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Darby Minow Smith's Posts


Slow your roll

Stephen Colbert can’t wait to belch exhaust all over bicyclists & hybrid cars

Greens had Stephen Colbert seeing red, so he was excited to hear about a new anti-environmentalist trend: coal rolling. "Coal rollers modify their diesel pickups to get shittier mileage and belch as much pollution as possible," explains Jim Meyer. The dirty pranksters then kick up black clouds on bicyclists, pedestrians, and hybrid cars. As Colbert points out, "The only other way to keep a Prius away from you is driving over 45 mph."

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Good riddance, ocean, you were terrifying and gross anyway


When I put a fishy face to the victims of ocean acidification, overfishing, and pollution, my brain usually goes off into Christian Riese Lassen territory. Orcas leap through the ocean at sunset. Coral reefs teem with diversity, each fish more lovely than the next. Sea turtles circling the globe? Why the heck not.

You know what never made it into the ocean diversity art on my seventh-grade geography folder? This guy:

Read more: Living


Oh, heck yes: Check out these farm tools for women


When it comes to products designed for women, the field is full of bubblegum-colored toolkits and dainty pens. "Shrink it and pink it" tends to be the default philosophy of the men wearing ties (presumably uttered as they do Mel Gibson impressions around the boardroom table).

So what happens when the product designers have no Y chromosomes and don gender-neutral polar fleeces instead of suits?

You get Green Heron Tools and a batch of farming and gardening tools that are actually useful for women. Ann Adams and Liz Brensinger founded the business after farming for 20 years and noticing the tools didn't quite work for their bodies. Deborah Huso interviewed the pair over at Modern Farmer:


Death comes forest all

While away the hours to your inevitable demise with this green burial documentary


You're probably not going to die and I certainly never will, but in the off chance the Grim Reaper catches up with us one day, why should our deaths be less sustainable than our lives?

The mainstream funeral industry is full of nasty chemicals and manicured lawns. Shouldn't we strive to stay green beyond just the inevitable 50 shades of mold [GLURGH] that awaits us?

Read more: Living


Hay, Girl

Farming is full of shit, blood, and stubborn fields. How’s that for romantic?


Real talk? That hay would be itchy as hell.

For the last few years, farming has enjoyed perhaps unprecedented levels of urban adoration. But two excellent articles recently popped up to warn us of the dangers of romanticizing farming.

Sarah Searle muses for Modern Farmer on the trend of farm-based weddings and agrotourism in general. While that extra bit of income from holding weddings can really make a difference for some farmers, "we’re incentivizing farmers to use their limited resources to perpetuate a romantic stereotype that consumers enjoy, rather than to spend money on functioning, sustainable (but perhaps not magazine-beautiful) models of local farming." Plus, some once-working farms "have found they can fare better offering a carefully curated version of farming to those willing to pay for it."

Shells of farms and farmers preoccupied with dancefloor assembly do not a sustainable, hardy food system make.

Over at The Guardian, Beth Hoffman hits hard on how little we actually know about the journey from farm to fork:

Read more: Food, Living


A shameless foodie & her ranching dad sit down for a medium-rare opportunity

Brady Minow Smith

This article is a followup to a piece on why mid-size farmers and foodies to get along

I was waiting in the security line at the Helena airport on my way back to Seattle when I noticed the TSA agent squinting at the x-ray machine screen. A smile slowly crept across her face and she motioned over another agent. She pointed at the screen and the pair erupted into giggles. “Mind if we take a look inside your bag, ma'am?” she said as my backpack emerged from the machine. She pulled out the bundle of plastic and butcher’s paper and asked, “Is this what I think it is?” I responded with a sheepish grin: “I’ll split it with ya, if you let me keep it.” Polite smile. “It’s all yours,” she replied, sliding the frozen T-bone steak back to me.

My family loves beef -- especially our own. I can taste sweet notes of alfalfa that we spend all summer watering, growing, and cutting; the meadow grasses we pasture our cattle on provide their own subtle herbaceous flavors. Our pride goes beyond flavor. My father, along with our whip-smart ranch manager and his hard-working daughter, work seven days a week on the Lazy T Ranch to raise 450 head of cattle. Their dedication is best enjoyed medium rare, and I love it most after a day of throwing words out into the void that is the internet.

