Louisiana Floods, Update #1

Sunday update from Copper Alvarez, BREADA Executive Director:

Checking in with our Red Stick farmers and Main Street Market folks today — A lot of fields under water but most homes are okay…Keeping Louisiana and the Baton Rouge region in our prayers! 

Support the farms of Louisiana by donating to the BREADA Small Farms Fund.

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Sunday update from Hammond Farmers Market:
Hello all, from what we’ve heard all of our market family is safe and sound! We hope everyone else is faring well through this crazy time.

Our farmers are all safe, although fields, fences, and feed did not fare so well…If anyone is looking to help out, we are asking for livestock/chicken feed as one of our farms lost everything in the storm.

If you’re interested in donating feed to help our farmers out, please email us at hammondmarket@gmail.com or message us on or FB page.

Everything, no matter how small is appreciated.

-Ashton

 

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UPDATED: Darker blue shade shows areas that have a new flooding threat from back water off the Amite

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Dear Baton Rouge, New Orleans has your back

 

A Pissed-Off Tampa Chef Explains The “Farm To Fable” Controversy

Greg Baker, chef-owner of the Refinery in Tampa, Florida, is a 20-year kitchen veteran, having worked in Portland, Oregon, and Austin before opening his James Beard–nominated restaurant in 2010.

So does local matter? Yes, but that begs clarification. I buy produce from a variety of local farms, some certified organic, some with organic practices but not certified and some that are conventional but utilize best management practices. As different as they all are, I know that I am buying produce that is fresh and nutrient-dense because of the short trip from farm to my cooler, and grown in a manner that doesn’t harm the environment. This is where “sustainably grown” comes into play. Organic doesn’t mean a damn thing to me if it refers to a lemon that was organically grown in Israel and traveled halfway around the world to get to me. Nor do I give a rat’s ass if something is labeled organic but grown in a monoculture. I’ve toured Big Ag tomato farms a couple of hours south of me while visiting with the Coalition of Imokkalee Workers; the type that Barry Estabrook wrote about in Tomatoland. I found myself in what was essentially a desert of tomatoes — no border land, no birds in the sky to be seen. I asked the meaning of a segregated tomato desert and was told “that’s our organic section.” So local doesn’t necessarily imply sustainability. That doesn’t mean that sustainability doesn’t exist locally to you, but you’re probably not going to find it in Big Ag growing operations.

…So for anyone who is still with me, you’re probably wondering why I’m so fucking angry. It’s because there are real-world economic consequences to lying about sourcing. Not for the liars of course, who got caught lying and have lied more to cover their own asses. I’ve been scratching by for six years on very narrow margins, living up to what I claim, while others have rolled it in by lying to their customers. That’s one thing. But people saying that they’re okay with being lied to?

Source: A Pissed-Off Tampa Chef Explains The “Farm To Fable” Controversy – Food Republic

See an American town that’s about to be completely lost to climate change.

The Jean Charles band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw lived in the same place for more than 200 years. But now it’s almost entirely washed away.

By the middle of the 20th century, there were nearly 400 people living on the island. At that point, the land was 11 miles long and five miles wide — providing this Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe with 55 square miles of lush, open land on which to hunt, farm, and thrive.

But all that’s left today is a half square mile of marshland — two miles long and a quarter-mile wide — with two dozen families struggling to survive. The island’s remaining residents still speak their own colloquial French-Cajun dialect and work as fishermen, oystermen, and fur trappers to survive. But ecological damage has made that work hard to come by too.

 

From 0 to 35 in MS

I have worked with markets and farmers in Mississippi for a dozen years and have found more barriers to getting regional food accepted than in most other areas of the US, yet also have met some of the most optimistic and capable people  working on it there.
What’s interesting is that in going from a deeply (still) entrenched commodity/plantation culture of farming directly to a new economy of small family farming for markets and restaurants can mean that some of the middle steps can be skipped, which is beneficial to innovative growers.

