What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Mon, July 19, 2010 by Intern
Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack has been defending both Big Ag and small farms in recent Senate hearings, leaving both sides scratching their heads. “I have two sons,” he says, “and I love them both.”
by intern Shauna Nep
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been criticized by some in Big Ag for his promotion of small-scale farmers and local food systems. And yet—he has been passionately defending conventional producers conventional producers recent Senate hearings. As well as small-scale farmers. Some are upset with Vilsack’s centrist attitude, but Vilsack says that his approach embraces all agriculture and is not about choosing sides, “I have two sons,” he says, “and I love them both.”
In his defense of conventional agriculture, Vilsack emphasized the “exciting potential” of using agricultural waste for biofuels, which he has described as the “key to revitalizing the economy.” Vilsack has also asserted that we owe farmers thanks for how little Americans pay for food, saying that while the average American spends about 10% of their income on food, other developed countries pay closer to 25% or 30%. [To listen, click here.]
At the same time, Vilsack continues to strongly defend small and mid-scale farms and local food systems. In an exchange with Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss, Vilsack was asked where production agriculture and commodity crops fit into USDA’s focus on the five pillars for the next farm bill (regional food systems, rural broadband, renewable energy, conservation and ecosystem market incentives). Vilsack responded by acknowledging the importance of global trade markets, but also by defending local food systems:
“It’s also about expanding domestic markets, and creating opportunities. That’s one of the reasons why we are focused on trying to better link local production with local consumption; this is not just about very very small operations. This is about production agriculture. The ability of schools, institutional purchasers of food, to be able access things locally. Sometimes you’d be surprised that there are folks in small communities who are purchasing food from far far away that don’t realize or appreciate what’s being grown and raised in their area. That’s why we’re focusing on trying to rebuild the supply chain with local slaughter facilities and mobile slaughter facilities with storage facilities, also creating job opportunities.” [To listen to Vilsack’s response, click here].
Can Vilsack promote the local food system while still supporting Big Ag? Post your comments below.
Posted on Mon, July 19, 2010 by Slow Food USA
Slow Food Indy comes together to support a farm family after a tragedy.
By Corrie Quinn, member of Slow Food Indianapolis
“Happy is said to be the family which can eat onions together. They are, for the time being, separate from the world.” - Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, 1871
Folks with a thumb any shade of green can guess that farming is risky business: betting on the weather and against pests, doubling down on a chef’s preference and nearly folding when endless days in the field culminate with working weekends at the market. We might say farmers eat onions together. They bare the bitter risk to provide us with sweet, secure sustenance.
In central Indiana, we’ve been painfully reminded of our producers’ risky profession as the news spreads of a tragic accident in the fields of Seldom Seen Farm.
Every day, John Ferree and his wife Kelly Funk bring their one-year-old daughter Laila to the fields that John’s family has been tilling for generations. While neither John nor Kelly grew up farming, they’ve been deeply committed to their work since starting the farm in 2004 and have been providing several Hoosier communities with good, clean, and fair food ever since. The couple hosts Slow Food Indy events and represented central Indiana at Slow Food’s Terra Madre festival in 2008.
Two weeks ago, Kelly and John waited in their barn for a storm to pass. The sky was clearing up so they went back to work in the field where Kelly was picking onions. She was struck by lightning and her heart stopped until her husband John administered CPR. Today, Kelly is in critical but stable condition; she is still unconscious while doctors begin to administer tests and discuss Kelly’s future with her family.
Posted on Tue, July 13, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
An amazing new video from WHY Hunger exploring the links between climate change and the global food system.
How we farm and eat is simultaneously one of the greatest contributors to climate change and one of its greatest potential solutions. The same global food system that is making us sick, increasing food insecurity, and polluting the environment is also contributing to climate change. Climate change, in turn, is contributing to rising rates of hunger and food insecurity. As much as 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions come from the food system.
Want to know more about that?
WHY Hunger has released a brand new online film called “The Food and Climate Connection: From Heating the Planet to Healing It,” that highlights the impact of today’s global food system on the climate and how a community-based food movement around the world is bringing to life a way of farming and eating that’s better for our bodies and the planet. Featuring interviews with farmers, community leaders, and sustainability advocates, the film highlights how the industrial food system is among the greatest contributors to global warming and how sustainable farming practices can pose a powerful solution to the crisis.
The movie was done in collaboration with Anna Lappe, author of the recently released “Diet for a Hot Planet,” which also explores this crucial intersection between how we grow and transport our food and how that affects the planet—not to mention how the changes in our environment willl affect the way we grow and transport our food moving forward.
