Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Give a gift with meaning

Think about our Buy Local effort when you buy gifts: there are agricultural products even now -- maple syrup, cheese, meat, specialty foods, as well as local stores carrying books promoting the Eat Local idea, and cookbooks to promote healthy eating and a wealth of books about agriculture to browse...

Many food websites and blogs suggest books and food and stuff...

& there's the lovely idea of giving a membership in Berkshire Grown or a donation to Share the Bounty.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Celebrate Gingerbread Houses for Share the Bounty!

SUNDAY DECEMBER 2nd, 3 - 5 pm
Join us for holiday fun at the Lenox Community Center to benefit Share the Bounty!
View Gingerbread Houses, take one home, bring your children and give them an opportunity to create their own Gingerbread House.
Door Prizes, refreshments provided by Wheatleigh, fun for a good cause!

Buy Local? or Buy Locally?

Thanks to Serious Eats [seriouseats.com] for the tip about our use of our language:

The Language of 'Local'

Posted by Adam Kuban, November 20, 2007 at 2:00 PM

If you're a stickler for grammar, the phrases "eat local," "buy local," "shop local," etc., no doubt grate on your ears. They should, of course, use the adverb "locally." Language Log takes a look at these neologisms and makes a case for their use.


November 16, 2007
Think globally, protect amorphously

Because of earlier Language Log posts on constructions like "Drive Safe" and "Think Different", a reader in Ridgefield CT thought we might be interested in the latest episode in this grammatical saga:

Recently, there's been a slight fracas at my local planning and zoning commission over signs saying "Shop Local". The board almost denied permits to put up the signs, with one member of the board saying they were "horrific grammar" and should instead say "shop locally." One board member (John Katz) was quoted in the local paper as saying "Just as art is amorphous, so is the concept of protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public. I believe exposing people to the horrific grammar of these signs is in direct opposition to protecting the public's welfare."

There's a related case, highlighted by the recent spread of locavorosity, where the distinction between local and locally seems to me to make a difference. Many of the 1,130,000 Google hits for {"buy local"} seem to come from the movement to buy locally-produced food. The top hits for {"buy locally"} are connected to the same movement, but there are only 353,000 of them. Some of these are from phrases like "buy locally-grown food"; some come from the catchphrase-substitution "think globally, buy locally"; others may be the result of a copy-editor's intervention to correct someone's attempt to write "buy local". But it seems to me that "buy locally" commits me only to carrying out the transaction of purchasing in the local area, without any implication about where the stuff I buy comes from. In contrast, "buy local" is naturally interpreted to mean "buy local stuff".

to read more, copy and paste in:
Posted by Mark Liberman at November 16, 2007 08:12 AM

Monday, November 19, 2007


Saturday, December 1 – Hancock Shaker Village
Saturday, January 12 – Hotel Northampton

Catch up on the latest information on many local and statewide agricultural subjects.

December 1 Agenda - Hancock Shaker Village
Welcome and Review of MDAR Programs – Scott Soares, Acting Commissioner
Ag Business Training Opportunities – Rick Chandler, MDAR
Agricultural Marketing & Farmers Markets – Kelly Coleman, CISA
Energy Efficiency & Alternate Energy Systems for Farms – Glenn Cook, Cider Hill Farm, and
Darlene Monds, Berkshire-Pioneer RC&D (Farm Energy Program)
The Value of Agriculture to the Town Economy – Rep from First Pioneer Credit
Chapter 61-61A Changes – Doug Gillespie, Acting Director, Mass Farm Bureau
Educating the Public about Local Agriculture – Lenore Paul, Mass Ag in the Classroom
The New “Planning for Agriculture” Guide for Municipalities – Cris Coffin, American
Farmland Trust
Handling Ag Disputes Part II – Loraine Della Porta, Mass Office of Dispute Resolution
Roundtable Discussion – Reports from Ag Commissions

Sponsored by: Mass DAR, Berkshire-Pioneer RC&D, TTOR-Highland Communities Initiative, CISA, Mass Farm Bureau, American Farmland Trust, Franklin Land Trust, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, Berkshire Grown, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Sheffield Land Trust, Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation

For more information: Pete Westover, MDAR, 413-665-4077, westover03@comcast.net
Ann Gibson, Berkshire-Pioneer RC&D, 413-256-1607 x 2, agibson.rcd@verizon.net
(registration only)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Attention cookbook collectors! Check out this post on the Eat Local Challenge site for a superb list of “must have” local food cookbooks.


Friday, October 19, 2007

"Girls Just Wanna Have Farm:
On accepting invitations from strangers, and a harvest festival" By Roz Cummins
18 Oct 2007 on grist.org
Roz Cummins is a food writer who has worked in every possible permutation of food co-op, natural foods store, and granola-type restaurant. She lives in the greater Boston area and feels it is her mission to put the "eco" back in home economy.

Here is an excerpt: from Roz Cummins' report on attending the Beautiful Bountiful Berkshires Harvest Dinner:
"It was fun to witness a community having a chance to see itself -- many of the people who make up the food scene in the area were there. Usually they are all off working in their own domains -- farms, markets, or kitchens -- and it's nice for them to have a chance to bask in their own reflection, even if it's only once a year.In the far corner, I noticed a striking young woman wearing a vibrant sundress and dangly earrings. She looked like all the fashion-and-beauty editors I've seen swanning around the Condé Nast building on the occasions that I have been there, except ... except that she clearly had strong arms and the kind of tan that comes from working outdoors. She was Laura Meister, the farm girl of Farm Girl Farm.When I got a chance to speak with her, Laura -- who has been farming for three years and runs a CSA program as well as selling produce to co-ops and restaurants -- told me she'd just spent the past several days scrambling to get as much produce off the vine as possible before the frost. The cold snap had arrived the night before, however, and she had spent the day looking over the crops that had been damaged. Laura spoke about her experience so compellingly that I called her a few weeks later and asked her to describe what it's like to be on a farm when crops need to be harvested.
Notes from the Wonder GroundI've always been curious about what it takes to be a farmer, particularly to work so hard and invest so much in an endeavor that is often fraught with risk. Laura explained the challenges and triumphs well. Here is what she said: (you may have to copy and paste this into your browser)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Taste the difference!
** Important: please call ahead for picking times and availability**

