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This article was produced in partnership with Earth Island Journal for its Built Environment issue. No matter: Right after the July 4th holiday, a group would be back in the space for a five-week entrepreneurship program, during which they’d be trained to tend to the plants and technology and learn business skills. Since hydroponic farms don’t have […] The post Hydroponics Help Urban Schools Grow Food Year-Round appeared first on Civil Eats.
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Dr. Ashley Gripper joins the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast to discuss how gardening and farming increase community healing and personal agency in Black communities and beyond.Gripper recently received her Ph.D. from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, and her new position is assistant professor at Drexel University’s Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements, and Population Health Equity. She is also the founding organizer of Land Based Jawns. She also talks about the historical roots of Black farming, and centering her Philadelphia community in all of her research and work.The Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast is a biweekly podcast featuring the stories and big ideas from past and present fellows, as well as others in the field. You can see all of the past episodes here.Listen below to our discussion with Gripper, and subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher.Agents of Change in Environmental Justice · Ashley Gripper on growing food to fight systemic oppressionTranscriptBrian BienkowskiToday's guest is Dr. Ashley Gripper who recently received her PhD from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and in her new position as assistant professor at Drexel University's boon to center on racism, global movements and population health equity. She is also the founding organizer of Land-based Jawns. Ashley is also a senior Agents of Change fellow. And before you listen to this podcast, I highly recommend you read her timeless essay "We don't farm because it's trendy, we farm as resistance for healing and sovereignty." The essay was by far our most read, our most shared, our most talked about from this program. And in this podcast she touches on many of the issues she talked about in the essay –about growing food as a tool to fight systemic oppression, and how gardening and farming hold spiritual and mental health benefits, and increases community healing and personal agency. Enjoy. So I am super excited to be joined by Ashley Gripper. Ashley, how are you doing today?Ashley Gripper I am fantastic. So you know, in this season of life, I'm leaning into rest and part of my rest this week has been binge-watching Stranger Things. So I'm coming right off of an episode, or actually, I didn't even finish an episode. I was like, "I gotta pause it." But yeah, I'm feeling good. And I'm trying to replenish after being in grad school for the past seven years.Brian Bienkowski Excellent. And we're gonna get all into that. But first, where are you today? Where are you coming at us from?Ashley Gripper I am in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That's my hometown. I'm in West Philly to be specific. And yeah, this is where I'm born and raised where my family is. And that's where I'm calling in from.Brian Bienkowski So you were part of our first cohort. And your essay, "We don't farm because it's trendy, we farm as resistance for healing and sovereignty", has been by far, our most read, our most shared, and our most discussed essay, it's not even close, to be honest. So I was wondering if you could just describe the response you got to the essay? What were some of the highlights? And how, if at all, Did it impact your work your career, your perspective, as you move forward after that?Ashley Gripper Yeah, that essay, the whole process, you know, I had no idea what was going to how that article was going to be received, or, you know, what the aftermath would be. And the response was overwhelming. So as you know, I started writing that article, early, early 2020. And then we were all set to try and release it, I think sometime in March or April (it got pushed back a little bit) but then my dad passed away. So you know, that further delayed it. And then when I was finally ready to come back to it and add the final touches, it ended up getting released just before George Floyd was murdered. So I think what was happening in the country, in the world at the time, you know, the pandemic, also, all of those things that were happening at the same time really kind of, I think, amplified the response. Because the article, you know, we talked a lot about self-determination, about resistance, of various forms of oppression, I talked about healing, the healing that agriculture offers, not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually. And it seemed to resonate with way more people than I anticipated. I, you know, I must have received dozens and dozens of emails of people, you know, just really just saying like, "this is great work, thank you for doing it." And then also the response on social media was unimaginable. I had folks who are who I'm close with come up to me and who are also like in the agricultural black food space, be like, "I saw your article pop up on this page and this page and this page." It was, like I said, like it was it was unexpected for me. I couldn't have anticipated that that would have been the response. But I think part of that... that was the response because I poured so much of my heart and my spirit into it and drew on my experience, you know, my dad's experience the Philadelphia experience the black farming experience, I poured all of that into the article. And it really, when I look back, I feel like that was a catalyst in so many ways for where I am now and being able to like, have done like, I think, since that article released, I must have done 30 to 40 invited talks. I've done, you know, NPR podcasts, I've done. I don't know, I've just done a lot. And a lot of people, I think a lot of that is because the response to the article and folks really resonating with what I had to say.Brian Bienkowski Well, I'm so happy to hear that. And we do hold it up as kind of a model example of "if you're going to talk about your research, and weave in your personal experience, and you threw in a whole bunch of history and historical perspective." It was just it was beautiful. And we really debated. I don't know if you remember this. I mean, we debated on timing. And as you said, I think it was ironically, given all the pain that was going on, it was kind of the perfect storm of the perfect timing to have, have it be released.Ashley Gripper Yeah. And I think a lot of what happened was people kind of felt themselves represented in a piece. And also it gave hope that like, hey, there is this, there's a way to like work through this. There's a way to hold each other. There's a way for us to care for ourselves and our community in the midst of, you know, so much tragedy. And here it here it is represented in this scientific, you know, blog or journal, what do you call it? What is EHN?, and I always get confused.Brian Bienkowski We're journalism.Ashley Gripper Yeah, you know, and I think that was... some of the responses that I saw that I really appreciated were like, just like, "yeah, that's what it is for us. You know, it's not about being trendy, is about what the power that comes from growing food." And I just think people saw themselves in this mainstream news media, and they, they felt a little bit of hope, maybe.Brian Bienkowski for sure. And the community you mentioned, so you are proudly from Philadelphia. I was wondering if you could tell me about when and how you became interested in this intersection of growing food there as a tool to fight systemic oppression? And what does that look like on the ground?Ashley Gripper Yeah. So the interest really started when I first finished undergrad. I ended up working at this small nonprofit called the Urban Nutrition Initiative in Philadelphia. And that was really my introduction to food justice work. And, you know, I'm learning more, I'm absorbing everything all of the materials that the organization has put together, but then the opportunity presented itself to attend the Black Farmers Conference. So I attended that conference, I believe, in 2013. And that year, the keynote speaker, I think I talked about this in my article, the keynote speaker was Dr. Monica White, who is the author of Freedom Farmers, and also a professor of environmental justice at University of Wisconsin-Madison. And that was, as she spoke, and kind of brought in the history of Black farming, particularly in the South, she weaved all of these concepts together for me, and it was really the first time that I saw growing food as power, growing food as freedom growing food as community. And that's kind of where – I think the seeds haD been planted years ago, I didn't know – But I think that's where the seeds, like were really watered And you know, the sun started to come out. And from then on, I kind of really, really dove into the work. And then even decided that, oh, I could go back to school for this and like, use my quantitative skills and research skills in a way that supports food justice movement work. Did I answer all of your question?Brian Bienkowski Well, I was wondering what it looks like, what does that look like on the ground? Talk about using using farming, using growing food as a tool to fight systemic oppression, which I I've seen you mentioned that before. So when you're out there, what what does that look like?Ashley Gripper Yeah, so my journey has been, it's been a diverse journey. So I started in the nonprofit kind of grassroots-ish space, transition into the academy. And while I was in grad school, throughout my time, I was always connecting with grassroots organizations, farming organizations, I was volunteering, trying to figure out how I can support this food council or how I can support you know, the agriculture plan for the city. So that's what it looked like while in the academy. But in 2020, there was also some, there was a lot that was happening in the world, but for me internally, so that is the year that I actually began to like, honestly kind of move full time into grassroots work and organizing and community building. And for me right now, what that looks like And what that's grown into is running this organization called Land-based Jawns that is a Philly-based organization that offers education and training to Black women and Black, non-binary and trans folks around gardening, safety and self defense, we do workshops on building and carpentry, so you know how to work with power tools, and also land-based living. So the whole focus of that work is around self and community healing, but also developing these real tactile skills that not only help us survive, but help us to thrive living in connection with the land. So for me, that's what the work looks like on the ground. There's also also do a good bit of policy and advocacy work with the city. We are just about to release the first urban agriculture plan for Philadelphia, there's a team of about six or seven of us that have been working on that for about three years now. And that, you know, that on the groundwork looks like making recommendations for how land gets distributed to growers, and how, you know, those growers are supportive once they have land and different things the city can implement in order to sustain the agricultural movement in the city. So that's just a little bit of what the on the ground work looks like, for me.Brian Bienkowski Can you explain what Land-based Jawns is? what does that name mean for us non-Philly folks?Ashley Gripper Yeah. So, you know, it's kind of, I mean, it's hard and easy to explain at the same time. Joawns is a word that has been around infinity for as long as I can remember. And it pretty much means everything and anything. So, you know, like, let's say you're sitting on a couch with your, your family, and the remote is across the room, you could be like, "Yo, throw me that jawn," you know, so, but also, there have been, you know, when I was in high school, and growing up, there have been so many, like, different uses of jawns, I remember that it was like the trend to refer to people as jawns, um, you know, or you be like, I'm a jawn, and that's the part that's a little bit hard to explain. But, you know, putting it together, I kind of first heard, you know... we were when I was at the annual retreat with National Black