Healthy Food, Local Food

Professor Emeritus, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO – USA

Local foods have replaced organic foods as the most dynamic sector of the retail food market. Sales of local foods grew from $4 billion in 2002 to $5 billion in 2007 and are projected to reach $11 billion by 2011.[i] Organic food sales are still far larger, more than $20 billion, but the rate of growth in organic food sales seems to be slowing while local food sales are accelerating.  For many people, local has become more important than organic. In fact, the word “locavore” was chosen by the New Oxford American Dictionary as their 2007 “word of the year.” The term was first associated with the “100-mile diet,” but is described more generally as someone who shows a strong preference for foods that are locally grown, seasonally available, and produced without unnecessary additives or preservatives.[ii]

The local foods movement represents the latest phase in the decades-old evolution toward a new sustainable food system.

Goats, Chicken Yurts, and Olive Trees


Tour the century-old organic Chaffin Family Orchards where even the animals are “farm hands.”

Visit chickens in their egg-mobile, scratching for bugs and pooping fertilizer in the heirloom stone-fruit orchards.

Goats chomp off low branches from the olive trees, so no fuel or human labor is needed.

This certified predator-friendly enterprise includes 200 acres of olive trees plus various fruit and nut trees; sheep, goats, broiler and egg-laying chickens.

They distribute only locally through fruit and meat CSAs (community-supported agriculture), growers markets and a farmstand, providing fresh foods that burst with flavor and nuance.

Take Action! Feinstein Declares War on Salmon and Fishing Jobs

Thanks to Rosalind Peterson, Redwood Valley

Call Senator Dianne Feinstein today to stop her from dismantling the Endangered Species Act’s (ESA) basic protections for California’s endangered chinook (also known as king) salmon.

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council has just released numbers showing California’s once abundant salmon runs came in at a new all time record low in 2009.

As a result, regulators closed all ocean fishing of chinook salmon in California and most of Oregon in 2008 and 2009 to save the salmon.

Senator Feinstein is proposing an amendment to a federal jobs stimulus bill that, in effect, would suspend rules that protect salmon from being killed by the giant diversion pumps in the San Francisco-San Joaquin Delta and would pump more water from the estuary.

Feinstein claims that this amendment will bring jobs to California.  But, the closure of the western salmon fisheries has cost 23,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in the California economy.

Why Aren’t Americans Scared of GMOs?


After reports last week that India halted plans to introduce a genetically modified eggplant to the market because of an outcry from environmental groups and the general public, it begs to question why in the US genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are so common. In fact, more than 9 out of 10 soybean seeds are not only genetically modified, but come from Monsanto. It’s just a little lower for corn. It makes you wonder why Americans aren’t a little more skeptical, if not completely frightened of the fate of our food system.

Last week the Times of India reported that Jairam Ramesh, the country’s environment minister, said there is no clear consensus among scientists on the safety of a genetically modified eggplant and, therefore, halted its release. And Europe is just as skeptical. The European Parliament adopted the world’s strictest and most comprehensive rules on the labeling of GMOs. Egypt also has strict rules on GMOs. Collin wrote extensively about GMOS around the world. But here in the US, the picture is a little different. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a bill which specifies that the US must fund GMOs and biotechnology. Even without this additional push in the wrong direction, we have already ventured a long way down a GMO road.

A Round-up of What’s Happening out in the World of Transition

Transition Culture

We haven’t done one of these for a while, so here, thanks to the marvel that is Google Alerts, is a taste of some of things underway out there in Transition-land.  For more regular and formal updates you can subscribe to Transition Network News, but these irregular digests offer a more informal and random insight into what you are up to.  Congratulations to Transition Horncastle for being selected to compete in the British Gas Green Streets project, which could win them £100,000 to spend on a local environmental project if they are the best at achieving the Green Streets project’s objectives. And well done TT West Kirby for being awarded funds for their Youth Inclusion Project. Congratulations also to TT Kingston for their Green Guardian award and TN’s Shaun Chamberlin’s Green Champion award, both sponsored by the Kingston Guardian newspaper and the local council.

