Where are Farmers' Markets Going?

by Jeanne Brophy

In today's New York Times there's a worthwhile read:

"The hand-wringing among organic farmers that greeted Wal-Mart's announcement last week that it would begin stocking large quantities of organic produce reveals the tumultuous state of the alternative agriculture movement. In the 1960's, the movement began with far-out notions such as shortening the food chain between farmers and eaters, and entertaining the possibility that agribusiness might not have consumers' best interests at heart. At that time, both organic labeling and a national network of urban farmers' markets seemed like remote possibilities. Now that both of those have been achieved, consumers, farmers and food policy experts are at a point of soul-searching."

Warren Weber of Marin's Star Route Farms is also quoted, " A lot of small farmers here are opting out of organic...farmers' claims that they are "better than organic" are unverifiable." Weber helped write the California organic standards 30 years ago.

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Wendell Berry

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by Jeanne Brophy

"I begin with the proposition that eating is an agricultural act. Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth. Most eaters, however, are no longer aware that this is true. They think of food as an agricultural product, perhaps, but they do not think of themselves as participants in agriculture. They think of themselves as 'consumers.' If they think beyond that, they recognize that they are passive consumers. They buy what they want-or what they have been persuaded to want-within the limits of wifery of the old household food economy. But one can be thus liberated only by entering a trap (unless one sees ignorance and helplessness as the signs of privilege, as many people apparently do). The trap is the ideal of industrialism: a walled city surrounded by valves that let merchandise in but no consciousness out."

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The Revolution will not be shrink-wrapped!

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by Jeanne Brophy

The May/June issue of Mother Jones rocks. It's worth checking out. It contains an article, "No Bar Code" which is really an excerpt form Michael Pollan's new book, The Omnivore's Dilemma:  A Natural History of Four Meals. The focus of the piece is Joel Salatin. and his "beyond organic" Polyface farm.  This book is the featured book discussion for the ECL book group.  Join us for the discussion (via Yahoo! groups) beginning next Monday.

There's also another shorter piece about "redundant trade" that will quite frankly boogle the mind:

  • Half of California’s processed tomato exports go to Canada, which ships $36 million worth of processed tomatoes to the U.S. annually.
  • In 2003, New York shipped $1.1 million worth of California almonds to Italy, while importing $1.1 million worth of almonds from Italy.
  • California sells $18 million worth of asparagus abroad. $39 million worth of asparagus comes into the state from other countries.
  • International strawberry imports to California peak during the state’s strawberry season.
  • 20% of California’s table grapes go to China, the world’s largest producer of table grapes.

Based in San Francisco, Jeanne Brophy writes about the culture and history of food at World on a Plate.

Mother Nature is Fickle

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by Jeanne Brophy

Mother Nature had her way with California this year. So while the in California the calendar says its the second week of May were playing catch as the winter weather we fought turned into early spring storms. In terms of where we should be on the harvest calendar, picks are about two weeks later than expected. I have nothing to fuss about. However if you are a farmer you have plenty to keep you up at night.

Spring weather is delaying the ripening of peaches, nectarines and plums. California grows about 90 per cent of the domestic apricot crop. Most news reports have written about concern of the peach crop this year.  An earlier harbinger is to check in on apricots.  Unfortunately the trees' blossoms  were impacted by hail and rain.  Typically a cold winter will bring about apricot blossoms earlier than the peach.  Overall farmers are predicting to harvest two week later than usual and for that yield to be smaller than last year. 

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ELC |Food for Thought

Omnivoreby Jeanne Brophy

The best way to make a change is to understand your motivation for doing so. In order to make changes many of us need to understand through reading and discussion. Personally I place a lot of value on environmental education to build that bridge to change. A few years ago I was accepted into a local environmental education training program.  Although it was a huge time commitment I have no regrets. It solidified my focus on certain environmental issues including the need to raise awareness through education and food politics as they relate to the environment.

So today I am very excited to annouce the launch of the ELC Food for Thought online book group. Joining me in this effort as co-moderator is Barbara from Tigers & Strawberries. The books to be discussed will be both fiction and non-fiction. The objective is to not only learn from what we are reading but to enhance the reading through open discussion, thoughts and ideas from each other.

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Urban Gardening

Aerogarden_1

by Jeanne Brophy

I'm a gardener without a garden. Collecting tips for years into a big folder on how to cultivate the tastiest heirloom tomatoes to keeping slugs at bay.  I've plotted a container garden for my zone but later was thwarted as there's only 3 hours of sun before the fog rolls over the 12'x12' shared spaced below my kitchen window.  But unfortunately space and lack of soil keeps me from seedlings and harvesting.

As a result my shelves are filled with garden books including those by Gertrude Jekyll, the turn of the century English garden designer and writer (from a semester long course I ambitiously embarked on); the ever popular Golden Gate Gardening, (a must for the multi-micro climate of the area); books on creating a cottage garden (a dream...) and many garden-themed cookbooks such as Victoria Wise's  Smith & Hawken Gardeners Community Cookbook.  This cookbook is a reliable stalwart of practicality and bounty. 

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