Ancram, NY: Thompson-Finch Farm
Apples (518) 329-7578

Great Barrington: Taft Farms
Pumpkins, plus Corn Maze and more
(413) 528-1515

Great Barrington: Windy Hill Farm
Apples (413) 298-3217

Hancock: Ioka Valley Farm
Pumpkins, free hay wagon ride to pumpkin patch & more family fun! (413) 738-5915

Lanesborough: Lakeview Orchard
Apples (413) 448-6009

Lanesborough: Mountain View Orchard
Pumpkins (413) 445-7642

Pittsfield: Jaeschke’s Orchard
Apples (413) 443-7180

Richmond: Bartlett’s Orchard
Apples & Fall Raspberries (413) 698-2559

Richmond: Hilltop Orchard
Apples & weekend Hayrides (413) 698-3301

Sheffield: Boardman’s Stand
Pumpkins (413) 229-8554

Sheffield: Howden Farm
Pumpkins & Fall Raspberries plus
Fall Festival weekends (413) 229-8481

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Below is a reprint of a well written and instructive article by a young, college-educated woman who is finishing graduate school so she can become a farmer. In fact, her story is kind of inspiring, at least for fans of local farming.

The article appears in Edible Portland, one of the many "Edible" magazines.


Every five years, the United States Department of Agriculture conducts something called the Agricultural Census. And every five years, once all the results are tallied—the irrigated acres summed, the number of women farmers counted, the gross revenues from hog production totaled (and much more)—without fail, an alarm bell sounds.
With no offense intended to my spunky, fiftysomething parents and their baby boomer friends, U.S. farmers are getting old. The national average has climbed to 55.3 years as of the last agricultural census in 2002 (the 2007 census is currently underway), and the trend is ever upward.
Well, big whoop, my parents are muttering as they read this. Fifty is the new 30 anyway....
Though that may be true, the sirens are clanging not only because farmers are getting older (in fact, more than a quarter of U.S. farmers are older than 65), but because young farmers are getting scarcer. A mere 5.8% of farmers are now under 35, compared to 16% in 1982.
If you’re digesting these numbers over breakfast, you might stop to wonder who’s going to milk the cows and grow the grain for your morning bowl of corn flakes.
“Africa!” hollers Steven Blank, author of the controversial book, The End of Agriculture in the American Portfolio, which insists that agriculture is heaving its last and final breath in America. He argues that food production sits at the bottom of the “economic food chain,” and as nations develop and land becomes valuable for other uses (like manufacturing, houses, golf courses, and high-tech industries), it makes “natural” economic sense to farm out food production to less developed countries which sit lower on the economic food chain and whose land and labor carry a cheaper price tag. Food safety, food security, and the end of cheap energy are topics notably absent from the book.
But for reasons cultural, ecological, gastronomic, and economic, there are plenty among us who balk at the notion that agriculture should ever disappear from our landscapes, or farmers from our ranks. Given America’s roots in agriculture, it’s fair to wonder how we’ve moved from the Jeffersonian ideal of independent family farmers forming the backbone of our society, to a time when federal prison inmates outnumber farmers—an occupation that has now been removed as a category from the U.S. Population Census.
Of the many headlines that attempt to explain the simultaneous industrialization and senescence of American agriculture, these are but a few:
• The combustion engine headline from the early 1900s: “Tractors & cheap energy make draft animals, people, obsolete”• The post-WWII headline: “Nerve gas & bombs reincarnated as pesticides, fertilizer: Technology replaces farmers”• The still-relevant 1970s Farm Bill headline: “Government to pay farmers to overproduce commodity crops: Prices plummet, farms forced to get big or get out”• The 1980s farm crisis headline: “Interest rates skyrocket, farmers default on debt, suicide rates surge”• The ongoing corporate agribusiness concentration headline: “Four companies control 80% of U.S. meatpacking: Monopoly control takes its toll on family farmers”• The ubiquitous credit headline: “Farming seen as high risk, lenders balk at making farm loans”• And, of course, the real estate headline: “Land prices through the roof due to development pressure”
There’s a joke that asks, “What do you call a dairy farm willed to the kids?” And the reply: “Child abuse.” Which, in addition to all of the structural, economic, political, and technological forces headlined above, points to a cultural element in this saga of farmer aging and attrition. It’s the mainstream stereotype that has come to haunt agriculture in our ever-urbanizing world—that farmers are dullards, geezers, and hicks, and that farming is what you do when you’re not savvy enough to do something—anything—else.
As often as I get a surprised, slightly perturbed look when I tell people I’m going back to farming in a few months, I am reminded of how deeply rooted that stereotype has become in various corners of our society, and how far removed most of America has gotten from the notion of farming as a viable occupation. (I’d be curious to know when a high school guidance counselor last suggested farming to an impressionable senior.)
In the urban mainstream, the connection to agriculture has boiled down to tidy, iconic, disembodied exposure: corn on the cob at county fairs, glossy images at the grocery store, and cowboy boots on the retail shelf at Ross Dress for Less. So much so that the person I’m sitting next to on the airplane has to strain to understand why a young, college-educated woman would make such an unglamorous, low-paid career choice over, say, investment banking. As obvious as it may be to me, it’s not always easy to explain to someone who hasn’t seen and smelled the mercury shatter of dew on a field of broccoli at dawn, or tended a tomato all the way from seed to sauce.
But there is also a cadre of people who do get it, and still others who are working to both break down the multiple barriers to entry for emerging farmers and increase the chance of success for newly established farms. Studies have shown that new farm businesses experience high turnover—thousands enter and exit each year—and that the most critical variable to success is experience. The handful of government and non-profit programs that target beginning farmers runs the gamut from technical production assistance to financial planning, market entry to land acquisition. And apprenticeship programs on working farms provide an opportunity for people to try their hands at farming and gain production skills.
At the same time, the agricultural renaissance sparked by the sustainable food movement, and the widespread celebration of local, seasonal, storied food, has shifted the economics to create new opportunity for farmers. For instance, Country Natural Beef, a cooperative made up of over 100 Food Alliance certified cattle ranches throughout the West, has effectively breathed new life into member ranchers’ bottom lines, and subsequently attracted 11 ranch kids back to carry on their family cattle tradition. The wisdom behind their founding motto, “Decommodify or Die!,” has gained traction among all kinds of farmers who, more and more, are finding their survival tightly bound to direct markets, value-added products, and the loyalty of conscientious eaters (like you).
There are some signs that the next generation of U.S. farmers may be gravitating more towards sustainable agriculture, with 18% of organic farmers under the age of 35, compared to 5.8% in conventional agriculture. In Oregon, where we are faced with the unnerving prospect of 25% of our farmers retiring within the next decade, numbers like these help to remind us that opportunity always attends change.
Perhaps our next generation of farmers will be known as “Gen O,” as is the goal of a recently-launched Organic Valley “Generation Organic” new farmer campaign. Given that Organic Valley farmers earn 40 to 60 percent more for their milk than conventional producers, I’d suggest that you consider joining their co-op if you’ve just inherited the much-maligned family dairy farm.
It’s possible that these new farmer programs and market forces might be related to a unique and beautiful little statistic here at home: Oregon, bucking the national trend, grew 58 new farms between 1997 and 2002, from 39,975 to 40,033. Though it’s a humble figure and causality is difficult to tease out, it’s hard to repress hope in the presence of a counter-current number like that.
One thing I can promise: Come 2008, there’ll be at least one more new farm to add to that Census tally, and not a gray hair on my head—yet.
Zoë Bradbury grew up on a farm in southwestern Oregon and farmed with Sauvie Island Organics for three years. She is now working with Ecotrust’s Food & Farms program while she completes her Masters in Rural Development & Food Systems.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

