Fracking Cattle

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by Ulla Kjarval

[Ulla Kjarval is a photographer, food blogger and grass-fed beef advocate who blogs at Goldilocks Finds Manhattan. Her family operates Spring Lake Farm in Delaware County, New York -mb.]

The battle over gas drilling has made its way to upstate New York and many farmers, especially those that rely on grasslands, are alarmed at the possible impact fracking – the relatively new technology for gas drilling – could have on their livelihoods. Dick Cheney’s 2005 Energy Policy Act, with its “Halliburton Exemption” significantly deregulated fracking, making it exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clear Air Act. Alarmingly if not surprisingly, the dismantling of these most basic safeguards to protect us from pollution seems to have not caused our lawmakers any concern.

Fracking allows drillers to tap gas reserves deep in the ground. To do so they rely on a high pressure mix of water, sand and undisclosed chemicals pumped into the ground to collapse and crack into horizontal deposits trapped in rock. Sadly, in areas where fracking has already happened there has been widespread pollution and ruined drinking water.

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Posted in Farming, Food Politics

Spicing Up Butter––With Herbs

By Cathy Erway

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Before we get into the how, let’s talk about why you should make herbed butter. Herbs grow, a lot. It seems a shame not to enjoy their zingy, full flavors while they’re at their prime these hot months. Yes, you can dry out the leaves and use them all year, but this usually weakens or at least alters their flavor.

And I’m not saying don’t make tub after tub of pesto, but maybe your freezer is full of those already. You could even make a tincture, or try your hand at homemade perfume. But if you like to make bread, or serve it at dinner, then it’s fun to have a host of flavored butters on hand. And chopping up herbs, storing them in fat — butter — preserves their flavor, even stretches it, as it’ll permeate the whole glob. Continue reading

Posted in Farming

A Black Market No More

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by Paula Crossfield (Civil Eats

When the New York Times reported on the growing phenomenon of underground food markets in New York City back in June, the Greenpoint Food Market was forced to shut its doors.  

The New York Times article “put us on radar with the officials,” wrote Joann Kim, the market’s organizer and founder, in an email to market devotees. “Since then we have gone back and forth with the city trying to find a solution to how the market can keep its mission while adhering to rules and regulations.” Continue reading

Posted in Farming, Food Politics

Solstice Greetings

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By Clotilde Hryshko   

In the 1991 movie Raise the Red Lantern, the character played by Gong Li was wife #4 to a lord of a powerful family in 1920’s China.  The wives all ate together and they knew each other’s status partially based on the food served.  Gong Li’s character always desired spinach and tofu.  The movie stuck and replayed in my head for many reasons but her continual requests for this dish became my fixation.   

Many years later at the end of a rainy June market we had lots of spinach left.  I wasn’t in the mood to freeze it and took the opportunity to finally come up with my version of “spinach and tofu”.  I crumbled tofu with scallions in a skillet and cooked them until the water had evaporated.  The spinach I steamed in batches and when cool squeezed out any excess water.  I added the chopped spinach to the tofu, salting to taste.  From there I used this as my filling for egg rolls.  It became one of my favorite dinners to make for Father’s Day.  I take no credit for how well the tofu and spinach work together.  Nor is there any claim to authenticity.  I serve the egg rolls with a sesame-chili paste, sometimes adding peanuts.  Continue reading

Posted in Farming, Produce

Politics of the Plate

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by Barry Estabrook

Something to Squawk About

During the winter here in Vermont, my 12 laying hens seem content enough residing in a retrofitted horse stable. But when I open the henhouse door for the first time in the spring, feathers literally fly as the birds stampede to get outside. In celebration of their newfound liberty, they flap, run, peck, and scratch—in short, behave like chickens.

Which is why I’m always skeptical when a factory farm claims that hens are perfectly happy spending their entire lives crammed into barns with tens of thousands of other chickens in stacked battery cages each not much bigger than the average computer screen. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) apparently agrees. Last week, the organization filed a complaint asking the Federal Trade Commission to stop Rose Acre Farms, the country’s second largest egg producer, from making “false and misleading animal welfare claims.” Continue reading

Posted in Farming, Food Politics

But is it Art?

