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  • As energy costs rise, supply chains go local

    Two articles you should read if you’re interested in eating local, growing local, building local, buying local, or any of the other ways that geography, economy, and environment intersect: The first is an article from a few weeks ago, detailing the destruction of the domestic catfish industry due to rising prices for oil, corn, soybeans, […]

  • Amid climate crisis and rising costs, big media discovers city-grown food

    Back in 2006, a Los Angeles developer, Ralph Hurwitz, bull-dozed a highly productive 13-acre farm in the city’s South Central neighborhood. In its place, he intends to plunk down a vast warehouse designed to facilitate trade in goods shipped in from Asia destined for our great nation’s big-box stores. (I wrote about the South Central […]

  • Edible landscapes can outgrow the elite

    Monday's New York Times had a great opinion piece about My Farm's Trevor Paque -- the same guy recently profiled in the Times' Style section. In fact, I had to look twice to make sure it was the same T. Paque because the two articles emphasized such different aspects of the urban CSA mission. Kim Severson, in the style piece, describes it thus:

    Call them the lazy locavores -- city dwellers who insist on eating food grown close to home but have no inclination to get their hands dirty. Mr. Paque is typical of a new breed of business owner serving their needs.

    She devotes so much time and script to the eco-chic aspect that I, like Tom Philpott, was initially put off by the idea of armchair gardening. But just like Tom, who later posted that he was "too hard" on it, I softened after reading Allison Arieff's opinion piece. She writes:

  • Can locavores embrace a truly place-based agriculture?

    In "Dispatches From the Fields," Ariane Lotti and Stephanie Ogburn, who are working on small farms in Iowa and Colorado this season, share their thoughts on producing real food in the midst of America's agro-industrial landscape.

     

    pueblo site
    The architectural remnants of an ancient agrarian civilization known as the Ancestral Puebloans cover the Southwest.
    Photo: Stephanie Ogburn.

    It's somewhat astonishing that there's a thriving local food scene where I live, in Montezuma County, Colorado. Not because the area is poor, rural, and thus removed from the trendiness of the local food movement that has hit most large population centers -- rather, because it's so difficult to grow food here.

     

    In a normal year, towns in Montezuma County get between 13 and 18 inches of precipitation. The growing season is short; although most of the region falls into zones 6a/5b on the USDA hardiness map, it frosted here on June 12 this year, and that's not unusual. Temperature variation between day and night can easily range 40 degrees, as the thin desert air heats up with the sun but fails to retain any of that heat due to the lack of humidity.

  • The WSJ reports on lavish second-home gardens

    I got a bit of flack for my post on “lazy locavores” earlier this week. Riffing off of a New York Times “trend” piece, I questioned the practice of “outsourcing one’s veggie patch” — paying someone to install, tend, and harvest a home veggie garden. I accused folks who use such services of having a […]

  • Farmers markets and local agriculture: age-old systems for the future

    We often think that farmers markets are products of our times as they spring up in cities and small towns across the country. Truth is, a farmers market is the traditional way of selling agricultural produce around the world.

    The really nice aspect of this transaction is that the farmer receives just compensation for his product and the eater can be assured the product is fresh, local, and grown in a manner that is acceptable to all. If these criteria are not met, the consumer can look for another farmer whose products better suit his or her needs.

    After the industrialization of agriculture, farmers still sold at farmers markets, but it was just a matter of time before supermarkets were developed and farmers started selling to large companies that moved food all over the world; many Americans stopped planting gardens because it was so much easier to get "everything" at the store.

    We certainly have gained something through the globalized food system: more variety, foods we cannot grow in cold climates, and, of course, cheap food that is mass-produced by underpaid farmers and farm workers. Some good news, some bad. I certainly like coffee and chocolate, but I want to know the growers and workers were paid fair wages and that the crops were grown in an environmentally-responsible manner. I would like to be sure all the food I need to buy meets those same standards, whether imported or locally grown.

  • The paper of record identifies — sort of — a new trend

    New York Times food reporter Kim Severson has declared a new trend: “lazy locavores,” people who want to “eat close to home” but are too time-strapped (or lazy) to put much effort into it. According to Severson, “a new breed of business owner” has arisen to cater to their whims. She opens her piece with […]

  • How to ask hard questions of the people who grow your food

    In Checkout Line, Lou Bendrick cooks up answers to reader questions about how to green their food choices and other diet-related quandaries. What to do when it’s not so spelled out for you? Photo: Jennifer Dickert   Dear Checkout Line, Any suggestions on how to ask local farmers (or the person selling the goods at […]

  • Urban homesteading in Washington, D.C.

    Today's slow yet steady movement towards sustainable foods has a decidedly urban feel to it.

    This morning, sitting at my backyard patio table and drinking my morning coffee, I looked appreciatively out into my backyard and took a satisfying breath. The highway behind my house roared with the morning rush hour traffic, the high rise apartments across the street were bustling with people hurrying off to school and work, and I was sitting in my own piece of urban heaven. In the past three months, my small yet robust rhombus-shaped backyard has turned into a garden oasis rarely found in even the fertile soils of rural areas. Three raised beds and several fence-side beds later, I was staring at the most satisfying seeds I had ever sowed -- and all of this in the middle of Washington, D.C.