Posts Tagged ‘farms’

Where have all the farmers gone?

Or, I suppose the better question is, if someone does a study that shows the economic benefits of growing more diverse fruits and vegetables for more local consumers on smaller farms, will enough people attempt to test the theory out?

Job creation

Let’s first take a look at exactly what this study (“Selected  Measures of the Economic Values  of Increased Fruit and Vegetable Production and Consumption in the Upper Midwest”) found. First, more fruit and vegetable production in the six Midwestern states looked at could, theoretically, equal $882 million in sales at the farm level, with more than 9,300 jobs. Corn and soybean production on that same amount of land would support only 2,578 jobs. If half of the increased production was sold in farmer-owned stores, it would require 1,405 such stores staffed by 9,652 people. Only 270,025 acres—roughly equivalent to the average cropland in one of Iowa’s counties—would be needed to grow enough fruits and vegetables for the six-state region.

It’s first important to note that I realize this data was collected based on research in the Midwest, and the same numbers would not apply throughout the United States. However, if pursued even just in the Midwest, this sort of movement could drastically change the way agriculture is looked at in this country. This study shows that there is the potential to grow 28 different kinds of fruits and vegetables there that people in the region are currently getting from far distances, possibly even outside the Untied States. This is one thing that really irritates me, personally, with regard to buying locally: the idea that food items are being trucked or flown in from far away when they actually are being grown just miles away.

Creating desire by easing the process

But here is the one looming issue: Are there really enough people out there that want to be farmers? Can we really get 9,300 determined-to-be-farmer folks? It’s hard to say, because I don’t think there are enough people out there that know they can be farmers. There are plenty of college recruiters visiting high schools and talking to students about spending thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, on their education. How many of them are talking about studying agriculture? I don’t even remember thinking about the idea of agriculture until well into college. And further, how many of those colleges actually offer degrees in agriculture? And how well do these degree programs actually train people to own and manage a farm in a practical sense but one that uses progressive, organic methods? This Web site indicates that there are at least twelve schools that offer this degree in the U.S.—compared to the oh, say, hundreds, perhaps thousands that offer finance or business degrees. But then what happens after?

This got me thinking about creating an agency that would facilitate efforts to create more small farms (say, 100 acres or less) that did not rely on government subsidies for commodity crops. I am familiar with the NFFC (National Family Farm Coalition), but I feel they are still very small and focus primarily on helping existing farmers instead of making communities more able to produce their own food by motivating more people to take interest and become educated on how to.

What would an agency focused on making farmers succeed do?

  • put interested individuals in touch with schools/universities that offer degrees in agriculture
  • put students and potential students in touch with scholarship programs specifically designed for agriculture students
  • help to find land to farm or existing corn/tobacco/soybean/cotton farms that can be transformed and diversified
  • teach them how to correctly negotiate the purchase of this land
  • offer classes/put in touch with education on proper farming techniques that would minimize or eliminate pesticide use, not rely on GMO’s and keep land fertile (crop rotation, etc.)
  • train on proper budgeting and financial training, how to take out loans properly and how to pay them back
  • helping to create a business plan

All of this would have to come for free or for a very low cost in order to encourage more farmer training. And these are just some of the ideas that first come to mind. There are likely other innovative and less expensive ways to go about encouraging more small farmers to go into business (programs at the universities that partner up business students/MBA’s with those that specialize in agriculture/biology who might want to start a farming business together).

Farmers as entrepreneurs

Because the truth is that farming is NOT easy, which is why it has been industrialized over the past 100 years. It requires both farming know-how, technological savvy, science and biology training/college education in agriculture, business planning, and huge start-up costs (though you can get a loan, much like any businessman or entrepreneur knows). Further, farming carries with it huge risks related to crop failures, inability to sell enough goods, weather-related issues, and other problems. This is why it is so tempting for farmers to grow commodity crops, in order to get by on subsidies from the government, (which also gets into why the government needs to diversify its subsidy program in order to encourage more biodiversity.)

