Tag Archives: farm

America throws away 40% of its food – under the supermarket model

One of my big ideas is to get away from the supermarket model in America. Not only has it made two-thirds of the country overweight or obese, but it also wastes an incredible amount of…well, everything.

From an NRDC report (pdf):

Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten….That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month. Not only does this mean that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also 25 percent of all freshwater and huge amounts of unnecessary chemicals, energy, and land. Moreover, almost all that uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills where it accounts for almost 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions. Nutrition is also lost in the mix—food saved by reducing losses by just 15 percent could feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables.

 

I’m convinced the supermarket model isn’t working and suggest we replace it with a more sustainable model. I’m writing a book to explain my solution, but here it is in three parts. A food system made up of farmers markets, non-profit food cooperatives, and for-profit markets.

I’ve traveled across the country and seen this model in effect and successful in large and small communities. It favors both the rich and poor, is sustainable and, best of all, creates quality jobs.

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Mexico’s wine country – Valle de Guadalupe – is on the rise

Baja California seems like the perfect place to recreate that Italian sense of wine. Both are peninsulas with rolling hills of heat and fresh ocean breezes, perfect for a multitude of grape varieties. Food is central to the culture, like it is in Italy, with most Mexicans in the area practicing some sort of agriculture, aquaculture, or livestock herding. Finally, both have a bustling tourist industry more than ready to accommodate wine loving visitors.

Mark my words, Baja California is on the rise as a wine destination.

A review of Deckman’s seasonal restaurant located on the El Mogor winery:

My dear pal took me to Baja’s wine country – the Valle de Guadalupe near Ensenada – to lunch under the pine trees at Drew Deckman’s new seasonal restaurant at the charming Mogor Badan winery…there is no dearth of fine eateries in the Ensenada area.

And all take full advantage of what the region offers including organic produce; regional cheeses in both the farm and European styles; hand-crafted wines that are winning accolades throughout the world, and meats and seafood that are cultivated locally.

 

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Growing coffee trees in California

In this day of the $6 cup of coffee, when bragging rights mean knowing not only the varietal but the beans’ latitude, anything exotic gets the antennae waving. Which may explain why Jay Ruskey of Good Land Organics is inundated with requests to visit his north Santa Barbara County farm, where he is the only person cultivating coffee in California. He’s been turning down the requests—until now. This month the curious can sign up online for an agritour and the chance to see how Ruskey coaxes a plant inextricably tied to Latin America and Africa to flourish on U.S. soil.

The coffee-growing experiment is part of the UC small farms initiative, which supplied Ruskey with bushes and an expert, Mark Gaskell, who has worked in Central America. While coffee is normally grown at altitudes approaching thousands of feet, Ruskey’s farm sits at 650. The beans thrive in his coastal canyon largely because of the lack of extreme cold or heat and the low winds.

via Los Angeles Magazine

 

Ruskey's Coffee Trees

 

He now has 470 trees in the ground, which would fill half an acre if they had been planted in a continuous block. By chance, he planted the young trees among mature avocado trees and found that the two were good companions, as the coffee benefited from the rich soil generated by the avocado trees’ mulch.

…his mature trees are mostly Typica, the Arabica type from which most others developed, and Caturra, a mutation of Bourbon discovered in Brazil. He also has 100 young trees of Geisha, a rare Panamanian strain of Ethiopian origin, legendary for its superb quality.

He is sufficiently convinced of the feasibility of his project that he and Gaskell are working to organize a Santa Barbara coffee growers association with several other farmers who have planted or committed to planting coffee trees.

via Los Angeles Times

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Historical photos of UCLA and Westwood Village from first day of classes to late-1930s

Historical photos of UCLA and Westwood village from the late-1920s to late-1930s, just as the school and campus was being built.

The first day of classes in Westwood were in 1929 with 5,500 students and was also the first year the UCLA football team played the USC football team.