In the US, towns are rushing to make the Transition to low-carbon communities including TT Berea, which has started a community campaign of ‘50×25’ to reduce its energy use by 50%, and also get 50% of its food and energy from local sources, all by 2025…and Transition Reno kicks off with action on awareness raising. Also in the US, there’s a Transition Farm (not official) in North Carolina… and TT Charlotte together with the Energy Committees of Charlotte and Shelbourne are working with Efficiency Vermont to bring a new energy-saving program to local residents. And from Canada, we have a little movie all about some of the wonderful activities that Transition groups in Calgary are up to.

A Citizens Panel to Restructure County Government NOW

Redwood Valley

To My Fellow Concerned Citizens:

Now is a the perfect opportunity to seize the initiative.  The CEO system has failed us. The CEO arrangement tends to accumulate too much power in too few hands, leaving the Board of Supervisors disconnected from the mechanics of day to day governance. The costs of the CEO system are exorbitant when the past two CEOs, Ball and Mitchell immediately added additional staff at high salaries. They placed another layer of administration between Department heads and policy makers on the Board of Supervisors and made it more difficult for the Supervisors to determine what were the problems, where were departments under-performing, and finding out from the workers themselves how they felt changes, reforms and economies could best be made.

If the past is any guide to future performance, the BOS is likely to futz around for months before they recruit another CEO or decide to revert to the CAO structure that served the county for a much longer period. We recommend that a Citizens Panel be set up, independent of the Board of Supervisors, and selected by the citizens themselves to study all aspects of the question, hold public meetings to discuss their ideas and receive input, and prepare a report.within a few months recommending changes to the structure, if they determine they are necessary, and  suggesting a procedure  for finding a new  Chief of Government, whether CEO or CAO.

Grass-fed lamb — Which foods are you willing to pay top dollar for?


All the recent articles filled with tips on slashing your grocery bill are making me uneasy.

I am not opposed to most of the advice. In fact, I agree with it. Yes, we should shop mindfully, cook from scratch, and eschew convenience foods. This is true whether the economy is flush or tanking.

Let’s get reacquainted with these practical habits; let’s become better cooks.

What bothers me, though, is a certain tone. Underlying the lists of helpful hints, I detect a set of beliefs about food’s relative importance. Or unimportance.

One: We are like broken records, forever thinking that food ought to cost less. Are farmers’ markets really to be regarded as an occasional indulgence — as I have seen them characterized — when the fruits and vegetables for sale there are among the most nutrient-dense and healthful foods to be found?

Two: When the cost of living goes up, one of the first places we look to cut corners is on what we eat, to compromise on what we put into our bodies.

When we scale back, I fear that instead of practicing the peasant’s art of turning humble fare into a nice spread, we merely substitute poor-quality ingredients. This is a half-baked effort to eat the way we always have, but for less money… More at Culinate

A Mendo Meat Processing Plant?


After reading Michael Pollan’s books and researching the state of the meat industry (which is controlled by big ag corporations), I find I don’t like commercially processed meats. I was curious how best to eat free range chickens, eggs, grass fed cattle and bison and locally raised pork. In addition, I am interested in pushing for a strong local economy.

The first thought is food and how to support the farmers and ranchers locally. This is necessary if we want to build a true local economy. So I’ve been talking a lot to local cattle raisers, pig and chicken ranchers, the bison people out highway 20 and finding out this: That it is nearly impossible to find humanely raised and processed meat that has been processed locally, unless it has been done by a mobile butcher setup.

The food part of a local economy, to be strong, has to serve all the people locally, so any business that can help the ranchers and farmers raise food and provide jobs with an environmentally sound approach should be welcome.

It stands to reason that if we had a local meat processing plant in Mendocino county, then thousands of miles driven in trucks could be eliminated.

Globalization Is Killing the Globe: Return to Local Economies


Globalization is killing Europe, just as it’s already wiped out much of the American middle class.

Spain and Greece are facing immediate crises that many other European nations see on the near horizon: aging boomer workers are retiring with healthy benefit packages, but the younger workers who are paying for those benefits aren’t making anything close to the income (or, therefore, paying the taxes) that their parents did.