Posted on Mon, July 12, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Shauna Nep
What does it take to bring real change to the food system? Does change start with the American public and the grassroots? Does change rest with the farmers who grow our food? To get where we want to be we need the support of both, and so it is important to understand the concerns of both. What are Americans most concerned about? What are farmers looking for in farm policy reform? Are there areas of common ground between Big Ag and the American people?
A national opinion survey [registration required to access] found that Americans are most concerned with how agriculture and food relates to health, rating issues of obesity, antibiotic resistance, and diet-related diabetes to be the most serious. Americans were less concerned with food being imported from abroad, most food being produced by big corporations, and feeding cows corn instead of grass.
When asked about approaches to reforming farm policy, Americans strongly supported expanding incentives to farmers who reduce pollution, and providing incentives to farmers who grow fruits and vegetables. Reducing subsidies to Big Ag got the least support.
And the farmers?
Posted on Fri, July 09, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Julia Landau
Now, according to Rodríguez, after thousands of online registrations, only three people have turned up to their newfound workplaces. Hmm, make that soon-to-be four, now that Colbert is jumping in, too.
You might be wondering, “Who are these three people?”
Well, I don’t know! Are they out to call the UFW’s bluff? Or join the UFW in solidarity? Are they folks genuinely looking for employment? If you know, please clue me in.
And click here to learn more about the campaign if this is the first time you’re reading about it!
Posted on Thu, July 08, 2010 by Intern
by intern Minal Gill
Aletha Soule of Slow Food Sonoma County has taken supporting good, clean and fair practices one step further by making fresh produce available to those in need. Her network Slow Harvest took up the sizable task of gleaning local produce and transporting it to local food banks. “Gleaning” refers to gathering leftover crops after they’ve been commercially harvested. It’s done in order to recover food that would otherwise go to waste due to over-abundance, surface blemishes or time constraints.
Slow Harvest first began the project at Nathan Boone’s First Light Farms with a team of volunteer gleaners. The effort involved collecting surplus food from the farm, weighing, packaging and bringing it to Food for Thought Foodbank, Forestville.
And these gleaners don’t just hand over the raw product – they’re preserving food as well! Their first community canning session involved an abundance of Gravenstein apples, a Slow Food Presidia product. Similarly, Relish Culinary Adventures, Healdsburg, CA hosted another session in their kitchen to can surplus tomatoes. Each volunteer contributed two cases of canning jars, which was their price of admission. They spent the day turning in jars of tomato sauce for the Healdsburg Food Pantry, CA.
Click here for the complete video on Slow Food Sonoma County’s gleaning initiatives and scroll down to “Gleaning, Slowharvest Style”
Posted on Wed, June 30, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Patrick Keeler
“You are what you eat.” It’s a trite aphorism amongst us sustainable food advocates, but never so literally has this adage been applied than in the new novel Animals by Don LePan.
We don’t often get the opportunity to digest fiction books about the food system at the SFUSA office, and one of my favorite genres is the utopian* or dystopian story, so with great enthusiasm I leapt at the chance to be among the first to read Animals.
Set in the 22nd century the premise of the novel is this: we’ve so terribly screwed up the food system due to our dependence on factory farming for the source of meats and proteins, that the result is mass extinction of our feedstocks. Pandemic disease and genetic engineering have wiped out all traditional sources of meat (and many vegetable products) in a matter of decades. Panic follows; there’s a deepening gap between the rich who can afford better alternative food and healthcare and those who cannot; there’s economic collapse along the entire supply chain of the meat-processing sector. Not to mention that genetic engineering (amongst other environmental ills) has led to a dramatic increase in the number of birth defects.
Panic about how the human race will survive sans meat in their diets, coupled with a crippled healthcare system now burdened with a 1 in 5 severe birth defect rate, leads to a deterioration of morality. Those with any birth defects or handicaps are classified as “mongrels,” and are kept either as family pets or are sent to “chattel pens.” You guessed it – those who can afford it eat human flesh. And with a new product to market, the former meat industry’s infrastructure is revived by demand for factory farmed human animals.
Posted on Tue, June 29, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Mikayla Moretti, Slow Food chapter at University of Rhode Island
What could possibly be better than eating food you can feel good about without breaking the bank? Author and Slow Food extraordinaire Amy McCoy recently wrote and published a cookbook that does just that; she calls it Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in style on a bare-bones budget. In this cookbook, there are over 200 pages of recipes that call for seasonal foods, sensational flavor, and savings beyond your wildest imagination.
The best part about this book is Amy’s creativity and sensibility behind each and every recipe. With the turn of every page you will find good, clean, and fair ingredients combined together to make a delicious gourmet meal that won’t wipe out your firstborn’s college fund. The recipes account for the cost of every ingredient used to prepare each dish down to the cent, allowing even the most sophisticated palate to eat well despite the effects of the current economic recession.
Where did this all begin you may ask? A few years back Amy created her blog, the original Poor Girl Gourmet, at the start of the recession. She began posting the recipes of meals for her readers, all of which she prepared herself at her home. The essence behind Poor Girl Gourmet enables us all to deliberately keep costs low without sacrificing the integrity, flavor, or locality of our food.
In addition to her talents as a freelance writer and culinary expert, Amy is a gifted photographer and the mastermind behind the beautiful pictures in this book, as well. In fact, Amy recently visited the University of Rhode Island in April to impart her comprehensive wealth of knowledge on students and the URI community. Amy’s agenda at URI included a visit to several journalism classes during the day and a special sneak peak of Poor Girl Gourmet in the evening. Amy’s book discussion featured the complete story that brought her from blog to book and the process she encountered after being sought out by a publishing company.
To top it all off, Amy has served as the Slow Food Rhode Island chair for the past two years and has seen membership grow exponentially in this flourishing chapter. Currently Amy is on tour for the summer – check out her blog for a more complete schedule of Amy’s whereabouts and book signings. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Poor Girl Gourmet at your local book store!
Posted on Fri, June 25, 2010 by Slow Food USA
The third of the Department of Justice/USDA Anti-trust workshops is underway in Madison, WI, as we write this. Last night, as in Ankenny Iowa a few months ago, there was a town hall held the night before the workshop. Here’s a report from the field…-ed.
by Siena Chrisman, WHY Hunger
Appropriately, the evening began with a picnic featuring local cheese and ended with an ice cream social under a yellow moon. In between, dairy farmers, consumer advocates, professors, labor union representatives, faith communities, antihunger advocates, an aspiring cheesemaker, and even a Certified Public Accountant spoke out forcefully about the widespread injustices in the dairy industry.
The main event was a Dairy Town Hall Forum in Madison, Wisconsin, sponsored by Family Farm Defenders, National Family Farm Coalition, and Food and Water Watch, and timed to coincide with Friday’s Department of Justice and USDA workshop examining corporate concentration in the dairy industry. The workshop on Friday is part of the ongoing investigation (which I reported on here) by the two departments to determine whether food and agriculture companies have become too concentrated.
The dairy industry is one of the most concentrated in the country, with just one company controlling 40% of the US milk supply. Prices for farmers have fallen so low in the past three years that many dairy farmers were losing as much as $200 per cow every month in 2009. Meanwhile, even though the price farmers were paid for milk fell by almost 50% from 2007 to 2009, the retail price dropped by less than 25%. Someone’s profiting, but it’s not farmers or consumers.
Posted on Tue, June 15, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Monika V.I. Kunz
I’m going to spill a secret: even though I try my best to exclusively eat local, sustainable food, I’m not 100% a locavore. I can blame it on the fact that I’m Southern California grown and had the luxury of fresh—and locally grown—produce for most of the year during much of my life. But, truth be told, I didn’t exactly intentionally eat locally while a Californian.
When I moved to the East Coast six years ago I was suddenly appalled by how bland my grocery store-purchased fruits and vegetables tasted. I’d review the label, see they were grown in California, and wonder how avocados from the homeland could taste so terrible in the North East. It look me awhile to fully grasp that West Coast food is meant to be consumed while your feet are planted near (or, even better, in) the Pacific, and vice versa.
In Amy Cotler’s bookThe Locavore Way: Discover and Enjoy the Pleasures of Locally Grown Food
, she guides the reader through three simple steps on how to become a fan and advocate of local buying and eating. Step one is to shop for local foods—meeting your farmer actually does enhance the flavor of her harvest; step two is to eat seasonally and simply—your ingredients do all of the work when they’re as flavorful as locally grown items tend to be; and step three is to connect and engage—you have a backyard (or fire escape / windowsill), so why should people with over an acre of land have all the fun? She manages to make waiting for something to come into season compelling, even to a self-described instant gratification junkie. At one point Amy writes about how she only eats strawberries while they’re in season because the delight that comes from consuming these perfectly ripe berries is worth the months of deprivation.
I’ve gotta say, after enjoying ramps, and rhubarb, and asparagus, and greens, and finally strawberries recently that were produced by farmers I chat with at my greenmarket each week, Amy and her Locavore Way are spot on. This isn’t to say I won’t still sneak some greens in the winter months (old habits die hard!), but spring greens that taste of the (East Coast) earth mixed with love and patience are better than just about anything grown and bagged in California then shipped to Brooklyn.
Slow Food International also runs a publishing company, Slow Food Editore, which specializes in tourism, food and wine. The library now contains about 40 titles and houses Slow, the award-winning quarterly herald of taste and culture, available in five languages: Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.