I tried to not read/skim and close every tab I read this week, so here are some Friday Food News and Sustainability Updates to keep you occupied this weekend (unless it’s as beautiful outside wherever you are as it is here–it’s much too nice to spend the weekend inside on the internet, these will still be here in the winter!):

First are two articles from The Guardian.  I’ll admit, I don’t remember to check The Guardian for articles (especially in their Global Development section), I always run across really interesting stories, like these, and then think to myself “I really should check The Guardian more regularly…” but it just doesn’t happen as often as it should.  Maybe posting these will be a good reminder.  The first article, “How lack of food security is failing a starving world,” is by Alex Renton, and is about G8 policy towards malnutrition.  He frequently complements the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation/Bill Gates’ support, however, the Global Development section of The Guardian is also supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (so there may be some conflict of interest/pandering/whatever it’s called (writing for brownie points?).  I respect the work of the Gates Foundation, even though I’ve heard some disturbing comments about their views on biotechnology (GMOs) in developing countries.  Anyway, an interesting article.  The second article from The Guardian, entitled “How can we build a sustainable farming system for all?,” by Mark Driscoll, lines up quite nicely with conversations my classmates/colleagues and I regularly have: there is no one-size-fits-all approach that results in sustainable farming; instead sustainable farming must consider the people involved (social), the place (environmental), and the profit (economics) and work to build a system that meets all of these needs, not just profit.

I found the article “How U.S. Foreign Aid can Feed More for Less” very interesting.  I have been listening to the debate about how best to provide foreign aid since I was getting my Master’s degree, but it sounds like we’re finally catching on to what promotes better aid practices.  We’ll see what DC decides, but I thought this article provided a good overview of the realities of what happens when we slowly send our own subsidized products halfway around the world, only to find out that they are culturally inappropriate, rotted on our U.S. Navy transportation, are just too late.

I don’t tweet, but if you follow Twitter, Food Tank’s list “118 Twitter Feeds Every Food Activist Needs to Follow” might be of interest to you.  I thought the list was great–these are all people I enjoy following on Facebook and in other realms.  I’m sure you could get lots of good information by following the suggested feeds, I would just have to figure out how to make more time in my day if I’m going to start tweeting too.  Maybe someday.

Fred Bahnson of the Washington Post published a faith-based take on gardening in his article “What Grows in a Garden?”  I really enjoyed it, as I can really connect my time weeding or trellising (last week’s work on the Student Organic Farm) to a spiritual renewal.  I know that’s not everyone’s view, growing food can be an emotional, physical, mentally challenging activity, but I hope everyone sees the beauty in it too.  It’s amazing to think that what you put into the ground as a tiny seed can emerge as a huge plant with beautiful flowers and, later, fruit that nourishes life…  For more thoughts on spiritual gardening I would encourage you to look at what my friends Tisa and Anne are doing in Colorado through their projects SAGE Community and Chadash Community.  (I know of others in the Boulder/Denver metro area, but would have to think about their names more; as always, if you want more information though, send me a message!)

Next up, a YouTube clip.  I’m not sure of the video’s source (so you can determine your own level of belief/accuracy of fact), but I found the video “Food Waste: A Story of Excess” to be very interesting.  I think it was a powerful reminder of how much food we throw out.  This is one thing we are struggling with at home, between our weekly CSA share and the woman my husband works with, who must think we’re starving, because she started sending a big bag of fresh veggies home with him each week as well, we are up to our ears in veggies.  We can’t cook/eat them fast enough.  I know there are options to further donate them locally, so I’m going to try to make that happen–we can only eat so much zucchini in a week.  On another note, two weeks ago we got turnips and turnip greens in our CSA bag.  I always used to think I liked vegetables, but I realized I only liked the small circle of vegetables I knew… so we’ll have to decide whether we finish the dish I made with the turnip greens (using the CSA recommended recipe) or donate it to our vermiculture population’s meal plan.  Yet to be determined.  We hate to throw away perfectly good food, but neither one of us is enjoying the taste.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel released an article about a report on female farmers last week.  The article, titled “Female farmers take a smaller, educational approach, report says” described the differences between decisions made between male and female farmers.  The findings are very similar to those my classmate/colleague Angie has been doing in her research with the Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) here in Iowa.  “The report also shows that women farm differently than traditional male farmers do. Put simply, they’re raising food, not crops, said Adcock — with a focus on producing healthy food for their families and communities and keeping the land healthy for future generations.”  I’ve been conducting interviews for a research project I’m on at school and can say the same thing: women’s responses are much different than men’s responses to some questions.  Whether that’s a nature or nurture response is a whole different study, but there are definitely differences.  For more about female farmers, check out my classmate/colleague Shari on her farm in Illinois!