Food and Justice Alliance. I remember folks saying like, "Oh, we land-based people, land-based this, land-based that." And then, you know, that's kind of when I was like, Oh, what about land-based jawns? like, you know, to represent the Philly folks. So that's kind of how the name came to be.Brian Bienkowski Thank you for that. So since you have just finished up your PhD, I was wondering, so you, obviously have been doing this community-centered research approach for a while. And I was wondering if it created any challenges along the way, since this has not always been the case in traditional academia to to foster this kind of approach?Ashley Gripper Absolutely. The challenges were numerous. And most of my my biggest challenges were on the institutional side, not on the community side. I think since I already have such deep rootedness in my community, and trust there that there wasn't a whole lot of there weren't a whole lot of challenges on that side. But along the way, there were there were people who just didn't understand the vision didn't understand the approach or didn't necessarily agree with the approach or think the approach was necessary to do the research, particularly in public health. I think there's this hyper focus on like quantitative methods. And you know, is like study design controlling for, like, we need to control for all of the things so that we can isolate this particular exposure. And that way of thinking is really, like antithetical to the work that I do in the community and also academically. I think that... I think that there's an issue, there's a... how do I say this? So I know that that approach, you need to do research in that way for certain things – like let's say we're talking about diseases, infectious diseases, things like that – But for understanding health and understanding health holistically, I think that we need to be careful with how we try to parse out exposures. So what I really was trying to do was push my school, my department to be able to look at what's happening holistically: Okay, so urban agriculture is not just farming, it's not just the physical act of farming. It's also the the building of community, it's also skills building and job training, it's having your hands literally in the soil and the potential microbes that you're being exposed to. There's so many things that are related to agriculture, that can impact health. And I, my goal was not to like, figure out what, you know, what is the most impactful thing? Or what's one thing? How does one specific thing impact, you know, your outcome for this thing. So there was a lot of, I had, what I had to do is like, bring my school, bring my department along to understand what it is I was trying to do, and why I was not focusing necessarily on physical health, but instead mental health, spirituality, and agency, you know, in a public health program, there are some sometimes they're like, well, agency, what does that have to do with health? And then for me, I'm like, what doesn't agency have to do with health?Brian Bienkowski So can you expand about that a little bit. So both in your research and on the ground, it ties in more than just the nutritional aspects. So it's the spiritual to mental health, it's, as you mentioned, community healing, personal agency. Can you talk about how these are connected to food growing? you mentioned this a little bit. And perhaps some examples of how you've seen this in the communities you worked in, or maybe for yourself.Ashley Gripper Yeah, so. So what I did, I'll just, I'll talk to you a little bit through my dissertation, because I think that the speaks to how I looked at these things. So in my first paper, I did a spatial analysis, looking at where community gardens and urban farms in Philadelphia are located in relationship to neighborhood demographics. So that paper, or that article, also involves a lot of historical analysis and historical review of what's happened in the country with Black farmers, what's happened in the city with urban growers and Black growers, and what's happened in the city with gentrification. So what I was what I saw, and what I found is that neighborhoods, that will black neighborhoods tend to have higher concentrations of community gardens, poor neighborhoods in the city tend to have concentrations of community gardens. And when you look at neighborhoods that are both Black and have higher concentrations of low-food access, they tend to have more community gardens as well. And this analysis was non-causal and non-temporal, but it seems to align with what community members have said, and that is that, you know, as neighborhoods are extracted from, as the resources are pulled out, community members come together to provide food for themselves, to care for themselves and to heal themselves. And I think what that first paper showed was that hmm, you know, even though this is non-causal, this does seem to affirm what folks have already said. So, in that paper, I was trying to start to build a case for collective agency and like how this is such an impactful, a big, I guess, product of urban agriculture, Black urban agriculture, too. And then the second paper, I was like, I need to ask people, I need to go directly to the people who are growing food and understand what they think the impacts are, instead of trying to say, these are the impacts based on like the literature that I've read. So that involves a series of focus groups with Black and white urban farmers in the city asking about the impacts like what they thought the impacts were on their health, holistically, spiritually, mentally, physically, and also what they thought the impacts were on community. And there were four major themes that emerged across those six focus groups. And that was that agriculture, urban agriculture, helps facilitate body and mind wellness, urban agriculture helps to deepen spirituality and spiritual relationships in the land. Urban agriculture is a demonstration of agency and power. And the last and biggest theme that appeared across the focus groups was urban agriculture is a demonstration of care and relationship building. So you know, though, as those themes started to emerge, I was like, "Oh, this all makes sense to me as somebody who who is a grower in the city." Then I started to transition that into a final paper and research project. And my goal with that project was to develop a scale that measures all of these things for urban Ag. Community. So through that work, and drawing on the themes from the focus group, drawing on Monica White's theoretical framework, and drawing from my own experience in interpersonal conversations, I was able to develop a scale that measures something called agricultural community power. So that's kind of like how an agricultural community power. And it encompasses land-based spirituality, it encompasses health and well-being, it encompasses community care and relationship building, as well, as well as a concept called Ubuntu, which means "I am because we are" and it's about the interdependence of humanity. So that scale and the focus group and the first paper honestly, is how I attempted to really understand the impacts of urban ag on spirituality, mental health and collective agency.Brian Bienkowski Just curious, when you talk to people that that spoke to you for this, was this something that they had consciously thought about? Or did you kind of spur this thinking like, oh, yeah, this this activity does make me feel good. It does connect me to my neighbors? Or was that something you think was already kind of top of mind?Ashley Gripper I think it was a mix. So there were some people who, who came in, like, you know, and had really beautiful answers about how agriculture, like growing food was the first time that they like, for instance – I talked about this in the paper – there was one person who said that they never felt more, I guess more resilient, more confident, more grounded, in terms of their mental health, than they did when until they were growing food. And they compared, they were like, "oh, you know, I've been on medications, I've been in therapy. But growing food, by far has been the most impactful thing for my mental health." And that person had a very, like, clear answer. So you could tell like, this person had been thinking about these things. And then there were some people who were like, you know, I've never participated, or I've never... like younger folks, for instance, there was one person who I think maybe it was like, 20. It was like, "Yeah, I just love it. And I don't always think about it in these ways. But as I'm hearing these, like other people in the focus groups share, it's making me realize that it does these things for me as well." And I think that's part of the beauty of the focus group is that you, you know, sometimes we don't always have the words to articulate what it is we're feeling, thinking, or experiencing. And then in the focus group setting, sometimes people can, like offer an articulation of a concept that we are familiar with. Yeah, so that's, uh, it was, it was definitely a mix. There were some people, there were a lot of people who are like, "Yeah, we think about these things all the time." You know, there were like analogies of like, "when I see dragonflies that reminds me of my mother" or "when dragonflies come to me, that is my mother literally coming to me and speaking to me." So there were like, there was definitely a range of like how in depth people had engaged with these questions and ideas before the focus groups.Brian Bienkowski So to blow this up a little bit in your essay, you mentioned how discriminatory and predatory practices led to Black farmers and families losing I believe it was over 12 million acres in the US since 1920 over the last century. So can you kind of briefly outline the ways – I know this is a big question – but the ways in which this could and should be reversed or remedied, and if you're seeing any movement on that front?Ashley Gripper Yeah, that is a big question. Um, yeah, reverse. I mean, whole this a whole thing... This is such a such a complex question, I think. So the first thing that comes to mind is supporting Black farmers and Black folks who currently have land to maintain and retain that land. So you know, I'm going through a situation in my family where I recently discovered that we have a lot of acreage of land. And it's, it's, you know, once it falls in the heirs property, it gets so much more complicated on how to keep the land what to do with it. So, you know, it's programs and support available to folks who are trying to hold on to their land and keep it and though some of those programs exist, not enough of them do. One program or legislation, I guess, that was brought up to help with that is the Justice for Black Farmers act. And the Justice for Black Farmers Act, as far as I know, was about helping Black farmers keep land, helping new farmers get land and there's like a third bucket that I'm forgetting. So you know, I'm not sure where that is. But I know that... I think there was some judge somewhere who maybe shot it down there. I don't know where that is. But I know there has been some controversy around the Justice for Black Farmers Act for sure. On the more local level, which I think is, you know, sometimes the easier way to affect change. And what we've been doing in Philadelphia is really... Sorry, let me slow down. We've been working on the urban agriculture plan. And there's a lot of language in there about helping people to get land. And we've also been doing organizing around sheriff sale and US Bank liens. So there are a lot of active community gardens in the city that are run by Black and Brown folks that are on lots that were neglected and overgrown and uses dump sites. And these farmers and growers transform those lots. But what ens up happening is that since those properties and many times were tax delinquent, they got sold, and were a part of the US.... Now they have US Bank liens on them. And the US Bank lien or the US, I'm not sure of the who who is doing what, but I know a lot of those lots are being threatened right now. So there is concern that the people who have maintained those lots for 5, 10, 15, 20 years, may lose them because they don't have the deeds or the property rights. So we're doing a lot of organizing around that, we're working with several City Council folks. And when I say we're, I'm part of a Food Policy Advisory Council in the city, and also Soil Generation. And Soil Generation is a coalition of Black and Brown growers doing advocacy and policy work, among other things around farming and