Free from the tree

Urban fruit: An untapped resource

Photo: Fallen Fruit. Here's a great local food/art initiative, Fallen Fruit, a map project of neighborhoods where one can collect unwanted fruit in Los Angeles. Humans should be making use of these urban apples, avocados, pomegranates, etc. as much as possible, not raking them up into a garbage bag or compost pile. The folks at LocalEcology have started one for Berkeley, and folks with the Portland Fruit Tree Project collect fruit that grows on neighborhood trees for drop-off at local food banks (check out the links section of their site for other projects like it in Philadelphia, Vancouver, and more). Their harvesting parties look to be very fun and take place on Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., beginning August 2. Is there free fruit by you?

Bam! Planet Green is cookin' tonight

Catch the premiere of Emeril Green

As previously reported (and punned) TV chef Emeril Lagasse is kicking it up a notch with a new cooking show on Planet Green that addresses viewers’ kitchen-related dilemmas. Catch the premiere of Emeril Green — which may or may not actually be very green (this brief convo with participants suggests a hit-and-miss) — tonight at 8 p.m. Here’s a short preview:

As summer heats up, a tasting of six “natural” white wines

When it comes to white wine, the nose knows. Photo: Tyler Bell When the summer sun rages, there are few antidotes more pleasing than a light dinner and a glass of chilled white wine. Of course, as summers get hotter, it gets more difficult to enjoy that indulgence without thinking about climate change and other ecological degradation. And that leads to a natural question: Where did the wine originate? On some vast agribusiness-like estate that relies on chemicals, or on a human-scale farm that respects the surrounding ecosystem? To identify the latter wines, many consumers look for the organic label …

Gulf dead zone likely to be more gigantic than ever

The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico may be vaster than ever this year, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists predicted Tuesday. Thanks in large part to recent Midwest flooding, the oxygen-starved zone — caused when fertilizer runoff from upstream ag spurs growth of algae that suck oxygen as they decompose — could measure 8,800 square miles, or about the size of New Jersey. The current dead-zone record holder is the 2002 zone, which was 8,481 square miles. The Gulf zone gets its “dead” moniker because it cannot support most marine life, and thus poses a great threat to …

Dispatches From the Fields: The 'far' in farmers markets

For some farmers, distant markets offer the best prices

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. I don't know how many different farmers markets readers have the opportunity to attend within one area. As a consumer, it seems reasonable to pick one and stick with it. But as a farmer, it's a good idea to sell at multiple markets; it offers the opportunity to sell products at different times during the week as produce becomes available and also increases sales, since the farmer can reach that many more customers at each market. Here in southwest Colorado, the farmer for whom I work attends no fewer than four markets per week. Two of them are fewer than 10 miles from the farm, and the other two are much further afield, requiring drives of 45 and 75 miles to reach. Interestingly, the market that is farthest away is also the most lucrative, and this got me thinking about farm location versus consumer location, a dynamic that makes the buy-local trend a little challenging.

The bees

(thanks LL!)

Demand for food, wood, biofuels driving tropical deforestation, report says

Demand for food, wood, and biofuels will likely contribute to massive deforestation in developing countries around the world by 2030, according to a new report. The Rights and Resources Initiative estimates that if current agricultural land productivity doesn’t increase substantially, by 2030 about 1.2 billion additional acres of land will be needed to meet the world’s agricultural, biofuel, and wood-products demand. What’s more, only about half the land needed by then would be available without using tropical forestland. One solution stressed by the report authors is helping traditional tropical-forest inhabitants acquire formal legal rights to their land, which could potentially …

Too much of a good thing

The toll of agriculture and hundred-year rains on Wisconsin’s farmland

We are, for better or worse, part of the land we live on. We can choose to extract as much as possible from the earth around us, the "Manifest Destiny" (or nature's in my way) line of thinking. Or we can take as little as necessary and leave as small a trace as possible, the "Seventh Generation" concept of the Native American peoples. If farming well were easy and profitable, everyone would be doing it. Farming is never easy, no matter how you go about it, but at least when we farm with nature it's not a 24/7 battle.

The new film <em>Wall-E</em> gets it right

The link between obesity and the environment

Slate's Dan Engber has attempted to take down Wall-E in classic Green Room style with a piece slamming the film's connection between obesity and environmental destruction. Engber's critique is flawed in so many ways that it's hard to know where to begin ... For instance, he doesn't seem to believe that obesity really has much to do with being too sedentary or eating too much. To support this, he cites research saying that 80 percent of the variation in body weight can be explained by DNA. But what the research actually shows (and what his own colleague, William Saletan, has recently gotten right) is that 80 percent of the variation can be explained by DNA among individuals living in the same environment. If fatness is determined so strongly by genes, as Engber would have us believe, how in the world, then, is it possible to explain skyrocketing obesity rates in the past several decades? In sum, Engber thinks the Nalgene-toting eco-liberals are ridiculous (and disingenuous) in their linking of the expanding waistlines and climate change. It's a too-easy analogy, he says. Granted, I (most likely, we) are among those people Engber loves to loathe and could scarcely be dissuaded from doing so, but just in case -- in case there's been a fundamental oversight, a gap in education -- I feel like sending him a copy of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food or Paul Robert's The End of Food. It's impossibly hard to argue, after reading either one, that agriculture, ecological degradation, and obesity aren't closely intertwined.

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