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Texas college turns football field into awesome urban farm

If your football team can’t hack it on the field, perhaps they can grow some kick-ass kale.

At least that’s the sentiment from Dallas’ Paul Quinn College. After the university cut its football program, President Michael Sorrell decided to transform the unused field into a working farm.

The WE Over Me Farm, which covers 57,000 square feet, was a response to the lack of healthy food options in the economically depressed area. Highland Hills, the neighborhood where Paul Quinn is located, is a designated food desert.

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Fowl play: Raising illegal backyard chickens [VIDEO]

Backyard chickens are everywhere. But in many North American cities, keeping a flock of hens is still illegal. We met up with some unlikely outlaws while traveling through Tennessee who are breaking the law by producing fresh farm eggs in their backyards.

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Four important food and farm stories you may have missed

1.piggy FDA and antibiotics: If you’re confused, it’s not your fault

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the courts have recently told the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) it has to regulate several commonly used antibiotics if they can’t be proven safe. The ruling was the result of a long-running lawsuit by a group of environmental and public health advocates lead by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and gave many in the food movement a reason to feel cautiously optimistic.

Meanwhile, the FDA has been moving at a glacial pace on its expressed intention to put a voluntary control on antibiotics in place. And this week it finally put the rubber to the road, in the form of a major press effort and the release of a new set of guidelines for cooperating companies. (The two events are supposedly unrelated, but it’s not hard to see how FDA may want to distract attention away from a court order that requires it to play the bad cop, if it can play up and formalize its role as good cop.)

The agency’s press release is even called "FDA takes steps to protect public health," and in it the agency promises to “promote the judicious use of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals” [emphasis mine]. FDA also comes right out and acknowledges that “antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria or other microbes develop the ability to resist the effects of a drug. Once this occurs, a drug may no longer be as effective in treating various illnesses or infections.” In other words, the agency is talking. Whether it'll do any walking to go along with it is yet to be seen.

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The perfect meal for early spring [Recipes]

Editor's note: With her new cookbook, Ripe: A Fresh Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables, blogger and author Cheryl Sternman Rule treats produce with "the same sense of naughty decadence usually associated with cupcakes and cocktails." Here we've collected two springy recipes from the green chapter (the book is arranged by color). Enjoy!

Warm fava shallot couscous

With green favas, pearly couscous, and sweet shallots, this warming sauté is both comforting and light. (To make it more entrée-like, toss in some feta and toasted pistachios.) Buy the freshest favas you can find as older beans can be starchy.

Read more: Food, Locavore

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Farm Bill 2012: ‘It’s a mess, but it’s our mess’

Daniel Imhoff began writing about the farm bill before today’s so-called Good Food Movement took hold. In 2007, in an effort to make accessible the giant piece of legislation that touches on everything from food stamps to farm subsidies, Imhoff wrote Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill. Then last year (after editing the influential CAFO Reader), Imhoff revised the book just in time for Congress to craft the 2012 Farm Bill, which narrowly escaped getting passed behind closed doors last fall but is nonetheless shaping up to be “the worst ever.”

Imhoff spoke with Grist recently about democracy, debate, and the multiple ways the farm bill resembles the Olympic Games.

Q. What is the most important thing you hope your readers will get from this edition of Food Fight?

A. That the farm bill is a really great privilege and opportunity. It’s our chance as a democracy to try to make things better in the food system -- to help people get something to eat, to help farmers get through the season, and to try to help protect the land and the resource base.

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Michigan threatens small farms by calling heritage pigs ‘invasive’

Heritage pigs are common on small Michigan farms. (Photo by Danielle Harms.)

Things have been pretty tense on Michigan’s small pig farms over the past few days. Farmers who own rare heritage pigs in particular have been waiting anxiously, hoping the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) doesn't show up to arrest them -- or even kill their pigs.