Interestingly, I think the idea of making more people embrace the farming life as a legitimate job, in fact a business well-worth pursuing, comes down to a bit more education, that is, PR type messaging to the country as a whole, which could lead to cultural shifts. As Giovanni Federico asserts in Feeding the World, 75 percent of the population must take up the helm of farming if we expect to keep people fed but do so with more traditional farming methods (I don’t think the real figure would be quite this high, because I think traditional farming methods have been improved on many existing smaller farms, while still keeping them sustainable.)

But the reality that more people would need to farm (and more people will need to garden/find ways to produce their own food) in order to eliminate industrial farming is quite undeniable.

Next up, I plan to outline some of the innovative ways urban gardening and small farm operations are improving.

My weekend: a haircut, veggie roasting, and I think I need to get checked for narcolepsy

I feel like all I did this weekend was sleep. And it’s not that I avoided work, it’s just that every time I got into doing work, I fell asleep! I swear I’m not lazy! I’m narcoleptic! I didn’t get out, barely, aside from a trip to the farmers market and the hair dresser on Sunday

Which, speaking of the hairdresser. I sort of got a little bang going on now. Before and after shot? Yes, please.

Before: Drab, boring, lifeless hair. Boy, do I look sad!

After! WOW, what a difference! I’m smiling!

Sure, now you are thinking. -I mean, Kel, it doesn’t really look all that different. All you did was change the Photobooth setting that you took the picture on.  -UM. actually, there is a pile of my hair on the floor of Mimosa in D.C. that can prove that isn’t true.

By the way, it was my first time there, and I approve, if you live in D.C. and are looking for a place to get your hair and nails did. English isn’t their first language, but they know what they are doing. Prices are very fair, too.

To be honest, before this weekend, I don’t even know the last time I had my hair cut. Stuff grows like a weed. And, I am beginning to realize the ridiculousness of me showing you pictures of my new bangs, which literally consist of 3-5 strands of my hair. And also my hair is tucked behind my ears in the ‘before’ picture and you can’t see the length difference in the ‘after’, solidifying the pointlessness. Moving on to food….!


This weekend, all I wanted to do was roast veggies.I had brussel sprouts from the AU farmers market so on Saturday night (yes, Saturday night *sigh*) I just nipped off what little stem there was, coated them in EVOO, salt, pepper, and chopped up garlic, baked them on a cookie sheet for like 20 minutes. They were little guys and didn’t take long. The garlic gets pretty charred by the time the brussels are done though. Which doesn’t effect the rest, but does leave some clean-up. If you don’t mind that, have at it. Hey, you can even buy one of these babies and really feel like a housewife while you’re scrubbing pans: (ps I want one).

Also, direct quote from Jen in regards to these bowls from Anthropologie:

“Those bowls make cooking fun again!” So true.

Can I just say that the remainder of the food shots from this night don’t appear appetizing but I swear to you, the food was great.

That’s naan and then some onion/egg scramble thing. Listen, I could eat some variation of eggs for breakfast and dinner every day for the rest of my life I think sometimes. I could go vegan if not for eggs. PS, those brussel sprouts look burnt, but they aren’t. They are delicious.

Yesterday I went to the farmers market and bought this loaf of peasant wheat for $5. It’s literally the size of a three-year-old. Let’s see if it lasts me a week.

I just think that Kale looks like mini crocodiles in a photo. Anyone else? I’m a weirdo? OK, then.

Then I made kale chips for the first time. I don’t know which blogger to shout out for this one, so I will choose Jacquie because she let me try her’s the other day and I was sold. Basically you rub EVOO all up in those pieces of Tuscan kale you got at the market and you grind some course salt and pepper on there and lay them so they all have their own space, and you bake at 350 for about 10-12 minutes. Jacquie sprinkles on some nutritional yeast to give it a cheesey edge. I didn’t have any and still found the kale chips to be about as addictive as Stacy’s pita chips and Sabra hummus (which is very addictive.) I ate a pan’s worth straight out the oven. Luckily I had enough for two more batches.