agriculture. So that's kind of a little bit of what's happening on the local level. And, you know, in terms of like, how to reverse, you know, land loss and land theft truthfully, that's a big question. And it's one that I don't think, you know, I don't think anybody has a complete answer to. But, uh, you know, there's also talk of reparations and how reparations can support folks to get land, or hold onto land. And I think what it requires is, is more like collective organizing, and community organizing around these issues, and also political education around these issues. And a lot of people just don't even know, you know, or don't understand the importance and the power, and the self-determination that comes from being able to have land and grow food on on your own land.Brian Bienkowski So in keeping with this theme of the big questions, I neglected to ask you something, I've been asking everybody on the podcast, to this point, which is what is a moment or event that shaped your identity, it can be personal, professional.Ashley Gripper Yeah, shaped identity, the first one that comes to mind is kind of, like, two events. But both related is, you know, I think about the passing of my mom, when I was in college, my senior year of college, that definitely shaped a lot of who I am, and the ways that I think about grief and relationships. And the second is the passing of my dad, which happened, you know, two years ago. And I, you know, this now, I feel like almost a completely different person, because of what I've had to learn, what I had to experience and the ways that I had... the ways that I was grown, that I was stretched and, you know, had to, I think to work through both of those deaths because my, my dad's death brought up a lot of grief that I didn't deal with from my mom's stuff. I had to go inward, and I had to go through a lot of therapy and go to the land honestly, the big part of how I ended up as an actual grower was because after my dad passed, a good friend of mine was like you need to come be on the farm with us. And there were so many lessons that I learned from the land, and the bees and the you know, the earthworms and all of the light that is within the farm that has transformed who I am and changed the way I think about you know, my relationship with other people, to change the way I think about interdependence and Ubuntu, and also change the way I think about our connection and responsibility to the Earth.Brian Bienkowski Thank you so much for that. It's really, really beautiful. So you have grown in more ways than just that you are, Congratulations on your new position at Drexel.Ashley Gripper Thank you.Brian Bienkowski And what does it mean to you to continue your work in your hometown of Philadelphia? And what do you hope to do there?Ashley Gripper Yeah, so for those who don't know, I was recently appointed as a tenure track assistant professor at Drexel School of Public Health, specifically with the Ubuntu center on racism, global movements and population health equity. And my appointment is primary in the community health and prevention department and secondary appointment and environmental and occupational health. I'm excited to span two departments and centers because I think my work is so interdisciplinary that it touches on so many different things. And I talked to you earlier about how I don't like the silos, I don't like how we're like, we got to isolate this exposure. And, you know, my work really is like, drawing on sociology, is drawing on epidemiology, environmental health is all of these things. And I think that honestly, Drexel feels like the perfect place to continue to do the work the way that I want to do it, the way that I think is most impactful for communities. And the fact that it's in Philadelphia, you know, that's just the icing on the cake. And the truth be told, I didn't look, I wasn't applying to positions outside of Philadelphia, like this is where I wanted to be. And the, you know, the center itself, very focuses on the interdependence of people, it's on Ubuntu, it's on, you know, how is your humanity wrapped up in my humanity, and by extension, your well-being wrapped up in my well-being. So I really appreciate the community center and collective approaches the Ubuntu Center has, and I think it's the perfect place to allow me to, to, I don't know, I'm like, I'm in this stage of like, brainstorming and visioning. But I have this vision of, you know, trying to do academic community partnerships differently. They, you know, institutions in Philadelphia, specifically, but other places have been really harmful to communities. And I am like, okay, how can we leverage the resources that the university has to do what the community wants and the community's needs. And not only that, not what we think the community needs, but what community members say they need. So I'm like envisioning the center, I'm like, what that looks like, I'm talking to my friends and comrades about how the work I do at the university can be impactful and align with what they're doing on the ground, and then also holding the truth that I'm both in the university and on the ground, right. So yeah, just like doing a lot of brainstorming about that. And I think that, I think that where I'm going to be is strategically the best place to do that kind of work in the way that I want to do it.Brian Bienkowski Excellent. You've spoken so beautifully today about the power of growing food and digging in the dirt. What would you, what would you tell somebody in a city or otherwise, but maybe especially in a city, who has never grown a thing? Who was interested in this and just maybe wants to get started in some way? What would what would you tell them?Ashley Gripper That's a great question. And I don't even know if you know that I did this thing. But I would tell them to go to Coursera. And type in Black agricultural solutions to food apartheid, I did this extensive teach out as an introductory level for people who want to learn more about growing food particular in the city. I talked about the history, I talked about some of the research, but then at the end is really hands on, like, here's how you actually grow a thing, and here's how you don't just grow a thing for the sake of growing a thing, but actually build a relationship with the plants and the soil. So I would definitely recommend if you're interested in like just getting started, check that out. Because I also talk about how to do it in a city and how to reclaim a vacant lot and you know, use that for the purposes of supporting your community. So yeah, that is called again, it's on Coursera that's c o u r s e r a, I think that .com or .org. And the Teach-out itself is called Black Agricultural Solutions to Food Apartheid.Brian Bienkowski perfect, I did not know that.Y ou had a ready made answer. The materials are out there. So actually, this has been so much fun. And now I have some I have some light-hearted questions. So before my last question, I have three rapid-fire questions where you can just answer with one word, or a quick phrase just quick in-and-out. So the first one is an album or artist I've been listening to lately isAshley Gripper Ah, I'll give you one song: Jamila Wood's "Holy."Brian Bienkowski The best vegetable to eat right after picking it isAshley Gripper Sungold cherry tomatoesBrian Bienkowski Cats or dogs?Ashley Gripper Actively create trying to build a home that is will support a dog. Yeah, so my partner and I are planning to get a dog in a couple of months. So we're like trying to figure that out.Brian Bienkowski Yes, it's a commitment. We have a new pup from the shelter who's being very, very sweet today, but they can be a challenge. They can definitely be a challenge. So Ashley, what is the last book that you read for fun?Ashley Gripper For fun? Come on. Now, you know, I just finished a PhD. Um, for fun, I'm still working my way through "Children of Virtue and Vengeance," is the second book in the Children of Blood and Bones series. That's my kind of like fiction book. And the last book I opened. That I opened for like free-time fun is called "Of Water and Spirit," I believe, and it's by Malidoma Patrice Somé, who is, uh, I think – I might get this wrong– I think he might be from the Congo. But the book is about like spiritual practices connecting to land and how that has African origins despite... how that is inherently African, despite kind of like, you know, more Western religious trying to encourage people to separate from those traditional practices.Brian Bienkowski Awesome. So Ashley, this has been so much fun. You were you were the last fellow I had to track you down. And you were frankly, one of the ones I was most excited, excited to speak to. So thank you so much for doing this today.Ashley Gripper Absolutely. Brian, this was awesome. Thank you.Brian Bienkowski All right. That's all for this week, folks. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Ashley. I know I did.
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15 per cent of food currently given to livestock and farmed fish is suitable for human consumption. By replacing this with food system by-products, we could feed more people without needing more farmland
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Findings add further evidence in support of policies that limit ultra-processed foods. Two large research studies published by The BMJ last week find links between...
As We Grow is a short documentary following the development of Tallahassee Sustainability Group, a young Tallahassee student organization dedicated to educating the public about food and agriculture, increasing accessibility to fresh, healthy, food, and strengthening communities by means of urban farming. Though there are many problems that exist in our current industrialized food system, motivated people can begin our transition to a healthy food system by taking action locally and building a sustainable local food community. The concept of urban farming is paramount to this transition and growing food on unused or underutilized land where people actually live is the first step to food security and empowerment Past Presentation
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George Monbiot criticised ‘chefs and foodies’ like me for focusing on regenerative grazing. But alternative, lab-grown foods, could have terrible consequencesI have huge admiration for George Monbiot, a columnist of this newspaper. His work has highlighted the urgent need to reduce our CO2 emissions and switch to greener energy. He has also shown intensive farming’s role in the dramatic levels of species decline and biodiversity loss. Much of what he writes I wholeheartedly agree with – but when it comes to the solutions we need to change our farming and food systems, we have radically different takes.It is indisputable that the farming “revolution” of the 1950s, with its widespread use of ammonia fertilisers and herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, has waged war on nature. These intensive, monocultural ways of producing food are not only contaminating our land and waterways, but are heating up our planet and contributing to a crisis in human health (more people die of diet-related disease globally than smoking, according to a study published in the Lancet). The animals in factory farms don’t have a great time either. The decline of insect life is incredibly worrying: without the earthworm, beetle and bee, life as we know it could cease. Topsoils, which we use to grow 95% of the world’s food, are depleting at an astonishing rate. We need to change the way we eat and produce food, and we need to do it quickly.Thomasina Miers is a cook, writer and restaurateur Continue reading...
This article was produced in partnership with Earth Island Journal for its Built Environment issue. But unlike many agrihoods, the community isn’t just designed for sustainability. It’s also designed for an aging, disabled population that often struggles to find housing in the Silicon Valley, where the average home costs more than a million dollars. Of […] The post Agrihoods Promise Fresh Food and Community. Can They Add Equity to the List? appeared first on Civil Eats.
The town sits between the Salish Sea and the Olympic Mountains, with stunning views of both. It’s a small, quaint place, where many roads bear the names of families who still live there. Notably, Sequim proudly declares itself the lavender capital of North America. The number of people there nearly quadruples every July when 30,000 […] The post Native Tribes Are Bringing Prairie Land Back to the Pacific Northwest appeared first on Civil Eats.
