Breaking Rules When The Result Is Worth It

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The strawberries at Harry’s Berries, grown in Oxnard, Calif., are harvested only once every five days, to give the fruit time to reach its peak flavor. Credit Amy Dickerson for The New York Times

Renegade behavior in the abstract attracts us almost always. We admit to favoring examples, cases, histories that point to unusual choices that we think provide a model for others to follow to solve problems. However, sometimes there is no choice but to point to the downside of renegade behavior, aka breaking the rules on which society depends. And there are plenty of lousy renegades we read about but do not foul up these pages with. Today, it’s coming up strawberries. Thanks to Rick and Molly and to Karen Stabiner for bringing this story forward:

Red, Ripe and Renegade: Berries That Break All the Rules

“This one should be O.K.,” he said, sounding not quite convinced. Then again, his definition of ripe is more stringent than most. Continue reading

Gangsta Garden’s Gentle Giant

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Ron Finley in a garden outside his home in Los Angeles. Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times

When Amie passed along a link to him way back when, it was all fresh news about an amazing challenge set up by an urban charismatic. Now that challenge has been turned around and amped up and we link again to Ron to help him gets what he needs:

Fighting Eviction, a Gardener Turns to Organic Industry Giants for Help

Green Farming Productivity

Thanks to Anthropocene, for this article, which adds to today’s green food theme:

On many farms, reducing pesticides probably won’t hurt profit or yields

Preparing Enough Food For 2050

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Thanks to Anthropocene for this summary of news explaining why We don’t really need to double food production by 2050, provided by Emma Bryce:

It sounds daunting: by 2050 we’ll have to double our food production in order to satisfy the appetite of the planet’s rapidly expanding population. This statistic has become so deeply-ingrained, in fact, that it’s being used to shape future agricultural policy. But a group of researchers, publishing in the journal BioScience, have challenged that influential estimate, arguing that it’s due for a significant upgrade to bring it in line with recent data. Continue reading

Cacao’s Curious Clues

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A view from the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory in São Sebastião do Uatumã, Brazil. A new study examines correlations between plant species in the forest today and archaeological finds. Credit Bruno Kelly/Reuters

Different day, different location, and our interest in cacao is  piqued again:

How the Amazon’s Cashews and Cacao Point to Cultivation by the Ancients

By

Scientists studying the Amazon rain forest are tangled in a debate of nature versus nurture.

Many ecologists tend to think that before Europeans arrived in the Americas, the vast wilderness was pristine and untouched by humans. But several archaeologists argue that ancient civilizations once thrived in its thickets and played a role in its development. Continue reading

Eat Your Vegetables, If You Can Find Them

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Vegetables were rationed at supermarkets in the U.K. due to poor weather conditions in Europe. Here, lettuce, broccoli and zucchini were rationed at a Tesco store in London. Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images

Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) and the folks at the salt for this story about the implications of vegetable shortages in the UK:

It started in late January. At my local grocery store in South London, salad seemed to be just a few pence pricier than usual. But I didn’t think much of it.

Later that week, the same market had conspicuously run out of zucchini. I’m not particularly fond of it, but I lamented for the carb-conscious yuppies who depended — and subsisted — on spiralized zucchini spaghetti. How would they cope? Continue reading

You Had Us At Sweet Potato

logoWe have only recently discovered this resource but I expect you will start seeing a flow of interesting stories. sourced from Harvest Public Media, that touch on topics of interest to us here. For example, the mere mention of sweet potatoes was enough to get us interested:

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According to the USDA, sweet potato consumption in the U.S. nearly doubled in just 15 years, from about 4 pounds per person in 2000. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

Sweet potatoes are undergoing a modern renaissance in this country.

While they have always made special appearances on many American tables around the holidays, year-round demand for the root vegetables has grown. In 2015, farmers produced more sweet potatoes than in any year since World War II. Continue reading

Scott Chaskey, Inspiration

Chaskey.jpgI had not heard of him before, but as we move the Chan Chich Lodge farm to table program forward it is instructive to listen to him speak about his journey:

Farmer, poet, and pioneer of the community farming movement, Scott Chaskey is the kind of progressive thinker that doesn’t come around often. Weaving together his passion for farming and prose, the 66-year-old has penned multiple books on the community farming movement, creating a road-map for Americans who want to live off the land as a community. He talks to Here’s the Thing host Alec Baldwin about deciding to “eat consciously,” watching his love for the earth go global, and the food his kids hid from him when they were little.

