Jewels of summer

Reveling in the season’s tomato bounty, from pasta sauce to easy preserving

The jewels of summer, in their glory. Photo: April McGreger Would a summer without garden-grown tomatoes really be summer at all? For me, summer is: tomatoes ripening on the windowsill; picking the hornworms off the tomato plants; a huge bowl of tomatoes on the kitchen counter; tomatoes at every single meal; farmer’s markets so packed with dazzling tomato colors and sensual shapes, they outshine the fresh-cut flowers. I relish the first tomatoes of the season in their purest, raw form: tomato sandwiches, BLTs; cucumber-tomato salads; classic panzanella salad of tomato-drenched crusty bread, scented with intoxicating fresh basil and briny with …

Chipotle grilled

Burrito chain’s Food, Inc. sponsorship generates off-screen drama over farm-worker issues

On July 13, Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it was throwing its marketing weight behind Food, Inc., a documentary that takes a highly critical look at the food system. The fast-food chain would be sponsoring free screenings of the film at 32 theaters nationwide. It would also be distributing material promoting the film at all its restaurants–thus exposing people in search of a tasty burrito to a film quite different from the super-hero blockbusters that get promoted in typical fast-food chains. In addition, there’d be a Chipotle-related “bonus feature” in the film’s upcoming DVD. The Chipotle/Food, Inc. tie-up caught my eye, …

Notable quotable

Wendell Berry on the promise of GMOs to ‘feed the world’

“The inevitable aim of industrial agri-investors is the big universal solution. They want a big product that can be marketed everywhere. And the kind of agriculture we’re talking about that leads to food security and land conservation is locally adapted agriculture. And they can’t do that. Industrial agriculture plants cornfields in Arizona; locally adapted agriculture says, what can we fit in this place that will not destroy it? Or what can nature help us to do here? That’s the critical issue.” – Wendell Berry, responding to a question about GMOs from The Washington Post’s Jane Black

Summer herbicide cocktail!

As farmers battle weeds ‘conventionally,’ the chemical treadmill speeds up [UPDATED]

The never-ending war on weeds. UPDATE at bottom of post. ————————————– I’m an ag nerd, so sometimes you’ll catch me reading stuff like Delta Farm Press–a trade publication for large-scale farmers in the deep south. I find the damnedest things on those reading jags. Here’s one: farmers down there–which is cotton, soy, and corn country–are having a hell of a time controlling weeds, and resorting to evermore complex herbicide cocktails to combat them. The dominant herbicide is still glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide marketed by Monsanto as Roundup. Monsanto, of course, has established itself as an agribusiness giant by selling “Roundup …

Notable quotable

Michael Pollan on the affordability of good, local, organic food

I don’t think our goal should be to make all food in America as cheap as cheap food is now.  … If the goal is cheap food, we’re going to hurt our farmers, we’re going to hurt the environment, we’re going to hurt the public health.  The goal should be to give people the money so they can afford to buy good food.  We’re in this kind of reverse Fordism situation.  You know, Fordism was this idea that Henry Ford said, “I’m going to pay my workers enough so they can afford to buy my cars.”  It raised everybody’s boats.  …

Milk Money

[UPDATED] Sen. Bernie Sanders cries “monopoly” in a collapsing milk market

Got milk monopoly? UPDATE: Ask and ye shall receive. In a NYT article last Saturday, describing the considerable  resistance anti-trust chief Christine Varney is already experiencing in her attempt to toughen enforcement, came this nugget: At the request of some lawmakers, notably Senator Bernard Sanders, independent of Vermont, Ms. Varney is examining whether small agricultural operations are being hampered unfairly by large food processors, particularly in the milk industry, congressional aides said. Not much to go on, but at least they’re looking at the problem — and possibly looking beyond dairy, which would be interesting indeed. The article doesn’t provide …

Meat wagon

As MRSA gets worse, the FDA discovers antibiotic abuse on factory farms [UPDATED]

Incubating chickens–and what else? In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages of the meat and livestock industries. UPDATE below. ————————– A bill now circulating in the House, sponsored by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D.-NY), would limit the amount of antibiotics that can be used on factory animal farms. There’s good news and bad news on that front. The bad news: “The farm lobby’s opposition makes its passage unlikely,” The New York Times reported Monday. The farm lobby’s opposition is like that. But The Times should be more precise: it’s really the agribusiness lobby–representing a few large companies–that wields …

Catch my drift?

With a gust of wind, an Iowa crop duster can squash an organic farm

A crop duster in action.Photo: Roger Smith via FlickrGrinnell Heritage Farm is 152 years old. Andrew Dunham is the fifth generation of his family to work this land about 50 miles east of Des Moines. He is a direct descendant of Josiah Grinnell, founder of the town and the man Horace Greeley once famously quoted as having said, “Go west, young man, go west.” Andrew and his wife Melissa are a few months shy of receiving their formal certification as an organic farm. Across the road, due north of their land, is a field of corn that is managed by …

The Peter Principle

USDA may get Dennis Wolff for food safety post because Gov. Ed Rendell doesn’t want him anymore

Wolff at the Dickinson College farm in Pennsylvania.Here’s a little rumor-mongering for fun, if not profit. Yes, as Tom Philpott reported, Dennis Wolff is for sure heading the list of candidates for the top food safety post at the USDA. But that’s not the fun part. The fun part involves the reason Dennis Wolff is heading the list of candidates for the top food safety post at the USDA. It’s long been known that Wolff’s main backer for a USDA post has been his current boss, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. Many folks in the food policy world have wondered why …

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