New technologies and scientific ingenuity have given rise to genetically modified organisms (GMO) and other novel foods. Some people have raised concerns about the safety of GMOs in our food supply, given their incredible dominance in the majority of our diet. This film looks at our current food system as well as a variety of smaller, organic options available to consumers who want to support sustainable farming methods. Past Presentation
The vegan food market was pegged as a $27 billion industry last year, a figure that’s expected to more than double within a decade. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the major food and beverage incumbents such as Nestlé, which launched a plant-based dairy line under the Wunda brand last year, while rival Unilever has been […]
Earlier this summer, TikTok users started describing strange symptoms after eating French Lentil + Leek Crumbles, a new product from the vegan food company Daily Harvest. The company received hundreds of reports of illness, and in June, it recalled the product. The Daily Harvest fiasco got special attention because people were reporting their problems on social media, but foodborne illness is far from unusual in the United States. Every year, millions of Americans get sick from something they ate. On episode 52 of The Politics of Everything, Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene talk with New York Times writer Madison Malone Kircher and Helena Bottemiller Evich, the author of the food policy newsletter Food Fix, about what exactly happened in the Daily Harvest scandal and why food poisoning is so common in this country. Abigail Silverman [TikTok clip]: I’m literally shaking right now. Please just stay and listen to this because it’s really, really important. Laura: In June, Abigail Silverman posted this PSA on her TikTok. She’d eaten a package of Lentil + Leek Crumbles from the vegan food company Daily Harvest.Abigail Silverman [clip]: The following day, I started having extreme stomach and gastro pain and went to the hospital, the ER, in the middle of the night. When I was in the ER they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I had elevated liver levels, and then there was some bacteria in my ear and they thought I had a UTI, gave me antibiotics for five days, I went home. The five days of antibiotics go by and then immediately I started getting this pain again but it was even worse, and I had a 101.8 fever. Laura: Abigail was far from the only person to get very sick after eating the crumbles. Her TikTok was flooded with comments. Other creators on TikTok were posting their own videos about being sick. Daily Harvest received hundreds of reports of illness. Over 100 people were hospitalized. The company is now also facing a class action lawsuit. Alex: The story is strange on several levels. Most people don’t really know what “crumbles” are.Laura: Daily Harvest also projected this aspirational lifestyle—healthy living was its brand. But suddenly people were having these horrible symptom.Alex: What might be most surprising is that this type of outbreak is not even that unusual in the United States. Romaine lettuce has been linked to recent outbreaks of E. coli and listeria. And earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration traced cases of hepatitis A across multiple states to fresh organic strawberries.Laura: The Daily Harvest fiasco is a mystery within a mystery. There’s the question of how something as harmless-seeming as lentils and leeks could lead to hospitalization, as well as a bigger question: Why are so many foods causing illness?Laura: I’m Laura Marsh.Alex: And I’m Alex Pareene.Laura: This is The Politics of Everything. Laura: The first thing we want to unravel is what exactly happened at Daily Harvest. We’re talking with Madison Malone Kircher. She’s a reporter at The New York Times who followed the crumble situation as it developed on ICYMI, the podcast she used to cohost. Madison, we saw signs of a problem at Daily Harvest earlier this year. What food are we talking about? Madison Malone Kircher: We are talking about what is now known infamously as the French Lentil + Leek Crumble. And it is important to note that the “and” is stylized like a plus sign. Stylization of branding is very important to Daily Harvest.Laura: So this was, like, aspirational food.Madison: Totally. The entire brand is driven by beautiful, clean aesthetics. Gwyneth Paltrow was an investor—that’s the energy we’re talking about. And so the French Lentil + Leek Crumbles—say that five times fast—were one of their newer products. Some PR packages had gone out to folks to try them. People had started purchasing the crumbles and, coincidentally, around the same time, people eating them started to get sick—really, really sick—like immediately after consuming these crumbles. So people started to think, “Huh. Maybe they’re connected.”Alex: I don’t normally think of food arriving via PR, but PR packages of food went to people. What sort of people did these PR packages of food go to?Madison: We’re talking about influencers and content creators when we talk about who’s getting these PR packages. So anyone who has enough of a platform that Daily Harvest would think, “Hey, if we send them this food, maybe they’ll cook it and eat it and talk about it on their platforms and advertise it for us.”Laura: And so when we’re talking about people getting sick, we are not just talking about your, like, run-of-the-mill food poisoning, felt a bit iffy the next day.Madison: That’s the best-case scenario if you ate these things. The worst case scenario is you’re one of the reported 25 people who had their gall bladders removed as a result. People were headed to the hospitals with elevated liver levels, intense stomach pain, fevers, basically constellations of symptoms that their doctors could not explain, which led a number of them to saying, “Okay, we’ll try your gallbladder.”Laura: Wow, okay. So if you are one of these incredibly unlucky people having really severe illness, you know you are sick, but how did we trace this as an outbreak? How do you connect those people and say, “Oh, I think that the source of this is Daily Harvest rather than just assuming, “Oh, those oysters or seafood I had was off.”Madison: The short answer is TikTok. So what’s funny about this story to me is that it started out very personally. A friend of mine who was an influencer was hospitalized for a mysterious illness, and now is down a gallbladder. And he discovered the connection the same way the rest of us did, from a woman named Abby Silverman. She works for Cosmopolitan, and she had received one of these PR packages. And in the TikTok, she said, I threw it out after I ate it and went to the hospital with some of the worst GI pain I’ve ever experienced. I don’t totally know if this is what happened, but I would not eat these if I were you, and I feel it’s important I tell people. And that blew up and created sort of a community of lentil eaters who used that TikTok and its comment section to connect and discuss and start to piece together timelines and lists of symptoms all the while they were waiting for really concrete answers from Daily Harvest.Alex: This was all happening organically in the absence of any official word, either from Daily Harvest or, say, from the traditional press or from the government, correct?Madison: Exactly. Daily Harvest initially, in my opinion, very much bungled how they handled this, because they started off with an email, but, you know, who checks their email? Especially from a company you buy things from, and linked to an Instagram post with a photo of another food that they sell, a noncontaminated food. And the caption was something to the effect of “Check out our link in bio for important information about the Crumbles.”Laura: Oh, wow. Which could have been, plausibly, “The important information is they’re really tasty and it’s ‘Buy one great one free’ this week.” That’s what I would assume if I saw that from a brand on Instagram. Alex: I would not expect a link to an emergency recall in bio. I would expect a little bit more upfront information than that.Madison: At least a siren emoji or two, maybe the puking face?Laura: Yeah, or the “solemn” genre of Instagram posts that’s like, “We’ve had some time to reflect...”Madison: And they did eventually remove that post and post a different one in sort of a better tone, no picture. As the process has gone on, they have got much better at handling the communication. But I think that initial attempt made the customer base feel like they could not trust Daily Harvest in a way that we don’t react to other food recalls because, let’s be honest, how many times this year have you heard that something in your crisper, your lettuce or your jar of peanut butter, could kill you and you can’t eat it? This happens all the time. It’s not uncommon to have a food recall. What’s uncommon is this direct-to-consumer brand that sort of didn’t immediately say, “Hey, don’t eat that.”Alex: We should get into the brand here before we get into more of the details, because that’s sort of important. If there’s a Bibb lettuce recall, I don’t feel betrayed by Bibb lettuce. I don’t feel like, “Bibb lettuce, I thought I could trust you, and this is what you’ve done.” What kind of company is Daily Harvest? How do they sell themselves?Madison: Daily Harvest was founded in 2015, and it is a clean eating, vegan, direct- to-consumer, “You wanna eat healthy, but you don’t have the time and energy because you’re a busy girl boss, we got you covered, we will mail you your little smoothie cups, the cups are biodegradable because that’s the energy we’re talking.” And it’s an internet-native company—gorgeous Instagram ads, beautifully lit beautiful homes. Aesthetic aspiration, I think, is a good way to describe it. They are also a wildly successful company. They were labeled as a unicorn in 2021, and caveats apply when we throw that term around, but we are talking about a valuation of just north of a billion dollars. This is not a tiny smoothie operation. This is a very legitimate enterprise.Laura: Do you think the fact that the company had all this really appealing marketing made the story more appealing when it came out that people were getting food poisoning? Like, do you think there’s sort of a tendency for people to poke at the aspirations of people who are into this clean living, plant-based diet stuff and especially people who are on social media projecting a certain lifestyle?Madison: Absolutely. And I think that projection is really important. When you shop at Daily Harvest and you’re paying a premium for this quote-unquote healthy, beautiful, aspirational food, the stakes are a little higher. And if you fell for it, it’s a little easier to poke at.Laura: Usually when we hear about mass illness, like an outbreak of a severe illness, the reaction is unalloyed sympathy. Alex: Yeah, people usually don’t feel schadenfreude or think it’s funny, they don’t usually joke around about a mass recall with health. I mean, maybe we’re being too glib here, too, but there are reasons why you can’t help but find it at least slightly amusing.Madison: Well, we do have to address the names. First of all, the organ harvest joke writes itself. It’s not great. And I do think the morbid curiosity we’re describing of people being more interested in this because it is bougie brand of sorts was paired with a lot of sympathy and concern. In talking to my friend who lost his gallbladder and in watching TikToks and content from other people, it does really feel like this community has rallied behind its own, especially given the number of