Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Farm City Week!

This is a flower centerpiece I just finished making using locally grown flowers and a locally grown pumpkin. Thanks to my local farmers for making this possible.

Last year at this time, I posted a column I had written about Farm City Week, which is always the week before Thanksgiving. This year it runs from November 21 through November 27. Its purpose is to foster a stronger relationship between the urban and the rural and to highlight the interdependence of those who produce our agricultural products and those who consume them.

It was started by the National Farm-City Council and promoted nationally by the American Farm Bureau who encourage all Americans to recognize farmers, ranchers, and all those who contribute to the strength of America's agricultural industry.

As I mentioned in my column about Farm-City Week, remember, Thanksgiving would not be possible as we know it, if it were not for our farmers and ranchers. And, I ask that you look at the products you eat, consume, and use each day keeping these things in mind:

Did you know that the state of California produces more than 50 percent of the nation’s fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts? That it does this using just 3 percent of the nation’s farmland? That California farmers and ranchers produce nearly $30 billion a year and support more than 1.1 million jobs?

That California is the top agricultural state, a position it’s held for more than 50 years?

What about the people who grow your food, fiber and flowers? It might surprise you to know that California is still dominated by family and small farms. Approximately 97 percent of California farms are run as family farms or partnerships.

Maybe you think that because you live in the South Bay, you are so far removed from agriculture that it doesn’t affect you. Have you ever stopped to count the number of times during the day that agriculture touches your life? From the time you crawl out of the cotton sheets on your bed in the morning to the time you brush your teeth at night, agriculture is there.

If you use products like paper, shampoo, crayons, buttons and shoes, then you are affected by agriculture. As you sit down at the table this Thanksgiving and give thanks for all of the good in your life, take the opportunity to thank our farmers.

Remember that agriculture is part of our lives, so we must help to protect it. You can make a difference by asking where your food is grown, who grew it, and when and how it was grown. Shop at your local farmers market; look for “Buy Local” campaigns at your local market, showing that the food was made in California.

Take your children to petting zoos, pumpkin patches, Christmas tree farms, “u-pick” orchards and farms, and teach them where their food comes from. Initiate a farm day at your school, or invite a farmer to talk at your school or community organization.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Eat Local Challenge

I have been meaning to post about an effort that the Eat Well Guide and the Consumers Union (the publisher of Consumer Reports) have put together challenging consumers to "Eat Local and Organic" for Thanksgiving.

They are not asking consumers to completely change their way of shopping or preparing for Thanksgiving but to just try to make one small change and are challenging everyone to use at least one local/sustainable/organic ingredient in their Thanksgiving meal.

For those who have been reading my blog since I started it last year at this time, you know that I advocate doing this year round by shopping at the local farmers' market, local farms, and asking for locally, sustainably grown produce at the supermarket. You might also know I have had a link to the Eat Well Guide since I started the blog.

So, you can start there http://www.eatwellguide.org/i.php?pd=Home to find a local farmers’ market if you aren't sure about one near you and you can also check out Eat Well's Green Fork Blog that will list all of the recipes people submit using these wonderful ingredients, http://www.eatwellguide.org/i.php?pd=Home.

Monday, November 17, 2008

An Overview of Obama's Views on Agriculture

I got this from one of the many groups I am on (Organic Consumers Association) and it outlines Obama's policies on agriculture. It sounds like some good things will finally be happening for sustainable agriculture!

Here's the main points:

1) Support for hunger and conservation programs in the Farm Bill.

2) Expand Country of Origin Labeling requirements on food products.

3) Support for organic farmers and transition to organic programs.

4) Increase farm extension service programs to attract more youth to farming as a career.

5) Encourage the use of technologies to produce power from animal wastes, and farming practices that reduce energy use and maintain soil health.

6) Increase incentives for farmers to plant trees, restore grasslands and managed the land in a way that better absorbs CO2.

7) Campaign pledge to support mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another Shameless Plug

Well, I haven't posted for about a week since I have been super busy with book events and also attending some great sustainable food events like the Aaron French talk on Sunday at the Natural History Museum.

Anyhow, at one of the events, my monthly Master Garden Meeting, I was given a chance to chat a bit about my book before our featured speaker, Russ Parsons, the LA Times Food Editor spoke about the history of farmers' markets.

Not only did he give a fascinating talk about how farmers' markets developed, he was nice enough to buy my book and actually read it because yesterday he emailed me to let me know he was going to blog about it on the LA Times Daily Dish blog and sure enough, it's in there this morning http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2008/11/los-angeles-far.html.

Not only is he a great writer and strong supporter of farmers and farmers' markets, but he's a super nice guy and was very complimentary. His only criticism is the one that I myself have and it's really about doing a book for Arcadia, the fact that they are short on text. Which is why I am working on developing the stories of our farmers into a longer narrative form.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sustainable Sundays at the Natural History Museum

Don't miss the "Eating Greener" program this Sunday at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, as part of its Sustainable Sundays program, http://www.nhm.org/weekends/sustainable/index.html .
At 12:30pm, "eco-chef" Aaron French will present “Eating Greener: The Ecology of Food and Why It Matters," a 40-minute lecture, 20-minute cooking demonstration, and a 15-minute Q&A session.