Globalists/corporatists/conservative “free market” and “flat earth” advocates say this is a great opportunity to cut benefits for the old folks (and for the young folks in the future), thus bringing the countries budgets back into balance, and this story is the main corporate media storyline.

But it overlooks the real issue (and the real solution): how globalization is killing these nations’ economies and what can be done about it.

From the days of Adam Smith, classical economics pointed out that manufacturing and extraction are the only two ways to “create wealth.”

“Wealth” is different from “income.” Wealth is value, which endures at least for some time. Income is simply compensation for work. If you wash my car for $10 and I mow your lawn for $10, we have a GDP of $20 and it looks like we both have income and economic activity. But no wealth has been created, just income.

Take Action! Comments to USDA on Genetically Modified Alfalfa


Just a few days left to comment on the release of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) preliminary decision is to allow GM alfalfa without any limitations or protections for farmers, consumers or the environment.

According to USDA, there is no evidence that consumers care about GM alfalfa. And, the agency dismisses the threat of GM contamination to farmers’ domestic and export markets and organic dairy and meat products.

Go to USDA’s website and tell USDA that it should not approve the release of GM alfalfa.

Take Action! Mendocino County: Demand Community Input On New Leadership! (Updated)


Let’s abolish the title and function of CEO. It should be Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) who is a servant of the citizens and reports to our elected Supervisors. Of course, the title means nothing if the CAO acts like a CEO, as has been the history in this county whatever the title.

We must also have a responsive CAO who will work with our local expertise in moving to alternative energy systems rather than spending millions on consultants from elsewhere.

[Update: And while we are at it, change Supervisor meetings to evenings at citizen’s convenience, instead of Supervisor’s convenience!]

How do we make this happen?

Your thoughts?

Mendocino County CEO Tom Mitchell Finally Resigns (Updated)

February 9, 2010

Honorable Board of Supervisors
of Mendocino
501 Low Gap Road

, CA 95482

Dear Madam Chair and Members of the Board of Supervisors:

After much deliberation and thought I have decided to resign from my position as Chief Executive Officer effective March 9, 2010. This was not an easy decision to make but it is one that I believe to be in the best interests of both the County and my family.  I wish all of you well and much success in your future endeavors particularly with a very difficult budget process that is ahead of you.  I would also like to state that I have thoroughly enjoyed working with all County Department Heads.  Their work and dedication to this County is to be commended.

I will be out of the office beginning tomorrow but will be available by phone to assist with any issues that may arise in my absence.   Carmel Angelo will be in charge of the office during this time.

Very truly yours,

Tom Mitchell

Wal-Mart Cuts Over 13,000 Of What It Calls Jobs


Retail giant Wal-Mart has announced in recent weeks that, effective immediately, it is cutting as many as 13,000 of what it somehow has the audacity to refer to as “jobs” from its corporate payroll.

According to Wal-Mart representatives, the, for lack of a better word, positions will be cut from the company’s underperforming Sam’s Club division. Analysts reported that Monday’s layoffs marked one of the largest so-called downsizings of what can hardly even be termed employment in the company’s history.

“Obviously, it is a sad day whenever we have to let go of any of the people we have dehumanized so thoroughly that we can barely muster the will to describe them as employees,” Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke told reporters. “However, this is a business, and we must do what we can to stay competitive while still paying our existing workforce what we actually refer to with a straight face as wages.”

Sources inside the company confirmed that roughly 1,200 people will be forced to leave what one might very charitably characterize as their careers in the neon-lit dungeon known as the membership recruitment office. In addition, another 10,000 worn husks of human beings will be relieved of what it literally induces pain to say are their job responsibilities handing out free in-store samples to customers.

“We tried to solve the problem by cutting what is hard for me in good conscience to even call benefits,” Duke said. “We even tried negotiating with what we would probably refer to as the workers’ union if, in fact, they even had such a thing. But ultimately, our only feasible option, financially, was to make what I’m going to just lie and call a very hard decision and let go some of the faceless drones that I condescendingly refer to in public as members of our ‘corporate family.'”