There must be some chemical reaction that happens with kale when you bake it that makes it so delicious. Like crack, people.

Then the parsnips got jealous of all the veggie roasting, so I peeled and sliced them up real thin as well.

I’ve got veggie chips of all sorts to get me through the week.

OK, I had half a glass of wine Sunday night, and only because I thought it would be great with my dinner of kale chips—which it was. And actually I felt much more sleepy before the wine, surprisingly.

But on that note, what do you do when you can’t keep your eyes open despite getting enough rest? I am a perpetual napper lately!! But I don’t like to use caffeine because I just feel like that will take me down the road to a very expensive habit.

I think from now on when I feel the eyelids getting heavy I’m going to (attempt to) do some push-ups. To get the blood flowing. I need to tone up anyhow, in preparation for this dress I tried on but haven’t bought yet because it’s a billion dollars and I think my Mac is about to crap out any day now.

SIGH.

ALSO–Any kale chip lovers out there ever make ahead? Does it work out? Mine aren’t crispy today and I am sad. I had them in a plastic bag, but I guess it wasn’t air-tight. Suggestions?

Review: Blue Ridge in Glover Park

Wow. So much blog-worthy stuff happening right now. Not sure where to start.

Let’s start with dinner, obviously. So as I mentioned, Joe and I tried out this Blue Ridge place in Glover Park. It was surprisingly empty, I thought, for a Sunday night. But hey, I guess we’re in a recession. I support people’s decision to eat at home. It in no way reflected poor food, because the food ended up being delicious(!). There was one minor hiccup. No wait, two. First was that we discovered that the menu had no seafood on it (except for oysters—which I have had an aversion to ever since that Mr. Bean episode where he…eh, just watch.) It was strange because the online menu had calamari, catfish, salmon pate, bluefish, lobster (all with the sustainable seal of approval *wink*). So me, being the difficult pescatarian that I am, felt like a huge pain in the you-know-what asking our server, basically, “What’s up with that?” She told me something about it being Sunday and they are trying to push the Prixe Fixe to which I basically responded, “No roast beef for me, lady, gimmee some seafood.” And then she said, “But we do have two artic char tonight, served over a bed of lentils…” to which I said, “Perfect!” Being picky will get you everywhere.

We ordered the sweet potato fritters for an appetizer. Holy grassfed cow, they tasted somethin’ magical. Joe ordered the steak which I totally knew he would, and then told me as he was eating how grainfed steak tastes better. I guess I’m not a meat-eater so I wouldn’t really know, but from what I read, eating meat from a cow that’s only ever eaten grass versus one whose gotten real fatty off of corn and grain feed, is like eating two different animals. In terms of taste. I would imagine that grassfed cows taste more like kangaroo or ostrich or something really lean like that. Point is, grassfed beef will give you lots of omega-3’s and less saturated fat and cholesterol which don’t seem to be high on Joe’s priority list. Oh well! Anyhow I will say that my arctic char was cooked perfectly (I’d never had arctic char before, very similar to salmon), the lentils were amazing and really flavorful, and the portions were generous.

So, I’m going to put these pictures up and pretend they aren’t giant blurs that break my photographer heart. Next time I’m not going to feel bad bringing my external flash.


Sweet potato fritters

Arctic char.

OK this is comical. and a steak, I swear.