lawsuits that are now underway.Laura: I wanna go back to the TikTok aspect of this. So I’m don’t spend a lot of time on TikTok, but I am aware of TikTok having a scarily of the efficient algorithm that funnels you toward stuff that people who are like you are doing. Is that part of the discovery process here? Are people who consume Daily Harvest all already following each other, or is there something about TikTok that allowed them to connect very quickly when this happened?Madison: It’s certainly the latter. The TikTok algorithm is scary good. So, for example, if you are someone who demonstrated any interest in the past in veganism, in clean living, in healthy food, in pretty aesthetics, TikToks in that vein will find you. Also, people use TikTok as a search engine. Young people these days, that’s where they go to find out what is going on, and I can’t totally blame them. Look, far be it from me to trust what a corporation is telling me. You wanna find out what’s going on with the people eating this food, you go to the place where you can hear from the people eating this food.Alex: Well, yeah, I mean, that’s part of the fascinating part of this and, you know, Laura and I are geriatric millennials, so we are alienated and terrified of TikTok and the idea that people use it as a news source, but people turn to it for not just entertainment, but for news and commentary, and what I find fascinating about this story is that you generally hear about that in a purely negative sense, in a sort of ominous way about how TikTok is the home of misinformation, the home of hoaxes, health misinformation, just all sorts of quack nonsense or whatever. But in this case, TikTok and then also Instagram and Reddit communities were your only actual source of reliable information about this for some time—which is a real turnaround from how these places are usually portrayed in the legacy media.Madison: Absolutely. I think what’s important here is that those places often serve very well niche communities. So if you have an autoimmune condition, for example, that only a small amount of the population has, there aren’t a ton of experts in the medical field who cover it. A great place to find answers is gonna be Reddit, is gonna be TikTok, and they may not all be accurate and they may not all work for you, but that’s your best bet. And that’s what we’re seeing here with Daily Harvest, because while this is a recall on a large scale, we’re talking about under a thousand people impacted based on the numbers we have now, which in the scheme of things is a very small group.Laura: So where does the story stand now? Obviously the Lentil + Leek Crumbles have been withdrawn, but what’s the state of affairs now, like what’s the company doing and what are these people who presumably are now recovering, what action do they take next?Madison: So the company voluntarily recalled the product. It took about a month from the beginning of this kerfuffle to an answer. And the answer as it stands is that Daily Harvest have identified something called tara flour, which is from the South American tara tree, as the problem child of the ingredients list. Still more questions on that, but as of now, Consumer Reports is advising you don’t eat anything with that flour in it.Laura: I feel like that should be easy to avoid. It’s not in everything.Madison: Uh, yeah.Alex: Yeah, obviously you wouldn’t have known, but when you’re ordering something called lentil and leek crumbles, you don’t know there’s gonna be some weird root in it that will end up with you losing an organ. So I feel like it should be easy for me to avoid tara flour, but I also have no idea in which circumstances I might encounter it.Madison: I don’t know, I’m still eating hot dogs out of the package. Something’s gonna kill me, it’s okay. Daily Harvest has said the rest of its foods are completely safe, but the internet all at once has the longest memory on earth, it never forgets, and at the same time it forgets everything almost immediately. So it will be very interesting to see how Daily Harvest’s reputation weathers this storm. They recently had a round of layoffs. I was reading a piece in Fortune that reported the company attributed it to the recession, to which I say “Sure, Jan.” But it does seem like the next year is gonna be incredibly critical for this company, because it’s going to be very difficult for anyone who encountered this story to want to purchase any of the other safe foods from this company when there are plenty of other direct-to-consumer vegan smoothie fish in the sea.Alex: And we’re describing Daily Harvest as a huge success story, but when Chipotle has a huge recall, people might stop going to Chipotle for a while, but the company itself is not in danger. Daily Harvest, as you say, has all of these competitors that could take over their space pretty quickly, because the service they’re offering is one that seems pretty easy to emulate.Madison: Exactly. I’m back at Chipotle, Qdoba never got my money, but if I decide to become one of those aspirational vegan healthy folks—and I really do hope to at some point in my time on this planet—I’m gonna look elsewhere.Alex: Madison, thank you so much for talking to us today.Madison: Thank you. Good luck to all of your gallbladders.Alex: After the break, we’ll be back to talk about how the lentil and leek crumbles fiasco fits into a larger pattern of food poisoning in the US.Laura: In the first half of the show, we’ve been talking about the Daily Harvest recall. But food poisoning is a problem that goes far beyond a single product or a single known ingredient. In fact, food poisoning is very common in the United States. We’re talking now with Helen Bottemiller Evich, who wrote a long investigative feature for Politico in April about problems at the FDA, the regulatory body that oversees food safety. Helena, what are some of the most commonly contaminated foods, and what kind of illnesses do we see here in the US?Helena Bottemiller Evich: It’s a great question. I think food safety is one of those things we kind of take for granted and don’t think about a lot, but we do have quite a large burden of foodborne illness in the US. About 48 million people each year gets sick; about 100,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. That’s according to the CDC’s best estimate. And the big caveat you have to put with all of this is it’s very difficult to pin foodborne illnesses down to specific foods. That said, though, the foods that tend to have the most foodborne illness outbreaks are the ones that we’re told to eat more of like leafy greens, lettuce, meats, poultries, dairy. Those can be contaminated with E. coli or salmonella. And we see those repeatedly have foodborne illness outbreaks, but those are also the foods that the government tells us to eat more of, so it’s a little bit of a tricky thing to communicate.Laura: This is something I find really intriguing, because I grew up associating outbreaks of stuff like E. coli with eggs or fresh meat. And only recently do I remember really reading about an outbreak of E. coli in lettuce and thinking, “How does that happen?” Like what in lettuce or leafy vegetables, or even strawberries could harbor these kinds of diseases? What’s going on there? Helena: So oftentimes it’s adjacent to cattle production or the water might be getting contaminated from nearby cattle or wildlife intrusion. Laura: Just to clarify, the presence of the cattle in fields adjacent to leafy green crops—it’s their excrement that’s contaminating the water that’s being used to irrigate those crops?Helena: Yeah.Laura: To my knowledge, that doesn’t happen in, say, the EU.Helena: One thing that’s really tricky about comparing food safety in the US to other countries is all of the systems are pretty different, both in terms of how they regulate on farms or don’t and then also how they actually track foodborne illnesses and investigate them. Certainly US growers love to say we’re the safest in the world, and some people just dispute that. So it’s a tough thing to compare, but the centralization or the really large-scale processing of fruits and vegetables, leafy greens in particular, makes it particularly difficult because if you have one contamination event, it’s just spread across many, many states. Laura: That makes sense. If the United States government wanted to make that food supply safer, are there measures that they could put in place?Helena: There’s a lot of focus on this both from the industry and from the government. It’s taken a really long time to get water standards in place. We mentioned how cattle could potentially contaminate leafy greens, and one way is water. So if irrigation channels are running open air and you have birds or dust or even just rain water, you can see how bacteria could spread that way. It’s taken FDA more than 10 years to put in safety standards for water and impose things that growers have to do. That said, there are private-sector things that they have tried to do to better get a handle on this. A lot of retailers have put pressure on leafy greens growers to, for example, have more distance between their growing operations and cattle. So there are things being done, but we really have not solved the problem—I think that’s the bottom line.Alex: Why does it take 10 years to come up with water safety rules?Helena: Great question. There’s a lot of reasons. There’s bureaucracy, there’s inertia. To be fair to FDA, it’s really complicated to think about how you regulate agricultural water. They did come up with an initial stab at this, and it was widely panned as being extremely complicated, like it required farmers to do log rhythmic equations—I’m not joking. So everyone sort of agreed, this is not it. And that set this back years. We all probably remember the big peanut butter salmonella outbreak, or the big spinach E. coli outbreak in 2006—well, those events did spark some bipartisan legislation and FDA completed some of those things, but some of those regulations took a very long time. That law was signed by Obama in January 2011. And we’re still waiting on some of those regulations to be actually implemented.Alex: Over the last few years, we’ve been thinking about the FDA mostly in terms of drug approval and vaccines and medicine. But what is the FDA’s food purview? How does it regulate food? I think part of the story of Daily Harvest is most people think if you’re selling something, the FDA has said it’s safe to consume. It’s not quite that simple though, is it?Helena: This is one of those things where it’s just so clear if you talk to any consumer that there’s a really big gap between what consumers think FDA does and what FDA actually does. FDA has jurisdiction over about 80 percent of the food supply, which is a massive undertaking. That’s everything from imported seafood to mid-size food manufacturers making pretzels to the fresh produce for our salad bowls. It’s hundreds of thousands of facilities, both in the US and also abroad. And for the most part, FDA is not inspecting all that regularly; it’s not unusual for it to be every few years. We saw recently with infant formula, factories were supposed to be getting inspected every year and during Covid they scaled back a lot of those inspections. But I think if you were to ask the average person, “How often is an infant formula plan inspected?” they’d probably say, “Oh, probably pretty often, I don’t know, that just seems like something the government would be on.” So I just think there’s this big gap between what we think they do and what they actually do. Alex: Just to clarify, because we were talking about what the FDA does and doesn’t do, you