Marmalading you…

Energy Bulletin

[I just received a marmalade gift from one of our local beloved bons vivants. Here. I’m passing it on… -DS]

Introduction – Marmalade and the Gift Economy

Like April McGreger in her Grist article below, I’ve been experimenting with marmalade as a way to process the quantities of grapefruit and Mandarin oranges given me by friends. Marmalade is not that hard to make, as the Mad Scientist article shows. By following the suggestions of June Taylor, you can create batches that are of gourmet quality.

I suppose it’s hard to justify jams and marmalades from a strictly survival point of view. It does teach you to make the most of what you have on hand, and the result is so much better than what you can buy in the store. (I note that June Taylor can get $13 for an 8-ounce jar of marmalade. Maybe all that slicing and boiling.) Preserves make wonderful gifts.

From a community-building point of view, it’s a way to build the Gift economy

In the social sciences, a gift economy (or gift culture) is a society where valuable goods and services are regularly given without any explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards (i.e. no formal quid pro quo exists).[1] Ideally, simultaneous or recurring giving serves to circulate and redistribute valuables within the community. The organization of a gift economy stands in contrast to a barter economy or a market economy.

Last but not least, it’s a treat. There’s nothing on a cold winter morning like marmalade on toast with a cup of tea. Try it with yogurt, or just by itself as a dessert.

Some articles to whet your appetite here

Moo Milk

From MOO

After many months of organization and planning, Maine’s Own Organic Milk Company (MOOMilkCo) is a reality. The 10 organic dairy farms that were dropped by H.P. Hood have joined with Maine Farm Bureau and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) to form a special type of limited liability corporation.

Maine Farm Bureau and MOFGA put the project together with exceptional support from the Maine Department of Agriculture.

Production is expected to begin in late November. When the company is up and running, the milk will be  trucked by Schoppee Milk Transport to Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook, where it will be processed on an organic production line now being installed. It will be packaged in half-gallon paper cartons under the MOOMilkCo’s own label, which will include the use of Farm Bureau’s “Maine Produces” logo. The milk will be homogenized and pasteurized, not ultra-pasteurized, and sold in retail grocery stores in Maine and New Hampshire. It will be available in whole, two percent, one percent and skim. Cream, half&half, butter, yogurt, ice cream and other products may become part of the mix in the coming years. In the meantime, these byproducts will be organically certified and sold into the wholesale market.

Oakhurst Dairy and Crown O’ Maine Organic Cooperative will distribute the product. Hannaford, Associated Growers and a number of natural food stores have agreed to stock it, and sales negotiations are in process with Shaw’s and Wal-Mart.

Kale? Always eat organic

The average American child gets 5+ servings of pesticide residues in their food and water each day.

What’s on my food?

Take Action! Mendocino County Slaughterhouse Comments Requested


The Economic Development and Financing Corporation of Mendocino County (EDFC) is soliciting objective comments about their new report entitled “Meat Industry Capacity and Feasibility Study of the North Coast Region of California,” which is a preliminary examination of the feasibility of a meat-processing plant located in Mendocino County.

The report has recently been released and is available to the public. It is available for download online at the following locations:

Delusions of Finance: Where We are Headed

Here’s why

[The give and take in the comments  after the article, by informed experts, is also quite interesting. -DS]

Book Review: Bad Samaritans


The fundamental myth of the Milton/Thomas Friedman neoliberal cons is that in a “flat world” everybody is not only able to compete with everybody else freely, but should be required to. It sounds nice. America trades with – and competes with trade with and for – the European Union. France against Germany. England against Australia.

But wait a minute. In such a “free” trade competition, who will win when the match-up is Canada versus the Solomon Islands? Germany versus Bulgaria? Zimbabwe versus Italy?

There are two glaringly obvious flaws in the so-called “free trade” theories expounded by neoliberal philosophers like Friedrich Von Hayek and Milton Friedman, and promoted relentlessly in the popular press by (very wealthy) hucksters like Thomas Friedman.

First, “infant” economies – countries that are only beginning to get on their feet – cannot “compete” with “mature” economies. They really only have two choices – lose to their more mature competitors and stand on the hungry and cold outside of the world of trade (as we see with much of Africa), or be colonized and exploited by the dominant corporate forces within the mature economies (as we see with Shell Oil and Nigeria, or historically with the “banana republics” of Central and South America and Asia and, literally, the banana corporations).