  • Taste: I mean… A.
  • Atmosphere: Which brings me to the second hiccup of the night, which was when we were done and basically about to leave, when our friend, who I will refer to as Mr. Monsanto, started peepin’ around the corner a few tables away. (We were outside!) You see, Mr. Monsanto was a rat–and while I’m sure that has nothing to do with the food/hygiene of the place, I can’t not dock points for a rat in the eating area. Although I will say I see rats outside of restaurants in this city a lot. Last time it was outside Open City in AdMo. Blech. So, B-. I’m feeling generous.
  • Value: I consider any place that has a cheese/charcuterie menu to be in the fancy realm, and their prices seemed very fair despite this. So, A-.
  • Sustainability: Oooh yeah. Grassfed beef? Arctic char that wins for “Best Choice” from Seafood Watch? A+

All in all, an A-. Which is pretty darn good for me having to finagle our server in order to not eat meat for dinner and having Mr. Monsanto join us at the end. =]

Reporting back on food spending

Well. It’s the moment of truth. Last week, I told you I was going to keep track of all the money I spent on food. So I did. And here’s the breakdown.

Friday, March 12 – Went to Giant, bought too much really, intended to only get the “essentials” like peanut butter, bread (which, as I didn’t even need to get eat because I bought bread at the market so I froze this bread), jelly (again, didn’t need to get), pickles (I never buy pickles, not sure about the decision–never shop while experiencing strange cravings), salt (definitely needed that), soy milk, matzo crackers, cream cheese, cuc’s, strawberries. – $52.18

Saturday, March 13 – Went to Farmers Market and bought all that stuff I pictured last week – $33.75

Then Wednesday came and I was up late Tuesday writing a paper (and by up late I mean I slept from 10pm to midnight, then 7-8am, which apparently is now my customary routine.) The point is, I woke up and had to run to an interview and then meet with my dean to read him a speech I entered into this commencement speaker contest and so anyway I didn’t have a lunch prepared. My school is pretty awesome and unique in that we have a mini farmers market on campus on Wednesdays, which is rather fitting as that is the only day I’m ever on campus. So I went there and picked up some snacks (dried cranberries and apples–which I still haven’t finished–and challah bread which I shared with the Eagle office in part to prevent myself from consuming the entire loaf) and then later on I bought a salad with black beans because let’s be real, eating nothing but carbohydrates all day is just not fulfilling. So, salad plus farm goodies – $17

(Now, considering I started this tally on Friday, I would think the last day would be Thursday. So we will disregard the fact that I forgot the salad I specifically made to bring with me on Friday to work and instead had to go to Whole Foods and spend $7 at the salad bar. Oh well.)

This puts my grand total for March 12-18 at:

$102.93

Which is pretty much what I estimated I have been spending.

All in all, I honestly think I am buying too much food. I don’t think I am spending too much on the food that I buy, I just think I am buying so much that I’m not eating everything I buy that week, and then I am also having to throw away the stuff that goes bad, usually veggies. I am overestimating how much I am going cook and eat. I need to just buy enough for one week at a time, (obviously except for things like spices or big bags of rice or whatever.) So I am glad I did this because it taught me three important things I need to work on to curb my spending and reduce and hopefully completely eliminate the food that I waste–while not changing the quality of the food I buy:

  1. I need to buy smaller quantities of food, especially bread and vegetables.
  2. I need to make my lunches/meals for the next day the night before and I need to remember to bring those meals!
  3. I need to plan better what I am going to make as my “main meal with leftovers” so that I only buy the ingredients I will use.

It’s still important to mention that my opinion still stands, I would rather spend more on food than other things. For crying out loud, half my paycheck this week went directly to the food I put in my mouth (I say 30 percent of my total “income” because my parents help me with most of my rent right now and I include that as income.) And a lot of times I share the food that I buy, or cook a meal that is shared. But usually that’s balanced out by the food people share with me.

Anyhow, it’s a gorgeous day. I think I will throw some things in the crockpot and go outside and read in the sunshine.

How’s the weather where you are? I hope wonderful. And I hope everyone at Fitbloggin‘ is having so much fun! I wish I was there meeting you all!

I live closer to a farmers market than the grocery store.

I can’t believe I just found this market! A friend of mine informed me last week that there is a Saturday farmers market at the corner of Alton Pl. and 36th St, in the parking lot of the Sheridan School, which just so happens to be a 5-minute walk  from where I live. It is held by New Morning Farm, which is about a hundred miles north of here in Pennsylvania. And, it literally is easier to get to than the Giant for me. How about that.