In other words, the situations is similar to what has happened in many non-industrialized or colonized countries in regards to technology; having skipped the landline era, the new users adapt much more quickly to the technology of mobility*.
I can see this leapfrogging in play for sustainable farming in the Gulf States with new farmers pushing the envelope with pesticide-free and heirloom varieties at markets and in CSAs, rather than  being influenced by the less inspiring midcentury distribution system that hardened growers’ experience into growing the hardiest and tasteless products to ship.
The area around Oxford MS is one that is ready for takeoff. The small farmer markets offer organic products at a higher rate than the New Orleans farmers markets for example, and the average age of the vendors seems markedly less than the US average, to my unscientific eye. The chef quoted in the article below is a pal of mine and had been the Board President of the New Orleans-based Market Umbrella before Katrina, and now is a leader in the regional food movement in Oxford. He offers his knowledge to the markets and farmers around the area as well supporting the leading agricultural advocates, Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network (MSAN), which was founded with Wallace Center support a few years back. Corbin and MSAN are good example of the quiet revolution happening up there.

Additionally, the folks in Hernando MS (north of Oxford, closer to Memphis TN) are leading the state in innovative healthy living strategies and thinking deeply about how to expand regional farming to support those strategies. Their weekly market is large enough to attract serious attention from regional funders and even policy makers, and I have hopes that they might soon attempt to create a year round market.

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From WWII to Syria, How Seed Vaults Weather Wars 

But though the need for seed banks is often associated with more stereotypically environmental, even futuristic, cataclysms (climate change; disease; pesticide-resistant insects) their history is inextricably tied up with something more banal and present-day—war.

…virtually no conflict has gone by without a devastating loss of seeds, often mitigated by a heroic rescue or underscored by a tragic attempt. Afghani mujahideen destroyed Kabul’s national seed collection in 1992. (Local scientists managed to smuggle some seeds into the basement of a few city houses, but by the time they returned to check on them a decade later, looters had dumped them on the floor in order to steal the storage jars.) During the Georgian civil unrest of 1993, just before the country’s Sukhumi Seed Station was destroyed, an 83-year-old botanist named Alexey Fogel escaped into the Caucasus Mountains with its entire lemon collection. Scientist Alexis Rumaziminsi, now known as the “bean boffin of Rwanda,” protected the many varieties of beans in his research plots during 1994’s civil war and genocide. The US-led invasion of Iraq resulted in the razing of the country’s national seed bank in Abu Ghraib—not to mention the implementation of American-style seed laws, which mean that if Iraqis want to buy new seeds, they will have to pay for yearly usage licenses.

Source: From WWII to Syria, How Seed Vaults Weather Wars | Atlas Obscura

As oyster season revs up, new type of Gulf oyster turning heads in New Orleans 

When ecological concerns force new ideas, direct relationships make those ideas able to be introduced and tested in a simple and effective way:

Local awareness of off-bottom oysters got a boost in July when the Crescent City Farmers Market hosted a special event with a new producer, Grand Isle Sea Farm, which dished out sample crates of its harvest to local chefs.

Source: As oyster season revs up, new type of Gulf oyster turning heads in New Orleans

Expo Milano 2015

US food rocks the Expo
Visitors enter the 42,000-square-foot barn-like structure on a wide ramp built from the reclaimed Coney Island boardwalk, which was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. One side of the building is a living vertical farm the length of a football field which is harvested daily. Inside, a self-guided tour of interactive kiosks features videos of farmers, chef activists, research scientists and policy makers all speaking to the Expo’s theme of how it’s going to be possible to safely feed a population of 9 billion in the year 2050.

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Milan Southern Agricultural Park

During the Milan Expo 2015 the attention will be mainly focused on the Milan Southern Agricultural Park (Parco Agricolo Sud Milano), the “park of Expo 2015”, featuring 47 thousand hectares and representing one of the biggest areas aimed at feeding itself and the planet. An amazing space that coverss almost fifty per cent of the provincial area around Milan where historical farms, agricultural productions, natural, cultural and environmental resources are gathered and they might become the Biosphere’s Reserve. That means being awarded with the International praise from UNESCO for the keeping and protection of the environment within the program “Man and Biosphere”.

USA rocks Expo Milano 2015.