This also has me looking at his books: Continue reading

Small Dairy Farm & Value Creation

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Kevin and Ranae Dietzel, owners of a small dairy herd near Jewell, Iowa, named their signature cheese after this cow, Ingrid. Amy Mayer

A lovely little piece from the salt, over at National Public Radio (USA), that illustrates again how the production of artisanal cheeses can add value, in this case to an otherwise economically challenged farming enterprise

On a clear, cold winter evening, the sun begins to set at Lost Lake Farm near Jewell, Iowa, and Kevin Dietzel calls his 15 dairy cows to come home.

“Come on!” he hollers in a singsong voice. “Come on!”

Brown Swiss cows and black Normandy cows trot across the frozen field and, in groups of four, are ushered into the small milking parlor.: Continue reading

Bee Mogul Is A Thing

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Bret Adee’s family operation provides more than two billion bees to farmers who need to pollinate their crops. Before the hives are moved to the California almond groves where they are used in January and February, they are kept on a cattle ranch at a safe distance from pesticide and herbicide sprays. Credit Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

We already knew a fair amount about the business of bees, but had not yet heard the term bee mogul, which sounds like it may have been an excellent thing once upon a time, but now, maybe not so much:

KERN COUNTY, Calif. — A soft light was just beginning to outline the Tejon Hills as Bret Adee counted rows of wizened almond trees under his breath.

He placed a small white flag at the end of every 16th row to show his employees where they should place his beehives. Every so often, he fingered the buds on the trees. “It won’t be long,” he said.

Mr. Adee (pronounced Ay-Dee) is America’s largest beekeeper, and this is his busy season. Some 92,000 hives had to be deployed before those buds burst into blossom so that his bees could get to the crucial work of pollination. Continue reading

Heatless Habanero!

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New York City’s Blue Hill restaurant is the biggest buyer of “Habanadas,” a habanero bred to be heatless, so the focus is on its melon-like flavor. Courtesy of Blue Hill

A few reasons to read this include Dan Barber and his Blue Hill being mentioned in the opening sentence; plus the arrival of our new chef at Chan Chich Lodge, hinted at last month; plus the fact that many of our guests cannot tolerate the heat of habaneros; plus our plan to expand the variety of salsas produced at Gallon Jug Farm; plus the fact that the plant breeder responsible for this innovation is in one of our favorite places for agricultural innovation:

For Dan Barber, the celebrated chef of the New York City restaurant Blue Hill, each course of a meal is an opportunity to tell a story. One of these stories is about a pepper — an aromatic, orange habanero without any heat. Continue reading

Food, Its Contents & Its Discontents

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Alex Reynolds/NPR

We appreciate that an immigrant restaurant owner has the courage to state the unpopular but important facts underpinning one of the popular memes of our time (thanks as always to the salt over at National Public Radio in the USA):

Cheap Eats, Cheap Labor: The Hidden Human Costs Of Those Lists

by Diep Tran

Everyone loves a cheap eats list. A treasure map to $1 tacos! $4 banh mi! $6 pad Thai! More often than not, the Xs that mark the cheap spots are in the city’s immigrant enclaves. Indeed, food media is never so diverse as when it runs these lists, its pages fill with names of restaurateurs and chefs of color.

These lists infuriate me.

Continue reading

Corn Culture Cropped

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Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville, Ill. A thriving American Indian city that rose to prominence after A.D. 900 owing to successful maize farming, it may have collapsed because of changing climate. Michael Dolan/Flickr

Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) and the folks at the salt for raising our awareness of another corn-influenced culture we knew nothing about until just now:

1,000 Years Ago, Corn Made This Society Big. Then, A Changing Climate Destroyed It

by Angus Chen

About a 15-minute drive east of St. Louis is a complex of earthen mounds that once supported a prehistoric city of thousands. For a couple of hundred years, the city, called Cahokia, and several smaller city-states like it flourished in the Mississippi River Valley. But by the time European colonizers set foot on American soil in the 15th century, these cities were already empty. Continue reading

