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Posted on Thu, December 15, 2011 by Slow Food USA
2011: a Slow Food USA year in review by Josh Viertel.
by Josh Viertel, President of Slow Food USA
2011 started with a very important question.
In January, we asked President Obama what he was doing to make it easier to feed our kids fruit than Froot Loops. He said Walmart would fix it. You didn’t buy it, and neither did we. So together, we went about fixing it ourselves.
When industrial agribusiness tried to make it a felony to take pictures of farms (so they couldn’t be held accountable for animal abuse) we said, “A good farm has nothing to hide.” And we buried legislators in four states, not just with petition signatures, but with pictures of the incredible sustainable farms that make us proud. The Slow Food “Farmarazzi” saved the day—and the bills died in all four states.
When Fast Food said that it had value for everybody and Slow Food was just for the elite, we proved them wrong. On one day, at more than 5,500 shared meals all over the country, 30,000 of you sat at the table together and took the $5 Challenge, cooking Slow Food for less than fast food. People shared their tips, tricks, recipes, and what made it a challenge. Together, we are taking back the value meal.
And when a handful of congressional leaders tried to sneak past a “secret farm bill” cooked up for the corn and soy lobby, we brought Congress a Recipe for Change, written and signed by over 13,000. No “secret farm bill” was going to slip through on our watch.
We couldn’t have done any of it without your support. And in 2012 we’ve got even more work to do.
2012 is going to be about building change from the bottom up: community by community; farmers market by farmers market; garden by garden. Slow Food’s chapters are building grassroots solutions to a broken food system.
Already, Slow Food chapters have built over 300 school gardens. They reach over 33,000 kids. And they make it happen as volunteers. One inspiring example is Slow Food Miami, where chapter volunteers planted an astounding 63 school gardens in 44 days.
If we can support 650 more leaders like these to make this kind of change in their own communities, we can build more gardens in schools than McDonald’s has franchises!
But, really, we can’t do any of this without the support of the Slow Food community. We’re all in this together.
Posted on Thu, December 15, 2011 by Hnin
Our friends at FarmPlate.com give us the scoop on how technology is changing the world of small scale farmers so that small scale farms can change the world.
By Jeff Gangemi – Director of Partnerships and Communications at FarmPlate.com
In farming, it seems that size is often rewarded. Government subsidies, economies of scale, and the use of chemical pesticides all conspire to make life easier for large-scale industrial farming operations.
But there are a number of advantages to being small. Chief among them may be the ability to connect with individual customers and achieve a level of transparency impossible (or at least undesirable) for larger, factory type farming operations.
“I think a lot of people are finding out – not just farmers, but also fish providers and other producers – that transparency in and of itself is a great marketing tool,” says Barry Estabrook, James Beard award-winning food journalist and author of Tomatoland. “That means encouraging your customers to visit your farm, to talk about how you produce food if you serve a market or CSA.” For its part, the government is at least aware of a growing desire among consumers to learn about where their food comes from. In 2009, the USDA launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) to help strengthen local and regional food systems by helping consumers “connect with their food and the people who grow and raise it.”
A growing number of organizations also hold real-world events designed to make connections between consumers and farmers. For example, the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s New York (NOFA-NY) chapter is hosting six Community Supported Agriculture Fairs across the state, where CSA farms, bakeries or groups set up a booth and meet and talk with consumers, who can choose which businesses they want to buy from and sign up for a CSA share.
But what about where face-to-face interactions are impossible, or cost-prohibitive? That’s where a new crop of technology companies offering time- and cost-effective platforms for small producers to showcase their operations, processes and products comes in.
“I believe transparency is perhaps the major economic advantage small producers have over large corporations. Their food chain is short, and easily made transparent and available to consumers via the web and apps,” says Beth Hoffman, managing editor of Food + Tech Connect, an influential blog that has been exploring how greater transparency in food industry data would not only improve food safety, but also enable discovery of healthier restaurants and recipes.
“Instead of having to purchase expensive tracking systems and creating data tools to manage the huge amount of information generated by complicated food supply chains,small producers (especially ones that sell directly and locally) can make their information
available by telling the story of their food in places like Real Time Farms, FarmPlate, Local Dirt or on their private websites,” says Hoffman.
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Posted on Thu, December 08, 2011 by Slow Food USA
Written by Slow Food USA intern Meghan Offtermatt
What’s more important than teaching kids the importance of good, clean, and fair food? Teaching kids how to plant, grow, and harvest it! Slow Food Miami embraced the need to help students learn the benefits of gardening and growing their own food with their recent initiative to plant 44 school gardens in 44 days.
