Edible Media: Farmers make the fashion page

The NYT hails the era of the hipster farmer

Edible Media takes an occasional look at interesting or deplorable food journalism on the web. Hey, hipster! Wipe that smirk off your face and put that can of PBR down. It’s time to get your hands — and those stiff Carhardts — dirty. We don’t care how many obscure bands you have on your iPod, or how you found that vintage shirt. Can you handle a hoe? (And no, that’s not a reference to the gangster rap of your suburban youth.) The inevitable has happened: small-scale organic farming has been declared hip by The New York Times. In a recent …

Plans for Indiana BioTown face obstacles, but sputter on

In 2005, Reynolds, Ind., was deemed the world’s first “BioTown,” as agricultural officials unveiled a plan to power the 550-person burg entirely with corn, hog waste, sewage, and other energy sources in ready local supply. Three years and many obstacles later, the ambitious proposal is far off track. A significant private investor dropped out; construction on a planned ethanol plant was suspended; work has not yet begun on a planned anaerobic digester. Officials have downgraded their ambition, but say the project will sputter on.

Meat wagon: pork superbug!

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria thrives in CAFO pork, and Wall Street gobbles up Big Meat shares

In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat industry. Back in December, Michael Pollan wrote a important article about the antibiotic resistant bacteria MSRA, which Pollan decsribed like this: … the very scary antibiotic-resistant strain of Staphylococcus bacteria that is now killing more Americans each year than AIDS — 100,000 infections leading to 19,000 deaths in 2005, according to estimates in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Pollan writes that such strains have been around for a while, emanating from hospitals, where our medical experts quixotically drench patients with antibiotics, inevitably incubating resistant — and …

Biodiesel in the dumps

To survive, producers wanly import feedstock and export fuel

At this point, serious greens still promoting biofuels are in a tight corner. Global grain stocks are at all-time lows and prices at all-time highs. That means heavy incentives to clear new land to plant crops — in precious rainforest regions in South America and Southeast Asia that sustain indigenous peoples and store titanic amounts of carbon. These lands are also concentrated centers of biodiversity. Sacrificing them for car fuel is a heinous crime. Anyone who wants to argue that such efforts amount to “economic development in the Third World” will have to account for a stark fact: transnational agribusiness …

As the feds bail out Wall Street, here’s a food-related fix for Main Street

“The current financial crisis in the U.S. is likely to be judged in retrospect as the most wrenching since the end of the Second World War.” — Former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, Financial Times, March 17, 2008 Breakfast of economic champions? Photo: iStockphoto Drawing on past-life experience as a financial reporter, I have been trying to make sense of the crisis now spreading through the U.S. economy — a debacle brewed up on Wall Street that’s affecting us all. These are critical issues for the environment, because economic crises rarely lead to more ecologically benign policies. Look, for example, …

Warm up over a bowl of chili — while planning your spring vegetable patch

Editor’s note: Welcome to the first installment of Chef’s Diary, a new biweekly recipe column by Iowa-based chef Kurt Michael Friese. Follow the seasons with a professional chef — and get tips for cooking at home. Seeds of our content. Photo: run dorkas run As the last of last fall’s bounty comes out of the larder at my Iowa City restaurant, my wife Kim has been poring over seed catalogs, trying to shake the chill of a particularly nasty prairie winter. Eagerness to plant supplants many other priorities as she rifles through each newly arrived issue like a 12-year-old boy …

Hurtling down a bridge to nowhere

Another study says cellulosic ethanol ain’t happening

As the case against corn-based ethanol firms up, we’re hearing a drumbeat of claims that corn is only a bridge to a bright cellulosic future. In this vision, ethanol won’t be distilled from corn grown on prime land but rather from stuff no one wants: plant “wastes,” wood pulp, prairie grass, pocket lint. The latest such claim comes from Nobel Laureate Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at Cal-Berkeley. Flush with a $500 million grant from British Petroleum to develop biofuels from “alternative” sources, Chu recently declared that “We should look at corn as a transitional [ethanol] …

Mexico to allow planting of genetically modified crops

Mexico has taken the last step toward finalizing rules that will allow genetically modified crops to be planted in the country. That has many farmers in the so-called birthplace of corn worried that GM varieties could contaminate their fields. Under the rules, GM corn wouldn’t technically be allowed in certain areas of Mexico considered “centers of origin” for unique corn plants, but critics nevertheless remain concerned for crop biodiversity. “This is a step in the government’s intention to bow to pressure from Monsanto to allow the contamination of Mexico’s native corn,” said farmer Victor Suarez.

Conviviality is its own reward

Gathering around a table as environmental advocacy

Gazing over the muddy brown expanse that the abating snows finally revealed in mid-March, it has been hard for me to imagine the lush greenery and flavorful bounty that our gardens will yield in just a few short months. But even by the time you read these words, radishes and spinach will have sprouted again. The curly tendrils of spring's first sweet peas will be stretching, aching for a grip on a trellis and an arc of precious sunlight. The warmth will return, as it always does, and with it, the promise of a table full of delicious food surrounded by the people we love. It is an old word: convivial. Its Latin roots refer literally to "living together." We are drawn to conviviality by our very human nature, our need for companionship and warmth. Yet in today's fast-paced, technology-driven, I-get-mine-first world, we regularly sacrifice that which made us human in the first place, that which built our society -- our fundamental need for food and the camaraderie that was born of that need.

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