A Taste of Plastic

A recent study found that people ingest as many as 11,000 plastic particles per year in their food, and that those who eat a lot of seafood may be consuming much more than that.
Orion Magazine writer Jourdan Imani Keith is a playwright, naturalist, educator, and storyteller whose work blends the textures of political, personal and natural landscapes to offer voices from the margins of American lives. In the latest issue of Orion Magazine she gives a personal view about ingesting particles of man-made items in seafood:

My tongue has not yet been able to discern cosmetics in my curried mussels or plastic pearls in my oysters, but in 2013 researchers in Belgium at Ghent University found that microplastics are present in food consumed by humans. The study showed that some Europeans eat as many as eleven thousand plastic particles per year. Coastal Salish tribes, Asians, and Asian Pacific Islanders in Washington State, and all who eat lots of fish and seafood, like I do, may also be consuming more microplastics than others. The potential risks for human health have not been studied. We don’t tend to think of plastics as part of our diet, but by the time they make it to our plates, it’s hard to say they haven’t become part of our food web.

A Taste of Plastic

Waterloo, Louisiana: An Open Letter to New Orleans – Antigravity Magazine

The published letter linked below was written by one of our region’s most innovative direct marketing bakers, and (obviously) one with a great deal of sensitivity and wisdom. Graison has struggled with getting the ends to meet in his tiny business (even while he is unquestionably the region’s preeminent bread baker), much less in it pulling him to the place he dreams his business should be.
He and I have talked a few times about the lack of support for small producers in our region and I can assure you that he is ready to talk with or work with anyone willing to further the needs of he and his peers, but to little avail.
I recommend that people read his essay and also read between the lines of what would drive a full-time baker to spend his time writing and publishing this. If you want my response now, it is because he knows what is at stake is his entire future and the future of the healthy food revolution that may never reach maturity unless we deal with the issues that small businesses face everyday: the lack of infrastructure support, duplicative regulations, half-hearted allegiance to local ingredient sourcing among shoppers, refusal by many (most?) to address vital environmental concerns in food work, commodity-type products taking most of the shelf space-if and when local is even invited, the lack of skilled workers available, necessary policy changes not handled by organizers of food initiatives and so on.
So ask yourself-are you doing everything you can as often as you can for your anchor vendors?
Waterloo, Louisiana: An Open Letter to New Orleans – Antigravity Magazine.

The Law of Seeds

The Law of Seeds” is a Bill of Rights for seeds, created by Beth Grossman. She scribed these rights with a quill pen on eleven vintage seed bags that are also painted with images of the stages of germinating corn from seed to mature plant. This traveling art exhibit evokes an appreciation of the wonders of seeds and the importance of protecting this precious source of our food chain. Brisbane, CA was the first U.S. city to adopt this Law of Seeds as a Proclamation. As the exhibit travels, the artist hopes to encourage other cities to develop, adopt and enforce rights of nature.

Organic Farmers Object to Whole Foods Rating System

Matt Rogers, associate global produce coordinator at Whole Foods, said the program was an attempt to help consumers make choices, and he noted that by forbidding some if not all pesticides and awarding points for conservation and reduced water use, Whole Foods is raising the bar for conventional suppliers and inching them closer to organic standards.

“Organic is an incredibly deep standard, and at Whole Foods we celebrate that in very consistent, long-term ways,” said Mr. Rogers, who worked for more than three years to put the program together. “But the organic standard does not cover water, waste, energy, farmworker welfare, and all of these topics are really important, too.”

That means, however, the conventionally grown produce may end up with a higher rating. For instance, photos taken at a Whole Foods store in Capitola, Calif., and included with the farmers’ letter show a heap of conventionally grown asparagus from Mexico that is rated “best” for $4.99. Yet another photo, taken at a Whole Foods some 30 miles north in Cupertino, shows a pile of organic asparagus from Durst Organic Growers that is rated “good,” the lowest Responsibly Grown rating, for $7.99.

“This program is our reaction to a fast-moving marketplace that gives us an opportunity to engage on these issues with our supply chain in a way we haven’t been able to before,” Mr. Rogers said.

Supply chain? oh he means farmers and harvesters.

Organic Farmers Object to Whole Foods Rating System – NYTimes.com.