Food

Dispatches From the Fields: Your tax dollars at work

Big ag, little ag, and government support

In “Dispatches from the Fields,” Ariane Lotti and Stephanie Ogburn, who are working on small farms in Iowa and Colorado this season, share their thoughts on producing real food in the midst of America’s agro-industrial landscape. —– In the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a couple of events here in southwestern Colorado sponsored by the state and federal governmental agriculture agencies. Taxpayer-funded ag technicians showed off impressive new methods of irrigation and water management. They also demonstrated their commitment to the standard ag paradigm: maximizing yield of industrial inputs — e.g., crops that produce seeds that …

Umbra on green cookware

Dear Umbra, I’m thinking it’s time to start switching out my family’s cookware. When hubby and I got legally partnered, we received some Calphalon (am I allowed to name names?) and pseudo-Calphalon non-stick cookware, and we’ve used it for a number of years. While the non-stick finish has been well cared for and is not chipping, flaking, or peeling, I have some concern about non-stick finishes and want to be able to put my cookware under the broiler. I know cast iron is supposed to be good, but is the enamel-coated kind OK? (I fear all that seasoning.) Or should …

A tasting of five fall-friendly organic dark brews

According to hippie wisdom, early fall is a delicate time, holistically speaking. The season’s first chill causes sniffly noses and sour moods. To chase the fall blues away, one alternative-medicine-minded friend recently suggested eating plenty of greens. Well, I already eat plenty of greens. What I really need now is a beer — one dark and flavorful enough to take the bitter edge off of summer’s exit. For this tasting, I went looking for organic beers worthy of therapeutic autumnal sipping. While coworkers tease me about the “tough job” of tasting beer, the task of actually finding organic brew really …

Sustaining what, and for whom?

Christine MacDonald on Big Green NGOs and soy expansion in Brazil

Cargill and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have a long-standing relationship dating back to the 1980s. Cargill and TNC share a mutual interest in developing science-based, improved agricultural management practices that guarantee the productivity and enduring health of the ecosystem and landscape.  – From a joint Cargill/TNC document [PDF] dated February 2006 — In her new book Green Inc., Christine MacDonald argues that that large environmental NGOs have compromised their agendas in exchange for corporate cash. (See Mark Pawlosky’s recent review of Green Inc. for Grist.) I haven’t read the entire book yet, but I did catch an excerpt published by …

Ethanol waste: Good for Rover?

The pet-food industry takes a serious look at distillers grains

Should the mush left over after the ethanol process — known as distillers grains — be fed to farm animals? There’s been little real debate around that question, even though a) heavy use of distillers grains as cow feed has been linked to deadly E. Coli 0157H7 outbreaks; and b), the mush has been shown to contain all manner of residues from the ethanol process, including industrial chemicals and antibiotics. While questions surrounding distillers grains as animal feed hang around, the pet-food industry is seriously considering adding the stuff to cat and dog food; indeed, a few producers already are. …

Starbucks accused of big-time water-wasting

Starbucks wastes some 6.2 million gallons of water each day through a health policy that requires a constantly running tap at each store, says a breathless indictment in British tabloid The Sun. A Starbucks spokesperson confirms the use of a dipper well, which uses “a stream of continuous cold fresh-running water to rinse away food residue, help keep utensils clean, and prevent bacterial growth.” Dipper wells are common at coffee and ice-cream shops, but the gigantuousness of Starbucks’ global operations is such that, according to the The Sun, the amount of wasted water could sate the thirst of “the entire …

Tour de pig

If you can’t stand the smell, tough luck

Duplin County, N.C. stinks. And no wonder. Its human population is just under 50,000 people, but it is also home to 2.2 million [PDF] of North Carolina’s 10 million hogs [PDF]. Last week, I went on a bus tour of Duplin County as a part of the Politics of Food Conference to see how confined animal feeding operations impact rural communities. It was not pretty. Our guides on this tour were Dr. Sacoby Wilson, an assistant research professor at the University of South Carolina, and Devon Hall, a community activist for Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help. Each was quite …

Weighing Obama’s and McCain’s stances on food and farm policy

Will the next president be tough enough to defy the wishes of agribusiness? Apologies to Grant Wood Last month at Slow Food Nation, Michael Pollan made an interesting point about food policy and presidential politics. Food issues won’t likely play much of a role during the campaign’s stretch run, Pollan said, but the winning candidate will almost certainly be forced to confront them directly over the next four years. That’s because burgeoning crises in climate, energy, and health care can no longer be ignored — and food policy plays a central role in all three, Pollan said. I wish I …

ReGeneration Roadtrip: Buffers and biomass

Streamlining the agricultural process in Iowa

This is a guest post by my travel partner, Todd Dwyer, head blogger for Dell’s ReGeneration.org, where this post originally appeared. —– I have a shocking piece of news for you. You may want to sit down for this: Agriculture is big business in Iowa. Did I say “big?” Maybe that’s an understatement. Of the state’s 35 million acres, 31 million are used for agricultural purposes, and Iowa stands amongst the world’s most altered land in the world. What was once described by our forefathers as an ocean of tall grass and prairie land is now almost entirely made up …