Posts Tagged ‘Food’

A world without bees

Posted in Movements, Research by Jessica Bird on July 1st, 2013

Source: Fast Co.DESIGN

WHOLE FOODS MARKET PRODUCE DEPARTMENT
Photo: PRNewsFoto

From the article ‘This is what our grocery shelves would look like without bees‘ by Sam Medina:

Last winter’s so-called Beepocalypse ravaged U.S. bee colonies like nothing that had come before. The country’s beekeepers reported that 31.1% of their colonies perished in the months spanning last fall through early 2013. The number of bee casualties in that period–twice that considered natural–is in keeping with rising honeybee mortality rates of the last six years. Scarier still, scientists aren’t exactly sure as to the cause for the degrading health of bee populations–something that should give you great cause for concern. After all, without bees, you can kiss your favorite fruits and nuts goodbye. Now, if you can manage it, imagine life without apples, mangoes, or almonds.

Well, you don’t have to. Earlier this week, a Whole Foods store in Providence, Rhode Island, temporarily removed all of its produce that is grown with the help of pollinators like bees. It then posted the photographic results online, in which whole parts of the fruit and vegetable department are seen to be completely barren. You can almost spot the tumbleweed. In a press release, Whole Foods says the stunt was part of the “Share the Buzz” campaign, a joint project with The Xerces Society that seeks to “raise awareness” about the importance of bees (honeybees in particular) to the health and vibrancy of our food system. Bees are the unsung heroes behind most of the world’s produce supply, and along with other pollinators like bats and birds, they are integral to growing and sustaining at least a third of its crop production.

Or as Whole Foods puts it: One of every three bites of food comes from plants pollinated by honeybees and other pollinators. Yet, major declines in bee populations threaten the availability of many fresh ingredients consumers rely on for their dinner tables. In total, the Providence store pulled 237 of 453 products off their shelves, amounting to just over half of the shop’s entire yield for the department. The variety of the ghost produce is astounding: Apples, avocados, carrots, citrus fruits, green onions, broccoli, kale, onions, and more would be obsolete or very expensive to grow without flourishing bee colonies.

Whole Foods says that consumers should be mindful of these facts and be proactive with, here it comes, their purchasing choices.

  • Bee organic: Buying organic is an easy way to support pollinators.
  • Bee savvy at home: Most pest problems can be solved without toxic and persistent pesticides.
  • Bee a gardener: Plant bee-friendly flowers and fruits.

[…]

>>> You can read the original article on Fast Co.DESIGN.
>>> You can learn more about ‘share the buzz‘ from Whole Foods.


Adapting Agriculture to the Realities of Climate Change

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 20th, 2013

Fig. 1. Impact and capacity approaches to adaptation planning_from Addressing uncertainty in adaptation planning for agriculture

Fig. 1. Impact and capacity approaches to adaptation planning (from Addressing uncertainty in adaptation planning for agriculture)

 

From the article No excuses, no regrets: we can adapt agriculture to climate change now by Vanessa Meadu:

Imagine you’re working for your country’s government and you’ve been given the formidable task of developing a strategy to help the agriculture sector adapt to climate change. Working out how climate models will play out on the ground for farmers, and conceiving options for farmers to adapt is sophisticated stuff, and the challenge is only compounded when the best information remains somewhat uncertain.

You might easily be discouraged, when faced with data and projections that are not sufficiently specific, only applicable for certain crops, or simply missing altogether. Often this uncertainty becomes a political weapon, wielded as an excuse for inaction. But a new analysis published in the journal PNAS debunks such excuses by showing how scientists and governments can cut through uncertainty and make the most of existing knowledge, however conflicting or weak. In fact some countries have done exactly that, and “embraced “no-regrets” adaptation: actions that will benefit farmers and society regardless of specifically how and when climate change plays out on the ground.

The paper Addressing uncertainty in adaptation planning for agriculture is co-authored by researchers from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Livestock Research Institute, and leading universities (Oxford, Leeds, Reading). The researchers point to examples around the world where governments have taken crucial first steps to safeguard food and farming, even when information was weak.

>> Read the full article by Vanessa Meadu for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).


