Posted on Thu, December 03, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
0 Comments | Categories: Biodiversity, Farms and Farming, Labeling, Policy, School Food, Take Action,
by Intern Alaine Janosy
After spending over an hour speaking with Maureen Marinkovich and Linda Degnan Cobos, chapter leaders of Slow Food Land and Sea, I wanted to jump on a plane to San Juan Island and become a member of their chapter; their passion and enthusiasm was infectious!
Living in a small island community, both Maureen and Linda are acutely aware of how decreases in biodiversity negatively impact their community, and therefore they focus a lot of their events and activities around the importance of a biologically diverse food supply.
Maureen and her husband Matt are fishermen by trade so they have a vested interest in maintaining the health of the waters around San Juan Island and the wild salmon that live in those waters. As soon as we started talking about salmon, Matt jumped on the phone to tell me how salmon farming affects local wild salmon stocks. Fish farms are breeding grounds for sea lice. These lice infest the water that newly hatched wild salmon must pass through since most fish farms use open net cage systems. The young salmon lack scales and other natural defenses that allow adult salmon to combat parasitic sea lice, so many of them die. (Matt also sent me this illustrative video produced by Watershed Watch.) Salmon stocks are so low this year that Maureen and her husband will not be fishing for sockeye in the Puget Sound. To raise awareness about the salmon situation, Matt leads filleting demonstrations in the community and with the Land and Sea Slow Food Youth Club, demonstrating how to properly fillet one of his fresh-caught wild salmon and teaching people about the threats to wild salmon. As always, a threat to wild salmon is more than just a threat to one natural resource, it is a threat to the entire ecosystem. Depletion of wild salmon affects the plants and animals that rely on them for food, the native people for whom the salmon are not only a food source but also a source of tradition, and the livelihood of commercial fishermen.
Maureen and Linda started the Land and Sea Slow Food Youth Club to get young people more involved with Slow Food and its initiatives. It began at the local high school and has grown to include participants from the local middle school. One recent event featured Red Fife Wheat, a Canadian Ark of Taste product and Presidium project. Students learned how wheat becomes flour and even ground wheat berries themselves. In the club they talk to the kids about the dangers of monocropping and hope the garden they will plant this spring will be a way to illustrate why diversified crop production is best for everyone. They already know Makah Ozette potatoes,
a US Ark of Taste product and Presidium project, will be one of the crops they plant, along with other native area potato strains.
Slow Food Land and Seas number one priority is supporting local organic farmers and advocating for legislation that will protect small-scale, organic farmers who are using biologically diverse farming methods. The chapter has been tracking House bill 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 and its related Senate counterpart, S. 510, FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. The House bill, which passed in July, was sent on to the Senate, and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP).
Regulations included in the bill that were points of contention for many in the sustainable agriculture world include a $500 registration fee, thought to disproportionately impact small farmers and producers, and a lack of specific language requiring the FDA to coordinate with the National Organic Program on the development and enforcement of standards, which could result in certified organic farmers having to face duplicative or conflicting requirements or fees. However, the bill did garner support from important groups like Food and Water Watch, which considered the bill to be a positive first step to correcting the deficiencies at FDA while recognizing that there are still some issues that need to be addressed as the debate moves over to the Senate.
The Senate bill was considered in committee and on November 18, 2009, the committee recommended the Senate as a whole consider the bill. Prior to this recommendation, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, in cooperation with the National Organic Coalition, sent the Senate HELP Committee a list of policy recommendations meant to make the bill more supportive of sustainable agriculture.
To learn more about Slow Food Land and Seas advocacy efforts and current projects, check out their website.
Id love to hear what other Slow Food USA chapters are doing around the country to raise awareness about biologically diverse farming methods and support local farms. Tell us!