It will offer participants an integrated framework for our food systems and provide context for current buzzwords such as "local," "organic," and "sustainable." Participants will learn steps each person can take to foster and promote sustainability in their local food region. Chef French holds bachelor's and master's degrees in Ecology, is the chef of The Sunnyside Cafe in Albany, California, writes the EcoChef column found in ten Bay Area New Group newspapers, and was a participant in Slow Food Nation, both as a contributor to the Slow Food Nation blog and as host of a Slow Breakfast at The Sunnyside Cafe.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Natural History Museum, 900 Exposition Boulevard in Exposition Park, Los Angeles (across from USC between Vermont and Figueroa)Cost: Tickets are $9.00 for adults and $2.00 for children (5-12) and can be purchased at the door

Friday, November 7, 2008

Organic Consumer's Association: "Organic Transitions"

I have finally had time to read some of the e-newsletters I get and one of them was from the Organic Consumer's Association. It was pretty good timing for me since I am working on putting an application together (and developing a project for it) for a fellowship in urban issues and I am going to call my project "Promoting Sustainability Through Urban Agriculture." This means focusing on urban issues such as increasing entrepreneurship, dealing with rising transportation and gas costs, economic development, food security, etc. through urban farms/locally grown. Gee, maybe I will be using that M.P.A. again after all!

Anyhow, I digress (not a big surprise for those who know LA Farm Girl). The point is that OCA has organized what they are calling the "Organic Transitions" Campaign, also calling it the next House & Garden, Solar & Transit Revolution.

Here's how they describe it:

"The Organic Consumers Association is proud to announce the launch of our new long-term North American campaign: "Organic Transitions". As the planet descends into a global economic crisis, battered by global warming, resource wars, and Peak Oil, we need to prepare ourselves and our communities for survival and revival in hard times.

Organic Transitions is designed to mobilize organic consumers and local communities to plan and implement food, transportation, energy, and education strategies that will enable us to survive and thrive in the turbulent times ahead.

Organic food and farming will provide the healthy cornerstone for a new, more localized, green economy. Check out our new "Organic Transitions" website and contact the OCA about organizing an Organic Transition committee in your local Torrance community here."

Well, given that they challenged me to organize a committee in "your local Torrance community," I am accepting the challenge! I have already done some preliminary groundwork, working towards installing a demonstration Victory Garden, working to increase healthy food in health care by using locally grown, sustainable farms/farmers, and other things. I will keep you posted on!

So, if anybody wants to get involved in my South Bay focused Organic Transitions project, let me know. And, check out the link above for the resources they have available to undertake an Organic Transition.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ask President-Elect Obama to Support Your Food and Farm Priorities

American Farmland Trust has posted a very brief and quick survey asking Americans to rate the food and farm priorities they think that our new President should focus on in '09.

They have selected 8 key issues of their policy work that they believe connecct with our country's greatest challenges. They are asking us to select those that mean the most to us and rank our priorities.

Just click here to make sure that your views are included and also spread the word to your friends and family about the importance of "Food and Farm in '09." http://action.farmland.org/site/Survey?ACTION_REQUIRED=URI_ACTION_USER_REQUESTS&SURVEY_ID=2080

Monday, November 3, 2008

Farm Aid Says Vote For Family Farmers

This is the message I received this morning in my email box from Farm Aid reminding us to think about our family farmers when we vote. I have cut and pasted it here so you can see exactly what they say:

Vote for Family Farmers

"Tomorrow's the day when you can shape America's future: Election Day 2008! Each of us has issues that we feel are important to our country, state, county, and town or city. For all of us at Farm Aid, family farmers and the good food they grow are our top priorities. Election day is your chance to pick the candidate that cares about the things that you care about - like family farmers and good food.

If you haven't already read it, check out our Ask Hilde column to find out where John McCain and Barack Obama stand on family farm and food issues.

Visit CanIVote.org for information on your polling location and local voting rules. Make your voice heard!'

Now, how can we ignore Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Dave Matthews and John Mellencamp? We can't!!!! They have been working to help our family farmers for 23 years and we can help them through our vote.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Screening of Food Fight at the AFI Fest

I am helping to spread the word about a wonderful and important documentary that will be screened at this year's AFI Fest: Food Fight.

Food Fight looks at how American agricultural policy and food culture developed in the 20th century, and how the California food movement has created a counterrevolution against big agribusiness.

As the filmmakers say: "When we walk into a supermarket, we assume that we have the widest possible choice of healthy foods. But in fact, over the course of the 20th century, our food system has been co-opted by corporate forces whose interests do not lie in providing the public with fresh, healthy, and sustainably produced food.

Fortunately for America, an alternative emerged from the counterculture of California in the late 1960s and early 1970s, where a group of political anti-corporate protesters--led by Alice Waters--voiced their dissent by creating a food chain outside of the conventional system. The unintended result was the birth of a vital local-sustainable-organic food movement, which has brought back taste and variety to our tables."

I just literally finished watching it since I was lucky enough to get a copy to screen so that I could write about it. And, I have to say that it is a not to miss film!

As somebody who has focused on these issues for the past decade, I thought I knew everything but this film showed me I was wrong. It traces the rise of our industrialized agriculture system in both an informative and entertaining way, using old film clips, interviews and stories. Just one example of what I learned, I never realized the connection between our industrial military complex and the food system and how so many of the same companies are involved in both: Monsanto, Dow Chemical etc. But, it talks about the most important reason of all to eat local, fresh food, it simply tastes better.

If you want to learn about the sustainable food movement, and what great taste is all about, this is a great way to do it because it features the leading voices in that movement, the best teachers you can have: Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Will Allen.

Do your best to catch the screening at the AFI Fest:

When: Saturday, November 8, 2008 at 3:15pm
Where: Mann Chinese 6 Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles
No Cost: It's Free!!!!

Watch the trailer on the Food Fight website, and visit the AFI Fest page for more information.

And for those of you on face book, you can also join their group (like LA Farm Girl did) http://www.new.facebook.com/group.php?gid=40070554427