As of April 1, the Michigan DNR was slated to start enforcing an order put in place last fall that classified wild boars as an invasive species. What does it have to do with farmers? It turns out the classification -- which is based on a set of physical characteristics, such as straight ears, dark snouts, and a tendency toward stripes in their young -- also includes many of the heritage animals kept on farms in the state. (Many farmers in the area raise an extra-fatty specialty breed called Mangalitsa, but they tend to cross them with heartier European hogs so they can withstand the cold Michigan winters).

Invasive wild boars have devastated many Southern states, so in a lot of ways the order has been an easy sell to some Michigan residents. Apparently 340 feral swine had been counted roaming in 72 of the state's 83 counties. But most of those are thought to have escaped from the state’s wild game ranches -- fenced-off areas populated with wild game for recreational hunting -- not small farms.

Read more: Food, Locavore

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Is your favorite restaurant faking organic? There’s only one way to know for sure

How often do you find yourself in a restaurant with a menu that reads, “We serve organic produce when possible”? And how much stock should you put into vague phrases like, “All our ingredients are sustainable”?

You'd be right to be suspicious: Some chefs are faking it as the demand for organic rises. And many savvy eaters can sniff out the real deal. (Does the chef name-check source farms on the menu? Can they be seen making pickups at the local farmers market?) Still, none of these guessing games really guarantee the origin of every ingredient. And in truth, unless the restaurant in question is certified organic, there is no real way to know.

As a chef who's committed to organics (I grew up on a certified organic farm), and as a customer myself, I've been frustrated by the greenwashing I've observed. There are literally thousands of restaurants around the country using the word “organic” in their name and/or marketing materials -- and indeed, most probably do source at least some organic foods. But just how much, or how often, is unknown to everyone outside their kitchens.

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Glean unto others: Ending hunger with foraged foods

This post originally appeared on Shareable.

A Portland Fruit Tree Project harvesting party. (Photo by Sarah Gilbert.)

Foraging for food — whether it's ferreting rare mushrooms in the woods, picking abundant lemons from an overlooked tree, or gathering berries from an abandoned lot — is all the rage among the culinary crowd and the DIY set, who share their finds with fellow food lovers in fancy restaurant meals or humble home suppers.

But an old-fashioned concept — gleaning for the greater good by harvesting unwanted or leftover produce from farms or family gardens — is also making a comeback during these continued lean economic times.

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Williams-Sonoma wants to sell you a chicken coop

Sure, it’s green to raise chickens in your backyard, but it’s a tragedy that they have to live in rough-hewn, generic coops. What about your chickens’ sense of style and feng shui? Luckily, Williams-Sonoma takes this problem seriously. The company is launching a new “Agrarian” line of products, so that your chickens can live in as classy as house as you do.

As of this month, when the new line debuts, Williams-Sonoma -- best known for outfitting yuppie kitchens everywhere with high-end cookware -- has now got you covered for all your heirloom seed, backyard beehive, and kombucha-making needs. There's also an oh-so-attractive shiitake-mushroom log, so you can grow your own mushrooms while also contributing to your home’s rustic-chic charm.

Read more: Locavore

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For New Yorkers, a farmers market on your phone

The Plovgh interface.

A community-supported agriculture (CSA) share can be a culinary battle royale. Every other week, it's you versus a mystery box. No tap outs, no substitutions. Just a bitter melon so fresh, you wouldn't dare toss it out. And while there's something to be said for experimentation, sometimes you just want something a little more familiar, something easy to pack for lunch, something the kids will touch. Or maybe you're just having a mad craving for heirloom radishes?

That’s where Plovgh enters the picture. The online marketplace soft-launched in November 2011, and hopes to offer an alternative to the traditional CSA and farmers market systems by allowing customers to order exactly what and how much they want from local farms while still getting it delivered to their neighborhood. Sites like Local Dirt and Local Harvest connect online customers to farms, but neither will bring groceries to your neighborhood bar. And while food hubs can distribute food to schools, restaurants, and other groups with big local food needs, Plovgh (pronounced "plow") brings all those perks to individuals -- even those who might only cook once a week.