So yesterday, I trekked out into the snowy morning, and went to pick up loads of fun stuff. I got: raisin-walnut bread, honey crisp apples (omg–the best apples in the world), a couple pink lady apples (which I also like, but not as much as honey crisp), Asian pears, carrots, white sweet potatoes, turnips, arugula, and beets. I got a ton of stuff, literally all the food I will need this week minus a couple things like soy milk, almond butter, soy “meat”, etc–and I only spent about $35. In fact, the honey crisp apples were $2/lb, which is $.59 cheaper than they used to be when Giant had them, which they don’t anymore. I hate Giant, I really do. I shop there, but I hate it.

Bt-dubs, if you are looking to really cut out your plastic bag usage, check out these produce bags from ReusableBags.com — They are awesome, my sister got me a set for Christmas and I use them all the time. Every time I use them, people stare at me, with jealous eyes. Mmmhm.

So then, I went on to literally cook up a storm yesterday. I cooked so much I didn’t have time to blog, that’s how much I cooked. I think what I am going to try to do from now on is do my cooking on Saturday/Sunday and then have meals to eat during the week. I never have time to cook during the week. Does anyone?

I boiled up the beets and peeled them and put them away to use later in the week in salads or heated up. Um, so just a tip if you plan on boiling and peeling beets at home: don’t wear a white top while doing so. I couldn’t tell if I was cutting into my fingers or just covered in beet juice. Appetizing, I know. (I didn’t cut myself. Just FYI.) But anyway my clothes were covered in red spots after–I should invest in an apron. If anyone knows a simple way to peel beets, please let me know.

More on beets: I had never eaten a beet until about a year ago, when I accidentally ate one at a salad bar. And I liked it. I just don’t ever buy or cook with them, but they really are delicious. And they are apparently really good for you, super high in fiber and vitamin B and all this good stuff. Anyway, buy an apron, eat a beet. This concludes today’s Beet PSA.

Later on, I got my carrots all peeled and sliced up for the week. If I don’t do that when I first bring them home, I never eat them, it’s awful. I just get too busy/lazy during the week.

Then, I made the most delicious smashed white sweet potatoes. This is literally all the ingredients I used.

White sweet potatoes aren’t that sweet–they are sort of a combination between white potatoes and regular sweet potatoes. Which means you can make them go sweet or savory. I went savory. I boiled them up ’til tender, then threw in some chive cream cheese, garlic powder (didn’t have real garlic on hand), salt, pepper, and soy milk until just right. I mashed them up with this doo-dad we’ve had in the kitchen but I don’t think we’ve ever used, worked like a charm. I’ll graze on those pot’s throughout the week.

Then, I embarked on a strange turnip ordeal. My sister sent me a recipe for glazed turnips, which I intended to make, but then I think I put too much water in, so I decided hey, this is going to taste sweet anyway, let’s throw in some sliced Asian pear. So basically, this is what I did: Heated up a saute pan to medium heat, threw in sliced up peeled turnips, then threw in about 2 T. butter, a little pepper, and a big drizzle of maple syrup. Then I threw in the sliced pear. Then I poured in some water until everything was covered, but I should have only put in about half that amount of water–it’s supposed to steam the turnips, not boil them–not a huge mistake but ended up making everything more cooked than ideal. Then you cover the pan (I didn’t have a properly fitting cover–oh well) and steam for 10 minutes.

I tried the glazed turnip-pear experiment afterward, it was OK–but needs work for sure.

Note to self: I need more spices for the cabinet if I expect to do much cooking down the line. We’ve literally got about 5 spices in the kitchen, including salt and pepper.