24 TED Talks That Will Help Save the Food System: FoodTank List

Posted in Models, Movements, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on May 30th, 2013

tedxmanhattan_via foodtank
Photo via FoodTank

The magnificent crew over at FoodTank have put together a rather special list:

 

“TED is a non-profit devoted to “ideas worth spreading”, and you can find literally thousands of free -inspiring and awesome- talks from experts and innovators around the world. We’ve decided to highlight 24 TED talks specifically around food issues that we found compelling and worth sharing. Please check out and watch as many of these as you can. And, most importantly, share this with 24 friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers who might be open to watching a few of these insightful talks – and learning more about the food system.”

  1. Roger Thurow: The Hungry Farmer – My Moment of Great Disruption
  2. Mark Bittman: What’s Wrong with What We Eat
  3. Anna Lappe: Marketing Food to Children
  4. Ellen Gustafson: Obesity + Hunger = 1 Global Food Issue
  5. Tristram Stuart: The Global Food Waste Scandal
  6. Brian Halweil: From New York to Africa: Why Food Is Saving the World
  7. Fred Kaufman: The Measure of All Things
  8. LaDonna Redman: Food + Justice = Democracy
  9. Jose Andres: Creativity in Cooking Can Solve Our Biggest Challenges
  10. Jamie Oliver’s TED Prize Wish: Teach Every Child About Food
  11. Dan Barber: How I Fell in Love with a Fish
  12. Carolyn Steel: How Food Shapes Our Cities
  13. Ann Cooper: Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
  14. Ron Finley: A Guerrilla Gardener in South Central L.A.
  15. Tama Matsuoka Wong: How I Did Less and Ate Better, Thanks to Weeds
  16. Stephen Ritz: Green Bronx Machine: Growing Our Way Into a New Economy
  17. Angela Morelli: The Global Water Footprint of Humanity
  18. Birke Baehr: What’s Wrong With Our Food System
  19. Graham Hill: Why I’m a Weekday Vegetarian
  20. Joel Salatin: Thinking About Soil
  21. Roger Doiron: A Subversive Plot
  22. Britta Riley: A Garden in My Apartment
  23. Arthur Potts Dawson: A Vision for Sustainable Restaurants
  24. Ken Cook: Turning the Farm Bill into the Food Bill
>> Go to the FoodTank website to follow up on any or all of these talks.
>> foodtank.org


Sharing the (sour)dough: Pasta Madre

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on May 23rd, 2013

Sourdough for sharing

From Hands into the Dough (in the latest Slow Food International newsletter):

Nothing is more satisfying than preparing your own bread at home, using your flour of choice, kneading the dough, waiting while it rises and then finally savoring its aroma fresh out of the oven. However, for amateur and professional bakers alike, real bread requires the use of the ancient sourdough technique – the cultivation and use of a starter dough that provides a diversity of natural yeasts and bacteria.

Each year the Pasta Madre (mother dough) food community (part of Slow Food’s Terra Madre network) organizes Pasta Madre Day – a day celebrated across Italy with events to promote traditional sourdough bread. Free pieces of mother dough are handed out with recipes and information is provided on where to source good flour.

Riccardo Astolfi, the community’s founder, says: “the easiest way to start is to ask somebody for a piece of the mother dough they are already using.” If you are in Italy, the groups’ website www.pastamadre.net lists more than 1,000 bakers who are willing to give away a piece of their dough to any interested home bakers. If not, you can follow the follow instructions to prepare your own sourdough starter.

>> Read the full article for more, including instructions on making sourdough


Food Incubators: Commercial Kitchens in the Sharing Economy

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on April 15th, 2013

unionkitchen floorplan2
Image: Union Kitchen’s Floor Plan

From “Share Everything: Why the Way We Consume Has Changed Forever” by Emily Badger for The Atlantic Cities:

“The “equipment library” at Union Kitchen in Northeast Washington, D.C., contains some of the more mundane artifacts of the modern “sharing economy”: an oversized whisk, a set of spatulas, ladles, chopping knives, sheet pans and tongs. “Collaborative consumption,” as it’s also known, is more often associated with the big-ticket items that have given the concept such bemusing cachet. Suddenly, it seems, people are casually lending and borrowing cars, bikes, even brownstones. But this basic kitchenware, hanging in a 7,300 square-foot warehouse, reveals the reaches to which all this sharing could ultimately expand, as well as the reasons why it will have to.

