Monday, August 31, 2009

Exciting Government memo about local food systems

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan just sent out a memo discussing “harnessing USDA rural development programs to support local and regional food systems,” which goes beyond fantasies and straight to how this system will be created and funded. Then she starts sounding a bit like the Northfield community kitchen group. She writes:

Imagine an NGO receiving USDA grant money to construct a community kitchen where farmers drop off produce and families join cooking classes that teach about healthy eating while everyone prepares fresh nutritious meals to bring home…Imagine a community using USDA money to construct an open-sided structure to house a farmers market…Imagine a school using USDA loan money to set up cold storage as part of a larger effort to retrofit the school cafeteria to buy produce directly from farmers and return cooking capacity for school lunch…Imagine…

Friday, May 29, 2009


There's a new garden on campus. Here's what people think:

The Admissions Office made a great video and took some more great garden action shots.


It was big, it was bold, it was beautiful. 

Here's what the Carletonian had to say. We'll be in touch soon with our thoughts.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Future of Food

Check out this 3-part interview series with Vandana Shiva:

The Future of Food

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fair Food Across Borders

Last Friday, Melody Gonzalez from Fair Food Across Borders joined Food Truth for a powerful potluck presentation about conditions for farmworkers in northern Mexico, and related issues in the United States. Many Food Truth members and Bon Appetit manager Debi Wright attended in support of this critical issue. At a time when the food movement is getting schwanky press as Michelle Obama plants a vegetable garden and "organic" and "local" have moved beyond buzzwords, Food Truth was interesting in pursuing it's name---the truth of how our food system is operating, which includes the details that are too often hidden or unpublicized.

Melody showed the film, Paying the Price: Migrant Workers in the Toxic Fields of Sinaloa, which follows a group of families from their homes in southern Mexico, through their 30+ hour bus ride to northern Mexico where they (the whole family, small children included) work on a gigantic industrial farm, risking their health because of toxic pesticide fumigation, long hours, and poor access to adequate nutrition or education. and continued with a discussion. Gonzalez highlighted the fact that Mexican families are not just immigrating to the US to find work, rather, there are great amount of internal migration within the country as families seek work. Along with the devastating conditions that the workers and their children face in the fields, I was most struck by the landscape of the farm in Sinaloa---we may think Iowa and even the land surrounding Carleton are monocrop agribusiness, but at least there are windbreaks here and there, a handful of trees dotting the horizon. There was nothing but crops in the images of the farms of Sinaloa, miles and miles forever into the distance.

Representatives from Fair Food Twin Cities joined Melody, and Food Truth will be looking to work with them on actions and a longer-running, recently announced Student-Farmworker Alliance campaign called Dining with Dignity, calling college and university students to stand in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers as they pressure Aramark, Sodexo and Compass food service providers to purchase tomatoes harvested in fair conditions, for a fair price.

Melody Gonzalez's speaking tour is a sort of kick-off for Fair Food Across Borders, which is aiming to build international solidarity around making visible the human rights abuses suffered by migrant farmworkers in Mexican agribusiness camps. We look forward to partnering with the organization in their upcoming awareness raising and campaigns.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Sense of Wonder: 2 interviews with Rachel Carson

It would be so cool to show this film at Carleton...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Grow Girl! Women in Agriculture

On February 18, Northfield and Carleton Food Truth women gathered after dinner for a dessert potluck and discussion on women and agriculture. Students shared homemade fudge bars while community organizers, cooks, farmers, and mothers shared their views and experiences. What are the joys of farming as a woman? What are the challenges? What would you pass down to the next generation of farmers?

Women farmers are not so different from their male counterparts. They are strong farmers and hold a wealth of food and farm wisdom. These women are passionate about nourishing those around them and passionate about food. They describe nourishment from ‘hands in the soil to plate’ as a most rewarding life work.

The farming world, like the larger society, is not free of gender biases. Women have historically been less acknowledged and visible than men farmers. Further challenges have resulted from the growth of farm size in the United States because the importance of agricultural machinery has grown and continues to be engineered to fit men.

 Farming does not have to require big and expensive machinery. Rae Rusnak, widow, mother, and farmer of L&R Poultry and Produce, stated at the Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association Annual Conference (2/21/08) that people of all shapes and forms can farm. It is true – different people will think about and approach farming differently but in the end, anyone can grow food and grow it well. Indeed, woman farmers are becoming prominent movers in our country’s agricultural revolution. The evening gathering ended with activism. We collectively wrote a letter, urging Michelle Obama, to make the creation of a more sustainable food system and White House Victory Garden a priority. This will signal our country’s potential to grow locally and change our food policy.

 The evening was wonderful because it was intergenerational, a passing on insight from generation to generation, from woman to woman, from seasoned to aspiring farmer. Oral culture has and will always be a part of agriculture – it is the best way to capture the nuances and experiences that come along with working and living on the land. It also creates the sense of community that makes farming both an individual effort and collective enterprise.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Grow girl: Women in Agriculture Discussion

"It keeps coming back to women"
"They're growing food everywhere, all over the world, with their babies on their backs"
"we want to raise EVERYBODY up"

"I feel detached every day from what's grounded in the earth--it's important for us to get our hands back into the ground"
"we're raising the bar"
"we're not going to be afraid, because it's OUR food."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tell Mars and Hershey's to sign the Non-GM Beet Sugar Registry

The People's Garden

Oh. So. Exciting.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

the organic revolution in campus dining

this is a piece that i posted that's about food truth and our food revolution on the 'organic on the green' website 


Applications are now available to spend your summer outdoors in beautiful Northfield, growing and tending bounteous plots of veggies. 

