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America’s worst food deserts: Map-lovers edition

Pablo PecoraKhongoryn Els-Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Both a literal and food desert. Food deserts are officially defined as low-income neighborhoods far away (a mile or more) from grocery stores. But distance, as the crow flies, isn't that relevant, since only a few mutants and drone pilots navigate their cities that way. What actually matters is the time it takes to walk to the grocery store. The website Walk Score has the data to account for the hills and railroads and warehouses that separate you from food, and it has used that information to rank U.S. cities by food access. Compare the difference between New …

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Samuel L. Jackson thinks going vegan will make him live forever

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If there's anyone who should know about superhero shit like nigh-invulnerability, it's Nick Fury. So please take note: Samuel L. Jackson's stated goal in adopting a vegan diet is "trying to live forever."

OK, we're going to go out on a limb and say that Jackson doesn't actually think going vegan will make him immortal. Dude is real smart, in case you didn't know; you have to be smart to deliver a line like "I have had it with these monkeyfighting snakes on this Monday to Friday plane" with conviction.

In fact, he was probably mostly poking fun at the fact that he has apparently sold the rest of his life to Marvel:

When asked by a reporter what his secret is, the 65-year-old actor replied, “It’s a new vegan diet.”

“Is it for a particular role?” the reporter inquired.

“No. Just trying to live forever. Trying to finish out my Marvel deal.”

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Grocery cartel

Mexican gangs learn that lime pays (also crime)

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Shutterstock

“I could just kill for a margarita right now,” you sigh, apparently ignorant of the fact that it is March, and the consumption of an iced beverage is nothing short of an act of insanity. It’s also probably the middle of the workday, so that in itself should be cause for concern in most circles.

You’re also probably unaware that someone may have actually killed -- as in, committed murder -- for the limes that go in your hypothetical margarita. Cartels are invading the Mexican citrus trade, hijacking trucks, and forcibly taking over farms to sell the now-valuable fruit. Another day, another ring of organized criminals making the transition from eight balls to tasty treats!

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This powerful app brings organic farming into the Candy Crush age

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FarmLogs

Screw FarmVille. REAL farmers use FarmLogs. The app -- which just snagged $4 million from investors -- combines weather data, crop market rates, budgeting tools, and even tractor maintenance reminders into one powerful package. The intense work that is farming can’t be made easy with a few lines of code, obvi, but FarmLogs certainly helps.

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FarmLogs

Jesse Vollmar, who grew up on a farm, created the app with friend Brad Koch two years ago. (Vollmar was frustrated Big Ag wasn’t doing more to get farming up to speed in the digital age.) Since then, FarmLogs has spread to 130 countries, including 5 percent of American row farmers. Here’s part of Modern Farmer’s interview with Vollmar:

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Farmers and eaters: Why can’t we be friends?

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Shutterstock

A farmer from Iowa recently told me a story about visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live. He chatted up foodsellers at the Ferry Building farmers market, visited the wine country, and met a lot of nice people. But he also noticed that whenever he told anyone that he was a corn and soybean farmer, the temperature in the room seemed to drop. Oh, that kind of farmer. In the Bay Area, saying "I grow corn and soy" is the real world version of saying Voldemort.

This antipathy runs both ways, of course. Visiting Iowa, I felt a similar chill at times when I revealed that I was a California food writer. Another farmer asked me how I thought we should deal with the problem of people demanding organic foods.

But I truly believe that we’re natural allies. The farmer and the eater should be friends! We all want the same thing: A sustainable system, one that provides fair compensation for food producers and makes the world a more healthy, delicious, and beautiful place with every bite. We should be breaking the path toward this goal together. And yet, instead of mutual respect, there’s acrimony, suspicion, and anger.

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From single malt to sauvignon blanc: Scotland warms up to wine

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Shutterstock

Ach, Scotland! Land of elves playing folksy instruments, statues of Mel Gibson in face paint, and a refreshing glass of riesling to go with your haggis! Wait, what?

