Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bay Area Deep Rooted Foods on CUESA's Newsletter

Check out a feature in the latest CUESA Newsletter. It is on locally significant produce and foods. Read about the Bay Area history of such produce as Blenheim apricots, Crane melons, and Gravenstein apples.

CUESA manages the Ferry Building Market, and the newsletter also contains market highlights and the latest information about growers attending on market days.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Listen to Farm Bill Segment @ The California Report

Listen to Dan Imhoff discuss the farm bill and a related segment about organic farmers demanding a piece of the pie.

The California Report
and look for the archived segments

Farm Bill Changes To Be a Lesson in Cascading Consequences
"Every few years Congress tinkers with the Farm Bill, which determines how much federal money farmers get to subsidize their crops -- and a whole lot more. Host Scott Shafer talks to with author Dan Imhoff about his new book "Food Fight: A Citizen's Guide to the Food and Farm Bill.""

Organic Farmers Want a Place at the Farm Bill Table
"California farmers grow more fruit and vegetables than growers in any other state, but when it comes to the Farm Bill, they're pretty much left out in the cold. Legislation introduced this week by Central Valley Congressman Dennis Cardoza aims to change that by redirecting federal dollars to marketing and research for fresh produce. But some of the state's organic farmers are saying "what about us?""
Reporters:Sasha Khokha

Friday, March 23, 2007

Ten Good Reasons to Buy Local

These ten good reasons were posted on a site for a new CSA in our area, Two Small Farms. For more information or just to sign up Two Small Farms

10 Reasons to Buy Local Food

1. Locally grown food tastes better. Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It's crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Produce flown or trucked in from Florida, Chile, Mexico, or Holland is, quite understandably, much older. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality.

2. Local produce is better for you. A recent study showed that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Food that is frozen or canned soon after harvest is actually more nutritious than some "fresh" produce that has been on the truck or supermarket shelf for a week. Locally grown food, purchased soon after harvest, retains its nutrients.

3. Local food preserves genetic diversity. In the modern industrial agricultural system, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment; for a tough skin that can survive packing and shipping; and for an ability to have a long shelf life in the store. Only a handful of hybrid varieties of each fruit and vegetable meet those rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown. Local farms, in contrast, grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors. Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, because they taste good. These old varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection; they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.
This is broccoli romanesco grown on our farm in Hollister, CA.

4. Local food is GMO-free. Although biotechnology companies have been trying to commercialize genetically modified fruits and vegetables, they are currently licensing them only to large factory-style farms. Local farmers don't have access to genetically modified seed, and most of them wouldn't use it even if they could. A June 2001 survey by ABC News showed that 93% of Americans want labels on genetically modified food - most so that they can avoid it. If you are opposed to eating bioengineered food, you can rest assured that locally grown produce was bred the old-fashioned way, as nature intended.

5. Local food supports local farm families. With fewer than 1 million Americans now claiming farming as their primary occupation, farmers are a vanishing breed. And no wonder - commodity prices are at historic lows, often below the cost of production. The farmer now gets less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food - which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love.

6. Local food builds community. When you buy direct from the farmer, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection between the eater and the grower. Knowing the farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the weather, and the miracle of raising food. In many cases, it gives you access to a farm where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture. Relationships built on understanding and trust can thrive.
This is Amelia, head strawberry picker and nap taker at High Ground Organics.

7. Local food preserves open space. As the value of direct-marketed fruits and vegetables increases, selling farmland for development becomes less likely. You have probably enjoyed driving out into the country and appreciated the lush fields of crops, the meadows full of wildflowers, the picturesque red barns. That landscape will survive only as long as farms are financially viable. When you buy locally grown food, you are doing something proactive about preserving the agricultural landscape.

8. Local food keeps your taxes in check. Farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas suburban development costs more than it generates in taxes, according to several studies. On average, for every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, governments must spend $1.17 on services, thus requiring higher taxes of all taxpayers. For each dollar of revenue raised by farm, forest, or open space, governments spend 34 cents on services.

9. Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife. A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued. Good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and replace nutrients used by their crops. Cover crops also capture carbon emissions and help combat global warming. According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry. In addition, the habitat of a farm - the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings - is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife, including bluebirds, killdeer, herons, bats, and rabbits.

10. Local food is about the future. By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant food. Buy local food. Sustain local farms.

©2001 Growing for Market. Permission to print and photocopy is granted.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

old farmer
Originally uploaded by fhdz1962.

How much is an acre anyways?

Google it and the first answer you get is, 1 acre = 4046.85642 meters squared, which makes it all the more incomprehensible. It is indicative of a disconnection most of us have with fieldwork that many of us do not have a “feel” for an acre. How many of you have ever driven an ox-towed plow across a field on a hot day? Anyone who has, I am sure, quickly developed a feel for that last acre. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the acre was derived from the area said to be arable by one man driving an ox and plow in one day.