This op-ed in the September 22 issue of the New York Times is intriguing and exciting, particularly for local food enthusiasts.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Is eating local the best? the debate continues on grist.org

Strengthening community is an important benefit of eating locally
Posted by David Morris at 1:05 PM on 12 Sep 2007

"...Buying and using local food creates a tight-knit interconnection between producers and consumers. It makes us more intimately aware of the impact of our buying and producing decisions on our neighbors....

"A local food economy enables accountability; distance disables accountability. As we have recently discovered, food shipped across the planet, from jurisdictions and by corporations that do not view safety as their highest priority, is virtually untraceable. Or it requires global inspection agencies that themselves become unaccountable.

"Still, a growing number of voices, especially from southern countries, criticize advocates of local food on equity grounds. Many developing countries rely on agricultural exports to generate foreign currency to buy products and services essential to their survival and growth, they argue. If the developed world suddenly stopped importing its food, southern farmers would be further impoverished. This could have profound environmental consequences. Poverty is the single biggest factor driving problems like deforestation, biodiversity loss, soil depletion and the endangerment of wildlife. Export earnings -- from food flown to Europe and the United States -- allow southern farmers to invest in more environmentally friendly agriculture.

"I find the equity argument more compelling than the environmental argument against local foods. Yet the equity argument also ignores the dynamics of dependence.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Growing into a Farmer

Check out “Growing into a farmer” in the September 14 edition of ethicurean.com. It’s an excellent article by a young farmer in the Pioneer Valley and well worth the few minutes it takes to read.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Where's the Beef?

Here's an excellent article by a San Diego chef who specializes in local food, particularly meat. Here Jay provides insightful commentary on what differentiates commodity meat from locally bred meat. You can visit his restaurant's blog at porterx.com.blog