Union Kitchen moved into the space in late November of 2012, taking over what had been the commissary for a chain of local kabob houses. Jonas Singer and Cullen Gilchrist had been looking to expand the kitchen operations for a café they own in the city. But this two-story red brick warehouse situated on a cramped manufacturing block was more space than they needed. So they turned the warehouse – complete with a walk-in freezer, two fridges and prep space for two-dozen entrepreneurs – into a shared kitchen and food incubator. For $500 a month, member chefs get a share of their own prep table, access to communal equipment, pantry shelves, and ingredients at wholesale prices.

By early January, the kitchen already had nearly a dozen members, including a cupcake food truck company, a caterer specializing in mole sauces and chocolate cakes, and the city’s lone Kombucha brewer. It would be prohibitively expensive for any of them to open their own commercial kitchens. But – and this is a related problem – there also isn’t affordable space enough in this growing city to do so.

“The reality is that if D.C. swells from a place where there are 500,000 people in 2010 to a place where there are 850,000 in 2020, well what are we doing with those 350,000 extra people who are here?” Singer asks, sitting on a couch in the kitchen’s lounge. “We’re all living in slightly smaller spaces. Obviously the per-capita number of car owners has to go down. The amount of space like this is going to be much tighter. A lot of the sharing economy just has to do with the number of people living per square foot of land. It’s all about physical space.””

>> Read the full article (there’s much more) by Emily Badger on The Atlantic Cities.


Cow Power: Reducing waste, boosting electricity supply

Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on January 23rd, 2013

Article source: The Morning Sentinel.

Cow Manure CC BY Ian Barbour

Image by Ian Barbour via Creative Commons

From ”Cow power’ turns manure, food waste into mighty electricity source’ by Ben McCanna

“Every day in rural Penobscot County, a large dairy farm harnesses clean-burning gas from cow manure and food waste, and it generates enough electricity to power 800 homes continuously. The process, commonly known as cow power, has the potential to earn the facility $800,000 a year. It also creates byproducts — animal bedding and a less-odorous fertilizer — that save the farm about $100,000 a year. Cow power is more consistent than solar and wind energy, and it eliminates greenhouses gases that otherwise would enter the atmosphere. The $5.5 million project could pay for itself in five years.”

>>> You can learn more about cow power here or here.


2,012 Food Growing Spaces in London by the end of 2012? Done!

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on December 27th, 2012

Press Release from Capital Growth:

Capital Growth target

100,000 green-fingered Londoners deliver Mayor’s 2012 food growing target.

The estimated equivalent of 69 Wembley football pitches or 124 acres of disused land in London now brimming with fruit and veg.

The Mayor of London today [Dec 14] announced that the ambitious target to deliver 2012 Capital Growth spaces has been reached, following a four-year scheme to turn disused plots of land into community spaces abundant with fruit and veg. Nearly 100,000 green fingered Londoners have rolled up their sleeves to deliver this leafy Olympic legacy.

The Capital Growth scheme, run by London Food Link, was launched by the Mayor and Rosie Boycott, Chair of London Food, in November 2008. It aimed to create 2,012 growing spaces in London by the end of 2012 with funding from the Mayor and the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food programme.

The idea is to bring local neighbourhoods and communities together while giving Londoners a chance to grow their own food and green their local area. It is also a response to growing allotment waiting lists, particularly in inner London boroughs, which can be decades long. Capital Growth has worked with landowners and local groups to help identify land for growing and then help people get started in creating successful gardens by providing training and tools.

There are now Capital Growth spaces in every London borough. Food gardens signed up to the scheme have flourished in an extraordinarily diverse and creative range of places, covering an estimated 124 acres of previously disused land. Capital Growth spaces are now growing on roofs, in donated recycling boxes, in skips, alongside canals and in builders’ bags providing healthy food to a range of places including shops and restaurants. The spaces have supported skills and enterprise training, market gardening initiatives and even the development of 50 community bee hives.