Size does count when it comes to sustainable agriculture. It’s important to have a frame of reference when we talk to growers about their operations. Twenty-seven acres is not like 270. Scale and its economy is what industrial agriculture depends on and is in many ways the root of it harmfulness.

So, how big is an acre? Formally an acre of area is 160 square rods or 4,840 square yards, an equivalent to 43,560 square feet. If you are like me, this did not help much. In order to visualize this area we should compare it to some familiar things. An acre is roughly half the size of a regulation soccer field. If an acre of tarp were laid out on a baseball field it would cover the diamond and about 10% of the outfield. An acre would also cover 91 yards of a football field, sideline to sideline, excluding the end zones. The Alemany Farmer’s Market is approximately 3 acres if you include all the parking asphalt. Golden Gate Park is about 1017 acres, of which the Japanese Tea Garden comprises 5 acres.

Maybe you have a good mental reference. If you do post it as a comment.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Local Food Wheel

Check out the local food wheel website - slick and quite a resource. The wheel allows you to track the seasonal changes in produce in our local markets. They are affordable and a great tool for anyone trying to go local. Don't miss reading about the brains behind the wheel - great stories. Click here for their web site.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Community Supported Agriculture

One of the most direct ways to connect to a grower is to become a member of the farm. I am not talking figuratively here. Community supported agriculture (CSA) farms depend on their subscribers to function. In ecological terms, it is a mutualist or symbiotic relationship between you and the grower. A subscriber commits himself/herself to pay up front for produce still on the stem, sight unseen. The farmer now has a guaranteed market without having to travel to several locations to peddle the product. It also provides growers with operating capital to maintain operations and sow the next crop. This passes-on some of the risk of farming to you but reduces some of the farmer’s uncertainty (not that you’ve been asking for a little risk with your organic produce, but it is part of the “cost” of going sustainable). In return, subscribers get a cornucopian delivery, as often as once a week. It is a very convenient way for busy urban dwellers to get healthy produce. And the thought that you are integral to the operations of sustainably run farm makes you food taste that much more delightful (try thinking of this as you take the first bight of the next CSA-grown vegetable you eat and you’ll understand).

I would be remiss if I were not to mention what some consider the down sides of CSA’s -- although there are easy solutions to many of these hitches. If you live alone, it is often a challenge to go through your produce before it goes south. However, many CSA’s have biweekly deliveries and you can always find a few friends with whom to share the cost and the produce. Also, organically grown food makes a wonderful gift (you will never have to worry that you did not have time to go out and get that anniversary gift again). And of course, there is always the fading art of canning.

The other major critique that some subscribers I know have had is that the content is somewhat unpredictable in both variety and quantity. To those who may share this peeve the only thing I can think of saying about it is, welcome to the real world of growing food. The industrial/food complex buffers you from this boom/bust cycle by sheer volume, importation, pesticides, mechanization, and lots of petrochemicals. But let me remind you that you are reading this blog because you want to get out of that unhealthy loop. Let’s just live with it. I, for one, think it is a good trade off.

Here are some links to some other resources, including a more extensive introduction to CSA’s and a nationwide CSA locator (if you have family outside the Bay Area, please pass on the link to the CSA locator). I also include web links to some nearby CSA’s.

Resources: Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association’s introduction to CSA’s Local Harvest nationwide CSA locator Explanation of what is Community Supported Agriculture

Local CSA’s Terra Firma Farms, Winter California Eatwell Farm, Dixon, California Good Humus CSA Mariquita Farms

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Introducing Local Foods SF

Welcome to Local Foods SF. Through this blog I will disseminate information on sustainably produced local organic foods enabling Bay Area residents to reduce their dietary footprint. The main impediment to localizing our eating is lack of information. This is where Local Foods SF comes in. Through LF SF I hope to connect thoughtful consumers to caring producers and close the information gap that the industrial producers count on to keep us on their processed food treadmill.

If you are a local producer, tell us about your operation, how to access your product, and how to communicate with you. There are a lot of us out here yearning to make a connection with you. If you are a thoughtful consumer, tell us where you get your food, who do you buy from, what do you know that would help us make better choices. Also, let us know what you are reading about this issue so that others can be as informed.

Over time, LF SF can become a clearinghouse to help us support sustainably produced local foods. But to achieve this I will need your help. I don't claim to be an expert or to know the entire local food landscape. Therefore I am asking you to be the correspondents for LF SF. Tell us what you know, send us your links, critique the food/industrial complex to your heart's content (and good health). More importantly, share your solutions and connections.

Through LF SF I would also like to address the issue of food justice. We should all be concerned that the "greening" of our communities has largely been a middle class and affluent phenomena. Access to healthy, sustainably produced foods must be equitable or we will be in danger of creating a green foods apartheid. Therefore one of the main commitments of this blog will be to provide information enabling limited income consumers and historically marginalized communities to have access to sustainable foods. Lend a hand by becoming informed on this issue and share what you know.

Let’s empower ourselves and, little by little, abandon the dysfunctional producer/consumer-victim situation we find ourselves in. If there is truth in the proverb you are what you eat, let’s find out who we really are.