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Pushing for local food in the farm bill: An interview with Chellie Pingree

Rep. Chellie Pingree speaks with a young farmer.

Does local and organic food matter more to people in Maine than it does to other Americans? It's possible, but Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) insists that's not why she introduced the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, a small but encouraging set of legislative reforms meant to accompany this year's farm bill.

And while the "marker bill" has yet to be embraced entirely, some parts of it have clearly influenced the Senate's draft of the larger farm bill, which is said to be about to hit the Senate floor this week. Most sustainable food advocates have seen it as a welcome push for small-scale agriculture, after decades of federal support for industrial farming.

We spoke with Pingree recently about bill, the work behind it, and her motivation to get a farm bill passed before the last one runs out in September.

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Real Time Farms tells you exactly where your food came from

Real Time Farms is a "crowd-sourced online food guide" that tells you exactly where the meal on your plate came from.

As crazy as it sounds, our vision is to collectively document the whole food system.

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Oh, SNAP! Grow gardens with food stamps

A few years ago, back when she still had a job in the natural-foods industry, "my kids only got the best in terms of food," said Corbyn Hightower, a mother of three who now lives outside Sacramento. Then, she said, "we lost everything, and we really started having to compromise." Hightower signed up for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. When she looked through the information pamphlet she received, she found out that SNAP benefits can be used to buy seeds and plants, not just food. So she went to Whole Foods, bought some seeds, and …

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Green for greens: Philadelphia subsidizes farmers markets

Eating farmers market fare will pay off for food stamp recipients in Philly. (Photo by Richard Alexander Caraballo.) We now have more evidence of the effectiveness of healthy food subsidies, thanks to a pilot program in Philadelphia. Philly Food Bucks offers food stamps recipients a 40 percent subsidy at farmers markets. In other words, shoppers get a $2 subsidy for every $5 they spend in food stamps at participating farmers markets. In season, farmers markets can be a better deal than supermarkets for produce; I can also report from experience that Philly has many fairly priced farmers markets. The Food …

Read more: Farmers Market, Food

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We need more markets — and veggie eaters

Photo: John C. AbellEarlier this week, I asked the question: How many farmers markets is too many? On a related note, this new study [PDF] looked at Americans' fruit and vegetable consumption -- one of the main variables driving farmers market sales. How close do we come to eating the recommended five servings a day? Not very. Only about one-quarter of Americans manage it. And if you're one of those who do, chances are you're a well-educated, middle-aged, married woman of color without kids, who gets a moderate amount of exercise. This is great -- but sadly there just aren't …

Read more: Farmers Market, Food

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Too many markets or not enough farmers?

Too much of a good thing?Photo: Clyde RobinsonOn the heels of the USDA announcement that farmers markets are sprouting up at a swift pace comes a contrarian article in The New York Times suggesting that this phenomenal growth might represent too much of a good thing: Farmers in pockets of the country say the number of farmers' markets has outstripped demand, a consequence of a clamor for markets that are closer to customers and communities that want multiple markets. Some farmers say small new markets have lured away loyal customers and cut into profits. Other farmers say they must add …

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The omnivore’s other dilemma: expanding access to non-industrial food

Buying sustainable pork shouldn't involve breaking the piggy bank.A couple of years ago at a farmers market, a woman approached my stall, a little apprehensively. She looked old and beaten down. Her face was weathered and worn. Her hands looked rough and gritty. But, it was clear that she was younger than she looked. Her clothes were poor. Her jeans were worn thin around the knees and had faded spots of dirt here and there on her thighs. Before she even said a word, I imagined a life of hard work and hard times for her. She came over to …

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gleaning your plate

Ask Umbra on how much food Americans waste, and what to do about it

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, Do you have a reliable source/figure for the total amount of food wasted by Americans?  I read somewhere that up to 40 percent of the food we buy may be thrown away. That means people spend an additional 66 percent on food products they don't/can't actually consume. Most of this "subsidy" goes to food processors, not to mention packaging, transporting, fertilizer, and, of course, agro-corps like Monsanto. Do you know if those figures are accurate? Professor IkeWichita, Kan. Someone has too much food on their plate ...Photo: jbloomA. Dearest Ike, It’s true …

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Just like how granny didn't do it

Forget farmers markets — I want to sell my pastured meat at Price Chopper

This pastured piggy went to Price Chopper.Photo: Kevin SteeleIt is time to make local passe. It is time to make regional the new local. Enough of farmers markets, CSAs, and direct on-farm sales. Yes, they are exciting -- they feel like they are getting us somewhere. And, to be honest and give them their due, they have gotten us somewhere. The reality, however, is that they will never get us there, whither goest we must if we want to make a change -- real change. I will say it as straight as I can: I want to see my pork …

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WELCOME TO PORTLANDIA

Your guide to a great green weekend in Portland

Portland's swanky Sapphire Hotel.Photo: Sarah Gilbert Can you think of a greener city than Portland? Nope, didn't think so. The City of Roses occupies a warm, squishy spot in the hearts of many a biker, climate hawk, and nature-lovah. We asked you to share your fave local breweries, organic cafés, and green hangouts, and compiled your best ideas into a car-free guide to a great green weekend in Portland. Friday night Click to enlargeFrom the Amtrak or Greyhound station, arm yourself with $2.05 and follow these directions to the Portland Hawthorne Hostel (they work if you're coming from the airport …