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I’m Hot, Sticky Sweet

Vermont's maple-syrup industry braces for climate change Will warmer winters stop the flow of Vermont maple syrup? That's the question of the day in the Green Mountain State, where folks worry that climate change will make the $200 million industry -- which provides 32 percent of U.S. syrup output -- dry up. "I've always been, 'Oh, global warming, I don't know about that,'" said syrup-maker Doug Rose. "But now I do think we need to start thinking about it, because ... we're seeing production go down, we really are." Some tree-tappers report that the season now starts in January instead …

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Beans, beans, good for your recipe

In keeping with the recent topics of eating low on the food chain for environmental reasons (e.g., beans instead of meat) and cooking for a crowd, I dug out an old recipe for a curried red lentil soup with an apple cider or pear juice base, so I could double it to serve 10-12 people instead of 5-6. I've always been told that to double a recipe, you should double the basic ingredients but not the spices. What I do is adjust the spices by slowly adding small increments and tasting the results. The amounts that work usually do turn …

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Er, food data that is

I'm not much of a gourmand, but I do love to play with food. Well, food data, anyway. So when I happened upon the Food System Factoids blog, I totally pigged out. The menu may not be for everyone, but if you have a craving for analyses of food pricing trends, or evaluations of carbon emissions from U.S. agriculture, you'll find plenty to satisfy. Take, for instance, this post on the relative change in prices of soft drinks and processed fats vs. fruits and veggies. The data's a bit old now, but what a story. From 1985 to 2000, the …

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If organic food is so popular, why are so few farms transitioning their land?

On a recent trip to Austin, I visited the flagship Whole Foods -- a vast space where people gather en masse to render financial sacrifice to that new god, organic food. From the depths of the parking lot, as you make your way up to the store, you're urged again and again by a sign that simply says, "Love where you shop." From the doe-eyed look of the supplicants making their way up, and the glazed-eyed look of those carrying their treasure down, most clearly do. A puzzle to the core. While few Whole Foods stores have the buzz of …

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Bill McKibben questions thinking as usual when it comes to climate.

The old thinking, as author and thinker Bill McKibben explains in today's LA Times, goes like this: bigger is always better, growth is good no matter what, and a booming stock market is the ultimate measure of our success. McKibben illustrates the kind of lopsided priorities that naturally flow when we're ruled by the bottom line, pointing to a scarcely-reported White House report that said the U.S. would be pumping out almost 20 percent more greenhouse gases in 2020 than we did in 2000, our contribution to climate change going steadily up -- against all warnings to the contrary. That's …

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Metamucil’s bold new marketing, uh, move

Most people know intuitively that when they eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, they feel better and probably even look better. It's a virtuous circle, and you can try it at home. Eat fresh produce. Feel better. Look better. Crave fresh produce. But the food-pharmaceutical industry (yes, they're related) doesn't make much money when you eat a lot of fresh produce. It makes much more sense to them if you eat a lot of "value-added" (i.e., highly processed) food, and then have all sorts of troubles for which they can sell you the cure -- including, uh, bathroom troubles. …

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Turnip Out is Fair Play

FDA issues voluntary produce-safety guidelines If you've shied away from spinach since last year's widespread E. coli outbreak, this should give you comfort: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued voluntary guidelines this week to help keep fresh-cut produce safe. What, the "voluntary" part gives you pause? Pshaw. Pointing out that voluntary guidelines for production of sprouts reduced contamination during the 1990s, FDA officials say the "if you wanna" approach can work and is, in fact, more flexible and adjustable than mandatory regulations. Linda Halley, general manager of an organic farm in California, agrees: "Mandating inspections or certifications for producers …

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Colorado’s inmates-as-farmworkers plan says plenty about our food culture

Last summer, the Colorado General Assembly passed some of the nation's most rigorous anti-immigrant policy laws. Debate was fierce -- but only because some GOP lawmakers fumed that the Democratic-engineered crackdown wasn't draconian enough. How times have changed. Essentially, the state's political elite -- backed editorially by The Denver Post -- took aim at its low-wage workforce: the people who clean bedpans, prep food in restaurants, harvest vegetables, and perform other "low-value" tasks. The new code denied most "nonessential" services, including non-emergency health care, to undocumented workers (although it didn't exempt them from paying sales tax). It also upped identification …

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Young Dems sexify your mug

It's about cups. Sexy, sexy cups. Well, actually it's about getting college students thinking about the planet and about changing their personal habits. But the "sexy" sure doesn't hurt. The University of Washington's Young Democrats club launched a Sustainability is Sexy campaign this month to encourage students to bring their own cups to the campus's coffee shops. And their sexy slogan is popping up all over campus on shirts, buttons, stickers, and posters -- where organizers hope it will remind students that thinking about your environmental impact is totally hott. The posters feature a red-lipsticked mouth preparing to gulp some …

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My address to the Southern Appalachian Youth on Food conference

One crop to rule them all. Photo: USDA Tucked into the rolling hills of North Carolina's Swannanoa Valley, Warren Wilson College is essentially surrounded by a farm. The school's 800 students not only tend the 275-acre farm -- which includes pastured livestock and vegetables -- they also provide the labor to run the campus. They do everything from accounting to plumbing to cooking in the cafeteria. I've had the privilege of hosting several Warren Wilson kids at Maverick Farms, and I've been amazed at how well those kids know how to work, and have plenty of fun while doing it. …

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