We’ve been making the rounds of winter farming conferences in the region–from NOFA to PASA–and we just got back from the most urban of these, Just Food’s 2012 conference at the High School of Food and Finance in Hell’s Kitchen, which included a job fair organized by Good Food Jobs and workshops advising on how to start a career as a farmer, raise money for your food startup, or launch your food-related nonprofit.
EcoLogic allows restaurants to “86” toxic kitchen cleaners.
If you have any interest in becoming a cheesemonger, butcher or specialty foods buyer, running an urban farm, shooting documentaries about farm workers, writing the history of the taco, working the line in a killer farm-to-table restaurant, working to change agricultural policies, opening your own craft beer bar and grilled cheese shop or helping kids discover the joy of a watermelon radish, then have we got the job fair for you.
I’ve been thumbing through the short, final chapters of Joan Gussow’s most recent book, Growing, Older. They’re humorous even if the themes include dying, lifelong regrets, sea level rise and climate change. The later geological preoccupations are shared by both of us—we both garden in floodprone areas—and the balmy, 60-degree afternoons this past weekend reminded me that the future-oriented predictions of climate scientists seem more and more to have arrived in the here and now. (And, my colleagues at Edible Brooklyn tell me, the annual winter festival at Prospect Park was just cancelled, due to weather too warm to make snow.)
This Saturday, January 21st, from 10:30 am to 5:45 pm, make yourself a some lunch and get comfortable in front of your computer for TEDxManhattan’s “Changing the Way We Eat,” a live simulcast from the TimesCenter in Times Square. Twenty speakers who know more than a thing or two about the subject of sustainable eating and farming (including Mitchell Davis, the Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation, Michelle Hughes, the Director of GrowNYC’s New Farmer Development Project, and Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States) will explore a variety of issues, and talk about our choices and their consequences.
It might not be true that Gov. Cuomo will stop plans for fracking in New York State if he receives a million letters against the natural gas drilling technique, but the rumor is good news to folks like Doug Wood, who launched amillionfrackingletters.com back in September. The site was set up to send hundreds of notes to Albany urging the Governor to ban hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. Wood runs the Port Washington, Long Island-based nonprofit Grassroots Environmental Education with his wife Patti, and fracking has long been one of their touchstone issues.
In case you missed it last Thursday, we just wanted to point your attention to a brand-new national diner’s guide–but unlike those from Zagat or Michelin, when this one considers the staff, it’s not thinking of service. Instead, the new National Diners’ Guide 2012: A Consumer Guide on the Working Conditions of America’s Restaurants evaluates whether 150 of popular restaurants around the country provide paid sick days, pay at least $9 per hour to non-tipped workers and at least $5 to tipped workers, and provide opportunities for workers to advance. The guide, from the non-profit restaurant worker group called Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (or ROC), is available free online right here.
In the 1930s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt saw that American farmers were producing too much; they weren’t earning off their extra work or surplus. In came the New Deal with the first-ever Farm Bill, set to end overproduction by paying farmers to grow less. In the ’70s, a man named Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture at the time, thought that idea was nuts, and so he paid farmers instead to “get big or get out”–referring of course to farming by the thousands of acres and those devoted to just a few crops. It was a perfectly good idea at the time for a country still discovering the value of its land and thenew global marketplace, which seemed to have no problem taking on the surplus. We couldn’t know then what has happened, which has also included farmers growing more crops for secondary, inedible products like corn syrup and cow feed rather than feeding us.
I sat down to a friend’s dinner table last week with a hunk of acorn squash roasted in brown butter, a mixed greens salad with a yogurt vinaigrette, root vegetable fritters, various jars of home-pickled and home-jammed produce, bread with goat cheese and red wine (a nice spicy one, for under 20 bucks)–all grown or produced within 30 miles. The meal was made by a 20-something farm intern in upstate New York, who’d love to hear good news next week. That’s when The Farm Bill, renewed every five years (most recently in 2008), might reach the legislature more than a year before it should.
Over the past few years we’ve watched as parents and teachers with a knack for turning parking lots into produce launch a slew of mini farm projects at New York City Public schools. One of those is Nora Painten, the Carroll Gardens teacher who is starting an $8,000 square foot garden project (complete with a chicken coop) in Brownsville with help from students and teachers at nearby P.S. 323. We hosted the teacher/farmer on our HeritageRadioNetwork.com show Monday night, where she spoke about how she scored a contract to garden on the land from the city and is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the Brownsville Student Farm Project’s first spring in 2012.
For those seeking a way to use Occupy Wall Street as a way to discuss much-needed shifts in public food policy, be sure to head to the entrance of Zuccotti Park at 140 Broadway tomorrow at 1 p.m. for “Occupy Against Big Food.” If you can’t attend–it goes till 4 p.m.–Food Democracy Now is asking you to at least write a message of support for event. They’ve also sent out a list of interesting articles about Occupy and its relationship to food policy and reform, which we’re going to post right here.
I’ve been a fan of Mark Bittman’s cooking and eating advice since I saw his first quirky, easy-to-follow “The Minimalist” chef cooking videos. And…