Some of the Capital Growth spaces have now scaled up into social enterprises selling produce into cafes, restaurants and market stalls and providing jobs for local people. Other projects that the campaign has supported include larger farms, such as Organic Lea in Waltham Forest that employs 13 full and part time staff doing market gardening under glass houses leased from the local authority. The biggest response to the Capital Growth challenge has come from schools with 687 schools signed up involving 66,000 pupils.

The 2012th space was today announced by the Mayor as St Charles Centre for health and wellbeing in North Kensington. The project, based in a disused courtyard of a hospital, will engage a range of community groups, including youth groups and Age UK, as well as hospital staff to grow their own healthier food.

>> Read more about the projects at Capital Growth.


Seed Matters: Sowing more good

Posted in Movements by Jessica Bird on December 12th, 2012


Screenshot from the Seed Matters website.

An initiative of the Cliff Bar Family Foundation, Seed Matters is dedicated to protecting and ameliorating organic seed, thus increasing the abundance of healthy, nutritious crops that benefit both people and the planet. Their goals are to ‘conserve crop genetic diversity, promote farmers’ roles and rights as seed innovators and stewards, and reinvigorate public seed research and education.’ The Seed Matters website tells the story of seed, about the programs aimed at achieving their goals, and how you can get involved. Oh, and the website is really quite beautiful. – [JB]

From ‘Why Seed Matters: We reap what we sow‘ on the Seed Matters site:

We probably don’t think about it when we sit down to eat our cereal in the morning or tuck the kids into cotton sheets at night, but it all starts with seed.  Seed matters. And the seed we sow affects the quality, nutrition, cost and environmental impact of all the food we eat and every fiber we wear.

It’s time we sow more good. The last several decades of industrial agriculture have developed seed that is suited to intensive chemical agriculture. While this has sometimes resulted in higher yields, it has come with very real costs. Unintended consequences include air and water pollution, increased pesticide use, greater dependence on fossil fuels, degraded soil health, and the loss of biological and genetic diversity. These are facts.

The success of diverse, regional, and resilient food systems requires a different approach to seed – an organic approach.

And yet, today’s farmers don’t have access to sufficient seed developed for organic systems. Worldwide, 95% of organic farmers rely on seed bred for conventional, high-input chemical agriculture. There’s an alternative. Organic plant breeding can increase yields, improve nutrition, and reduce usage of pesticides, fertilizer, and energy. We invite you to join us – engage and grow the work of improving organic seed systems.

>> Find out more from Seed Matters


Seawater Agriculture: High-tech and Low-tech paths

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on December 3rd, 2012

Source: guardian.co.uk


Image from Seawater Greenhouse

In the Guardian this week, there’s an article by Jonathan Margolis about the commercialisation of a technology that uses seawater as the main element of agriculturally productive greenhouses.  Much of the article focuses on the way the technology, developed by British theatre lighting engineer Charlie Paton, has been scaled up and combined with extra technology to provide consistent, commercial-quality crops from the Sundrop Farms greenhouse in the desert outside Port Augusta, in South Australia.  On it’s own, that’s pretty exciting and well worth a read.

A 75m line of motorised parabolic mirrors that follow the sun all day focuses its heat on a pipe containing a sealed-in supply of oil. The hot oil in turn heats nearby tanks of seawater pumped up from a few metres below ground – the shore is only 100m away. The oil brings the seawater up to 160C and steam from this drives turbines providing electricity. Some of the hot water from the process heats the greenhouse through the cold desert nights, while the rest is fed into a desalination plant that produces the 10,000 litres of fresh water a day needed to keep the plants happy. The water the grower gets is pure and ready for the perfect mix of nutrients to be added. The air in the greenhouse is kept humid and cool by trickling water over a wall of honeycombed cardboard evaporative pads through which air is driven by wind and fans. The system is hi-tech all the way; the greenhouse is in a remote spot, but the grower, a hyper-enthusiastic 27-year-old Canadian, Dave Pratt, can rather delightfully control all the growing conditions for his tonnes of crops from an iPhone app if he’s out on the town – or even home in Ontario.

The remainder of the article touches on the divergence of philosophy between Paton’s Seawater Greenhouse, and SunDrop.

