The Potato Park of Peru



 From David Bollier
Patterns of Commoning

Drive an hour northeast from Cusco, Peru, and you will encounter some beautiful high mountain lakes, historic Inca ruins, and the richest diversity of potatoes on the planet. Approximately 2,300 of the 4,000 known potato varieties in the world are grown here, making it one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. The 7,000 Quechua people who live on this high-altitude Sacred Valley of the Incas have, with their ancestors, cultivated and improved Andean potatoes for seven millennia. That impressive record stems from a holistic way of life that blends deep spiritual traditions and cultural values with cultivation techniques, barter and exchange practices and ecological stewardship.

Potatoes are, of course, a central element of Quechua culture. When a reporter from Gourmet magazine visited the region, she was amazed to discover that “each potato, it seemed, had its own special or ceremonial use: There were potatoes to eat at baptisms; potatoes, like the bride potato, for weddings; and others for funerals. Potatoes like the red moro boli were high in antioxidants, while potatoes such as the ttalaco – a long, banana-shaped tuber – must be either soaked and steamed or made into a potato alcohol.”

Some potatoes must be grown on steep slopes above 13,000 feet. Some can be grown nearly anywhere. It is not uncommon for a single farmer’s field to produce hundreds of different varieties, many of them quite rare.

A Good Farmer is a Craftsman of the Highest Order…


The Farm-to-Street Revolution Is Almost Here…

f 5

From Modern Farmer

They might deal in gourmet grilled cheeses, Korean-Mexican fusion and chocolate-covered bacon, but rare is the food truck that also traffics in food justice.

Luckily, Cassandria Campbell and Jackson Renshaw have added “activism” to the chalkboard menu. The founders of Boston-based Fresh Food Generation aim to bring culturally appropriate, sustainable meals to lower-income areas of the city that typically lack for healthy food options.

The partnership was written in the adolescent stars. The duo met as high schoolers at The Food Project, a local nonprofit that brings together teens from diverse backgrounds to assist in sustainable food production. For both, it was a life-altering experience.

The mission of Fresh Food Generation is to bring culturally appropriate, sustainable meals to lower-income areas of the city.

Chef Blaine Wetzel’s Quest to Become the Ultimate Locavore…

From Outside

Chef Blaine Wetzel has one rule for his 18-course dinners at Washington’s remote Willows Inn. Whether it’s geoduck or fried moss, everything is foraged, fished, or farmed on a nine-square-mile patch of rocky coast.

In the winter of 2010, Riley Starks was in trouble. A fisherman and organic farmer, the 59-year-old owned a small inn on Washington State’s Lummi Island, a nine-mile ridge of fir and hemlock rising out of the sea near the Canadian border, with a year-round population of 964 weathered souls. Starks and his wife had bought the eight-room Willows Inn in 2001, and for a while they lived out their fantasy. Starks supplied fish and veggies to the restaurant, while his wife handled the inn and the cooking. But the economic downturn had clobbered both the inn and their marriage. His wife left in 2009, and Starks was forced to place an ad for a chef on Craigslist. He wasn’t looking for anything special, just a warm body to keep the place alive, and that was largely what he got among the 25 responses. Most were from restaurant-crazed Seattle, as he’d expected, but one reply jumped out at him. It was from Copenhagen, Denmark.

10 Bay Area Farmers and Food Crafters to Follow…


Behind every item at the farmers market is a story, and social media brings that story to light. Farmers and food crafters are using Instagram to share photos that take eaters behind the scenes, making an art not only of putting food on the table, but also of showing us the beauty, magic, and hard work in getting it there.

“Our business has so many different interesting facets, even beyond what happens inside our coffee bar and roastery,” says Ashton Goggans of Sightglass Coffee. “We’re in the mountains of Latin America and East Africa, sourcing coffee from these incredibly hard-working producers, meeting their families, and walking their farms. Our Instagram feed gives us the opportunity to tell the story of all of those relationships, and to broaden people’s understanding of what a specialty coffee company does.”

Sonoma Cropmobster: Connecting the Dots Between Farms, Food Waste and Hunger…


From Shareable

Perched along the rolling hills of Coastal Sonoma County, Bloomfield Farms spreads out across 50 acres, close to 40 of which are thick with kale, chard, heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, potatoes and more. The foggy gray skies that often hang over this part of the county on summer mornings have not deterred several families from venturing out to the farm where they make their way down rows of greens, picking their own vegetables as a part of the “U Pick” program. Back at the farm stand, several more gather for a Sunday pay-what-you-can brunch. A musician strums his guitar, friends and strangers alike gather around community tables and the sun breaks through the clouds for an idyllic late summer treat.