The process of applying for a Slow Food Miami edible garden begins when schools and organizations apply for garden grants between January and April of each year. Then, the Slow Food Miami board of directors meets with school’s directors and administrators who will be in charge of overseeing the garden. Finally, the board assesses location, enthusiasm, and the vision of the potential garden before purchasing the first round of supplies. Before the planting process begins, Slow Food Miami has a teacher education training, where they provide the teachers with a shopping list and gift card. On the day of the initial planting, teachers, students, and Slow Food Miami volunteers come together to bring the garden to fruition.
Although the program is an ongoing effort, Slow Food Miami launched a special initiative this past year to help meet the increase in grant applications. The initiative, called 44 Gardens in 44 Days, set out to plant as many gardens as possible in a limited number of days, the minimum number being 44 gardens. With the help of Ready-To-Grow Gardens, led by organic garden designer Dylan Terry, and a crew of volunteers and community members, Slow Food Miami exceeded the goal by 30%, planting 63 gardens in the course of 44 days. Since September of this year, Slow Food Miami has installed 76 school garden beds and 15 community garden beds for a total of 91 gardens in Miami-Dade County. In addition to this, 25 school beds were put in since 2007 that have moved on and “graduated” out of the Slow Food Miami program.
Once has a garden has been installed, Slow Food Miami helps provide troubleshooting, tips, and guidance for the teachers and students throughout the growing season and harvest. In addition to this, the Director of Gardens and Director of Education conduct educational outreach with the participating schools. After the garden has been in place for a year, Slow Food Miami supplies the garden with a second round of seeds for the next growing season.
Over time, Slow Food Miami has learned that it’s crucial that the garden space have sufficient access to sunlight and water. In addition to this, it is important to have support from parents, teachers, and the administrators of the school, as well as support from the school maintenance crew, as they often play a large role in maintaining the health of the gardens during breaks.
Although the process can sometimes be challenging, and even unpredictable, the payoff from planting these gardens is well worth the effort. Many schools have gone so far as to create their own farmers markets from their gardens. Schools have replaced bake sales with smoothie sales, implementing fresh fruits and vegetables. Herbs from the gardens have been used to create soaps and infused oils. Schools have increased their number of beds from one or two to six or seven beds, and the knowledge and awareness of food has increased tremendously. Students are now learning to appreciate the value of good, clean, and fair food, and with the help of Slow Food Miami, this program isn’t slowing down any time soon!
Posted on Fri, December 02, 2011 by Slow Food USA
Food policy was front in center in November, we recap where we were and where we’re going with the Food and Farm bill.
Now that November has come to an end, it’s hard to forget the ruckus Congress stirred up in the food and farming world—some of it good and some of it bad. Organizations and lawmakers from all ends of the spectrum made sure to voice opinions about how the government should be involved in food and farming. From introducing legislation to help local food economies, to attempting to cut food stamps as part of the Super Committee process, November saw a lot of folks weighing on the future of our food system. Many of you weighed in too, by endorsing our Recipe for Change.
November began with the release of Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Sherrod Brown’s Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act. Two days later, the National Sustainable Agriculture Committee (NSAC) hosted a farmer fly-in, bringing over 50 farmers, advocates, and scientists from across the country to Washington DC to show support for the bill.
Alex Loud, a fly-in participant and Slow Food Boston chapter leader, describes why the Act is an important step for rebuilding the economy:
Small farms are a growing and increasingly important part of the American economy and the American food system. The Federal government is not doing enough to support them—and indeed in some cases is even hindering their growth. The Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act will, if enacted, start to change this.
The legislation addresses issues from across the board – including rural development, reforms to nutrition assistance programs that will allow food purchase at farmers markets, and boosts to programs that support farmers struggling to obtain a USDA certified organic status.
What more could we ask for than the introduction of a bill like the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act? How about 13,000 supporters of Slow Food USA’s Recipe for Change! Introduced at the end of October on Food Day, the Recipe for Change continued to accumulate signatures in the two weeks leading up to November 17th when names were hand delivered by us to each of the Super Committee member’s DC offices.
In the end, the Super Committee failed to come up with a deficit reduction plan by their November 23rd deadline. This does not mean, however, that your voices were not heard or that the message of the Recipe for Change will not be important for the next big obstacle to come – the 2012 Food and Farm Bill.
November may be over but the fight for better food and farming policy is just beginning. Follow the developing Food and Farm Bill campaigns of these organizations to stay in touch with what is going on and learn how you can get involved: