What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Mon, August 15, 2011 by Intern
Participants of the Willamette Food and Farm Coalition’s Farm to School project make frequent trips to local farms to learn and see first hand where their food comes from.
by intern Sasha Hippard
The Willamette Food and Farm Coalition’s Farm to School project just finished their spring season with great success! Through lessons both on the farm and in the kitchen, students left with an increased knowledge of where their food comes from, how to prepare it, and the benefits of eating local and healthy ingredients.
The Willamette Food and Farm Coalition is a community based non-profit based in Lane County, Oregon. They represent a diverse group of stakeholders in the local food systems, from farmers and producers to restaurateurs and consumers. The Farm to School project is aimed at educating Lane County kids about where their food comes from and working to incorporate locally grown produce into the meals served in schools.
As participants of the Farm to School project, students make frequent trips to local farms to learn and see first hand where their food comes from. However, thanks to the recent Anolon donation which included veggie peelers, cooking pots and pans, measuring cups, spoons, and spatulas, students can take this experience one step further. Not only can students see where their food comes from, but learn how to use it as well. From the farms, fresh fruits and veggies are harvested, and eggs gathered. Once in the classroom, students get busy cooking in small groups. By cooking up a snack with the food they’ve harvested themselves, students not only learn valuable lessons on food production and farming, but also tasty ways to use the ingredients they just saw produced.
With help from adult volunteers, kids have whipped up corn cakes with fresh strawberries, green salad with veggies and home-made ranch dressing, and scrambled eggs with sautéed greens. In the fall, the groups will return to the farms to harvest. Plans are being made to extend the repertoire of recipes further and make things like fresh salsa, potatoes with leeks and broccoli, and veggie soup with noodles. Yum.
Having good cooking supplies makes cooking fun and easy and connects kids to the source of their food to inspire healthy eating habits. The next master chef or revolutionary organic farmer just might come from this group of inspired (and full) kids!
Posted on Fri, July 29, 2011 by Intern
The new documentary The Harvest sheds light on the seldom discussed issue of child labor in U.S. conventional agriculture.
by interns Kelsey Wickel and Sasha Hippard
The Harvest/La Cosecha, a new film by Robert Romano, tells the story of three children, ranging from 12 to 16, who migrate seasonally with their families in order to harvest fruits and vegetables. Over the summer, these migrant children and their families travel throughout the country, from Florida to Michigan, finding work picking the produce that we eat.
Child labor in the conventional agricultural system has remained the exception to the already established child labor laws. Throughout the film, we experience the harvest through the children’s eyes as they work 10 or more hours a day, seven days a week. The cruel irony is, while almost 400,000 children work in American produce fields every year, in hot, back-breaking conditions, those same children and their families are unable to afford the very food that they harvest. Each child only makes roughly $60 a week during the harvest season (assuming they can find work at all). In the fields, there is little to no protection against constant exposure to the harsh temperatures or the pesticides which are used liberally in conventional agriculture and often while the harvesters are present.
The Harvest sheds light on the seldom discussed issue of child labor in U.S. conventional agriculture. While the film does not site specific action that the viewers may take to stop or prevent these labor practices, during the post-screening Q&A, the film’s director supported the DREAM Act as one avenue to help migrant workers and their families. Similarly, the New York Times reported last year that the Obama Administration had begun a campaign against farmers who use child labor and underpay their workers (read the article here).
For more information on the issue of child agricultural labor in general, the MSNBC piece from last year entitled America Now: Children of the Harvest is a good resource. The film’s facebook page also links related articles.
The film premieres in New York on July 29, 2011 at Quad Cinema...and hopefully at other theatres around the country soon.
Posted on Wed, July 27, 2011 by Slow Food USA
In California, the most productive and diverse agricultural economy in the country, the lines between the urban and rural are blurring.
by Slow Food Delta Diablo chapter leader Gail Wadsworth
All communities are dynamic. But there are shifts in rural California that are unique among all agricultural states in the US. Recently, I heard Kathleen Merrigan (US Deputy Secretary of Agriculture) speak about the de-population of America’s rural regions and its results including: food insecurity, economic distress and community dissolution. This is the reality for much of rural America. Conversely, the Golden State is experiencing development in rural regions to the point that many, if not most, of our rural counties are no longer classified as “rural” by the federal government.
In the 1970’s there was a quiet revolution taking place in rural California. Non-profit organizations involved in sustainable agriculture envisioned a place where rural and urban communities were allied in the goal of creating an alternative food system. As a result of this movement, people in urban areas are more aware of how their food is produced and they are clamoring for locally grown, organic food. They want to know their farmers. Some want food that is humanely produced while others want food that is “fair.” Glancing at coffee bags in my local grocery, I see shade grown, bird friendly, fair trade, organic and more. It can be confusing.
But the issues facing California’s rural regions may be even more confusing. During a research project, I asked an urban shopper about the landscape between San Francisco and Yosemite. How did she describe this region? She replied, “Oh, it’s just a blank space on the map.” It just so happens that the blank space, as she described it, is one of the most productive agricultural regions of the world. And the very nature of its rural-ness is changing.
Posted on Fri, July 22, 2011 by Emily Vaughn
The grand opening of the first-ever Earth Market in the United States was held yesterday in Greenville, South Carolina.
Slow Food Upstate chapter leader Jan Wesley explained why her chapter chose to start the market. “The Earth Market gives us a way to raise awareness and educate, as folks today are confused by the marketing messages that pass for knowledge.” The market is held one Thursday per month during the growing season.
How are Earth Markets different from traditional farmers’ markets? Slow Food International explains, “Earth Markets are farmers’ markets that have been established according to guidelines that follow the Slow Food philosophy. These community-run markets are important social meeting points, where local producers offer healthy, quality food directly to consumers at fair prices and guarantee environmentally sustainable methods. In addition, they preserve the food culture of the local community and contribute to defending biodiversity.” Furthermore, each vendor is required to have an educational component at his or her stall, and a no-GMO policy is strictly enforced.
Posted on Wed, July 20, 2011 by Slow Food USA
The “ag-gag” bills that cropped up in Iowa, Florida, Minnesota and New York are dead.
Great news: the “ag-gag” bills that cropped up in Iowa, Florida, Minnesota and New York are dead. After months of efforts from Big Ag to pass bills behind our backs making it illegal to take photos or video of farms in these states, we’ve stopped them in their tracks.
Nearly 45,000 of you signed our petition to stand up for transparency on farms. We shared those signatures—as well as the slideshow below of the beautiful farm photos you uploaded to our Facebook page—with influential senators in each state.
While there was not enough momentum to pass them this year—technically these bills could be revived in future sessions. We promise to continue to track this and let you know when your voice might be needed again.
This campaign work is made possible by Slow Food USA members. Not a member? Join today!
Posted on Wed, July 06, 2011 by Slow Food USA
Slow Food chapters around the world are embarking on an ambitious project: creating 1000 food gardens in 20 countries across Africa.
Slow Food members from all parts of the globe are partnering with African communities in order to cultivate more sustainable and healthy regions. Slow Food USA encourages you to get involved, as several chapters in the US already have.
Want to learn more? Here’s what Samuel Muhunyu, one of the people most responsible for getting the program started, had to say about the genesis of the gardens and the impact they’re already having. We’ll continue to tell the story of how Slow Food members are making a difference with this program through our blog. More contact information and web resources at the end of the post.
Posted on Thu, June 30, 2011 by Jerusha Klemperer
A Slow Food leader shares her observations about a recent trip to Cuba to study food & agriculture.
Linda Slezak (Slow Food East End treasurer) and I recently visited Cuba on a food sovereignty study trip with Food First. A piece I wrote about Cuba’s approach to thrift and re-use was posted yesterday on Civil Eats. Linda shared her observations in the Slow Food East End newsletter, and we have reprinted them below. Food First offers Food Sovereignty tours to many other places—including Mali, Bolivia, Mexico and Spain—throughout the year.
Linda provided the following observations about her experiences in Cuba.
Cuba is a case in point about the unsustainability of monoculture farming.During Colonial times, Cuba was a plantation island providing export crops such as sugar cane, tobacco and coffee. Food crops were largely imported and during the years between 1963 and 1989, chemical fertilizers and pesticides were heavily relied upon for agriculture. It was only due to the losses sustained by not having access to imported food and chemicals to grow their own, that Cuba “went green.”
Going green is another way of saying that Cuba’s agriculture underwent a major overhaul. Land has been redistributed and crops are being cultivated using natural and organic methods with sustainability as the goal. The farmers that we met at both large and small farms (urban and suburban plots are the newest form of community based agriculture) were so proud of their farms and their organic methods. Most of these farmers have developed their own innovative solutions to their climate and terrain challenges. Raised-bed farming, digging wells for water, terracing and covering fragile crops with black, overhead netting to provide shade are just some of the many solutions the farmers have devised. Farming cooperatives are another model that helps farmers to share equipment and help each other.
Posted on Tue, June 21, 2011 by Slow Food USA
A survey of some of the programs around the country that make SNAP benefits worth more when they are used at farmers markets.
By Jesse Appelman
My neighborhood farmers market opened a few weeks ago, bringing the first local greens and asparagus of the season. In sunnier corners of the country, stone fruit and summer squash are already in (not that I’m jealous or anything). But as we celebrate the start of the market season, local produce remains an unaffordable luxury for too many.
The issue is a complex one, of course. It’s also a huge one: 1 in 7 Americans utilizes SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). One way to begin to address the barriers that exist for people to have access to farm fresh food is to make SNAP benefits usable at existing farmers markets. The USDA offers resources to help farmers markets install electronic benefits transfer (EBT) terminals, which let shoppers use food stamps instead of cash.
Some communities and organizations across the country are getting even more creative, establishing programs that make SNAP benefits worth more when they are used at farmers markets.
Here are a few of these initiatives:
Nonprofits, local governments, and private foundations are bringing these benefits to thousands, but with 44 million Americans on food stamps, they need help. Federal funding in the upcoming Farm Bill to expand these programs to the national level, for example, could be one way to bring more healthy food to those who need it, boost business for family farms, keep more grocery dollars circulating in local economies, and build more vibrant communities by making farmers markets more accessible and affordable to all.
What’s your community doing to make farmers markets more accessible? Tell us in the comments.
Posted on Fri, June 10, 2011 by Slow Food USA
Earlier this year 60 farmers and farming advocates told Monsanto enough is enough. Here’s the story of the lawsuit, and how one farmer got involved.
While a cow or goat may respect a property fence, pollen knows no such boundaries. Even if a farmer plants a field of non-GMO (not genetically modified) corn, she may still end up with some genetically engineered material on her farm if GMO pollen “drifts” over from a neighbor’s field. Monsanto has a history of taking farmers to court if they’re found to be in possession of patented plant material without permission, even if the plant material came to their fields inadvertently.
But now, tired of living in fear of lawsuits that they claim are unjust, a group of farmers, seed savers, and farm advocates is challenging the agribusiness giant’s right to continue the practice.
We’re inspired by this landmark case and today we’re happy to have more background and perspective to share with you from one of the plaintiffs, Tom Willey. Tom is an organic farmer in Madera, California and a Slow Food USA regional governor. Here are some highlights from our conversation about why this case matters to him, to his fellow farmers, and to consumers in general.
What is your role in the lawsuit? Why did you decide to get involved?
There are too many people in the agricultural community being picked off one by one over this issue of their crops being contaminated by genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Everyone on the suit is potentially liable to be sued by Monsanto. The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) initiated this suit to deny Monsanto the right to sue farmers for being inadvertently contaminated with GMO genes.
If you stand by and watch your neighbors being abused and don’t do anything to back them up, there may not be anyone there to help you. It’s very difficult for individual farmers to defend themselves from legal onslaughts from Monsanto so we thought we best go after defending the whole farming community as a group. Luckily PUPBAT has the resources to help us make that happen and hopefully we’ll prevail.
Posted on Fri, May 27, 2011 by Slow Food USA
Mahalo! Interview with Clare Loprinzi, school garden coordinator of Ke Mala ‘o ‘Ehunuikaimalino. Hers was one of 85 school garden run by Slow Food USA chapters to receive seed donations from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds this spring.
by Slow Food USA intern Grace Moore
As seeds are being sown in school gardens around the country, some gardens got an extra boost this year. Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company donated hundreds of seed packets to 85 of the school gardens run by Slow Food USA chapters. I recently caught up with Clare Loprinzi, the garden coordinator of Ke Mala ‘o ‘Ehunuikaimalino to talk about how the seeds are helping advance their K-12 Hawaiian immersion school. Read on to learn about how their seeds are sowing healthy young Hawaiians:
Tell me more about Ke Kula ‘o ‘Ehunuikaimalino and its garden.
Ke Kula ‘o ‘Ehunuikaimalino is a K-12 Hawaiian immersion school where Hawaiian language is taught as a first language. We are located in Kona, Hawai’i in the ahupua’a (traditional land division) of Kalukalu. Ninety-six percent of the 163 children enrolled are Hawaiian. Incorporating the garden project is something that 32 member administration and staff embraced. This project is in the third year continuing in the creation of a Hawaiian Immersion school that is also a model sustainable community school. All of our keiki (children) are part of this garden interweaving their growth and the growth of the plants to create a healthier school.
How is the garden integrated into the school’s curricula?
This school and the mala (garden) project are not only aimed at restoring indigenous wisdom and sustainability, but at making whole leaders to make the changes that are necessary for survival. We are able to relate stories and traditions of our elders to this project therefore, building and enhancing stronger relationships to the environment around us to make them more intimate and family-like.
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.