say they’re responsible for 80 percent of the food supply—what’s the 20 percent of the food supply the FDA isn’t responsible for?Helena: Mostly meat. But FDA also handles nutrition and food additives and things like that. And actually, what we think might be the problem with Daily Harvest, the tara flour, we think that was essentially a “generally recognized as safe” ingredient. Generally recognized as safe, or GRAS, as we call it in food world, is essentially food companies, industry experts, and outside experts and scientists considering something literally generally recognized as safe. They can notify the FDA, like, “Hey, we have determined X ingredient is GRAS”; they can send a letter and FDA can say, “We don’t have any questions about this.” And that is about as much oversight as you’ll get in that space. But you can self-determine GRAS or determine with experts a GRAS status without notifying FDA. Laura: So it’s really different from the drug approval process, where you’re submitting something and then it’s being actively reviewed and then it makes the list, and now this is okay.Helena: Oh, completely. And also FDA has a process for food additives. but that process can be so cumbersome and takes so long that companies tend to just go through the GRAS process, it’s like a loophole you can drive a truck through, that’s how consumer advocates see it. Those in the industry will say the process isn’t as abused as you would think because food companies don’t want to make people sick— that’s against their interest. They can be sued, and we see plenty of litigation over things like this. So, it’s not that there are no checks on it, but it’s certainly one of those thing that I think when you tell a consumer about that, they’re like, “Wait, that’s how it works?”Laura: Right. Because I think a lot of people would think they are checking stuff is safe before it goes out. Whereas the way the system actually works is it’s quite easy to get a product to market, and then if it makes people sick, that’s when there might be an investigation, there might be some lawsuits. So you are sort of the Guinea pig if you’re gonna try a new food.Helena: It’s a really big philosophical difference that I think we have with Europe. Europe employs more of what’s called the precautionary principle, which is more like you can’t put it on the market unless you can really prove that something doesn’t have issues, doesn’t cause harm. And in the US, we’re much more unless we have evidence of harm, it’s kind of the opposite. Laura: In your piece, you mentioned that FDA officials have this kind of joke that the F in the FDA is a silent F. Is there a sense that the food branch is kind of neglected within the agency, that it gets less funding and less attention since there’s been so much emphasis on Covid vaccines? Is there a sense that the agency is kind of straining under doing all that work, and would that affect the food part of the organization?Helena: It is such a backseat issue in the agency and has been for a long time, definitely before Covid, but I think Covid really exacerbated that dynamic. We’ve been in a global emergency and all of that has gotten a lot of attention. But I think it has reminded some folks on the food side too of just how lopsided the focus is within FDA. And what we’re seeing now is a lot of industry, consumer, and advocacy groups, along with environmental groups—a really broad coalition—is coming together and basically saying we really need FDA to reboot and have better leadership. Laura: It sounds like there are so many factors in play here in terms of securing a safe food supply. And it’s natural to go to the FDA and just say, “We need more regulation,” but in your view what is the biggest thing the US could do to avoid these shortages and outbreaks and generally improve the safety of what we eat?Helena: I think there’s a lot of debate about what should be done, and probably each commodity’s different in terms of what they need. I don’t think there is a silver bullet on any of this. When it comes to infant formula, I think there is going to be more focus on whether or not FDA’s oversight is stringent enough. I think that’s a fair place to look. I think Congress eventually will probably take another look at all of this, but honestly it will probably take some sort of catastrophic crisis. It’s usually what we see: We usually see some horrific event that spurs a fresh look. Our system is very reactive.Alex: So we just have to wait for the next catastrophic event and then we can finally take care of food regulation in this country?Helena: I hesitate to think about what that would be. I mean, with this Daily Harvest thing, I think FDA recalled it in June, mid-June. It’s been months and we still do not have an official answer from FDA—I know Daily Harvest has put out what they think it is—but I mean, hundreds of people sick, a hundred-ish hospitalized. If it takes FDA months to nail the same ingredient that Reddit did within days, I think that’s gonna be really embarrassing.Alex: As it should be!Laura: Thank you so much for taking us through all of this. Helena: Anytime. Thank you.Alex: The Politics of Everything is co-produced by Talkhouse.Laura: Emily Cooke is our executive producer. Alex: Myron Kaplan is our audio editor. Laura: If you enjoy The Politics of Everything and you want to support the show, one thing you can do is share this episode with a friend. Alex: Thanks for listening.
Then-Sergeant Marty Neideffer, who is now a captain, and Hillary Bass, the executive director of the Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs’ Activities League (DSAL), had just read Van Jones’ The Green Collar Economy, which outlines a vision for tackling economic inequality and environmental problems simultaneously. Bass, Neideffer, and their colleagues were inspired to follow that strategy to […] The post Can an Urban Farm Run by Police Create Jobs, Feed People, and Build Trust? appeared first on Civil Eats.
There have been increasing calls to move towards more sustainable forms of food production
A new book looks at the “dark underbelly” of salmon farming
Whether your ideal trip involves trying local food, nightlife and culture, or just kicking back in pretty surroundings, these unsung spots cover all bases Continue reading...
Guy Singh-Watson, founder of the organic veg-box firm, continues to experiment with new ways of producing food and promoting wildlife, 36 years after his first harvestIn a field full of polytunnels containing row after row of tomatoes and cucumbers, laminated sheets covered in images that look like police mugshots are prominently displayed. Pictured are a list of “friends and foes”.The “foes”, according to Riverford Organic Farmers, are aphids, spider mites and thrips. The “friends” are predatory and parasitic wasps, lacewings, ladybirds and hoverflies. There is no mention of herbicides and insecticides, which most farmers would consider friends. Crops have no signs of disease thanks to a system that has taken years to fine-tune, says the company’s founder, Guy Singh-Watson. “Attention to detail,” he says. “It’s good farming, really.” Continue reading...
Experts say that if we want to collectively help combat the climate crises, we should curb impulse food purchases, understand what 'best by' dates really mean and embrace meal planning and leftovers.
Only 19% of people surveyed say they're familiar with "regenerative agriculture," according to a study
Rescuing Abundance is a food sustainability film starring heroes from the Pittsburgh food community. The film tells the story of how business, government, farmers, nonprofits, and college students can work together to reverse the current trend of 31% of the food produced in the United States ending up in landfills, despite millions of people going hungry every day. The ultimate purpose of the film is to develop the foundation for community-focused solutions. Business and the community can work together and drive social innovation in the food space. Past Presentation
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South African environmental authorities have confirmed four new infections and another seven suspected cases in a new outbreak of avian flu at Cape Town’s Boulders penguin colony, a popular tourist attraction and an important breeding site, officials said on Friday. City and provincial officials said the strain of highly pathogenic avian […] The post Avian Flu Outbreak Detected Among Cape Town’s Penguin Colony at Boulders appeared first on SAPeople - Worldwide South African News.
Covid and Ukraine war were major setbacks in pursuit of global development goals, philanthropist admits, but cutting back on aid would be ‘tragic’The figures are bad, progress has stalled and all the trends that had been building hope in the world becoming a fairer place are showing sharp about-turns. Yet Bill Gates, who has poured billions of his own dollars into eradicating poverty, remains “optimistic”.“It would be awful to turn away just because we’re getting bad grades due to unexpected setbacks,” he told the Guardian in an exclusive interview ahead of Tuesday’s publication of the annual Goalkeepers Report from the foundation he co-chairs. Continue reading...
To keep the climate habitable, most scientists agree that switching to renewable energy alone isn’t enough – Americans also need to change the way they eat. Environmental and public health advocates are pushing a new strategy to help get there: including climate breakdown in the official US dietary guidelines, which shape what goes into billions of meals eaten across the country every year.Every five years, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services jointly publish a new version of the guidelines. They form the basis for the public-facing eating guide MyPlate, formerly MyPyramid, as well as many government-backed meal programs, such as National School Lunch. Historically, these guidelines have narrowly focused on human nutrition, but some are now saying they should be expanded to incorporate climate considerations as well.
To maintain our role as a global food bowl, Australia has to keep innovating in agricultural technology.
Unbroken Grounds explains the critical role food will play in the next frontier of our efforts to solve the environmental crisis. It explores four areas of agriculture that aim to change our relationship to the land and oceans. Most of our food is produced using methods that reduce biodiversity, decimate soil and contribute to climate change. We believe our food can and should be a part of the solution to the environmental crisis -- grown, harvested and produced in ways that restore our land, water and wildlife. The film tells the story of four groups that are pioneers in the fields of regenerative agriculture, regenerative grazing, diversified crop development and restorative fishing. Past Presentation
More than 97 percent of California is under at least “severe” drought conditions, raising the specter of difficult agricultural decisions in a state that produces a quarter of U.S. food. Farming is the main driver of water usage in the state, and the drought, now in its third year, comes alongside increasing pressure on...
Gourdet follows a paleo diet, and the book is written with that diet in mind—but it’s so plant-centric you might be forgiven for thinking it’s written for vegans on first pass. Gorgeous photos of Brussels sprouts with chiles, lime, and mint follow images of a “high-summer salad” (heirloom tomatoes, berries, and nectarines) with coconut dressing […] The post Top Chef’s Gregory Gourdet on Sourcing, Sobriety, and Equity appeared first on Civil Eats.
