After a mass bike ride across Iowa, a slow-food chef picks up the pace

Do the ride thing. Photo: David Wade Every year for the last 36, Iowa plays host to a unique event. At the beginning of the last full week of July, more than 15,000 people dip the rear tires of their bicycles in the Missouri River — and seven days and about 450 miles later, they dunk their front tires in the Mississippi. That ceremonial immersion draws to a close a ride that is sometimes called “Burning Man on Wheels,” or “The World’s Longest Pub Crawl,” but is formally referred to as RAGBRAI, the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. …

EPA to ban pesticide carbofuran from food in U.S.

In an unexpected move, the U.S. EPA announced Thursday that it will act to ban the pesticide carbofuran from food in the United States before next year’s growing season. The EPA said the pesticide can cause “nausea, dizziness, confusion, and — at very high exposures — respiratory paralysis and death”; the pesticide has also killed millions of birds and other wildlife. Carbofuran isn’t widely used in the United States, but farmers in developing countries use it on bananas, coffee, corn, rice, sugar cane, and other crops, so the ban could have a significant impact worldwide. “It’s one of the most …

Starfruit punch

Declaring an ‘emergency,’ EPA allows a restricted pesticide in Florida

If you love starfruit, you may want to consider giving your habit a rest for a while. A friend emailed me this bit from [PDF] from Wednesday’s Federal Register. Declaring an “emergency,” the EPA has established a “time-limited tolerance” for residues of fludioxonil, a pesticide, on starfruit. According to the EPA, Florida starfruit is being scourged by a fungus that evidently can only be repelled by fludioxonil. I’m in the process of figuring out exactly how toxic fludioxonil is. In the meantime, I find this interesting: Consistent with the need to move quickly on the emergency exemption in order to …

<em>The NYT's</em> 'lazy locavores'

The paper of record identifies — sort of — a new trend

New York Times food reporter Kim Severson has declared a new trend: “lazy locavores,” people who want to “eat close to home” but are too time-strapped (or lazy) to put much effort into it. According to Severson, “a new breed of business owner” has arisen to cater to their whims. She opens her piece with a San Francisco entrepreneur who “will build an organic garden in your backyard, weed it weekly and even harvest the bounty, gently placing a box of vegetables on the back porch when he leaves.” Wow, outsourced home gardens — that is pretty lazy. The question, …

Book review: Caffeinated reads

Javatrekker and God in a Cup on the culture of coffee production

When I jumped on a plane one year ago and headed off to Guatemala with Seattle-based coffee roaster Caffé Vita, there was little more than the occasional blog post telling "the story behind coffee." The majority of the writing about coffee I could find was focused on the history of the bean-like-seed: stories of cunning Dutch merchants, over-caffeinated whirling dervishes, and besieged Austrians, but nothing talking about the places and people that presently grow the second most valuable crop on the planet. When Vita and I dropped down in Guatemala City, I didn't know a damn thing about the bean: where it was grown, the politics that drive it, the human factor that shapes it, let alone the variety of ways it is processed, tested, sold, shipped, and ritualized. I simply knew that I adored the stuff when it was prepared in a careful manner. Now, with trips to farms in Ethiopia, Brazil, and Guatemala and with several thousand of my own words under my belt I can honestly say -- I still really don't know a damn thing about the bean. But I am happy to refer authors who do. Here are a couple of books that might not make The New York Times' bestsellers list, but certainly will give you a slight peek inside the dynamic world of coffea arabica.

Farmers market etiquette

How to ask hard questions of the people who grow your food

In Checkout Line, Lou Bendrick cooks up answers to reader questions about how to green their food choices and other diet-related quandaries. What to do when it’s not so spelled out for you? Photo: Jennifer Dickert   Dear Checkout Line, Any suggestions on how to ask local farmers (or the person selling the goods at the farmers’ market who might not be the actual grower) if the produce was treated with Sevin or some other noxious but commonly used poison? Pam Ruedige Dear Pam, A question about asking questions! How delightfully meta! As you probably know, many small, local growers …

Dispatches From the Fields: The risks of farming for 'non-farmers'

No government disaster assistance for alternative farmers in Iowa

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. ----- Now that Iowa has started to dry out from record flooding, farmers are looking to their fields and feeling the uncertainty of this year's crop. For conventional commodity crop farmers, that feeling is fleeting; they can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that government-backed crop insurance and disaster assistance programs [PDF] will cover their losses. For Iowa's alternative farmers, government-backed crop insurance is a pipe dream that requires them to be innovative in their risk management strategies.

ANWR of the heartland, revisited

WaPo’s misguided call to scale back the Conservation Reserve Program

Back in April, it already seemed obvious: Spooked by skyrocketing prices for corn, soy, and wheat, policymakers would push to put as much land as possible in the Midwest under the plow, environmental consequences be damned. One of the first policy levers, I figured, would involve gutting the Conservation Reserve Program. The CRP is a federal scheme that pays farmers to take ecologically fragile land out of production — an act which benefits society but would otherwise not benefit farm owners, since idle land brings in no money. By gutting the CRP, we get more land planted in corn and …

Umbra on storing produce

Hi Umbra, Quick question: What is the best way to store vegetables in the refrigerator? I have a small crisper drawer and lots of vegetables from the CSA box. I don’t want to use plastic bags but unfortunately they work well. Any suggestions? Thanks! Kati N. Washington, D.C. Dearest Kati, Did you say CSA box? You mean, you subscribed to a Community Supported Agriculture farm and are receiving weekly boxes of delicious, fresh, local vegetables? And you need to store them properly so as to have tasty, vegetable-centered meals for every day of the week until you get your box …

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