Industrial food and fuel forever!

If we just trust Monsanto and ADM, we can eat and drive to our heart’s content

I’ve been a pretty harsh critic of industrial agriculture for a while. I’ve also been known to utter unkind words about the government’s extraordinary, multibillion-dollar effort to promote ethanol. But I’ve changed my mind. I …

'Lazy locavores,' revisited

The WSJ reports on lavish second-home gardens

I got a bit of flack for my post on “lazy locavores” earlier this week. Riffing off of a New York Times “trend” piece, I questioned the practice of “outsourcing one’s veggie patch” — paying …

A gastronomic renaissance

Farmers markets and local agriculture: age-old systems for the future

We often think that farmers markets are products of our times as they spring up in cities and small towns across the country. Truth is, a farmers market is the traditional way of selling agricultural produce around the world. The really nice aspect of this transaction is that the farmer receives just compensation for his product and the eater can be assured the product is fresh, local, and grown in a manner that is acceptable to all. If these criteria are not met, the consumer can look for another farmer whose products better suit his or her needs. After the industrialization of agriculture, farmers still sold at farmers markets, but it was just a matter of time before supermarkets were developed and farmers started selling to large companies that moved food all over the world; many Americans stopped planting gardens because it was so much easier to get "everything" at the store. We certainly have gained something through the globalized food system: more variety, foods we cannot grow in cold climates, and, of course, cheap food that is mass-produced by underpaid farmers and farm workers. Some good news, some bad. I certainly like coffee and chocolate, but I want to know the growers and workers were paid fair wages and that the crops were grown in an environmentally-responsible manner. I would like to be sure all the food I need to buy meets those same standards, whether imported or locally grown.

Farm-subsidy shenanigans

Beware of U.S. trade officials bearing gifts

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab made headlines this week by offering to reduce U.S. farm subsidies. The context was the so-called Doha Round of trade talks — the WTO’s latest, oft-stalled effort to grease the …

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 …

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 …

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 …

<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 …

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.

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