into our bodies and our surrounding community. Simply put, Slow Food is ‘good, clean, and fair food,’”
Julie first heard about Slow Food while vacationing in Italy in 1999. When she returned home, she called the newly established U.S. chapter to find out about getting involved. When the phone call ended, she had agreed to start a Slow Food chapter in Atlanta. She did, and now Julie is the volunteer regional governor of Southeast Slow Food. “Julie has been a major contributor to the Slow Food movement in Atlanta and the entire southeast. She knows just about everyone there is to know when it comes to food in Atlanta,” explains Green Bean President Emily Cumbie-Drake.
Posted on Mon, May 10, 2010 by Emily Stephenson
Temra Costa knows a thing or two about farming. She has a degree in agriculture from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and has been involved with CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers) in California for many years. For a better part of the past decade she has been promoting Farm to School programs at CAFF through their Buy Fresh Buy Local initiative.
And she certainly is not the only woman doing exciting things when it comes to changing the way America eats. So she selflessly decided to use her first foray into writing to tell you about plenty of other women working on a wide variety of amazing projects. Deborah Madison, an influential restaurateur, award-winning cookbook author, and a founding member of the SFUSA Biodiversity Committee. Costa profiles activists as well, like Anna Lappe, who travels the country educating people about the environmental effects of their food choices. Throughout the book are profiles of female farmers from coast to coast. It features the owners of well-known Bay Area farms such as Pie Ranch and Fully Belly Farm, and influential urban programs like Growing Power and City Slicker Farms.
The most fascinating aspect of the book, for me, was the wide variety of reasons these 26 women decided to do what they do. Some were born and bred farmers and others entered the scene a lot later in life. Some had an epiphany well into adulthood, or were raised by parents who shared the values that permeate the book. But the common thread through all 26 stories is the need these women feel to share their lifestyle through positive example and education. Costa obviously shares this trait, and peppers the book with “recipes for action” that range from small life changes to huge volunteer projects.
The book is truly inspiring to get an idea of what women are doing across the country to promote good, clean and fair food, as well as learn a little more about some familiar names.
Posted on Mon, May 10, 2010 by Slow Food USA
It’s hard to keep track of all the food and farming news each week – especially if you’re a busy Slow Food volunteer. Our staff has begun compiling all the important food news we see, so Slow Food members can stay up-to-date. Here’s last week’s big news:
Monsanto pesticide-poisons give rise to “superweeds”Rise of the Superweeds (NY Times)
Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds. To fight them, Mr. Anderson and farmers throughout the East, Midwest and South are being forced to spray fields with more toxic herbicides, pull weeds by hand and return to more labor-intensive methods like regular plowing.
And in response…NYT’s superweeds coverage is welcome but myopic (Grist)
It’s a happy day when the New York Times treads some of Grist’s well-worn paths. This time, it’s about how overuse of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide has given rise to “superweeds” and an exhausting chemical treadmill.
Food & Farm Policy
VIDEO - Veggies Gone Wild! (Human Rights Watch)
Hundreds of thousands of children are employed as farmworkers in the United States. They often work 10 or more hours a day with sharp tools, heavy machinery, and dangerous pesticides. Farmworker children drop out of school in alarming numbers.Senators Challenge Know Your Farmer Program (Ag Law)
Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia, Ranking Minority member of the Senate Agriculture Committee), John McCain (R-Arizona) and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) recently sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack challenging the USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” program. The letter notes that “[w]hile the concept of educating consumers about production agriculture is a worthwhile endeavor, we have serious misgivings about the direction of the Know Your Farmers program.” The Senators complain that the program does not direct funding to “conventional farmers” but instead is “aimed at small, hobbyist and organic producers whose customers generally consist of affluent patrons at urban farmers markets.”Supreme Court hears arguments on genetically modified seeds (LA Times)
The battle over genetically modified crops is being waged before the U.S. Supreme Court—the first time the nation’s highest court is specifically weighing in on genetically modified organisms and the federal approval process that allows them to roll out from the laboratory to the nation’s farm fields.Where do farm subsidies go? Now we know! (Food Politics)
Yesterday, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released the latest update of its highly entertaining farm subsidy database. The links cover $245 billion in federal farm subsidies distributed from 1995 -2009. The site lets you search for subsidies by state, county, congressional district, and specific farm, and by commodity. There is also a national summary.
School FoodD.C. Council approves tough school lunch, exercise standards (Washington Post)
The D.C. Council unanimously approved stringent school nutrition and exercise standards on Tuesday. The measure calls for District public and charter schools to add more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains to the meals of about 71,000 students. It also encourages schools to buy food from organic farms in Maryland and Virginia, adds thousands of students to the free-lunch program and will eventually triple the amount of time that students have to spend exercising.
An E. coli outbreak possibly linked to tainted lettuce has sickened at least 19 people in Ohio, New York and Michigan, including students on three college campuses, prompting a recall throughout much of the country.