Monthly Archives: June 2014

Welcome to Wisconsin

welcome to MadisonI’m taking advantage of the Madison airport’s free wifi (and great coffee, thanks, Ancora!) while waiting for the car rental place to open (long story) — turns out to be a wise move, as there was just an announcement there’s a severe thunderstorm warning for another half hour. In thinking about driving through Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa in a couple of weeks, it’s occurred to me that I should read up on proper tornado response, because they have that kind of thing there. I’m not yet in the serious tornado states yet, but I’ll sit out the severe thunderstorm in the airport.

About to hit the road to, first, the Baraboo Farm and Fleet for rain/mud boots–the one significant thing I didn’t manage to cross of my list before leaving–and then to Joel’s farm, Greeno Acres, 90 minutes northwest of here in Kendall. His road, he reminded me the other day, is “three farms out of town — count three barns and make a right.”

I’ll leave you with some shots of Wisconsin tourist merch…

cheeseheads
I decided not to get one of these, but maybe I’ll feel differently on my way out in a month.
What does this even mean??
What does this even mean??

 

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Real Milk Stories: final week!

One week to go in the Real Milk Stories campaign! I’m headed to Wisconsin on Wednesday – entirely made possible by so much support from people like you! – to spend three weeks with former dairy farmer Joel and other dairy farmers, hearing what they’re experiencing and digging into why—and why it matters to your summer ice cream.

I’m excited to continue this project past Wisconsin, and all additional funds I raise will let me do that. We’re at almost $4000; let’s get to that new $5000 goal–or beyond!

Please spread the word in this final week—share on social media and with your networks. AND, make sure to follow Real Milk Stories on Facebook and right here for pictures and updates from the road in the next few weeks! And if you’ve got friends who’ve been meaning to contribute, remind them not to miss their chance!

Soylent is…

The new “food substitute” Soylent has been around the news of late — somewhat mysteriously, as maybe best expressed by a good friend who loves food and cares about where it comes from, who emailed me, “I was starting to think I was losing my mind, not understanding why anyone is paying this soylent goop ANY MIND.” Indeed.

I had pointed her to The Soylent Revolution Will Not Be Pleasurable, the New York Times‘ appropriately skeptical and wry take. The New Yorker was much more in-depth and perhaps more credulous in Could Soylent Replace Food?, and I thought there were some significant gaps in the piece. I’m pleased that the magazine saw merit in the argument I sent, and published my letter this week. (I also loved the letter than followed mine–follow the link to read it–and tracked down its author today to thank him for making the other main point I wanted to make.)

 

The-new-yorker-logoPublished in The New Yorker, issue of June 23, 2014

Greener Soylent
Lizzie Widdicombe rightly points to agriculture as a leading cause of climate-warming emissions, and Rob Rhinehart, the creator of the food substitute Soylent, calls nonindustrialized farms “very inefficient factories” (“The End of Food,” May 12th). But, until Rhinehart engineers Soylent from algae, his product will depend on chemical- and fossil-fuel-reliant grains grown in monocropped fields and refined in energy-intensive processing plants—an inefficient nutrient-delivery system, from an emissions perspective, if ever there was one. Meanwhile, studies show diversified small-scale agriculture to be one of the best ways to both mitigate and adapt to a warming climate. Healthy soils built through crop rotation and organic fertilizers sequester carbon and fare dramatically better in both droughts and floods. Food production is part of the problem of global warming, but it will become part of the solution as we learn to cook and eat a wider variety of foods, instead of turning to a food substitute whose components rely entirely on climatically inefficient industrial farming.

 

How Congress Is Moving to Crush Protections for Small Meat and Poultry Producers (And Why You Should Care)

civil_eats_logo.jpg.662x0_q100_crop-scalePublished at Civil Eats, June 11, 2014 

As comedian John Oliver said last week in his much-watched primer on net neutrality, “If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring.” Big Ag has known this strategy for years and perhaps no one does it better than the meatpackers and poultry companies—companies like Tyson, Smithfield, and trade organizations like the American Meat Institute and the National Chicken Council.

They’ve got a head start because the struggle over their domination of the marketplace has taken place over the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspectors, Packers, and Stockyards Administration, known as GIPSA. Under the cover of a bureaucratic sounding name and an obscure government agency, meat companies have quietly flexed considerable lobbying muscle to kill one of the most important policy reforms for livestock and poultry farmers and ranchers—and therefore one of the most important policy reforms for those of us who care how our meat is raised.