Juan ‘Accidentes’ Dominguez is on his biggest case ever. On behalf of twelve Nicaraguan banana workers he is tackling Dole Food Co. in a ground-breaking legal battle for their use of a banned pesticide that sterilized workers. Can he beat the giant, or will the corporation get away with it? In the suspenseful documentary Bananas!, filmmaker Fredrik Gertten sheds new light on the global politics of food. Past Presentation
This “important film,” as described by Paul McCartney, addresses how, due to quintupling of meat consumption since 1960 in the West–where cardiovascular disease and cancer are epidemic, 65 billion land animals are slaughtered every year and 30% of all grain is fed to those animals while globally 1.8 billion people suffer starvation. The director spent 3 years traveling throughout Europe, India, and the United States to research dietary lifestyles. Meeting with expert physicians, nutritionists, veterinarians, behavioral scientists, activists, agronomists and farmers led to one solution, a simple one that restored our own health and the health of our planet: Food Matters, You Matter! Past Presentation
GMO OMG director and concerned father Jeremy Seifert is in search of answers. How do GMOs affect our children, the health of our planet, and our freedom of choice? And perhaps the ultimate question, which Seifert tests himself: is it even possible to reject the food system currently in place, or have we lost something we can’t gain back? These and other questions take Seifert on a journey from his family’s table to Haiti, Paris, Norway, and the lobby of agra-giant Monsanto, from which he is unceremoniously ejected. Along the way we gain insight into a question that is of growing concern to citizens the world over: what's on your plate? Past Presentation
From Farm To Table is an Eco-documentary film showcasing a school's commitment to integrating stewardship of our earth's resources into its curriculum. The film follows students working in their school garden and sustainable organic farm from planting to harvesting and demonstrates the link between fresh locally grown sustainable products and healthier eating while simultaneously building community and promoting the stewardship of our earth's resources. The important issues of conservation, preservation, biodiversity and animal welfare are addressed. In conclusion, as a call to action we are encouraged to learn more, ask questions and take action by growing our own food and buying local food. Past Presentation
Berlin-based agriTech startup Klim is in a hurry to get farmers adopting so-called ‘regenerative’ methods — which are touted as less harmful to soils and biodiversity than conventional farming — arguing this evolution offers the best chance to shrink the global carbon footprint of agriculture fast enough to tackle the climate crisis. Its digital platform, […] Klim harvests $6.6M seed to get more farmers growing greener by Natasha Lomas originally published on TechCrunch
Hungry for Justice: Spotlight on the South provides a snapshot of the injustices present in our current food system and introduces one of the promising market-based solutions that has arisen—Food Justice Certification. It tells the story of one farm in the South and their commitment to focus on social justice issues for their farmworkers by seeking this certification and market label. Food Justice Certification, a project of the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP), is a unique program in the domestic fair trade movement as it is the only verification program in the marketplace that has included farmworkers and farmworker representatives in the development of the certification standards and includes them in the verification process. Past Presentation
Talitha, who works in the non-profit sector, finds ways to make her dollar stretch by dumpster diving* to rescue and reclaim unused food. Director How is a graduate of the prestigious MFA Directing program at the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television. *Miriam-Webster: The practice of searching through public trash receptacles for edible food or discarded items that retain some use or value. Now Playing
People are increasingly aware of the origins of their food and the effects of chemicals in agriculture. Numen brings the same analysis to our healthcare system, providing both a sobering view and a vision of safe, elective and sustainable medicine. Past Presentation
Many Coca-Cola products across the U.S. now proudly display their 100 percent recycled content labels and ask consumers to recycle them again. In the past months, two beverage behemoths have been showered with media attention for their big announcements about plastic bottle recycling. Sprite, a Coca-Cola brand, dominated food and beverage news and social media for […] The post Op-ed: Is There Plastic in Your Soda? Beverage Companies Must Go Beyond Recycling appeared first on Civil Eats.
Humans are literally connected to the rest of the natural world through our DNA. But today’s highly processed foods, pesticide based monoculture farming, increasing urbanization, obsession with technology, and destruction of the natural environment distance us further and further from the world we co-evolved with. The explosive growth of technology is driving profound changes in every aspect of human civilization. The benefits of our new found electronic interconnectivity are incalculable. But could the tsunami of chronic and autoimmune diseases that modern societies are experiencing be related to our increasing disconnection from nature? Past Presentation
Parody in the style of black-and-white film noir that uses clips from old films to reveal a mystery involving the global economy: An insane flux of food export and import. A hidden crime is revealed by classic actors and a classic film noir score. Past Presentation
The story of three men's life-long search for a diet, which is good for our health, good for the environment and good for the future of the planet. The film features the ground-breaking work of Dr. T Colin Campbell in China exploring the link between diet and disease, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's use of diet to treat heart disease patients, and Professor Gidon Eshel's investigations into how our food choices contribute to global warming, land use and oceanic dead zones. Past Presentation
Swallowtail: An Apprenticeship Story follows six young aspiring farmers as they navigate the rollercoaster season of 2019-2020 in North Central Florida. The film centers on the thoughts and experiences of these apprentices who leave home to live at Swallowtail Farm and how the COVID-19 pandemic turned an already challenging learning experience into an unprecedented one. Throughout their journey, they reflect on issues of food security, sustainability practices, and community. Now Playing
“Nobody thought Harkness would go,” Ash Phillips told me plainly. The Mount Harkness Fire Lookout tower was, after all, built atop a sparsely vegetated peak of an ancient cinder cone volcano—not exactly an inviting location for blazes. In 2019, Phillips, serving as an historical architect for the National Park Service, spearheaded its restoration project in California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park. The historic two-story structure built in 1931 holds a couple claims to fame in the niche world of fire lookout culture—it is where Edward Abbey completed his self-described “frankly antisocial” memoir, Desert Solitaire. But after 90 years in the great outdoors, the tower was showing signs of decay. So a team of dedicated volunteers painstakingly returned it to its former glory, hiking each morning up the steep peak and using cured wood from local downed trees, airlifted via helicopter, to match the original building materials.Only two years after the labor of love was completed, the icon of fire lookout construction was incinerated in California’s single-largest wildfire to date. The Dixie Fire, which burned nearly one million acres, left the trees surrounding the structure intact but reduced the tower to a pile of ashes. “It was just insane,” Phillips said, comparing the fire’s approach to that of a blowtorch.Despite the fact that wildfire has become an unavoidable presence in many of our lives, fire lookout towers are slipping away. Many of these towers were built during the New Deal Era as part of the Works Progress Administration, which means that they are all nearing a century’s worth of wear and tear. But there’s little political or institutional will to invest in their renewal, given technological advancements in fire detection in recent decades. The work of fire surveillance has gone the way of most everything—increasingly automated. In Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, for instance, $20 million in funding is allocated for satellites meant to detect wildfires, and $10 million is for “real-time monitoring equipment” like sensors and cameras. Historical fire lookouts have two purposes these days. On the one hand, those who choose to spend extended time up in these towers in remote wilderness are tasked with scanning the horizon looking for smoke and helping coordinate firefighting efforts. They also, importantly, are emissaries of the park, interacting with visitors who hike up to their stations. Some of the lookouts are equipped with an Osborne Fire Finder—a mechanical sighting device that allows the lookouts to pinpoint the approximate coordinates of a wildfire without using any electricity. When I stumbled upon Mount Harkness on a weeklong backpacking trip back in 2015, the lookout showed me how to use it, while pointing out the various different mountain ranges visible from the summit.An Osborne fire finder in use in the Mount Harkness Fire LookoutNational Park Service/Paul GreerMany of those who work in fire lookout towers are vigorous advocates of what they see as a dying yet irreplaceable service. Kyle Stelter, the State Historic Preservation Office liaison for the nonprofit group Forest Fire Lookout Association, defended the continued existence of lookouts. “The cameras serve one purpose and one purpose only,” Stelter said. “And they don’t give some of those other benefits that a lot of remote lookouts have.” The existential threat facing lookout work is nothing new. “Basically, after World War II, the agency was already moving pretty heavily into aerial fire detection,” said Stelter. “Lookouts have been fighting the battle against the quote-unquote newer technology for a long time.” Aside from the constant vigilance staffed lookouts provide, there is a romance to the work itself. The poet Gary Snyder worked in a lookout tower, as did the writer Jack Kerouac. Stelter’s own grandparents, then young newlyweds, spent three summer months in a lookout tower in Missoula, Montana.The poet Gary Snyder worked in a lookout tower, as did the writer Jack Kerouac. Stelter does acknowledge, though, that the work could be more dangerous now that the fires are becoming so unpredictable, with internal weather systems of their own. As a function of their work, fire lookout staffers are often left alone in remote wilderness areas. When I looked at the Facebook page for Stelter’s organization, among the posts was one member informing the others that a fire lookout tower was rumored to be evacuated and at risk of burning, in the early spring wildfires in New Mexico. “I used to calmly watch for smoke but it’s now changed into a job where I try to look all the time, not even allowing time for a few breaks,” wrote another commenter. “I am afraid, with this drought, of looking away for just a minute and turning around to something awful. The days of a relaxing job are over also, it’s constantly being aware!!”Yet the same could be said of daily life outside the fire towers in some wilderness areas. This July brought with it the news that a 73-year-old beloved fire lookout named Kathy Shoopman perished in her home as the result of the McKinney fire. Shoopman first began her career