Ousted L.A. gardeners continue to farm

In June 2006, a land dispute led to the shutdown of the South Central Community Garden in Los Angeles. Weeks of protest and tree-sitting by celebrities and regular folk proved unfruitful, and the 14-acre garden, tended by 350 low-income families in the middle of one of L.A.’s poorest neighborhoods, was bulldozed. Nearly two years later, with legal wrangling over the land’s ownership ongoing, the gardeners are plotting again in Buttonwillow, Calif., a tiny town west of Bakersfield. With the help of a nonprofit foundation, some farmers have bought 85 acres of land that they hope convert into a working farm …

There is no food shortage

A gap between rich and poor makes free markets fail

It's really an absurd travesty when starvation gets blamed on "global warming do-gooders," and we haven't seen the last of that. The problem is miscast, though. There isn't a food shortage, at least not yet. There is a food price crisis, which is a very different beast. Are its roots in the huge resource gap between the relatively rich and the very poor? If that's true, it has broad implications. Here's one way of looking at it, from the Omaha World-Herald:

Notable quotable(s)

Food vs. fuel edition

“To say that biofuels are the culprit [for food-price hikes] clearly underestimates the demand [for food] and really shows a gross misunderstanding of the world food situation.” – Bill Doyle, CEO Potash Corp, the world’s largest fertilizer company, which has seen its share price rise 600 percent in the past two years, quoted April 24 “While global [grain] output in 2007/08 would be the highest ever, mainly because of a record U.S. maize (corn) crop, this would not match consumption, resulting in a further downturn in global ending stocks in 2007/08. By far the biggest increase in consumption would be …

Raise hell, not corn

Contact your legislators and take action on the sorry state of the industrial food system

Everyone should take some interest in what they eat and how it is grown. Mostly people think about the price of food, and that is important (unless they make plenty of money, and then it doesn't really matter; they can buy whatever they want). The poor often have little choice: they buy what is available and what they can afford -- and lately they can't afford to buy much. Studies show that given the choice, low-income people would choose to buy fresh, locally grown food, but they seldom have that choice.

Sticker shock!

What’s causing the sudden run-up in food prices?

A lot of people are wondering what the hell is going on with food prices. Rice, dollars per ton Source: Reuters The price of bulk rice on global markets has tripled since the start of the year, school children in some of the world’s poorest nations are losing access to school-lunch programs, and people in places like Haiti are literally scrounging through garbage dumps in search of something to eat. Here in the U.S., heightened prices are putting a hard pinch on low- and middle-income families, restaurant chains are seeing their profits plunge as food costs rise and consumers seek …

Bay Area escapes aerial spraying, for now

A plan to spray Santa Cruz County with synthetic pheromones must be postponed until an environmental review is completed, a county judge ruled Thursday. The spraying, an attempt by agriculture officials to curb the invasion of the crop-gobbling light brown apple moth, was to begin in Santa Cruz County in June and expand to seven other Bay Area counties in August. But many of the 7 million residents of to-be-sprayed areas have been protesting mightily, pointing out that previous spraying in Santa Cruz coincided with numerous complaints of eye and respiratory irritation.

Say goodbye to 'cides

Home Depot announces an end to traditional pesticide sales in Canada

For consumers concerned about pervasive toxics in the environment, this has been a very good Earth Week.  Especially if you live in Canada. Home Depot announced this week that it would stop selling "traditional" lawn and garden pesticides in all its Canadian stores. The reason? Consumers don't want them anymore. People in Canada seem to have discovered that you don't need to spread poisons around your yard in order to garden. Amazing! A huge part of that awakening is happening because of committed advocates, particularly from the public health community, that have helped lead hundreds of local by-laws in communities around Canada that have ended the use of "cosmetic" pesticides on lawns & gardens. I am trying to imagine what it would be like to walk into the garden aisle in a big-box home improvement store without the noxious bags of granulated death ... I think I like it. The bell is tolling in Canada for lawn & garden pesticides. I hope we catch whatever they've got.

The Betty Crocker’s Cookbook of low-carbon living

When I got to college, the best book I bought was a 3-ring notebook-style Betty Crocker's Cookbook. Not adventurous food, but for someone who knew very little about anything concerning food, it was a great first book. It assumes that you are reading a cookbook because you want to know what to do, step-by-step -- instead of just hinting, it lays it out, with pictures and plain language. Great stuff. A couple times a year my wife and I still will ask one another, "What does Betty say to do with these?" I always think of Betty (and the old How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive) as the epitome of good technical instruction books. They are all about practical information first, with a minimum of wasted words. Today I found a new one for that list.

Thinking outside the cereal box

Thoughts on the farm bill and the skyrocketing cost of food

The rising cost of food worldwide is more complex than portrayed in recent articles in The New York Times and the Washington Post. Like a magician revealing his secrets, the once-invisible farm and food system is drawing scrutiny from the media, policymakers, and the public as we realize how intertwined our farm and food system is with the energy sector and global markets. But how did we get here? How did our modern, abundant, and affordable food system run aground? In a sector that is global in reach, absolutely essential (we must eat, after all), and includes the politics of saving family farms and ending hunger, there is no simple, singular answer. A lot of it has to do with economics and politics. Most of it has to do with what goes into making a box of cereal, and why we even have boxed cereal.

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