The World of Meat, Commodity and Otherwise by Jay, Thursday August 30, 2007
Recently we’ve found ourselves fielding a lot of questions about what it means that we don’t serve commodity meat, or just what the difference is in general between one kind of meat — be it in a steak, a burger, a roast, or whatnot — and another. This is stuff we’re only beginning to understand, largely through visits to farmers and producers. Sometimes we forget to clearly explain everything we’re learning.
So it seemed like a good time to do a recap.
The way I think of it, there are basically three types of meat we eat in America: commodity meat, branded meat, and pastured or traditional meat. I’ll discuss them by category.
1. Commodity Meat
This category includes virtually all of the meat available in the US, including almost all the meat distributed in supermarkets and corner stores. It also includes the vast majority of meat available in restaurants, which principally buy from either warehouses like Restaurant Depot or Costco, or from broadline distributors such as Sysco or US Foodservice.
Commodity meat has a very low price in the marketplace, and sets expectations that meat is inherently inexpensive. In fact, the reason the price is so low is that the commodity meat producers offset many of the costs of meat production by relying on subsidized processes (such as government subsidized corn and interstate transportation) and transferring costs to others (such as the environment, the property of their neighbors, and the health of their consumers).
Typically, commodity animals are packed in buildings as close together as possible, and are usually mutilated in some way (tails or beaks removed) in order to prevent them from eating/harming each other under the natural stress of crowding. The animals are fed a combination of the cheapest subsidized grains and also “rendered” animals, which means other animals, often of the same species, which were unfit for human consumption and have been sort of melted into fat or protein. The animals’ waste may be partially treated but ultimately contaminates waterways and soil.
The farmers and corporations who raise these animals are faceless and nameless to the marketplace, and are paid based on how many pounds of the animal they bring to the processor. The buyers assume that each animal is exactly the same (thus, a “commodity”). Therefore the farmers are rewarded for any measure that results in growing more pounds of animal in the same space, preferably with the cheapest food possible.
This leads to all the animals receiving continuous amounts of antibiotics (to reduce disease under intense crowding), and cattle and poultry receiving growth hormones to accelerate their yield. Both the hormones and antibiotics of course reach the end eater, as well.
Remember, commodity meat is almost all the meat available to us in San Diego in stores or restaurants.
2. Branded Meat
Stepping away from the troubling facts of commodity meat, a few farmers and co-ops have built niche markets in “branded” meat, usually in a market I call “thoughtful industrial”. These operations, usually independent farmers but sometimes units of big corporations, use the basic framework of factory meat but avoid the unsavory abuses of the commodity industry, and take care to raise healthful, delicious animals.
Usually the animals are thoughtfully bred for flavor and tenderness. Most of these operations have strict diet specifications (usually vegetarian only) and a policy regarding anitbiotics (usually either none, or none in the final “x” months, to allow the meat to be free of anitbiotics at slaughter). Sometimes they are organic. While not usually pastured, these farms usually treat the animals better than commodity farms — Niman Ranch and Eden Natural guarantee at least 12 square feet per pig rather than the standard 8; Fulton Valley chickens live somewhat crowded together in a big barn rather than in tight cages.Oftentimes these operations are sensitive about land stewardship and the environment, as well.
The farmers and companies raising this kind of meat are building a brand, and have a lot at stake. They pay attention to quality and wholesomeness, while also paying attention to the bottom line.
This method of farming usually provides much more delicious and much less scary meat. While still relying on subsidized architectures such as commodity corn, and transportation infrastructure, the farms don’t externalize nearly as many costs to the environment or to community health.
As a result, these producers charge a substantial premium, hopefully justified by taste quality, and through that premium offset the higher costs of running a factory that doesn’t directly destroy the environment or the health of their consumers.
This kind of meat can be branded by the producer (such as Niman Ranch), by the diet of the animal (“Pure Lamb”), and sometimes by a combination of breed and method (American Kobe Beef, Jidori Chickens).
In San Diego you can buy meat like this at some niche grocers like Whole Foods and possibly at some farmer’s markets. Some local restuarants serve this kind of meat, a couple favorites that come to mind instantly are Mama Testa Taqueria in Hillcrest (all their meats are branded) and Starlite Lounge in Middletown (Brandt burgers and steaks) though there are actually quite a few others that have at least one branded meat on their menu.
While we highlight pastured/sustainable meat at the Linkery, we also offer branded meat such as Brandt beef, Eden Natural pork and Vande Rose pork.
3. Pastured or Sustainable Meat
Note that, while the branded meats eschew the patent abuses of the commodity system, they still use modern industrial infrastructure to keep their costs down, and they still are raising animals in feedlots. This leaves two areas for improvement: 1) much of their costs are still being externalized to our society as a whole, and 2) We lose whatever benefits to our health and the environment have evolved as part of our historical tradition of raising animals outside as part of an integrated ecosystem we share with them.
In other words, our species is built to eat animals that roam and eat what’s on the ground. It seems likely that when we pen the animals and feed them corn that we’re missing something we’re bred to need. And of course we’re still destroying our own ecosystem by building a corn based economy — through such mechanisms as fertilizer runoff from Midwestern farms creating a large “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.
Long term, the obvious way to restore balance to both ourselves and ecosystem is to return to raising and eating pastured meats near where we live — the way our species has raised and eaten meat for thousands of years. We won’t be externalizing any costs to the environment or to our community. And, as Michael Pollan says, there is a free lunch, and it’s called the sun. The sun grows pasture naturally, which we can’t eat but the animals we eat can.
Unfortunately, the course to returning to traditional agriculture is really hard — pasture means real estate, and an acre in San Diego costs 50,000 times more than 8 square feet in Iowa. So a lot of traditional farmers have to rely on a combination of novelty (raising rare breeds that can’t be experienced through mainstream providers), passion (providing a means for people reconnect to their land and community in a way they can’t through a feedlot), and shared spirit (recruiting people who want to eat in a sustainable way).

Saturday, August 11, 2007

It's not too late to comment on the 2007 Farm Bill

Hopes for a significant reform in the 2007 Farm Bill were dashed when the U.S. House of Representatives voted to continue most of the same old same old subsidies to agribusiness. But, as this excellent editorial from The Nation, points out, we can still make our voices heard through our Senators. So read this and then write your senators to let them know you think it's time to do more for local agriculture.