Why Small Organic Farming Is Indeed Radical (and Beautiful)

Four Season Farm

The radical idea behind by organic agriculture is a change in focus.

[This post was adapted from an address given at the recent Eco-Farm conference in California.]

When a friend told me of two of the proposed discussion topics for a major agricultural conference — “What is so radical about radical agriculture?” and “Is small the only beautiful?” — I told him that I thought both questions had the same answer. Let me see if I can explain.

The radical idea behind organic agriculture is a change in focus. The new focus is on the quality of the crops grown and their suitability for human nutrition. That is a change from the more common focus on growing as much quantity as possible and using whatever chemical techniques contribute to increasing that quantity.

None of the non-chemical techniques associated with organic farming are radical or new. Compost, crop rotations, green manures and so forth are age-old agricultural practices. What is radical is the belief that these time-proven “natural” techniques produce food that is more nourishing for people and livestock than food grown with chemicals. What is radical is successfully pursuing that “unscientific” belief against the counter-propaganda and huge commercial power of the agrochemical industry.

The initiators of this new focus were a few perceptive old farmers from the 1930s and ‘40s who had not been taken in by commercial pressures and saw clearly the flaws of chemical agriculture. The popularizers of the new focus were the young idealists of the 1960s and 70s who were attracted to the idea of food production based on non-industrial systems, even though most of them had no previous connection to agriculture.

Author Michael Pollan on eating ‘real food’ in moderation

From JOANNE CAMAS; photo by Alia Malley

It can be complicated to simplify things, but sometimes we need to be reminded of the essentials. Michael Pollan’s done just that with his new book, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual”. After researching “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” (2006) and “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” (2008), Pollan came to an important realization: “The deeper I delved into the confused and confusing thicket of nutritional science, sorting through long-running fats versus carb wars, the fiber skirmishes and the raging dietary supplement debates, the simpler the picture gradually became,” he writes in “Food Rules.”

The simple picture, he says, can be distilled into two facts that will lead to a sensible diet: First, the Western diet leads to Western diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. “Four of the top ten killers in America are chronic diseases that can be linked to this diet,” Pollan claims. Second, people throughout the world who eat a range of traditional diets, even those heavy in fats, carbohydrates, or protein, don’t suffer from these diseases. Thankfully, Pollan offers a third fact derived from these two: If we get away from the Western diet, we can see dramatic improvements in our health and reduce the risk of chronic diet-related diseases.

Epicurious spoke with Pollan about “Food Rules” and how its prescription for eating “real food” in moderation and sidestepping the Western diet developed naturally from the author’s mantra in his “In Defense of Food”: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Epicurious: If “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” is an eater’s manifesto, did you write “Food Rules” as a guide to putting the manifesto into practice?

The World Needs Genetically Modified Foods?

From GM Watch

10 reasons why we don’t need GM foods

If you want to print this article as an A4 leaflet, download a PDF.

With the cost of food recently skyrocketing – hitting not just shoppers but the poor and hungry in the developing world – genetically modified (GM) foods are once again being promoted as the way to feed the world. But this is little short of a confidence trick. Far from needing more GM foods, there are urgent reasons why we need to ban them altogether.

1. GM foods won’t solve the food crisis

A 2008 World Bank report concluded that increased biofuel production is the major cause of the increase in food prices.[1] GM giant Monsanto has been at the heart of the lobbying for biofuels (crops grown for fuel rather than food) — while profiting enormously from the resulting food crisis and using it as a PR opportunity to promote GM foods!

“The climate crisis was used to boost biofuels, helping to create the food crisis; and now the food crisis is being used to revive the fortunes of the GM industry.” — Daniel Howden, Africa correspondent of The Independent[2]

“The cynic in me thinks that they’re just using the current food crisis and the fuel crisis as a springboard to push GM crops back on to the public agenda. I understand why they’re doing it, but the danger is that if they’re making these claims about GM crops solving the problem of drought or feeding the world, that’s bullshit.” – Prof Denis Murphy, head of biotechnology at the University of Glamorgan in Wales[3]

Book Review: Food Security for the Faint of Heart

The Ethicurean

The potential for disaster surrounds us every day. The aftershocks of the earthquake in Haiti may seem too big for many Americans to grasp, but we too should have a plan for possible local emergencies such as severe storms that wipe out our power supply for days, earthquakes, long-term illness, or unforeseen personal economic crises. Because when something catastrophic does occur, food security becomes critical: how can you keep yourself and your family from going hungry when hard times hit?