Thx to KS Bruin

Royce Hall on the first day of classes, 1929. The building was ready...the grounds not so much. 
Aerial view of campus, 1929. The original four buildings are (mostly) done, as is the bridge, but Janss Steps aren't yet, nor is there much of anything surrounding campus.
The bridge (famous, secret, hidden, mythology) between Schoenberg and Perloff. Now completely underground with all the area around it filled in to make it look a road, except for those secret tunnels...that all Freshman are told about.

Another aerial shot showing Moore Hall and Janss Steps under construction.

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Have you heard of the California Delta? – A summary of the issues and politics

86% of Southern Californians are unaware of the Delta

Nearly four out of five Californians do not know what the Delta is, despite the fact that the estuary of 1,000 square miles provides drinking water for cities from San Jose to San Diego.

Asked in a new statewide poll to share what, if anything, they know about the Delta, 585 of the 750 people surveyed in late January said they hadn’t heard about it or didn’t know about it.

That’s 78 percent.

“I have not heard about it,” one respondent said. “If it is the bill about weapons control, it is (expletive). Every person in the world should have the right to keep and bear arms.”

Said another: “It is the oil line from Canada to the United States,” likely a reference to the Keystone pipeline in the news lately.

Yet another respondent thought the surveyor was talking about a political candidate.

In Southern California, eighty-six percent of southlanders pleaded ignorance when asked about the Delta.

via California’s best kept secret?

 

23 million Californians rely on its drinking water

The California Delta is the largest estuary in the western United States, surpassed nationally only by the Mississippi River Delta. It borders the cities of Stockton and Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. Over 23 million Californians rely on the delta watershed for drinking water, and it’s water diversions sustain the largest agricultural industry in the nation.

Today’s delta faces such challenges as wildlife-habitat restoration, water rights, housing development, and politics. Complicating these issues, aging levees throughout the low-lying region threaten a disaster of national proportions—and with that prospect, the very future of the California Delta.

via California Delta Chamber & Visitors Bureau

 

This November, 2012, voters face a billion dollar ballot for the California Delta

Water, in California, is a fighting word. This week, the war drums are beating louder as regulators rush to present a flurry of water plans to the public.

The cascade of decisions dictating how the state replumbs its water-distribution system, including possible construction of a canal or tunnel to move water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, moves to a new stage Wednesday (Feb 29, 2012). That’s when state officials will unveil thousands of pages of documents on the studied effects of such a canal on the delta ecosystem, on water quality for humans, for fish and farmers (which are all different).

The goal is to balance the needs of the cities, farms and fish and meet legal requirements of five state and federal agencies and the Endangered Species Act.

There is money in the $11.1 billion water bond on the November California ballot for delta restoration, but none for construction of an estimated $23 billion to $54 billion “conveyance.”

The governor’s plan is to have the users of the south-of-the delta exported water – Southern California, as well as some Santa Clara and Alameda counties water agencies, cover the cost. Southern California water agencies are already grumbling that the project envisioned ignores what ratepayers are willing to pay for a reliable water source.

via California Delta water plan requires transparency

 

The U.S. Congress is getting involved as well

The California water wars go to a new battlefield this week (Feb 27, 2012) – the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, the House is scheduled to vote on a bill authored by Tulare Republican congressman Devin Nunes.

H.R. 1837 would relax water pumping restrictions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. But the Delta groups says the restrictions have been the last line of defense for protecting water quality for Delta farming and urban users.

A coalition of 190 environmental, environmental justice, tribal and fishing organizations from around the state also sent comments in opposition to H.R. 1837 to Mr. Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

via Delta groups urge defeat of water rights revamp

Artificial insemination and too-fat-to-fly – the real Thanksgiving turkey

Something scary is happening in the turkey world. Our scientists and farmers have created a Frankenstein-like beast called the broad breasted white. This creature is created in a lab, through artificial insemination, and then grows fat so fast that it often cannot walk. It usually needs antibiotics to survive to be butchered.

Needless to say, it cannot fly. It can also barely walk, but it does create the biggest turkey breast you could ever imagine.

If that wasn’t enough these creatures are shoved into tight pens with thousands of other birds. All of them too fat to walk around, struggling to survive, and sometimes even injected with butter and salt.