The GIPSA rules—let’s call them “fair farm rules” for short—were proposed back in 2010 and designed to address the growing power of just a few corporations in the increasingly consolidated meat industry. Nationally, the top four companies in each industry slaughter four out of every five beef cattle, two out of three hogs and three out of five chickens. At the local or regional level, one company often controls an even larger percentage of the market.

Tim Gibbons, of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, says that consolidation has meant “the meatpackers report huge profits, while farmers’ share of the retail dollar has gone down dramatically—and consumers still see food prices rising at the grocery store.” In Missouri, Gibbons adds, thousands of independent small and mid-size family hog farmers have gone out of business because they don’t have access to a fair market. “Because of massive corporate control of the market, we’ve lost 91 percent of hog producers in Missouri since 1985. That’s over 20,000 farmers and many, many jobs in our rural communities.”

It’s not much better on the consumer side. As the Washington Post points out, “Americans have never had so few options in deciding what company makes their meat.” Even as a growing number of local and niche markets make it easier for some consumers to trace the source of their meat, the trend in the rest of the marketplace is towards rampant consolidation. Just this week, Tyson Foods, the second largest meat producer in the world, sealed a bid to take over processed food giant Hillshire Farms, seller of Jimmy Dean and Sara Lee. When just a few companies control most of the market—and can use their power to keep out or buy up competitors—consumer choice is something of an illusion, and questions about food safety, antibiotics or other additives, animal welfare, and even taste can be tough to answer.

…read the rest at Civil Eats…

Real Milk Stories: Stretch Goal!

Incredibly, Real Milk Stories met its original goal less than two weeks into the month-long campaign! I’m thrilled, floored, and incredibly grateful. And based on the outpouring of support and enthusiasm, I’ve set a stretch goal — let’s see if we can get to $5000!

I absolutely didn’t expect this level of response. I started the campaign to cover basic costs of reporting my friend Joel’s story of selling his cows and the ongoing dairy crisis in Wisconsin. What I’ve learned is that really a lot of people want to dig into the dairy crisis—or, want me to dig into it and report on what I find. Hundreds of people have shared the campaign and the page has been viewed a thousand times, from around the world. Along with my raising my seed funding, I feel like I’ve been given a mandate. Not only from my farmer friends, but from all of you who drink milk and eat ice cream and want to know more about where it’s coming from.

My original goal didn’t cover follow-up research and travel (including closer to home to upstate New York or Pennsylvania), transcription, in-depth writing, or any number of other expenses. All additional funds I raise will allow me to do the follow up and additional reporting that’s needed to tell more Real Milk Stories.

Thanks especially to donors Theresa Pascoe, Brian Hornby, Alyssa Adkins, Michele Simon, Cristina Sandolo, Jon Klar, Alison Cohen, Kristin Reynolds, Liz Joyce, Maggie Cheney, David Knutson, Anim Steel, Nancy Heiberg, Robert Mitchell, Mark Winne, Michael Paone, Haven Bourque, Chris Jacobs, Kathy Ozer, Ruth Katz, Stevie Schafenacker, David Hanson, and Karen Pittelman.

And you too can become a contributor! Real Milk Stories here, and on Facebook.

Real Milk Stories: Update

The response to Real Milk Stories has been beyond anything I could’ve hoped for: HALFWAY to the goal in FIVE DAYS, and today, one week in, under $800 to go!! And the flood of excited, supportive comments I’ve gotten about the project makes it clear that it fills a niche and a need more than I even imagined. It’s been an exceptional week.

THANK YOU to everyone who’s been of it — for great feedback, many shares on social media, and contributions. I asked for community supported, and I’ve gotten it in spades. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it all.

Extra special thanks to contributors Bonnie Wodin, Raj Patel, Anney Barrett, Brad Wilson, Emily Nichols, Kat Kollitides, Kerstin Sabene, Abby Elbow, Luther Picket, Jon Kennett, Margaret & Triphon Kollitides, Cynthia Price, Lisa Griffith, Koren Manning, Robert Perry, Kristin Schwab, Michael Yates Crowley, Brooke Ellen Smith, Niaz Dorry, Raj Kattamasu, Sheri Stein, David Vigil, Gene Bishop & Andy Stone, Carol Sartz & Art Schwenger, and four anonymous contributors. You are all fantastic.

Also: you can now like Real Milk Stories on Facebook, and check back here for regular updates. And please keep spreading the word!