Farm Bill Showdown
[from the August 27, 2007 issue]
The 2007 farm bill, as approved by the House on the eve of the August recess, is as shambolic a piece of legislation as will ever be OK'd by a chamber that frequently endorses the incomprehensible and the indefensible. But what is truly frustrating about the House's version of the five-year, $286 billion blueprint for everything from agriculture and food policy to trade and energy development is that this complicated mess of a measure cannot be easily hailed or condemned. On the plus side, it makes significant new commitments to encourage sustainable farming practices, fund the conversion to organic farming, strengthen food-safety protections and expand nutrition initiatives that are the essential food-policy components of this omnibus legislation. On the negative side, the House bill proposes to open gaping loopholes that would allow environmentally destructive factory farms to qualify for funding intended to help family farmers conserve the land; maintains corrupt practices that stifle competition in the livestock industry; and fails to endorse basic health-and-safety moves like banning the practice of blasting spoiled beef with carbon monoxide to make it appear wholesome.
Hovering above all the good bits and nasty pieces of the measure is that it would do little to change our corrupt system of paying subsidies to some of the wealthiest nonfarmers in the world. Nor does the House address the fact that the bulk of the money intended to maintain diverse and competitive family farms would go to a handful of Southern states that overproduce crops like rice and cotton.
The best that can be hoped for now is intervention by the Senate, where Agriculture Committee chair Tom Harkin says, "We can't afford to settle for an extension of the status quo--not in terms of budget, and not in terms of policy." But for that to happen, we need to broaden the public discussion at a time when, as Representative Rosa DeLauro says, "too many Americans know too little about the farm bill and its impact on our lives."
The fact that debate about farm and food policy plays out on the margins of the national discourse, thanks to media that treat rural America as a punch line, makes it too easy for politicians and interest groups to distort the discussion. For instance, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can get away with her absurd claim that the House bill is "reform" that "takes America's farm policy in a new direction." Not true. The Speaker chose the status quo over innovative proposals by author Michael Pollan, chef Alice Waters and savvy policy groups like Food and Water Watch and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy to stop pouring federal dollars into the coffers of agribusiness, establish a real safety net for working farmers, protect the environment and encourage the production of healthy foods. But just as Pelosi is wrong to dub herself a reformer, so too are the editorial writers and Washington think-tank gurus who grumble about the rejection of their favored "reform." The plan so beloved by those so distant from rural America--a scheme by Representatives Ron Kind and Jeff Flake to establish the farming equivalent of the "individual retirement accounts" promoted by those who would destroy Social Security--failed because farm and consumer groups saw through its false promise of "market solutions."
Rejecting real reform as well as false promises, Pelosi backed a "Christmas tree" measure, which offered something for everyone--from agribusiness to Congressional Black Caucus members seeking long-overdue justice for minority farmers to consumer groups that want country-of-origin labeling on meat--then played on the fears of urban House members who know less about countercyclical payments than about crop circles. To maintain their House majority, Democrats voted for a bill Pelosi told them would re-elect vulnerable farm-state Democrats--including nine freshmen on the Ag Committee.
That may be shrewd politics. But it's foolish policy. So now it falls to Harkin to cobble together an alternative measure that can pass the Senate, survive a messy reconciliation of House and Senate plans and then overcome a threatened presidential veto. That's probably too tall an order. But Harkin recognizes what needs to be done. He's a passionate supporter of nutrition and conservation programs, he wants a tight cap on federal payments so they don't go to millionaire "farmers" and he recognizes that the United States should do away with direct subsidies that fail most farmers, consumers and the environment. As he shapes the Senate version of the farm bill, Harkin should embrace the proposal of three dozen farm and rural groups--led by the National Family Farm Coalition and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy--and their labor, religious and environmental allies. They want to replace subsidies with a federally defined price floor that would in effect be a minimum wage for farmers and to reinstate strategic grain reserves to stabilize crop prices. Harkin should listen to Iowa farmer George Naylor, who serves as president of the farm coalition and who says it is still possible--and politically smart--to forge a farm and food bill that "will benefit family farmers by giving them a fair price for what they produce instead of continuing with ineffective subsidies that have failed rural America."

Monday, August 6, 2007

Food that Travels Well...from the New York Times

In today’s New York Times (August 5, 2007), James E. McWilliams has a fascinating op-ed piece on why imported food might be more environmentally “friendly” than locally grown food. Several paragraphs are reproduced below to whet your appetite. What do you think of his argument?
Food That Travels Well
THE term “food miles” — how far food has traveled before you buy it — has entered the enlightened lexicon. Environmental groups, especially in Europe, are pushing for labels that show how far food has traveled to get to the market, and books like Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” contemplate the damage wrought by trucking, shipping and flying food from distant parts of the globe.
There are many good reasons for eating local — freshness, purity, taste, community cohesion and preserving open space — but none of these benefits compares to the much-touted claim that eating local reduces fossil fuel consumption. In this respect eating local joins recycling, biking to work and driving a hybrid as a realistic way that we can, as individuals, shrink our carbon footprint and be good stewards of the environment.
But is reducing food miles necessarily good for the environment? Researchers at Lincoln University in New Zealand, no doubt responding to Europe’s push for “food miles labeling,” recently published a study challenging the premise that more food miles automatically mean greater fossil fuel consumption. Other scientific studies have undertaken similar investigations. According to this peer-reviewed research, compelling evidence suggests that there is more — or less — to food miles than meets the eye.
It all depends on how you wield the carbon calculator. Instead of measuring a product’s carbon footprint through food miles alone, the Lincoln University scientists expanded their equations to include other energy-consuming aspects of production — what economists call “factor inputs and externalities” — like water use, harvesting techniques, fertilizer outlays, renewable energy applications, means of transportation (and the kind of fuel used), the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed during photosynthesis, disposal of packaging, storage procedures and dozens of other cultivation inputs.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Beautiful Bountiful Berkshires Harvest Dinner

Invites are going in the mail and raffle tickets are now on sale.

Fabulous prizes, delicious food, all to support local food and farms.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Food and Farm Bill Updates

http://www.farmpolicy.com for news updates


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Farm Bill Update

http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/07/21/2676/ news on farm bill

This is a blog called "The Ruminant"
Read the post, "The Grass Should Be Greener," he's angry.

Explore: http://www.msawg.org/
Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's Farm Bill Action Center

Sorry these aren't links, you'll have to copy & paste them into your browser.

Food and Farm Bill

For more resources on the Farm Bill, please copy the above and paste it in.


American Farmland Trust is encouraged by the direction the House Agriculture Committee took this week, to read their comments go to the website listed above (you'll have to copy and paste it into your browser).


Whereas Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group is quoted in the NYTIMES on 7/20/07 as more critical.

The Environmental Working Group made a splash in the press with their database on who is receiving the subsidies for farming. Copy and paste this address and discover a wealth of information at this site: http://www.mulchblog.com

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Farm to Pantry/Share the Bounty - We need volunteer drivers

Make a difference this summer:

If you can pick up fresh vegetables from a farm that has extra and transport the food to a pantry, we need you.
Please contact Jan at ogden01201@verizon.net or buylocal@berkshiregrown.org
Thank you!