So yes: Whenever I go home, I’ll pull a Jon Tester and haul our meat through airport security and in coolers in Subarus over mountain passes. As I make that geographical transition, from the quiet hum of our ranch to my bustling Capitol Hill neighborhood, I most acutely feel the pinch of being caught between my heritage and city life. This leads me to daydreaming in country songs and wondering whether we can connect these two worlds -- for myself, the food movement, and the country at large. Are my loves of our family ranch and that of my profession mutually exclusive? And, more importantly, is there a way to bridge the gap between foodies and mid-size farmers before the latter disappear? I decided to ask my ranching father.

Read more: Food


Make Me Care: Can ranchers and foodies be friends?

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 3.53.02 PM

Howdy! In this week's Make Me Care, we're taking a slightly different tack. Instead of interviewing another writer, I'm talking to my ranching father about the food movement and sustainability. I recently wrote a piece about why foodies and mid-size farmers need to learn to get along. It's clear my dad and I both already care -- but can we find common ground? We weather shoddy rural internet and rascally barn cats to find out. Watch the video now!

On Monday, I'm publishing a broader essay on our ranch and what I found out from talking to my pops. (The actual interview ran an hour. Someone buy the editor all of the beers.) Stay tuned! 

Read more: Food


No country for old men

Why the food movement and family farmers need to learn to get along, little dogies

Nikki Burch

This article is part of a mini-series on the plight of the mid-sized farm. Read part 1 on the difficulties of organic farming and  part 3 on breaking the cycle of bigger farms and fewer farmers. 

If I were still working the Smith family land, I’d be a fifth-generation Montana rancher. Instead, 628 miles, countless pairs of skinny jeans, and one internet job separate me from the family profession. Even after nearly a decade away, though, it doesn’t take much to take me back.

About a year ago, my boyfriend and I were clutching hands and whispering sweet nothings in a dive bar’s midnight air. When the jukebox switched to “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” the crowd and smell of stale beer faded away as I sat back, invisible hat in hand, to gaze at a hidden Montana horizon. My boyfriend glanced up from his beer to see his love-filled girlfriend transformed into a wistful, weatherbeaten Clint Eastwood squeezing back a horse-turd tear. “You’ve got to make me a mix of old country songs,” he said. “You don’t make mixtapes of songs like this,” Eastwood growled, squinting and drifting back to Hank Williams, Sr.

I’m gruff and conflicted when it comes to agriculture. While I love the farmers markets and food scene of Seattle, I miss our family cattle ranch, and the wheat farm my grandparents recently sold. I’ll dim the lights, massage my kale, and devour stories about food, but I feel a gulf between the world of the food movement and that of the mid-sized farms I grew up on and around. I watch countless cool-but-teeny urban ag projects pop up in cities across the U.S. that inspire but grapple with problems of scope. Meanwhile, Big Ag strengthens its hold and swallows up everything in the wide miles between -- where much of our food actually comes from, where I come from. And so, whenever classic country comes on, I get dust in my eye thinking of the red dirt roads and the disappearing, simpler life they lead to. But was it ever really so simple?

Read more: Food, Living


Meet the sisters who put the rad in radical vintage

Pendarvis Harshaw

The Drakeford sisters didn't start thrifting because it was the environmentally friendly thing to do. They just had a fashionable reputation to keep up in Oakland, and vintage threads were affordable, unique, and helped them stand out. "People knew us -- 'Oh, the Drakeford sisters,'" Dominique Drakeford told me over the phone recently. "We had this really cool identity."

It wasn't until she was studying business and environmental management in college that everything clicked. "I decided vintage is one of the most radical forms of sustainable fashion," she said. There's no production with used clothing, she says, and the price point makes it more accessible than new green fashion choices.

Read more: Living


Guilty as chard

Are you a terrible gardener? This brilliant tool could change your life

What if I told you there's a gardening system so simple you didn't need to worry about buying or planting seeds, figuring out watering logistics, or weeding? Instead, all you'd have to do is take a deep breath and push a starter ball of parsley into its pre-marked slot. The UrbMat wants to make gardening that easy.


The UrbMat is marketed both as a gardening intro for busy people living in small spaces and as a fail-safe learning experience for tiny, clumsy-fingered children. I'm sure toddlers appreciate any excuse to play in the dirt, but I think we all know it's the dumb-thumbed adults among us who are dropping the wilted lettuce and moldy carrots to do the slow clap. 

Read more: Food, Living