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Sustainable Food

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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 …

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Small bites from the Big Apple: delicious eats in New York City

I recently visited New York City to attend the ceremony for the James Beard Awards in food journalism. I had been nominated for one in the category of column writing. I didn't bring home a Beard in the end, but I did notch a few victories in the field of the palate. Here are the top food experiences of my brief and memorable trip. You don't have to go to Italy for a great pork sandwich.Photo: PorchettaPorchetta Years ago, I spent a spell working on a farm in Le Marche, a state along Italy's Adriatic Coast. The farm was a …

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U.S. marines save lives by ditching bottled water

You probably already know that bottled water is kind of the worst thing ever, but did you know it's getting people in supply convoys blown up? Like other heavy, bulky things our troops have to truck in (primarily fuel), bottled water makes Marines vulnerable to attack by improvised explosives. They don’t even have the luxury of waiting for the BPA to kill them. Afghanistan has water, but a lot of it is contaminated by raw sewage. One solution is the the Lightweight Water Purification System, which "fits in a Humvee and can produce up to 125 gallons of potable water …

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Critical List: Reid, enviro groups talk air quality; DDT in Africa

Harry Reid met with Big Environment last night to strategize a defense of the Clean Air Act. Politico says a key point of debate was whether enviros should go after errant, but potentially vulnerable Dems on green issues during the next election cycle. Senators rejected a bill that would have sped up oil drilling, then patted themselves on the back for being awesome about the environment. Meanwhile, 53 new shallow-water drilling permits have been issued under post-spill laws. Flooding in the Mississippi basin: bad for humans who live there, good for humans who like to eat crawfish and shrimp. Expected …

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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, …

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Forget the compost bucket — toss those carrot tops into the blender for pesto! [VIDEO]

In spring and summertime, we see local vegetables everywhere: at the grocery store, in the back garden, farmers market, or in a community-supported agriculture share. Sometimes there are so many vegetables, we just don't know what to do with them. I have the issue of having no air-conditioning and thus cooking can be a very hot experience. This video shows a few recipes for seldom-used veggies and veggie parts, prepared using less heat, including carrot top pesto:

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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 …

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Factory farms the only way to ‘feed the world’? Not so, argues Science paper

To "feed the world" by 2050, we'll need a massive, global ramp-up of industrial-scale, corporate-led agriculture. At least that's the conventional wisdom. Even progressive journalists trumpet the idea (see here, here, and here, plus my ripostes here and here). The public-radio show Marketplace reported it as fact last week, earning a knuckle rap from Tom Laskway. At least one major strain of President Obama's (rather inconsistent) agricultural policy is predicated on it. And surely most agricultural scientists and development specialists toe that line ... right? Well, not really. Back in 2009, Seed Magazine organized a forum predicated on the idea …

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Hot stuff: chile peppers, climate change, and the future of food

Getting hot in here.Photo: Josh KelloggClimate change is the issue of our time. Its ill effects will fall heaviest on the people who have least contributed to it: billions in the global south. But no one will escape the impact of the warming climate, and one place it will manifest most obviously is on our plates. If we look at chile peppers, for example, it's easy to see how the negative effects of climate change have affected the food on our plates and the farmers behind that food. In their new book, Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, …

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Girl Scouts censor Facebook criticism of palm oil in cookies

Critter-killing cookies?Photo: Laura TaylorLooking for a lesson of how not to respond to green consumer demand in the internet age? Check out Girl Scouts USA. The Scouts' CEO Kathy Cloninger has for several years rebuffed polite requests from individual scouts, major environmental organizations, and others that they make their famous Girl Scout cookies rainforest friendly. The problem with the cookies is that they contain palm oil, which is responsible for the destruction of more than 30,000 square miles of primary rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia and which is grown and transported by major agriculture corporations such as Cargill. This deforestation …