That old specter of climate change strikes again, but this time it’s helping the Scots diversify their options for getting hammered. Climbing temperatures are slowly turning Scotland from the land of sheep and plaid to wine country.

Bloomberg News reports that famed Scottish foodie Christopher Trotter has started up his own vineyard outside the city of Edinburgh, and he’s preparing to bottle up an inaugural harvest this year. In recent years, Scottish summers have been unseasonably warm enough to inspire Trotter to go into the winemaking biz. According to Scottish government data, the average temperature of the 2000s so far has been nearly 1 degree Celsius higher than the average measured between 1961 and 1990, and regional annual average temperatures are expected to increase by another 2.6 to 3 degrees Celsius by 2080.

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This new study shows that vegetarians have worse health. Should we care?

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David Jones

Diet-related health findings have been all over the news lately, particularly a new study of 1,320 Austrians published in Nutrition and Health. The provocative paper spewed some pretty damning findings about vegetarians, including that they’re more likely to have cancer, food allergies, and anxiety or depression. Vegetarians also take fewer vaccines and have fewer preventative check-ups, researchers noted, before throwing down some major smack-talk:

Overall, our findings reveal that vegetarians report poorer health, follow medical treatment more frequently, have worse preventive health care practices, and have a lower quality of life.

Them’s fighting words!

To temper that a bit, the study also notes that vegetarians had the lowest BMI, and a recent review of 39 studies found that vegetarians have lower blood pressure. (And there's, you know, all of the climate- and resource-related benefits.)

But the real message here is that this study shows correlation, not causation. No one can say for sure that going vegetarian will make you depressed, give you cancer, or kill you. As several Redditors suggest, maybe people with food allergies or cancer go vegetarian in an attempt to eat healthier (which would definitely skew the results).

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Now you can get raw milk from a vending machine

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John Kroll

What if buying fresh milk from local cows were as easy as getting a Sprite? It is in Europe, of course (an entire continent seemingly dedicated to inspiring jealousy).

Modern Farmer reports that raw milk vending machines are commonplace in countries like France, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Expat Rebecca McCray raves that not only do local farmers own all of Slovenia’s raw milk vending machines, or mlekomats, but the unpasteurized stuff simply tastes better:

[T]he unskimmed milk from the mlekomat is utterly unrecognizable compared with the bluish, watery counterpart I bought in the U.S.

True that. Skim milk is nobody's idea of a good time.

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Can I get a Dasani, bro? Not in this national park, you can’t!

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Bear photo: Eric Gorski

“Man,” said one bear to the other, prying open his Dasani water bottle with one claw. “It’s gonna be such a bummer once they ban these babies.”

“I feel you, dude,” his ursine friend responded, gnawing at a bottlecap. “I cannot get ENOUGH of these things!”

This exchange is clearly fictional. Contrary to popular commercial imagery, bears don’t drink out of bottles. Even if they did -- which they don’t, seriously -- those taking up residence in national parks across the United States are going to start finding it a lot more difficult to get their paws on some Aquafina. More than 20 national parks across the country  have now banned the sale of plastic water bottles, with more parks expected to enact bans of their own this year.

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Here’s how rooftop gardens can empower women and tame population growth

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If you care about the environment (at least according to Bill Maher) you’ve got to be thinking about population growth. The best way to level off population growth (at least according to world history) is to give women power to choose if they want to have babies or not. Perhaps the best way to empower women is to literally give them power by giving them the means to earn money. And investing in small-scale farming is often the most effective way to lift people -- especially women -- out of poverty.

You can keep looking for the next link in this chain of argument -- but it's so much easier, and more rewarding, just to take 10 minutes and watch this film. There, you will see how a rural Indian teen’s rooftop garden can quietly erode the patriarchal force pushing her toward early marriage and a big family.

Megan Mylan, who won an Academy Award for a previous short documentary, directed the film, titled After My Garden Grows. It’s part of the Sundance Institute’s Short Film Challenge.

It's true that I'm a sucker both for kickass women and for creative farmers, so I may by prejudiced, but I'm now a fan.

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