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Organic Food

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Medium is beautiful: why we need more mid-sized farms

Let's fill meat counters with ethical, sustainable cuts.Photo: Anthony AlbrightRecently, I have made the argument in a couple of different articles (here and here) that in order to make local-regional meat broadly affordable and accessible, we should make a shift from the direct markets (farmers markets, CSAs, on-farm sales) to the existing indirect, arms length markets of supermarkets (and mom and pop groceries and butcher shops). Coming from me, if you know my politics and you know the history of my writings, this is a shocking claim. Nevertheless, I have been thinking about it very hard over the last few …

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When locally sourced food isn’t available, the tough grow it anyway

Ruben and Kristin Hernandez are bakers in Baltimore, Maryland, who wanted to use locally-sourced wheat in their bread. Only problem is, no one grows the required “hard” wheat in Maryland, because the relatively humid climate leads to disease. (Hard wheats are rich in gluten, the protein that gives bread its elasticity and structure.) Ruben briefly considered growing the wheat himself, on the roof of his bakery, but ditched the idea when he found Aaron Cooper, the one farmer on the Eastern Shore willing to give it a shot. The secret to growing organic hard wheat in a place no one …

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Reversing roles, farmers sue Monsanto over GMO seeds

Genetically modified seed giant Monsanto is notorious for suing farmers [PDF] in defense of its patent claims. But now, a group of dozens of organic farmers and food activists have, with the help of the not-for-profit law center The Public Patent Foundation, sued Monsanto in a case that could forever alter the way genetically modified crops are grown in this country. But before you can understand why, it's worth reviewing an important, but underreported aspect of the fight over GMOs. One of the many downsides to genetically engineered food is the fact that modified genes are patented by the companies …

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Chile crisis of 2011 reveals need for more resilience and diversity on the farm

Chile crops just couldn't take the heat from the February cold snap.Photo: Demetri MouratisWhat a difference a few days of aberrant weather can mean to our food security, our pocket books, and our penchant for hot sauce. The record freeze that hit the U.S. Southwest and Northern Mexico in early February is still affecting vegetable availability and food prices in general more than 6 weeks after the catastrophe. Restaurants across the U.S. are rationing peppers and tomatoes on their sandwiches and in their salsas. Prices for peppers have jumped as much as 50 percent, and for tomatoes by 15 percent, …

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Organic farming just as productive as conventional, and better at building soil, Rodale finds

Organic agriculture is a fine luxury for the rich, but it could never feed the world as global population moves to 9 billion. That's what a lot of powerful people -- including the editors of The Economist -- insist. But the truth could well be the opposite: It might be chemical-intensive agriculture that's the frivolous luxury, and organic that offers us the right technologies in a resource-constrained, ever-warmer near future. That's the conclusion I draw from the latest data of the Pennsylvania-based Rodale Institute's Farming Systems Trial (FST), which Rodale calls "America's longest running, side-by-side comparison of conventional and organic …

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I raise pigs on annual pasture crops. Am I farming sustainably?

Bob Comis with his porkers. Will they leave the land more productive than they found it? Photo: Zach Phillips The concept of sustainability isn't very useful as a critique of industrial agriculture -- all you have to do is create a friendly definition of "sustainable," and the critique is turned on its head. However, sustainability does interest me as it relates to my own farm. Am I farming sustainably? That is, am I farming in such a way that the land I work will be as, or even more, productive for future generations? Or, am I farming unsustainably -- that …

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Study: Organic chicken carries significantly lower salmonella risk

Want it free of drug-resistant salmonella? Make it organic.Photo: sierravalleygirlThis study from the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety came out in November and has bounced around the internet, but for some reason I'm just now noticing it. It's worth a look. The researchers looked at broilers -- chickens raised for meat -- from "three organic and four conventional broiler farms from the same company in North Carolina," and tested their manure for salmonella. They also tested samples of their feed. Here's what they found: 38.8 percent of the conventional birds were carrying salmonella, versus 5.6 percent for the …

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What’s the season between winter and spring? Maple time! [VIDEO]

Spring doesn't seem like it would be maple syrup time (based on the pictures on Vermont syrup bottles), but so it is. At the cusp of freezing and melting snow is when the sap is running. And while the rest of the country is praying for warmth, the maple farmers are wishing for cold. The longer it stays cold, the longer the syruping season lasts. Last year, the season here in Minnesota was short, but I made it out just in time to spend the day with Chris Ransom. His operation is based on his backyard trees as well as …

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Live chat with New York Times food columnist and cookbook author Mark Bittman

New York Times food-politics columnist and cookbook author Mark Bittman dropped by for a live chat on March 22. The chat was hosted by Grist's own Tom Philpott, who says he's been cooking under Bittman's wing since the early 1990s when Bittman wrote for Cook's Illustrated magazine. Check out a transcript of the chat: Tom Philpott: Hi everyone, and welcome, Mark Philpott: How are things in NYC -- you guys get some snow? Mark Bittman: Hey Tom. Hey everyone. Here we go. Philpott: hey there Philpott: Welcome to the chat! Philpott: Don't mind the tech glitches Bittman: Forgive the chatter …

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Radiation-tainted milk in Japan, Pollan on food movement elitism, and more

When my info-larder gets too packed, it’s time to serve up some choice nuggets from around the web. --------- Nuke disaster hits Japan's food supply Note to planners: Don't plunk highly volatile industrial projects onto rich farmland. Doing so ensures that industrial disasters will quickly cascade into food crises. Tragically, Japan's Fukushima region isn't just a source of nuclear-derived electricity. It's also a major source of milk and vegetables -- and its farmland has already been impacted by the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. From Saturday's The New York Times: As Japan edged forward in its battle to …