Oh! And, look at all the books that arrived yesterday for my independent study slash personal reading pleasure eventually when I have more free time…

And now off to Bikram

Strengthening the Farmer-Consumer Relationship

For my Visual Strategies in PR class, we were asked to choose a nonprofit organization that was holding an event in the future and design a Save-the-date card, a poster, and a brochure to promote it. I decided to tweak the assignment a bit, and my professor gave me the OK.

I had this idea in my mind of a large-scale farmer’s market where sustainable agriculture was promoted and farmers were able to essentially “sell themselves” and the idea of local farming to their potential customers. The Green Festival was similar to this, only that was much broader, had more speakers and seemed almost more exclusive in my mind—like a place where only those who were really into ecofriendly products and ideas would go. I wanted something that people just walking along the National Mall in D.C. could see, walk through, and then get information. I wanted average people that shop at grocery stores to get engaged in a conversation with a farmer or a rancher. The thing was, nothing like this really has ever existed, at least not to my knowledge. So I just made it up. I decided I would have the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition be the sponsor of the event. I designed the save-the-date and the poster, and around when I was finishing up the poster, the real essence of the event blossomed in my mind, which was great because I needed that blossom to happen in order to make the brochure work.

Anyhow, here is the brochure that came out of my inspiration, you can view it in Issuu. Even though it’s not for a real event, that sort of doesn’t matter, because this brochure is more concept-focused than event-focused. I hope it informs or inspires you or makes you think, or even changes your actions.

Farmers Festival Or you can download this PDF.

On a somewhat related note, the exhaustion I was feeling while finishing up this semester is being completely overshadowed this week after being asked to join the communications team at Food and Water Watch next month. Their mission is 100% in line with everything I care about, including the aforementioned local agriculture stuff. So I will definitely keep this blog updated on the things I get to do at that internship. In the meantime, if I hooked you at all with my brochure, check out their site and find out more about how local food from small farms is the healthier, safer, and more ecofriendly food to eat.

S.O.S.: This is a global call.

You better make a stand
You better make it now
Take back your rights from the IMF, World Bank and Monsanto

When they wage war on you, you lay asleep
When they poison your food, you choose to drink
There’s poison in the well!
– Anti-flag

While I was down in Florida last week, for the first time I started to notice advertisements for the genetic engineering company Monsanto, who “pledges to be part of the solution.” Perhaps, if you define “the solution” as pumping bodies full of genetically engineered foods while the profits of food items (which are steadily increasing due to the price gouging of seeds sold by said company to farmers) are pumped into the hands of one corporation, and our already dwindling farmland is wiped out even more. We shop at grocery stores because it is a) convenient and b) cheap. I am terrified to see how “cheap” food will be in ten years, even 5 years, as farmland disappears more and more. We all know the basic principle of supply and demand. Monsanto won’t care, they will have what they need–control of the seeds (our food), control of the government which essentially taxes and regulates agriculture (our food) and control of the people who do the farming, because they can no longer afford to farm any other way.

When a friend of mine and I went to the Green Festival about a month ago, we met Joel Salatin, the author of Everything I Want to Do is Illegal, here. He wrote about his hardships being a small farmer, trying to deal with the restrictions and fees and taxes that the government places upon them. We told him about our Practical Environmentalism class and he was really excited that we were learning about these issues. He signed copies of his book for us and wrote, “Thank you for being part of the solution.”

Monsanto is not part of any solution worth being a part of.

Our farmers, and more generally, our global food system, is in crisis. There are videos about this topic all over the Internet and books everywhere. I suggest beginning with this one, or this one if you are in the mood for something “lighter”.

I mean, our government can be very corrupt, both sides of the aisle and in between. Government is corrupt all over the planet. This shouldn’t be condoned, ever, but when the corruption really strikes a nerve with me is when it comes to issues of our planet, and specifically, our food. Food shouldn’t be treated as a special interest. It’s a requirement for life. If our food system falls apart, which it inevitably could if these genetically engineered seeds replace biodiversity and natural growth, the human species would cease to exist.

That isn’t alarmism, it’s just fact.