Robin Wheeler explores that question in her book “Food Security for the Faint of Heart,” which emphasizes the need to bring control of our food supply back home through gardening, preserving food, stocking up on basics, supporting local growers and community organizations, and sharing with others when disaster strikes. Many of her reasons for encouraging people to develop this home-grown food security are familiar — the bumpy effects of the global economic crisis, the need to wean oneself from dependence on fossil fuels, and the desire to avoid GMOs and pesticides. She also stresses, however, the community-building aspects of keeping money local and becoming “a new community asset” through sharing skills and resources.

Less than a hundred years ago, Wheeler points out, maintaining home gardens, preserving food, and keeping a full pantry used to be merely common-sense planning, not tarred with the damning label of “stockpiling.” Homes of the time were built with “that wondrous space” — whether a pantry closet or a basement room or a root cellar — “where you just fling a door open and rows of cans and jars shine out at you.” 

Rural Matters – Local Food

Redwood Valley

From the Center for Rural Affairs/Blog for Rural America:
Addressing All the Components of Local Food
by Steph Larsen

These days it seems the most popular person to be in the food system is the “local farmer”. Farmers markets are popping up everywhere, and their size and popularity grow all the time. Local food is trendy – even the First Family is in on it.

But as anyone who has ever raised grain or livestock can tell you, the farmer is not the only person in the chain of players from her farm to your fork. In addition to producers, your food chain includes processors, distributors or transporters, and retailers.

In other words, to have a truly local food system, we also need local butchers, bakers and millers, local truck drivers, local grocers, and a community that supports them in all their efforts.

In the world of farm and food policy, we’ve paid a lot of attention to production end of the food system. It’s an obvious place to start. We have programs within the Farm Bill to develop new or “beginning” farmers, help them secure loans and down payments, and transition to organic agriculture. But most products aren’t made to eat directly out of the field. Even salad greens or apples, things we typically eat raw and straight from the field, must be washed and sorted before your local farmer will sell them.

As Tom Philpott pointed out in early November, the infrastructure for small-scale processing is woefully inadequate, having suffered decades of atrophy – to the point where an otherwise profitable farmer can be driven out of business because she has no where to take her pigs for slaughter, her grain to be milled or her tomatoes to be “sauced”.

Small-scale, certified community kitchens, like this one in Montana or this one in Tennessee, are beginning to fill some of this need. There are a few mobile slaughter facilities gaining traction, but not enough to meet demand and too new to measure their long term viability. Not many community colleges offer classes on how to humanely kill and butcher an animal anymore.

Listening to Benj


This is something for us Seniors. You young’uns best move on to something else because you ain’t gonna be interested in this at all. Duke Ellington? Roy Orbison? Louis Armstrong? Frankie Lymon? Janis Joplin? Albert Ammons? Like I said, move along now.

Geezers! Ever wish you had your own personal Disk Jockey? I don’t mean going online and programming your own music channels. I mean, having someone local you know, play the music you love, interspersed with just the right amount of intelligent bits and pieces about the music and the musicians you remember, told by someone who really, really loves the music. Benj Thomas puts his shows together in themes and sequences in such a way that it means something and is really fun to listen to whether you want to be engaged with it, or just want something in the background while you’re doing other things. It’s the difference between a cup of coffee and a lattè.

Here’s the thing. You can tune in each Saturday afternoon at 4pm for a couple of hours, but here’s something very cool. Sid Cooperrider has archived all of the shows on KMEC. You can go here, click on one of Benj’s shows, and it will keep playing all the way through to the last one recorded just this past Saturday. Hours and hours, over two years of weekly 2-hour programs, are there to listen to.

Most any time you walk into Mulligan Books, that’s what you’re going to hear. Benj music. It’s the best music ever created. Period.