Applications available on the Shrinking Footprints blog. 

And worry not! If you can't be in Northfield, there are still oh-so-many farms to work on. Check out:

Friday, February 6, 2009

Seed Peace

As a follow-up to the post below, this looks like a pretty amazing organization, working for peace in the Middle East through restoring heirloom varieties and growing practices:

And check out this article about them at the Rodale Institute.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009

All the casualties of conflict

In tune with all the recent discussion on campus of Israel/Palestine and specifically the recent and ongoing conflict in Gaza, an noteworthy piece from The Guardian:

Gaza desperately short of food after Israel destroys farmland

Officials warn of 'destruction of all means of life' after the three-week conflict leaves agriculture in the region in ruins

Gaza's 1.5 million people are facing a food crisis as a result of the destruction of great areas of farmland during the Israeli invasion.

According to the World Food Programme, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and Palestinian officials, between 35% and 60% of the agriculture industry has been wrecked by the three-week Israeli attack, which followed two years of economic siege.

Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, the World Food Programme's country director, said: "We are hearing that 60% of the land in the north - where the farming was most intensive - may not be exploitable again. It looks to me like a disaster. It is not just farmland, but poultry as well.

"When we have given a food ration in Gaza, it was never a full ration but to complement the diet. Now it is going to be almost impossible for Gaza to produce the food it needs for the next six to eight months, assuming that the agriculture can be rehabilitated. We will give people a full ration."

The FAO estimates that 13,000 families who depend directly on herding, farming and fishing have suffered significant damage. "Before the blockade and the attack," said Ahmad Sourani, director of the Agricultural Development Association of Gaza, which runs programmes with charities such as Britain's Christian Aid, "Gaza produced half of its own food. Now that has declined by 25%. In addition, a quarter of the population depends on agriculture for income. What we have seen in large areas of farmland is the destruction of all means of life.

"We have seen a creeping process of farmers being forced out of the buffer zone around Gaza's border. Before 2000 we could approach and farm within 50m of the fence. After Israel's evacuation of the settlements in 2005, the Israeli army imposed a buffer of 300m. Although it is elastic, now there are areas, depending on the situation, where farmers cannot reach their farms in safety within an area of over a kilometre. It is indirect confiscation by fear. My fear is that, if it remains, it will become de facto. Bear in mind that 30% of Gaza's most productive land is within that buffer zone."

The wholesale destruction of farms, greenhouses, dairy parlours, livestock, chicken coops and orchards has damaged food production, which was already hit by the blockade.

Buildings heavily damaged during Israel's Operation Cast Lead included much of its agricultural infrastructure. The Ministry of Agriculture was targeted, the agriculture faculty at al-Azhar university in Beit Hanoun largely destroyed, and the offices of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees in Zaitoun - which provides cheap food for the poor - ransacked and vandalised by soldiers who left abusive graffiti.

Although international and local officials are still gathering figures, they believe that scores, perhaps hundreds, of wells and water sources have been damaged and several hundred greenhouses have been levelled, as well as severe damage inflicted on 60,000-75,000 dunums of Gaza's 175,000 dunums (44,000 acres) of farmable land.

As well as the physical damage done by Israeli bulldozers, bombing and shelling, land has been contaminated by munitions, including white phosphorous, burst sewerage pipes, animal carcasses and even asbestos used in roofing. In many places, the damage is extreme. In Jabal al-Rayas, once a thriving farming community, every building has been knocked down, and even the cattle killed and left to lie rotting in the fields.

In al-Atatra, Ahmad Hassan, 65, the overseer of an orchard that once had hundreds of lemon and orange trees, surveyed an area flattened by bulldozers. "This was the well," he said, showing a pile of bulldozed concrete. "We can clear the ground in two weeks. Then what? The well is gone. The pump has been destroyed. And where will the trees come from to replant the land?"

Van Nieuwenhuyse said: "Already, the price of meat has tripled since the Israeli operation began. What is more worrying is the situation over vegetables. Protein we can help with, but before this there were already deficiencies in the diet. Now they will have to rely on Israel."

It was a view echoed by Hassan Abu Etah, the deputy agriculture minister in Gaza. "It has all been hugely damaged. And it affects all of Gaza, not simply the farmers. We produced some of what we needed. It makes you wonder whether they wanted to change Gaza from production to consumption."

In the heavily damaged village of Khuza'a, near Khan Younis, Salam Najar surveyed the no-go zone that extends from the last houses in the village to the border fence where Israeli farmland begins. "Most of the families here have farmed that side. Now no one feels safe to go there. They have destroyed it all."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

White House Farmer!

The results are in. Based on Michael Pollans' suggestion in the NY Times in an open letter to the President this past fall, many farmers from around the country were nominated, and the people have spoken.

Check It Out!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009