Sustainable Farming

Bounty hunting: an inside look at a successful farmers market operation [VIDEO]

Last spring, I had the pleasure of following the farm-to-market process with one of the “successful” upstart organic farms in Minnesota. Laura and Adam from Loon Organics let me film and work through their Friday-Saturday operation. I had been idealizing the idea of starting a farm: seeing the beautiful produce stacked up at the market made me want to take out a loan, buy 50 acres, and start my own little operation. But after a day with the folks at Loon Organics, the frantic reality of running a diversified farm comes into focus:

Sustainable Food

Will the real food movement please stand up?

Image: Will Etling’s “Sustain,” originally for GOOD magazine and contributed to Green Patriot Posters. Farmer Bob Comis recently suggested that the food movement is suffering from “multiple personality disorder.” He argued that several vocal factions — foodies, locavores, and “smallists” — tend to dominate the food movement discussion, unrealistically distracting us from our ultimate objective: bringing affordable, organic food to all as part of a broader commitment to social justice. For decades now, organic farmers and sustainable food activists of all stripes have been vexed by the question: Is this a movement? Can it scale and have meaningful impact? At …


Alternative agriculture sprouts up in industrial-corn country [VIDEO]

This episode tells the story of several different farmers in and around Lucan, Minn. Located 150 miles southwest of the Twin Cities, you would never think this town with a population of 226 would have so much going on. Going against the agricultural grain, this blip in a sea of corn boasts CSAs, organic cattle and pigs, as well as beer made from homegrown hops. The episode is a bit longer than others, but I think it gives you time to understand why people are returning to small scale farming. With the young farmers of Kicking Mule as our guide …

Sustainable Farming

Are ewe serious? The joys of raising lambs in springtime

Someone to watch over me: a mama ewe, with lambs. Photo: Steph LarsenWhen I get home tonight, eleven adorable newborns will greet me with their wide eyes and cute faces. Overseeing the care of so many is a daunting task, but luckily I have help: their mamas. Spring means lambs on Thistle Root Farm, and for the last few weeks our time has been spent caring for pregnant sheep, watching for the signs of impending birth, and making sure the new babies get off to the best possible start. At times, it’s not been easy. There’s an old shepherd joke …


Hope Butter churns out the good stuff in rural Minnesota [VIDEO]

One of the only independent creameries in Minnesota, Hope Butter, is a century-old business that continues to make butter the old-fashioned way. There have been strong years and slow years, but the last 10 have been increasingly successful. Featured at many of the top restaurants, at the Co-ops as well as in regular grocery stores, Hope is often the go-to butter in Minnesota. I took the drive down to Hope last spring. It’s a tiny town with not much more than a post office and a bar (or two). Owner Victor Mrotz walked me through the churning process. As the …

Sustainable Food

The food movement’s multiple-personality disorder: Let’s move beyond foodies and localists

It’s time for people who care about food to quit navel-gazing.Photo: Jared WongThe food movement has a case of multiple-personality disorder. One of its personalities is the foodie, who approaches the movement as a vehicle to increase sensual-aesthetic pleasure. Another of its personalities is the localizer, who views the movement through the lens of the foodshed radius and food miles. Another is small-is-beautiful — small farms, small artisan processors, small distributors. Two more of its personalities are the food-justice advocate and the broadener, who want the movement to expand to a robust, durable, fair, and deeply embedded system that really challenges …


What bean-counting ‘contrarians’ miss about the local-food movement

Start counting, pal.Photo: Travis K. WittRoughly 10 years ago, the long history of alternative agriculture entered a new phase. Sometime between the founding of Slow Food in 1986 and the publication of The Omnivore’s Dilemma in 2006, what might be called the “local food movement” took shape. Despite the fixation on locality, the movement’s goals have never been either singular or static. It isn’t just the fresh salad or local butternut squash soup or wild-caught salmon or free-range chicken that proponents are after. Rather, the emphasis is on the complex means to make those things, the human activity of working …


Faces of death (and flavor) [VIDEO]

WARNING: Video contains images that some may consider disturbing. Close to 10 billion animals are killed every year in the U.S. (100+ million are pigs). With that statistic in mind, only six pigs died during the making of this video … but it was tough. Killing animals is heavy business. After the deeds were done, the folks at Duskwind Farm gave me the heads. With these faces full of flavor, I made a number of dishes, including tete de cochon. Watch this video to see the process from living pig to decadent dish:

Urban Agriculture

Coming soon, to a city near you: open-source agriculture

Sharing the bounty of knowledge.Most people attempting to build a viable urban agriculture business are acutely aware of the enormously challenging and time-consuming process of navigating zoning regulations. Having worked in this sector, I can personally testify that the process is tedious and time-sucking. Over the past couple of years, a number of cities such as New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago have begun enacting, or at the very least exploring, new regulations. One of the major challenges facing policymakers, however, is identifying effective policies and best practices. Which is why I got excited when I learned about Washington, D.C.-based John …

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