When ‘Local’ makes it big what do we lose?

The New York Times ran a piece on May 12th about the co-opting of the term ‘local’ by large-scale agribusiness.  It’s not a major surprise. We knew it was coming. Now what? What does it mean for those of us trying to make responsible decisions about our food purchases? How can you explain to your friend why Lays potato chips don’t count as local even if they are grown next door?

Here are a few of the commitments we adhere to that ‘industrial local’ violates.

Biologically Sound Practices – Reduction of biodiversity within the food system poses a serious risk to the future of our food. Polyculture practices (common in organic farming) promote the biological diversity within the food system. Monocultures violate basic ecological and evolutionary principles. Factory farming of animals requires significant antibiotics inputs to keep the animals alive in population dense CAFOs. Overuse of antibiotics promotes bacterial resistance. In CAFOs biomass (also, know as chickens or cows) exceeds the carrying capacity of the land leading to pollution in the water, soil, and air.  It’s all about quantity. Some animal waste = fertilizer. A lot of animal waste = poison.

Direct Support of Farmers – We are committed to ensuring that our community is the primary beneficiary from our food dollars. Farmers deserve as much profit as possible from their products.

Environmental Health – Commitment to organic practices promote stewardship of the land and the health of the people in our communities. Avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides reduces the pollution of our precious water and soil resources. Rural communities are too often exploited for their natural resources without an consideration for the health of their environment or citizens.

Low-input – High-input or intensive farming requires pesticides and chemical fertilizers are not typically produced locally. Farmer’s profits end up flowing out of the local economic system and maintains dependence on non-local sources. Particularly, high-input farming constitutes a significant percentage of the oil usage in industrial farming. High-input farming is only local for part of the supply chain.

Transparency – Locally owned farms encourage citizen participation through farm tours and volunteer opportunities. Visits from consumers benefit farmers by building trust and lasting relationships. Large scale operations regularly deny access to consumers because of contamination risk. The risk of contamination is most serious in the case of monocultures where a virus or bacterial outbreak could destroy an entire crop or animal population.

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USDA Gives $$ for Organic Transition

At the Organic Opportunity showing Susan Clark mentioned at a small part of the Farm Bill was going to farmers transitioning to organic production, and we just had to check it out. Here’s what we found:

The USDA, through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), is ponying up 50 million in incentives for farmers transitioning to organic, sustainable practices. Yesterday was the first day that applications were accepted and the application period is short only running until May 29, 2009! If you know of anyone who would benefit let them know that the deadline is short!

According to the Organic Farming Research Foundation the applicatants will be asked to follow a set of six “core practices.” These “core practices include: conservation crop rotation; cover cropping; nutrient management; pest management; prescribed grazing; and forage harvest management.” These sound like a pretty good start.

For more information check out EQIP’s site or the Policy Alert from the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

Ah, baby steps…

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Seasonal Recipe (May Week 2)

Since eating seasonally can be a real challenge, we’ll occasionally post some tried and true recipes to help you get started…

Courtsey of 101Cookbooks.com

Courtesy of 101Cookbooks.com

This week at the Farmer’s Market the asparagus was still going strong and a new batch of greens had appeared, so I picked up a little bit (ok, a lot) of each. I ended up with spring greens (very familiar – no problem), kale (pretty familiar – tasty side with eggs), and chard (?). I found a fantastic recipe that uses both chard and asparagus on 101 Cookbooks. Never heard of it? Stop what you are doing and go there right now! It is full of delicious vegetarian recipes. Makes it so easy to fake being a real cook.

Anyway, 101 Cookbooks has a fabulous Aspargus Stir-Fry recipe. It has a lot of ingredients, and you can probably knock out a few of them if you’re feeling strapped for cash or just lazy. The main thing is the good fresh vegetables, sauce, and cashews. I made quinoa instead rice for the base of this dish. If you’ve not made quinoa check here for an overview and a ‘how to’. It needs to be rinsed before you cook it. Quinoa has a bitter outer coating to keep birds away, but don’t worry it’s really simple to get off. After that it’s pretty much foolproof. It’s easier to cook than rice, I think, and it saves really well. You can buy it in from the bulk bins at Eats. Have asparagus stir-fry over quinoa! Yum!


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‘Food Not Bombs’ Organizational Meeting

There’s no such thing as a free meal? We beg to differ.

The ‘Food Not Bombs’ program will focus on gleaning unused food from local restaurants and businesses to prepare and serve for our community. We hope to hold these free events throughout the summer. We need volunteers to help solicit and collect foodstuffs. Also, we’ll need chefs, servers, and others to help on meal day.

Would you like to get involved?

Come to our planning meeting on Wednesday, May 6th at 10AM in the Wallace Atrium on the VT campus.

If you can’t make it to the meeting but would like to be involved please email Kati Span at kspan@vt.edu.

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Join the 3/50 Challenge

The 3/50 Challenge is simple. Decide on your 3 favorite local businesses. Stop by each of them sometime this month and buy something. Try and spend at least 50 dollars at local businesses to help support those our local economy. We, of course, would love to see you out at the Farmers Market!

Let us know what your 3 favorite local businesses are. Also, check out our ‘Eat Local/Shop Local’ section. Let us know if there are businesses that need to be added!

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Film Showing: “The Organic Opportunity”

Support your local community and join the Virginia Tech Sustainable Food Corps for “Wonderful 1st Wednesdays” as they present a free film showing of Chris Bedford’s “The Organic Opportunity”.

This 25 minute film will be followed by a panel to answer your questions concerning sustainable foods and how you can help. The festival, sponsored by the Downtown Merchants of Blacksburg, will be held at the Lyric Theater on Wednesday, May 6th from 5:00pm-6:30pm. Best of all, it’s FREE! : )

Afterwards, walk down to the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market and try out some Dogtown Pizza and get your fill on local produce.

The diverse panel will feature:

  • Susan Clark, Director for the Didactic Program in Dietetics at Virginia Tech
  • Jerry Moles, Grayson Landcare
  • Christy Gabbard from the Conservation Management Institute
  • Elena Dulys-Nusbaum, member of the Environmental Coalition and VT Sustainable Food Corps

Come with questions for the panel and don’t forget to check out the Blacksburg Farmers Market after the film, located on the corner of Roanoke St.and Draper Rd!

*Many thanks to Emily Ferk and Kati Span for putting this event together!

**Equal thanks goes out to the Blacksburg Downtown Merchants who have been amazing partners for the Virginia Tech Sustainable Food Corps.

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New 12 Week ONLINE Summer Course 2009

“Consuming Technologies: Food, Technologies, and Politics”
STS 2984

Is a Twinkie actually food? If a Twinkie is indeed food what does that say about what we eat? The modern history of food is deeply rooted in technological changes occurring in the past 100 years. Technology now determines much of what we eat, how we eat, and how we talk about consumption.

The foundation of this course is a historical exploration of the power and politics of food and food technologies. Food provides us with a particularly valuable lens for examining our relationship with technology, expertise, industry, and scientific discovery.

Topics covered in course include:  Animal Domestication, Monocultures, Factory Farms, Efficiency & Nature, Colonialism, The Green Revolution/Feeding the World, GMOs, Slow Foods, and MORE!

Instructor: Grace Hood, grace.hood@vt.edu


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