watching for fires nearly 50 years ago and was well known in the lookout community. The wildfire obliterated the small Northern California town near the Klamath River where Shoopman lived, and killed four people. The lookout towers themselves symbolize decades of concerted fire suppression, and in particular the Forest Service’s hard-line stance against wildfires, especially after the great conflagration in 1910, when wildfires burned more than three million acres and killed 86 people, mostly firefighters. Many Indigenous communities who have lived across the West for centuries understood and continue to understand fire as a necessary and healthy force in the ecosystem; European settlers’ priorities were different—they wanted to protect the lumber supply and grazing plains, for one. Now states like California find themselves in an impossible situation. Years of insisting on total fire suppression have created a huge backlog of potential fuel, things like dead trees and brush. Meanwhile, people have built their homes in areas practically guaranteed to burn, given the droughts and extreme weather that global warming is driving.These lookout towers arguably represent a militaristic approach toward fire in all of its various forms, and an imperialistic approach toward nature. But since their original construction, they’ve become public sites of stewardship where visitors from all over can investigate their own relationship to a constructed notion of wilderness and our ever-changing relationship to these monstrous blazes. “There is a huge loss of interpretation and culture, with not just the loss of the physical structure but that loss of a staffed fire lookout on public land,” said Ash Phillips. Maybe we do need more commonplace interpreters of fire to help us understand the cultural forces, the genocidal violence, the environmental catastrophes, the political motivators, that have shaped our understanding of fire and its forging of the West.“I don’t want to fight fire,” said Rod Mendes, fire chief for the Yurok Tribe Fire Department. “I want to use fire.” Mendes has been fighting fires in California for 53 years—for cities in the Bay Area, for the Forest Service, for the Marines. When we spoke, he had just returned from 14 days battling the Happy Camp Complex fire, caused by a recent lightning strike. Over Zoom, he attempted to show me the smoke that was drifting outside his office window. For decades, he adopted the stalwart stance of the various institutions he worked for: When fires appeared, he put them out.“When I was a kid, my grandmother used to walk around the yard, burning little piles of leaves everywhere.” But over the course of his career, as the fires worsened, he began to question the way things were done. Memories began to surface from his childhood. Mendes grew up in a small Northern California town called Orleans, in Humboldt County. His mother’s side of the family is part of the Karuk Tribe. “When I was a kid, my grandmother used to walk around the yard, burning little piles of leaves everywhere,” Mendes recalled. “She had this long stick that had a fork on the end of it. It was a twig. She’d start flicking these leaves everywhere that were on fire. She’d get the whole hillside burning. And it would just burn down to the dirt road behind her house.” There were no ticks in the fields surrounding their homes, he explained. No scorpions or rattlesnakes, though they were plentiful in the area. Their dogs didn’t have fleas. His grandmother understood how to use fire as a way to maintain the landscape.Indigenous communities across California haven’t just been discouraged from practicing intentional fire use—they’ve been criminalized for it. “Ten, 15 years ago, we would’ve went to jail for that,” explained Mendes. “You can’t have fires. And we still kind of struggle with that, where we have agencies that want to come onto reservation lands and suppress fires without consultation with the [Yurok] Tribe.” Historically, lumber has been a huge source of industry in Humboldt County. “A lot of the fire suppression was to protect the timber supply,” said Mendes. Instead of eliminating sources of fuel around people’s homes, private landowners planted invasive conifer trees to harvest the timber. Still today, if tribal members want to do a prescribed burn, depending on where it is, they might have to ask for permission from the state or the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a federal agency that could take six months to respond, Mendes said.Those involved in fighting fires are catching on to what Mendes, his grandmother, and members of the Yurok and Karuk Tribes have always known. You can’t eliminate fire from the landscape entirely. “When we talk about facilitating community wildfire preparedness and resilience and adaptation to wildfire by supporting and promoting things like Fire Safe Councils and Firewise communities, that’s not new to Native people,” said Mendes. “They did that already.” Nonprofit groups like the Cultural Fire Management Council are working toward facilitating cultural burns by helping other members of the Yurok Tribe prepare their land for burning, cooperative burning, and training outside fire practitioners through demonstrations. It’s Mendes’s hope that more people across the state will learn not to be afraid of fire and to understand it as a tool necessary for mitigating the current wildfire crisis. But the general public will only feel more at ease with the practice of prescribed burning if it’s something they can see and understand—and if the people who’ve been practicing it safely and effectively for centuries are allowed to do it. “The Yurok reservation and all these reservations suffered because the people that were here knew they needed to burn around their homes, and they knew they needed to burn their prairies off,” said Mendes. “And every time they attempted to, they got arrested. And now they’re coming to us going, ‘How do you do that?’”Though Mendes is deeply skeptical of the way we’ve fought fires for the past 100 years, he is an advocate for fire lookout towers. Partly this comes from his experience of firefighting. “There is nothing that is more hands-on … than an actual living human being, watching a fire, giving you a size-up, telling you what the smoke is doing,” he said. He still thinks they’re useful, despite all the cameras. But there’s another reason he loves them: As a young child, he spent three pivotal summers living in a fire lookout tower in Orleans. He hiked the 16 miles to the tower for the first time when he was 10 years old, sent by his mother to assist his uncle who was stationed there. His uncle had polio—one of his legs was shorter than the other—and at times had difficulty moving up and down the stairs. Mendes was there to grab food from the cellar, or jugs of water, or occasionally, when his uncle had shot a deer from the tower, to clean its carcass and drag it back up. He can still remember the singular view from up on that mountain. He recently took his son up there on a hunting trip and was so distressed by the deteriorating condition of the tower that he contacted a member of the Forest Fire Lookout Association in hopes of getting it restored.Ash Phillips, the historical architect who oversaw the restoration of Mount Harkness, considered the fire in Lassen to be ultimately beneficial for the land itself. “There were pockets that were really hot and devastating,” said Phillips, “but it was a good fire. I think the forests were better for it, which is great.” In the wake of the widespread devastation and ecological havoc the Dixie fire caused, this small building is most likely the least of the park’s concerns. And the truth is, even if they wanted to rebuild Mount Harkness Fire Lookout as it once was, they can’t. There were never any measured drawings of the structure, said Phillips. Someone was planning on doing them, but then it burned down.When the fire reached Mount Harkness, Phillips was no longer living in California. She’d left in large part because of the constant fires: “Unbreathable air is a very valid concern,” she remarked dryly. And then there was the constant threat of evacuation. “Everybody I knew had their car packed with all their worldly goods all summer.” Phillips began having trouble sleeping. One night she woke up and the fire alarms were going off in her house. She thought: Well, this is it, it’s time to run. She grabbed her dog and the go bag that she religiously kept next to her bed. She dashed to her driveway, only to find no fire at her doorstep. It was just so densely smoky outside it had triggered the alarms. She stood there and cried.When she got into historical architectural preservation, Phillips didn’t know that many of the structures she and her NPS colleagues were painstakingly working to restore would later be wiped out by these catastrophic fires. It’s not just Mount Harkness; last summer in a fire in Rocky Mountain Park, in Colorado, 23 historical structures were destroyed. Phillips now lives in Atlanta, where she works as a historical architect at Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. It spans not acres and acres of wilderness but several buildings across the city that speak to the legacy of the indomitable civil rights leader. She is moved by the mission of the park, the history she is working to preserve. But she also sleeps easier in Georgia than she did in the arid California summers, where the threat of fire was omnipresent. At the end of our conversation, I asked her if she missed being in the outdoors. Phillips smiled. “Every day,” she said.
Vegucated is a feature-length documentary that follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. Part sociological experiment, part science class, and part adventure story, Vegucated showcases the rapid and at times comedic evolution of three people who share one journey and ultimately discover their own paths in creating a kinder, cleaner, greener world, one bite at a time. Past Presentation
This short documentary shares the story of Molokaʻi homesteader Bobby Alcain, his views on growing food, and his hopes for Molokai's future. This film was created by ʻOhana Learning Alliance (OLA Molokaʻi) students who frequently visit Uncle Bobby's farm for their papa mahiʻai (farming class). Past Presentation
The story of organic agriculture told by those who built the movement. A motley crew of back-to-the-landers, spiritual seekers, and farmers’ sons and daughters rejected chemical farming and set out to explore organic alternatives. A heartfelt journey of change–from a small band of rebels to a cultural transformation where organic is mainstream. It’s the most successful outgrowth of the environmental impulse of the last 50 years. Past Presentation
Extending the Link is a student-run documentary team using film as a vehicle for social change. This film tells the story of women in agriculture in Minnesota and Rwanda and illustrates how agriculture serves as a tool to improve community building, nutrition education, and economic development. It is critical for all members of the world to be agents for change in their own communities. The filmmakers hope to generate awareness about the important role women play in global agriculture and how they enhance relationships between consumers and farmers and inspire people to participate in their local food movement. Past Presentation
It's not just 'Old MacDonald' on the farm anymore. All across the U.S. there is a growing movement of educated young people who are leaving the cities to take up an agrarian life. Armed with college degrees, some are unable to find jobs in the current economic slump. Fed up with corporate America and its influence on a broken food system, they aim to solve some of the current system's inequities by growing clean, fair food. Mostly landless, they borrow, rent or manage farmland in order to fulfill their dreams of doing something meaningful with their lives. Past Presentation
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