The Seawater Greenhouse method, which they are still promoting actively, involves no desalination plant, no gleaming solar mirrors and little by way of anything electronic. Everything in the Seawater Greenhouse vision is low-tech, cheap to start up and reliant on the subtle, gentle interaction of evaporation and condensation of seawater with wind, both natural and artificial, blown by fans powered by solar panels. If things go wrong and production is disrupted by a glitch in this model, you just persuade people to eat perfectly good but odd-looking produce – or harvest less and stand firm by your sustainable principles.

For those of us interested in the gap between local, low-tech production designed to shift society away from BAU, and the changes that occur when those systems scale up to cater to the existing market, this article may also provide a few points of contention.

Read the full article by Jonathan Margolis for the Guardian.


People’s Community Market: Investing in food, health, community.

Posted in Models, Visions by Jessica Bird on November 28th, 2012


Screenshot from the People’s Community Market YouTube clip.

From the article “Building A Grocery Store In A Food Desert, With Funding From The Community” by Ariel Shwartz.

In San Francisco, you can’t walk five blocks without bumping into a farmer’s market or boutique grocery. Take a quick trip over the Bay Bridge to Oakland, though, and you’ll be confronted with areas that lack any sort of access to fresh food. So-called food deserts are a common problem in communities throughout the U.S., but in the neighborhood of West Oakland, one local organization is banking on the community to alleviate the problem by funding a startup grocery store.

The vision for the for-profit People’s Community Market sprung out of a decade’s worth of community food activism from People’s Grocery, a nonprofit organization that in the past has launched projects like the Mobile Market, a fresh food truck that drove around the neighborhood, and the Grub Box, a local community-supported agriculture box for residents. Despite the success of these initiatives, they weren’t enough to fulfill the food needs of West Oakland, which sees 70% of grocery expenditures from residents each year (about $40 million) going to other cities. A lack of fresh food also contributes to the 48% of residents that are obese or overweight. “The feedback from the community was continuing to affirm that, while smaller projects were important, they weren’t adequate for servicing needs,” explains Brahm Ahmadi, the founder and CEO of People’s Community Market and the former executive director of People’s Grocery.

So Ahmadi and the board of People’s Grocery decided to build a full-fledged grocery store that’s tailored to the community. That means that the 15,000-square-foot store will be tinier than many grocery stores–transactions are generally smaller than in suburban areas because people have less money to spend (meaning they make smaller purchases more often) and they come via public transportation or on foot so they can’t carry loads of groceries. When it opens […] People’s Community Market will carry just 40% of the inventory of traditional grocery stores, with a focus on fresh food–produce, seafood, dairy–and quality prepared items. People’s Community Market will also become a community hub, providing a sit-down cafe space, education programs from local nonprofit health partners, and social activities–jazz nights every week, barbecues after Sunday church, sitdown dinners, and customer appreciation events. […]

The grocery store has secured two-thirds of its $3.6 million budget from the California FreshWorks Fund, a collaboration between the California Endowment and a number of partners that aims to bring fresh food to the state’s food deserts. But there’s a hitch: FreshWorks will only offer up the loan if the grocery can raise the rest of the money ($1.2 million) first. That last chunk of cash will come from the community via a direct public offering–a system where People’s Community Market sells shares of the company directly to California residents. Initially, the startup hoped to raise private capital, but found that a lot of investors weren’t attracted to the grocery business–the margins are tight and investments aren’t that lucrative. Crowdfunding was considered, but except in rare cases, companies rarely make over a million dollars on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. “We decided to shift directions to a community investment campaign,” says Ahmadi. He stresses that this is “not crowdfunding or donation. It is a real investment.” People’s Community Market has already raised $200,000 thanks to the large donor base from People’s Grocery. […] “Our thinking is that if we can make significant progress and show momentum, a number of angel [investors] in a wait-and-see position will come in and help close it out,” says Ahmadi. If People’s Community Market can raise the money it needs, the store could be operating by the end of next year. It’s not soon enough for West Oakland residents. Says Ahmadi: “They want the store open right away.”

>> Read the full article on Fast Co.Exist.
>> You can learn more about the People’s Community Market on their website, or see their YouTube clip.