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by Kerri Conan

Its name is herb. Tarragon to be exact. And when I saw this announcement of his (or is it her?) second appearance as an object of art, I thought “ugh.”  

Talk about fetishizing. How about just eating the stuff? As raising, cooking, eating—and talking about—food becomes more popular, are we actually making it too precious and less approachable? Continue reading

Posted in Farming, Food Politics, Uncategorized

A Dangerous Disappearing Act

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by Daniel Meyer

Every Friday I sell pork in the Union Square greenmarket (Manhattan) for Flying Pigs Farm. Flying Pigs, as I have come to learn over the past two years, is an extraordinary farm. Their meat, pasture raised, rare heritage breed pigs, seems second to none, but strangely enough, the pork isn’t nearly the best thing that comes out of their farm. The owners of Flying Pigs, Mike Yezzi and Jen Small, are working tirelessly to prevent the loss of productive farmland to development in their native Washington County, in the whole of New York State, and beyond. The American Farmland Trust, Jen’s employer, notes that a farm is lost to development in New York every three days. Mike and Jen know how urgent their project is, and they are dead set on getting others to realize the same.

To that end they began holding “Farm Camp” up at their farm in Shushan, NY last fall. Farm Camp was a chance, explains its website, to “expose the NYC food professional to a broad range of agriculture issues that affect not just how and what we eat but also the future of our food system and rural landscape.”  The four two-day sessions were incredibly successful according to campers and organizers alike, so much so that they quickly sought to secure funding for another session in the spring. The fifth installment of Farm Camp concluded on Monday; this time I was fortunate enough to attend.

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Posted in Farming, Food Politics

Garden Space for Gardeners without Space

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by Peter Rothbart 

[When I heard about the Seattle-based We Patch, I immediately asked executive director Peter Rothbart to write up a summary of its history; it’s a great idea, a super project, and one that I hope goes viral. Peter is also an editor at FOUND Magazine and a killer dodgeball player (he says). - mb] 

One afternoon in the spring of 2009, I was biking down Olive street in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood when I passed a man standing at the edge of a small traffic island, staring intensely at an unkempt strip of soil. Circling to see what had captured his attention, I noticed how he was dressed: a faded t-shirt, dirt-crusted gloves, and a pair of pruning shears hanging from the back pocket of his raggedy work pants. A split second later, I took in the double-wide tire track that had carved a rut across the island, and the scene snapped into focus like an optical illusion in a M.C. Escher print. 

Such traffic islands, which are ubiquitous in Seattle, are often staked out by local gardeners who have nowhere else to plant. The city encourages the practice, offering maintenance tips and a list of recommended plant varieties on its website. Continue reading

Posted in Farming

Politics of the Plate

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By Barry Estabrook

Monsanto’s Last Roundup

In 2003, after losing nearly $2 billion the previous year, Monsanto bet its corporate life on a genetically modified future, much of which would be built on GM seeds for corn, soybeans, cotton, and other crops that could survive being sprayed with the company’s brand-name herbicide Roundup. It was a good bet. Between 2003 and the end of 2007, shares soared by more than 1000 percent by the end of 2007.

But it looks like the ride may be over. Last week, the gigantic seed and agricultural chemical company announced dramatically lower-than-predicted profit expectations, laying much of the blame on sluggish sales of Roundup. Its once high-flying shares are now down 40 percent from last year’s levels. Monsanto told Reuters that it would “drastically narrow” its Roundup portfolio, which alone brought in nearly $2 billion in profit in 2009. Continue reading

Posted in Farming, Food Politics

Dressing in the Palm of Your Hand

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By Kerri Conan

I am not the sort of gal known for her delicate touch. But each spring, when the first garden salads of the season appear on our table, I muster a smidgeon of restraint.

This year our Kansas greens are waterlogged with two weeks of near-solid rain, so they’re extra fragile, tender, and mild. Add whatever microgreens I’m thinning from the plot—this week it was beet and dill sprouts—and suddenly dressing becomes an issue. Even the velocity of a thin stream of oil pouring from a bottle or spoon seems harsh. The answer: Mix the dressing in your hands, then use the same tools to toss it. Continue reading

Posted in Farming, Produce