Millenia-Old Amazonian Practices Worthy Of Marvel

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New research suggests people were sustainably managing the Amazon rain forest much earlier than was previously thought. Credit Jenny Watling

Anything with the word Amazon in it, when it refers to the rainforest ecosystem in South America, is worthy of marvel. Joanna Klein offers this story, in the Trilobites feature at the New York Times, that is one of the more surprising finds we have seen in a long time:

Deep in the Amazon, the rain forest once covered ancient secrets. Spread across hundreds of thousands of acres are massive, geometric earthworks. The carvings stretch out in circles and squares that can be as big as a city block, with trenches up to 12 yards wide and 13 feet deep. They appear to have been built up to 2,000 years ago.

Were the broken ceramics found near the entrances used for ritual sacrifices? Why were they here? The answer remains a mystery. Continue reading

Millet, India & A New Green Revolution

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A woman farmers harvests pearl millet in Andhra Pradesh, India. Millets were once a steady part of Indians’ diets until the Green Revolution, which encouraged farmers to grow wheat and rice. Now, the grains are slowly making a comeback. Courtesy of L.Vidyasagar

Thanks to the folks at the salt for this note on millet:

Getting people to change what they eat is tough. Changing a whole farming system is even tougher. The southern Indian state of Karnataka is quietly trying to do both, with a group of cereals that was once a staple in the state: millet. Continue reading

Climate, Change & Mayan Foodways

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Farmers Gualberto Casanova (left) and Dionisio Yam Moo stand among young corn plants in Yam Moo’s improved milpa plot. Gabriel Popkin

We are grateful as always to our friends at the salt, one of National Public Radio (USA)’s great occasional series, for this story (the photo after the jump is a beauty, so read on):

Mayans Have Farmed The Same Way For Millennia. Climate Change Means They Can’t

by Gabriel Popkin

Dionisio Yam Moo stands about four-and-a-half-feet tall, and his skin is weathered from years in the tropical sun. A “proudly Mayan” farmer, he grows corn, beans and vegetables on a six-hectare farm in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. The farm is surrounded by dense tropical forest, and crops grow amid fruit trees in thin soil, with the peninsula’s limestone bedrock protruding in places. Continue reading

Trees & Sustainability On Small African Farms

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Baobab and palm tree/Rod Waddington via Flickr

Thanks to Anthropocene for this summary:

Trees improve the environment—and bottom line—on small African farms

Farmers, Chefs & Connections

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Farmers and chefs looking for their perfect match at Bluejacket, a restaurant and brewery in Washington, D.C. Dan Charles/NPR

Thanks to the folks at the salt, over at National Public Radio (USA), one of the greatest investments any country has made in broadcast news and features:

‘Speed Dating’ For Farmers And Chefs: ISO A Perfect Local-Food Match

By Dan Charles

…Ashley Heaney and Mark Heaney, from Green Acres Family Farm in Gapland, Md., are sitting in a booth on one side of the room, looking expectant and a little tense. They have a cooler full of eggs from their pasture-raised chickens beside them. This is their chance to show off those eggs to a collection of big-city chefs.

They’re here for matchmaking, though not of the romantic sort. It’s an annual “speed-dating” event where farmers get set up with chefs, in an effort to put more local food on restaurant tables. Continue reading

Back To The Land, And A Future

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Vincent Martin, right, made a living selling health club memberships in Paris until he left his job about five years ago. “Land is key,” he said. Credit Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

We are going back to the land this year, in Belize, and can relate to the description and explanation these ex-urbanites give for their retreat to the rural, agricultural life of their forebears:

Life on the Farm Draws Some French Tired of Urban Rat Race

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SAULX-LES-CHARTREUX, France — Two years ago, Elisabeth Lavarde decided to quit her office job in Paris and start a new life in Saulx-les-Chartreux, a small town with two butchers and one baker just south of the capital.

Ms. Lavarde, 39, is now an apprentice farmer at a 24-acre farm that grows organic vegetables, sold directly to local consumers. New farmers like Ms. Lavarde usually make what they see as a decent salary of about 1,500 euros, or about $1,600, a month, slightly above the French minimum wage.

“I wanted a job with more meaning,” she said. “I felt like I was tilting at windmills.” Continue reading