Let us know what times you are available and in what geographic areas you can help, and how to contact you, best times, numbers, e-mail.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Environmental Tips From ll Over

Environmental Tips from All Over

Unplug “dormant” electrical gadgets—all those lights that are on use up a lot of energy.
Wherever you have a lot of appliances plugged in, get a surge protector that can handle all the plugs—then turn the surge protector off when you’re not using those items.
Some believe that turning off the computer and restarting it uses more energy than putting it to sleep. Others think it doesn’t hurt to turn your computer on and off to save energy.
If you’re on a municipal water system, install low flow water heads in the shower, low flow faucets in sinks, and low flow toilets.
Use Energy Saver appliances.
Don’t have a hot tub.

Car stuff:
Use the Sierra Club guidelines when buying gasoline. Their study determined that BP and Sunoco are “better,” that Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Valero Energy Corporation, and Citgo are “bad,” and that ExxonMobil and Conoco Phillips are “the worst.”
Plan trips and errands to be most fuel efficient, keep tires properly inflated, and change oil and air filters regularly.
Fill your gas tank early in the morning or late at night since gas evaporates more in the heat of the day (who knew??).
Drive an electric or hybrid car. Or, as one friend says, “Get a Prius. With snow tires.”
Walk, don’t drive. Or bike. Or carpool.
When the urge to own an SUV or any other oversized vehicle assaults you, suppress it.

Wait to do full loads of laundry and dishes.
See if you can wear clothes more than once, and if you can do more of your laundry with cold water. (When one family’s hot water heater broke last May, they learned that much of their laundry doesn’t need hot water.)
As we all probably know, hand dishwashing is much less efficient than by machine.
If you don’t have that many dishes to wash, see if your dishwasher has a top-rack-only option (mine doesn’t). Also see if you can turn off the heated drying cycle.
If you have pots and pans that need to soak, put them in the sink and use old water from the tea kettle to fill them.
And water plans with old water from the tea kettle, too.
Use stainless steel water containers instead of plastic.
Use white vinegar to clean glass, bathrooms, refrigerator, floors.
Use hydrogen peroxide instead of fabric softener, and as an anti-bacterial agent.
Use brown or natural coffee filters, toilet paper, paper towels.
Use only “environmentally correct” home cleaning products.
Stop having clothes dry cleaned. (Check out Dry Cleaner’s Secret)
Don’t flush the toilet every time you use it.
Never use plastic or throwaway paper plates or silverware.
Stop using paper napkins. Cloth ones are better.
Yes, yes, now there are recyclable eating utensils that can replace plastic or paper ones. Eschew them for the real thing.
Forego the clothes dryer and dry your clothes on a rack or a line.
Limit showers to 5 minutes.

Remember that compost reduces the waste stream a lot. Recycle or compost everything you can.
The Japanese (and maybe the Chinese) import our recycled cardboard and make “new” recycled liner board. (Paper is a growth stock; invest now!).
Get the “wall warts” out, and reduce quantity.
Compost yard waste that doesn’t attract critters.

Buy local. This saves fuel for shipping goods across the country, and contributes to your local economy.
Every item here in the U.S. (well, almost every item) comes heavily packaged, and rarely is the packaging made from recycled material. Try to take the packaging off whilst in the store and hand it back to the manager with the admonition that they should dispose of it. If enough of us do this, perhaps management will alert manufacturers to consumer dissatisfaction with excess packaging.
ALWAYS carry your own bags to the grocery store. The “plastic or paper” issue is pointless; neither does the environment any good. So when the bagger asks “Plastic or paper?” just reply smugly, “I bring my own bags.” Added benefit: some stores give the eco-conscious bag-bringer a few cents off the total bill.

Food and cooking
Buy local.
Check out eatlocal.net and consider “joining the challenge” of eating within 100 miles of where you live.
Host a “localvore” pot luck dinner where all the food is grown locally. (Hint: this is easiest in summer and early fall.)
Boycott corn and corn products unless they’re organic.
Boycott food from China.
Grow your own food or join a CSA.
During the “season,” shop at your local farmers market.
Eat meat once a week or less. Meat is the most “expensive” user of energy, far more so than are vegetables.
Do not buy bottled water. Just fill a thermos with your own tap water. And buy a soda siphon to make sparkling water.
Try not to buy heavily packaged or plastic wrapped food.
While you bake a cake, roast some beets on the bottom shelf.

Lawns and gardening
Convert parts of your lawn to groundcover or meadow.
Check out Edible Estates for reasons to make your lawn into an edible garden, and suggestions for doing so.
Do not use pesticides. Instead, try older methods such as using lady bugs to clear up aphids.
Plant trees. And try not to cut the ones you’ve got. And if you do cut them, try to use them in your efficient wood burning stove.
Don’t burn brush, tree tops, or yard waste. Instead, make elegant living quarters for wildlife out of them.
Mow your lawn as infrequently as possible.
Install rain barrels for garden watering.

Major environmental home investments
Consider windmills for the house, rooftop solar, and geothermal units, which provide long-term payback.
If building a new house or putting on an addition, consider radiant heat.
Ditto a compost toilet.
Install triple insulated windows.
Replace large water heater with smaller one using solar power.
Build a root cellar.
Erect a greenhouse, and if it’s of any size, use radiant heat.

Web sites, books, and articles
To save paper, read your newspapers and magazines online or at a library.
Go to Live Earth website (liveearth.org) for their list of environmental tips (all of which have links to more information).
National Geographic’s Green Guide (thegreenguide.com).
To change your lawn to an edible garden, definitely check out this website: fritzhaeg.com/garden/initiatives/edibleestages/main.html
Alternative energy blog at Alt-e.blogspot.com
Measure your carbon footprint at carbonfootprint.com
Website for a great magazine, “E,” emagazine.com
Good information at energybulletin.net
Check out greeenpeace.org/usa
It sounds frivolous, but you might like groovygreen.com
Try livenatural.org
This one’s self-explanatory: saveourenvironment.org

Helpful site with lotsa links: envirolink.org
We all know about nrdc.org
And about environmentaldefense.org
Try realclimate.org
Real Progress has a nifty site rprogress.org
If you’re up for a challenge, look into lowimpactliving.com
The International Herald Tribune has some good information at iht.indexes/special/green/index.php
So long as you subscribe to the New York Times or buy Times Select, take the opportunity to check out the archives of the Times’ energy collection. nytimes.com/ref/science/earth/energy.html
Home Energy Saver offers hes.lbl.gov
I like the title of this site—inspiredprotagonist.com
Who could resist treehugger.com
Try timesonline.typepad.com/eco_worrier
Friends of the Earth provides suv.org
And then there’s worldchanging.com
The World Wildlife Foundation produces For a Living Planet at panda.org/news_facts/publications/living_planet_report/index.cfm
Go to salon.com and search for “Shopping for Carbon Credits,” by Katherine Ellison (published July 2, 2007)
A highly praised and well reviewed book we all must read is Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Program to Lose 5000 Pounds, by David Gershon
A fun site that will send you a daily “hot tip” is idealbite.com. .

Local organizations to support
Join Berkshire Grown to insure their continued support of local farms and agriculture. Eating locally is one of the most important and most personal acts of eco-consciousness (berkshiregrown.org).
Buy native plants wherever you live. Here in the Berkshires, buy them from Project Native (projectnative.org).
Become a member of local environmental groups. In the Berkshires, that list starts with Green Berkshires (greenberkshires.org). And now includes Berkshires for the Earth.
Become a member of your local land conservation group. If you’re in the Berkshires and your town doesn’t have one, join Berkshire Natural Resources Council (bnrc.og).

If this were an ideal world:
Don’t drive as much.
Use public transportation for neighborhood, short haul and long haul travel.
Go to sleep when the sun goes down, wake up when the sun comes up.

Compiled by Widow in the Woods, July 9, 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tasty Food Books

Food as a pastime--food as a way of life--food as an obsession came to fruition in the 1980’s. We lived in New York City then, and were educated by columns from Molly O’Neill, whose tenure as a food writer at The New York Times coincided happily with the emergence of chefs as the new superstars. A comment she made at a panel for the New York City chapter of Culinary Historians in the 1990’s made quite an impression on me. O’Neill pointed out that in Italy, a fiercely class-based society, everyone eats the same food. Yet in America, a vociferous proponent of equality, one might say “Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you where you are in the pecking order.” She said, “When McDonald’s starts serving salads with balsamic vinegar, it will disappear from fancy restaurant menus.” How very prescient.

At some point O’Neill seemed to disappear and I missed her. Now, though, you can meet up with her again in her autobiography Mostly True: A Memoir of Family, Food and Baseball, a perfectly splendid book. It’s a treat to read her account of growing up the elder sister of five boisterous brothers, one of whom is former Yankee star Paul O’Neill; of her development as a chef in Northampton, Provincetown and Boston; and, of course, the time she spent covering New York food as it exploded with creativity and snob appeal. It’s not just food that she writes about so convincingly. Reading about her life as a burgeoning feminist in Northampton is hilarious in a time-warp way.

After being absent from the literary scene for far too long, O’Neill seems back with a vengeance since about a year after her autobiography came out she edited American Food Writing, an anthology extending from colonial times to the present. We don’t see much of her in the book, but we get the benefit of her well-developed food sensibilities in the choices she made for excerpts. Unlike her autobiography, one wouldn’t sit down and read this volume straight through. But it’s fun to keep on the nightstand, to read it in small bites instead of one huge gulp.

Right after reading Almost True I read Thomas McNamee’s biography, Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, a thoroughly delightful romp through the history of one of America’s most famous, and certainly most iconic, restaurants. Luckily, for those of us with a penchant for the salacious in biographies, McNamee satisfies with sundry stories of the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll that accompanied the establishment of Chez Panisse. I particularly liked the meaty descriptions of the many chefs who cooked there, of the ethical dilemmas Waters and her staff dealt with, and, to be sure, details of the foraging sorties that led to the current emphasis on “buy local.”

Over the weekend I read Russ Parsons’s new book, How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor From Farm to Table. Parsons is the food editor and chief food writer for The Los Angeles Times, whose name you might recognize from the occasional article the Berkshire Eagle publishes in its food section. Like his earlier book, How To Read a French Fry, this one provides well written and interesting information about sustainable farming. And like the earlier one, there are about 100 recipes.

This being a book on fruit and vegetables, Parsons divides it into the four seasons, with botanical and culinary information on a wide variety of produce we all eat (or should eat). I took an immediate fancy to the book because the very first entry is on artichokes, a food I love to eat but am terrified to prepare. He made it seem so easy that I’m thinking it’s finally time to relax enough to learn to make them. In each entry, the reader learns where the produce is grown, and how to choose, store and prepare it.

One aspect of our food system is made very clear—more than half of American produce comes from California. Internalizing that fact is sobering. I need to think it about that, and figure out what it means in terms of “buy local.” If, as in our case, “local” is 3000 miles away from the major food source.

Friday, June 15, 2007

What’s a Book-Loving Local Food Fan To Do?

Even faster than you can read them, publishers are producing well-written, thoughtful books on the virtues and pleasures of local food. Following the excitement generated last year by Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” look for Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal Vegetable Miracle” and “Plenty,” by Vancouver journalists Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon.

I’ve been a Barbara Kingsolver fan since reading her first novel “Bean Trees” some years ago. Originally drawn in by her story-telling talent, I later found myself really hooked as her fiction demonstrated her obvious connection with food.

“We came from Bethlehem, Georgia, bearing Betty Crocker cake mixes into the jungle. My sisters and I were all counting on one birthday apiece during our twelve-month mission. ‘And heaven knows,’ our mother predicted, ‘they won’t have Betty Crocker in the Congo.”

