Posts filed under ‘Food Politics’
A couple weeks ago my friend asked me to take some photos of the Beach Flats Community Garden in Santa Cruz which they can use for their upcoming blog. Some of them turned out pretty good.
From my Santa Cruz Indymedia post:
The weather is warming and this years summer crops at the Beach Flats Community Garden are coming up. It’s been over a year since the Garden was first threatened with closure by the overburdened and resource-strapped Community Center which oversees it. Since, members of the community have banded together not only that once, but again last December, to make sure the garden stays open, the second time in the face of city budget cuts. Despite the threats, gardeners continue to plant, tend and harvest.
Fantastic piece by Antonio Roman-Alcalá over at Civil Eats today. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about access to land and it’s implications on our food system. As we watch the trend of home (food) gardening grow, questions arise not only about how to do it, since recent generations have lost the tradition of passing down that art, but WHERE to do it. A record percentage (over half) of the global population lives in cities. So it follows, that for the first time in human history, more than half the human population has extremely limited options when it comes to feeding themselves. The local food movement is surely drawing attention to this issue, but as local food gains importance, supply will surely become an issue. This is where access to land becomes a key component of our food future. Finding suitable ground is one of the biggest barriers to entering the farming profession. Not only is the good stuff too expensive to purchase, leasing is risky. Maybe the ground has had chemicals sprayed on it. Maybe you’ll be able to work it for one or two years, only to lose your lease, thereby losing the precious investment you’ve made building the soil.
But why are we still in a situation where the rich get to decide the best uses for land, while hard working, intelligent, compassionate, humble workers just do what we’re told?
The “Slow Money” principles (obviously drawing it’s name from the Slow Food movement) is attempting to address this issue. It feels like it’s in infancy stage, but there could be some excited ideas here. I’m personally convinced there is something to banding people together to buy back farmland for our collective good. Maybe collective purchase of land is our next step together in taking back our food system.
Maybe you’ve heard what I have, that if we put wells in Africa we could end world hunger (despite what all those mono-crop, biotech agriculture companies say) because people could support themselves. Sources of fresh water are so scarce that the problem is way beyond one relating to growing food, it’s causing wars and disease. In some places, the life expectancy in Africa is 38 years! Charity water is taking the proceeds from their bottled water to building the much-needed water pumps in Africa. Check out this awesome promo video.
Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of all sickness and disease, and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Many people in the developing world, usually women and children, walk more than three hours every day to fetch water that is likely to make them sick. Those hours are crucial, preventing many from working or attending school. Additionally, collecting water puts them at greater risk of sexual harassment and assault. Children are especially vulnerable to the consequences of unsafe water. Of the 42,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation, 90% are children under 5 years old.
I found this video because it’s part of a contest for the NTEN conference, a gathering of techies in the non-profit sector, which I am attending in San Francisco this year. Yes, I’m a non-profit techie. Isn’t it amazing what a little nerd plus new media can do!?!
…maybe Barack Obama can shape some policy to help them do it again.
If agriculture is indeed the building blocks of modern civilization, a concept I first understood from reading Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, then Family Farms Pulled Us Out of the Great Depression by Jay Greathouse, definitely makes sense. Greathouse discusses parities for food prices which enable farmers to price their crops at or above the actual costs of the raw materials, a concept long gone during these days of globalized agri-business.
Our recovery started in 1942, the year the Steagall Amendment to the War Stabilization Act mandated farm parity, but the war got the credit. We then had ten years of economic stability until 1952 when the Steagall Amendment was allowed to expire.
In 1952 “export-oriented pricing” replaced the New Deal policy that had put farm prices in balance, or parity, with other prices. That New Deal policy worked effectively with farmer-approved “supply management” that cost far less than today’s subsidies to Agri-business.
Farm parity laws that created a fair price floor for all raw materials was the main agent for moving the United States out of the Great Depression of the 1930s. This support of prices allowed farmers to afford to stay on the farm and rebuild the United States economy literally from the ground up.
Liz, Kat and Lara, three women from Washington, D.C. biked 2,000 miles last year to tour community agricultural projects from Washington, D.C. to Montreal, Canada. They carried video equipment with them and the footage has turned into a low budget documentary. Here’s a preview:
In the course of their three-month odyssey, the women found a community garden in the gutted ghettos of Baltimore, were run off the road by a truck in New Jersey, abandoned efforts to cycle across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York and got hopelessly lost in New England towns. They slept in the gardens of strangers, discovered new ethnic food and recipes and cemented their desire to change the world by growing vegetables.
Yay for bike adventure! Yay for community garden projects!
When people begin consciously eating, i.e. local and organic or growing their own food, the primary reason is usually a self-serving one, to not ingest pesticides. While this is true and undoubtedly a great reason to eat organic food from your local farmers, the real benefits are actually far more selfless, watersheds (and local water supplies) are spared from farm chemical runoff, use of oil to manufacture and ship seeds, pesticides and fertilizers is spared, conditions for farmworkers are healthier and the surrounding environment for animals is preserved. From GardenMandy, Real Reasons Why We Should Buy From Local Farmers:
Some people say the key to freedom is empowerment and self-sufficiency. Not everyone agrees, but most people who are concerned about the environment at all see that there really is a need for people to buy and use food from local growers.
No matter your reason for making this lifestyle choice, the first step is to find your local farmers market so you can talk with the farmers themselves. You can find your local farmer’s market using this handy map Farmer’s Market Search tool at culinate.com. You simply type in your city and a Google map appears highlighting all the regional farmer’s markets. Click on them to get information about when they are open during the week and what seasons.
Some familiar themes about how Americans eat and its links to disease were put together nicely in a 20-minute talk by Mark Bittman of the New York Times, “What’s Wrong with what we eat.” In one mentioning the importance of a whole-plant-based diet (it’s not the beta-carotene, its the carrot), Bittman touches on the meat and agribusiness industry, disease, junkfood marketing, and the “organivore” and “locavore” responses to the industrial food industry all while noting the importance of our food choices on climate change.