It’s not just the screaming deals through Bloomfield’s pick-your-own program, the local, organic meal or the ambiance on these laid-back Sundays that have given Bloomfield Farms a prominent place on the map in the North Bay’s tight-knit organic farming community. A new food gleaning and supply-sharing program called Cropmobster, spearheaded by Bloomfield’s General Manager Nick Papadopolous, has created simple and effective solutions to address food waste and hunger and increase farmer visibility in a decentralized, community-based way. And it’s spreading like wildfire.

“It started in March,” says Papadopolous. “Standing in our vegetable cooler on a Sunday night it finally clicked that, wow, there is a lot of food left at the end of the week that should go to people.”

Swanton Berry Farm: Bringing Justice to the Table…


Swanton Berry Farm has been a leader in the sustainable food movement for more than 30 years, pushing boundaries for environmental stewardship as well as social justice. Not only were they the first organic strawberry farm in California, but they were also the first organic farm to sign a contract with the United Farm Workers, in 1998.

This month, Swanton Berry Farm became one of four farms in the United States to receive the Agricultural Justice Project’s (AJP) Food Justice Certification label, which sets rigorous standards for respectful treatment of farmworkers, living wages, safe working conditions, and collective bargaining rights. This certification has been a long time in the works for Swanton, and the farm has worked closely with AJP to help them develop their protocols.

“Farmer Jim Cochran is deeply committed to social justice, for the people who work on his own farm and on all farms,” says AJP co-founder Elizabeth Henderson. “He has helped the Agricultural Justice Project by allowing his farm to serve as a guinea pig while we developed our program.”

We spoke with Swanton co-owner Jim Cochran to learn more about this new certification and the future of the domestic fair trade movement.

Making Sauerkraut is Easy…


Now available from Mulligan Books and Seeds: These Gorgeous, Locally Made, Water Seal Ceramic Crocks (with weights) can be used to pickle almost anything: eggs, pickles, kimchi, and more. This is real food, with all the bacteria and enzymes our bodies need. These crocks are one gallon, and two heads of cabbage can be made in one batch. Color choices. $75.


Cobb Mountain

Sandor Ellix Katz, the author of Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods (Chelsea Green, 2003) has earned the nickname “Sandorkraut” for his love of sauerkraut. This is Sandorkaut’s easy sauerkraut recipe.

Timeframe: 3-4 weeks minimum, better if left to ferment

Special Equipment:
Ceramic crock with weights

Ingredients (for 1 gallon):
• 5 pounds cabbage • 3 tablespoons sea salt

1. Chop or grate cabbage, finely or coarsely, with or without hearts, however you like it. Place cabbage in a large bowl as you chop it.

2. Sprinkle salt on the cabbage as you go. The salt pulls water out of the cabbage (through osmosis), and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting. The salt also has the effect of keeping the cabbage crunchy, by inhibiting organisms and enzymes that soften it. 3 tablespoons of salt is a rough guideline for 5 pounds of cabbage.

3. Add other vegetables if you like. Grate carrots for a coleslaw-like kraut. Other vegetables you can add include onions, garlic, seaweed, greens, Brussels sprouts, small whole heads of cabbage, turnips, beets, and burdock roots. You can also add fruits (apples, whole or sliced, are classic), and herbs and spices (caraway seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds, and juniper berries are classic, but anything you like will work). Experiment.

Prop 37: Monsanto’s Lies and the GMO Labeling Battle…

Beyond Chron

You may have never heard of Henry I. Miller, but right now he is attempting to determine the future of food in this country. And he has enormous financial backing.

Mr. Miller is the primary face and voice of the “No on Prop 37” campaign in California. At this very moment, Monsanto and other pesticide companies are spending more than $1 million a day to convince California voters that it’s not in their best interest to know whether the food they eat is genetically engineered. And Henry I. Miller is their guy.

If you live in California today, he’s hard to miss. You see him in TV ads, hear him in radio spots, and his face is all over the expensive fliers that keep showing up uninvited in your mail box. Initially, the ads presented Miller as a Stanford doctor. But he isn’t. He’s a research fellow at a conservative think tank (the Hoover Institute) that has offices on the Stanford campus. When this deceptive tactic came to light, the ads were pulled and then redone. But they still feature Miller trying to convince the public that Prop 37 “makes no sense,” and that it’s a “food-labeling scheme written by trial lawyers who hope for a windfall if it becomes law.”

Actually, Prop 37 makes all the sense in the world if you want to know what’s in the food you eat. It was written by public health advocates, and provides no economic incentives for filing lawsuits.

Who, then, is Henry I. Miller, and why should we believe him when he tells us that genetically engineered foods are perfectly safe?

Does it matter that this same Henry Miller is an ardent proponent of DDT and other toxic pesticides? Does it matter that the “No on Prop 37” ads are primarily funded by pesticide companies, the very same companies that told us DDT and Agent Orange were safe?

I find it hard to avoid the impression that Henry Miller is a premier corporate flack.