Locavore

Sustainable Food

Great places, great food: part one

Is this your idea of a great place? Didn’t think so.Photo: Robert TerrellDavid Roberts has been sketching out a positive, unifying agenda for progressives under the banner of what he calls “great places.” It isn’t enough, David argues, to rail against the snarling philistinism of Sarah Palin or engage endlessly in the “decrepit political arguments that dominate U.S. politics.” Instead, he urges us to: see things with fresh eyes, to think anew about the unique challenges and opportunities of our historical moment. We’re in a time of profound, rapid change and we need an agenda that looks to the future …

Locavore

Mom-and-pop vs. big-box stores in the food desert

A locally owned grocery in Pleasantville, Iowa. Photo: Ashton B Crew, wikimedia commonsA few weeks ago, when the Obama administration released its Food Desert Locator, many of us realized that a once-good idea has spoiled like a bag of old bread. If you go online and find that your family lives in a food desert, don’t worry: You have plenty of company. One of every 10 census tracts in the lower 48 has been awarded that status. Two years ago, when one of us (Gary) moved to the village of Patagonia, Ariz., he inadvertently chose to reside in what the …

The $200 backyard barbecue

This is what's going to convince Americans to invest in local food and alternative energy: the demise of the backyard barbecue. High gas prices are finally trickling down into U.S. food markets, and the red-meat-loving New York Post has calculated that an outlay of burgers, hot dogs, trimmings, potato salad, and ice cream will cost 29 percent more this year. Last Memorial Day, feeding 12 people would have cost $154 if they brought their own beers. This year, it’ll be $199. (We’re assuming that if they didn’t bring beer, you didn’t invite them back.) When everyone's had a few beers …

Locavore

Frog hunting at night in Arkansas, with some guys I met on YouTube [VIDEO]

Looking at that pair of legs, you just want to eat them.Photo: Barclay NixIn this week’s video, I joined some guys from Arkansas who I met on YouTube for a night of catching frogs. It was precarious. We showed up around 10 p.m. in a small town near Jonesboro, Ark. Better judgement may have suggested an initial meet and greet preceding the late night boat ride into the flooded backwaters of Arkansas. But alas, we were on the road and had not the time for such formalities. Normal bullfrog hunting conditions are hot days and low waters. We had floods …

Organic Food

Family (farm) affair: my connection to Eliot Coleman’s rise to prominence

Portrait of the farmer as a young man: Eliot Coleman with children, circa early 1970s.Reprinted with permission from Melissa Coleman. I’m not sure exactly what it means to play a cameo role in a family memoir exploring the roots of today’s food movement; but certainly it makes you keenly aware of how quickly the years are piling up. I’m referring to the tale of my brief, but apparently significant, role in helping launch organic farmer and author (and occasional Grist contributor) Eliot Coleman toward fame, chronicled in the new memoir by his daughter, Melissa, This Life Is in Your Hands, …

Organic Food

Want a better organic garden? Call out the soil-critter army

The helpful Jerusalem cricket.Photo: Franco FoliniCross-posted from Cool Green Science. There are 1 billion bacteria in a single gram of soil. (Give or take a few million.) But how can you get that army — and its insect friends, like the two-inch Jerusalem cricket pictured to the right — to help you grow bigger veggies and prettier flowers? There’s nobody better to ask than Nature Conservancy soil ecologist Sophie Parker, who recently turned Grist on to the fascinating (and sometimes scary) world of soil organisms. I asked Sophie to give us some tips to make our gardens grow even better …

Sustainable Farming

Splendor in the grass at an Iowa activist’s dairy farm [VIDEO]

Last year, we created 52 episodes about sustainable and adventurous food in Minnesota. For the final episode of this past season, we announced our plans to take this web series on the road. And with this episode (No. 53!) we start a whole new round of weekly videos about real food across America. Traveling with my camerawoman (and girlfriend) Mirra Fine for the next six months, we will be meeting farmers, fisherman, hunters, and foragers — telling their stories, creating recipes with their ingredients, and showing our own road trip adventures. This first episode follows our departure from Minneapolis, travels across Iowa, …

Locavore

How does my garden grow? With the aid of a pretty good digital planner

Steph Larsen’s digital farm plan takes shape in the material world.Photo: Steph LarsenWhat’s black and white and dirty all over? My garden plan! Last year’s was, anyway. Most farmers I know will say that keeping good records and plans is fundamental to farming success. By no means am I what you might call a natural planner — I lean towards the “organized chaos” style of living. But when it comes to growing things, I’m convinced that adding a healthy dose of order to the garden chaos is a necessity. There are just too many variables to consider otherwise. Garden plans …

Protect the coral reefs — the life you save might be your own

Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service — Pacific RegionCoral reefs are in big trouble worldwide — and that’s not just bad news for snorkelers. It could mean death instead of life for millions of people … maybe even you. Here’s why: Coral already provides the elemental compounds for a growing number of crucial medicines and health products — ranging from antiviral drugs like Ara-A and AZT to anti-inflammatories, painkillers, and even sunblocks. But science is in a race against time: We’ve just started to plumb the depths of coral’s potential to attack the world’s health issues … only to have …

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