Thus begins her introductory chapter on Leah Price, the main character in Kingsolver’s runaway bestseller “The Poisonwood Bible.” Betty Crocker. The Congo. What a concept!

In “Animal Vegetable Mineral,” Kingsolver tells us that she and her family began their year-long quest of eating locally in early spring, defined as when the first asparagus came out of the ground. And thus by late March on their farm in Virginia, their grocery list included only goods produced locally, not those available just because they’d been shipped in from who-knows-where. The family grew a large amount of their food with a huge garden and some animals. They bought or bartered fresh food from neighbors, and spent endless hours preserving food at harvest time.

Each month gets its own chapter, which it shares with Kingsolver’s observations and research on a large variety of agricultural, economic, political, and sociological aspects of the 21st century food system. And most chapters have sidebars written by Steven Hopp, Kingsolver’s husband, an environmental studies professor, and her older daughter Camille, a Duke University student. Camille provides recipes the family used during their year of eating locally. Although I haven’t yet made any of them, I licked my lips as I read them.

Although Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma” set the gold standard for contemporary books on local food, Kingsolver’s is more accessible, and easier to read, in fact, than one or two of her most recent novels. Not only did I learn a lot from her book, but I had a hard time putting it down. It’s just plain fun to read.

The second eating local book I read was “Plenty” by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, who defined “local” as grown within 100 miles of their small apartment in Vancouver. Unlike Kingsolver’s family, who granted themselves “exceptions” to their local diet (e.g., coffee, chocolate, wheat), Smith and MacKinnon made no allowance for the unavailability of items most of us wouldn’t think of abandoning, no matter how devoted we are to eating locally. (If you can imagine life without olive oil, you’re a better localvore than I.)

Just as Kingsolver’s book involved extensive commentary by her husband and older daughter, Smith and MacKinnon solved the dual author problem by alternating chapters. MacKinnon begins, I guess, because he was the one who proposed the idea. And he is certainly the more enthusiastic of the two throughout the year. Although both are good writers, I found Smith’s quizzical participation in the project something of a turnoff. But the book is a useful and undoubtedly more realistic counterpoint to the bucolic setting of Kingsolver’s Virginia farm.

The Kingsolver and Smith/MacKinnon books fall within a new paradigm of “eating locally,” or the “100-mile diet,” or, more simply “localvore.” Within the last year or two, dozens of chapters of Localvores have sprung up across the country, typically hosting one-week “eating local challenges” at various times of year.

For example, the Mad River Valley Localvores, headquartered in Warren, Vermont, held its first “challenge week” in September 2006. One hundred fifty-five people signed up, promising to eat only locally grown food. Well, it was September, so the challenge wasn’t too daunting. But they ran another challenge in late January, which, to be literal, was a far greater “challenge” than the one during harvest season. Yet 133 people signed up and fulfilled their pledge to spend one week eating locally.

The Mad River Valley Localvores gave their participants five “freebies,” foods which aren’t local but are considered necessary for psychic, if not physical survival—coffee, chocolate, wheat, tea, you get the drift. They also allow the “Marco Polo exception,” meaning you can use anything that sailors on a long voyage might have used: e.g., salt, pepper, spices.

I happened to be in Mad River Valley during the winter localvore challenge, and came back to the Berkshires determined to figure out how to introduce the concept here. If you’re interested, please let me know. Here at the Berkshire Grown Blog.

--Laury Epstein

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Berkshire Grown Restaurant Week June 10 -14, 2007

Berkshire Grown’s Restaurant Week 2007 features 25 Berkshire Grown restaurants. Berkshire Grown restaurants offer a three course prix fix dinner menu or lunch special featuring locally grown or produced foods for $20.07 a meal. This promotion is offered exclusively to Berkshire Grown members at the following restaurants:

North County: Café Latino • Gala Restaurant and Bar • Gramercy Bistro
The Williams Inn
Central County: Baroods Restaurant • Café Reva • Chez Nous •
Church Street Café • Gateways Inn • Pittsfield Brew Works • Rouge Bistro • Spice • Wheatleigh (lunch, must call for reservations) • The Williamsville Inn (Sunday Only)
South County: Allium • Baba Louie’s • Castle Street Café • Jack’s Grill •
John Andrews • Pearls • The Old Inn on the Green • The Red Lion Inn • Route 7 Grill • Stagecoach Tavern • Uncommon Grounds (lunch only)

Each member of Berkshire Grown is able to dine out with a guest for the crazy price of $20.07 a meal at any of the participating restaurants. This is a member benefit, as well as an enticement for new members to join. Anyone who wants to join Berkshire Grown can actually join at a participating restaurant during Restaurant Week, or call Berkshire Grown at 413-528-0041.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Don't miss our:


Come taste and learn about the benefits of these
traditional foods! Learn about ancient food-
preservation techniques and enjoy the cultures cap-
tured at this event. Join Seth Travins of Hawthorne
Valley in a conversation about the history and future
of fermented foods in our region. Tasters & fellow
fermenters welcome! We look forward to seeing you!

Fermented Foods Foment Event
Tastings offered by
Real Pickles,
Hawthorne Valley Farm,
Katalyst Kombucha,
South River Miso,
Gould Farm,
Berkshire Mountain Bakery,
Berkshire Blue cheese,
West County Cider

Great Barrington, MA 01230
For more Information,
please call (413) 854-2593

Sat. May 19, 2007 from 1pm-5pm

Welcome to Berkshire Grown's Blog!

Berkshire Grown is an exciting organization based in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Our new Executive Director is Barbara Zheutlin.

As spring arrives here in the Northeast, check our web-site, www.berkshiregrown.org, for Farmer's Markets, CSAs, and other ways to find fresh seasonal foods and flowers, as well as the establishments that serve them.