“These birds are grown in large grow-out barns that are fully automated and may house as many as 10,000 birds.” (Wikipedia)

Why is this happening?

Profit, pure and simple. Americans want $5 turkeys and don’t care how they get it. When there is a will there is a way, and this way has been found.

The only thing I can think to say…is it worth it?

Photo credit: INSADCO Photography/Alamy

West Coast and Atlantic Northeast dominate U.S. in Farmers Markets (map)

A recent study from the USDA released this map of farmers markets. Notice that the Northeast and West Coast dominate (dark blue).

From the report:

“Direct-to-consumer sales are highest in the Northeast, on the West Coast, and around a few isolated metropolitan areas throughout the country.”

“Farms with direct-to-consumer sales are most likely to have neighbors who also participate in direct sales—this is a neighborhood effect”

…choosy moms choose farmers markets and the whole neighborhood improves?

“The West Coast has a long-standing system of farmers’ markets and farmerto-grocers’ marketing channels dating back to the 1970s. Small-scale farmers began selling organic and high value-added niche foods to upscale restaurants in the late 1970s (now a national trend) and are now part of farm-to-school marketing arrangements.”

“Another U.S. hot spot for local food sales is the Atlantic seaboard, particularly the Northeast census division. Local food sales farms in the Northeast generated 14.4 percent of U.S. local food production.”

Source: Direct and Intermediate Marketing of Local Foods in the US, USDA (page 11)

Go local: an explanation of foodsheds

With all this talk about eating local and counting miles I thought it would be good to explain what it really means. The foundation for local eating starts with a foodshed.

Foodshed: a region or area from which a population draws its food.

The typical limit on these regions is 100 miles. Draw a 100-mile circle around where you live and that is your foodshed.

In economic terms this is ideal distance a farmer, or her goods, can travel to reach a market. That way it arrives on your plate as fresh, ripe, and nutritious as it can be.

Go outside of this limit and there is an increasing reliance on fossil fuels and a decreasing quality of the food.

For those concerned about pollution, global warming, or oil-addiction these “food miles” are a cause for concern. Farmers face similar concerns, albeit from the other side, with a rising cost of gas and oil-based fertilizers that narrow their profits.

Still for others the “go local” movement represents a desire to get the very best food they can find, and that is the fundamental reason for foodsheds.

I’ve tried to document what happens to our health with the advent of low quality foodour acceptance of it, and the difference in nutritional content.

These rings of farmland surrounding our communities represent the ideal of sustainable living. Where the countryside is not poverty-stricken, but instead a vibrant economic sector known as much for its wineries and ‘farm-days’ as it is for fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

Even more these areas are often recession proof as evidenced by their continual rapid growth during the past half-decade.

It is for all these reasons that the locavore movement is popular and gaining momentum, there is something in it for everyone. Even the beefiest of meat eaters.

For further reference I’ve pulled together several maps of America’s foodsheds. Take a look.

san francisco california foodshed map 100 mile local locavore
Click for a larger image.

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Farmers markets grow 250% since 2000

I’m all about farmers markets. Every dollar I spend on food goes there and they provide me with everything I need to eat and more (dessert!).

The reason for all this is covered in several previous posts, including: Why nobody knows how to prevent obesity & How food coma overcomes exercising.

A quick recap is that by eating at farmers markets you gain superior health and weight loss, prevent global warming, and save money.

For the longest time, I wondered why nobody else understood this. It turns out that since 2000, many, many more people are starting to agree with me.

Check out the graph provided by the USDA in their annual farmers market audit:

Notice that since the recession, the so-called “expensive” markets are surging with 164% growth since 2006. If this trend continues we may finally be able to impact our food system.

I can already see it happening in the supermarkets where the words “farmer”, “market”, and “local” are everywhere. Too bad they are only marketing terms.

So next chance you have, stop by a farmers market for the real thing. Pick out some fruits and vegetables. Come back the same time next week and keep the farmers market revolution going!