I don’t know which Congress-person started the most recent anti-environment tirade, but they’ve all been making the news this week.  So much so that Scott Slesinger wrote a sad/depressing update about the House of Representatives currently sitting on the Hill called “61 Reasons This is the Most Anti-Environmental House of Representatives in History.”  As my own representative (who represents my district, but does not represent me) recently made waves for his racist comments regarding immigrants and promptly followed up with some climate change denial, it’s not hard to believe that this House is anti-environmental in the least.  At a state level, Iowa’s government is taking some heat for continuing to promote Big Ag/Corporate Ag policies, instead of what citizens want.  An editorial in the Des Moines Register pointed out that “The fact is, the political leadership of Iowa — including the governor, the secretary of agriculture and too many members of the Iowa Legislature — is far more attentive to the interests of big ag groups than the interests of ordinary Iowans who enjoy boating, swimming and clean drinking water. That’s because big ag spends a lot of money on elections and lobbying.”  I’m ignoring Limbaugh’s comments altogether and just stop there.

For more depressing U.S.-based news, this link was insightful: “10 American Foods that are Banned in Other Countries”  I really just don’t understand why labeling food for Americans to be independent and make their own decisions is so un-American.  I know, I know.  It’s not an issue of American independence and individual thinking, it’s about whatever is best for the neoliberal capitalists’ corporations and their profit margins–that’s the true America… but I wish health and well-being ranked above profit, just long enough for people to see that it could be a both/and scenario–we’re definitely not limited to the ridiculous capitalism vs. socialism debate that’s been going on for 5+ years.  (Sorry, end of rant.)

On a happier note, this video (another YouTube video) is being praised as a ray of hope for food activists: a 14-year old girl articulately described why she believes GMOs should be labeled (in spite of the tv host being not so articulate).  I know we (in the U.S.) are in for a big and long fight against Monsanto and other biotech/ag corporations, but the message is spreading and this video was an exciting reminder of that.

A long, long time ago, I wrote about quinoa and my love-hate relationship with it (I love how it tastes, that it’s super healthy, that it’s easy to cook and can be used in many dishes; I hate thinking about what it does to the Andean farmers who grow it, whether the farmers, for whom it’s a staple crop, can afford to not sell it, whether they have enough food or are suffering as a result of quinoa’s new super-food status, etc.)  Yesterday on NPR’s All Things Considered Dan Charles asked “Can Quinoa Farming Go Global Without Leaving Andeans Behind?” questioning whether, if quinoa can in fact be produced outside the Andes, Andean quinoa farmers will be able to survive without controlling the global market.  (P.S. He has links to evidence that I shouldn’t hate quinoa, which is nice for my conscience.)

Thomas Friedman wrote an op-ed for the New York Times this week called “Kansas and Al Qaeda.”  He described his most recent project about how climate and environmental stresses helped trigger the Arab awakening in the Middle East.  He wrote that “the connection between the drought in Kansas and the rise in global food prices that helped to fuel the Arab uprisings.  But I stumbled upon another powerful environmental insight here: the parallel between how fossil fuels are being used to power monoculture farms in the Middle West and how fossil fuels are being used to power wars to create monoculture societies in the Middle East. And why both are really unhealthy for their commons.”  In Kansas, Friedman met with Wes Jackson of The Land Institute whose 30-plus year focus on growing perennial grains is an effort to promote more sustainable, low-input agriculture.

Finally, I wanted to share a hometown update.  My hometown, Decorah, Iowa, is a small, beautiful community in northeast Iowa that was recently threatened by the fracking industry (also called frac-sand mining).  Luckily, people realize we live (either physically or in spirit (me)) in a beautiful town and that natural beauty is one of our town’s best assets.  The County Supervisors put a two-year moratorium on fracking in Winneshiek County (and the supervisors in Allamakee County–next door–did the same thing).  So residents and county officials have been attempting to learn as much as they can in these two years to make informed decisions, as it will likely get worse before it gets better (apparently we’re almost perfect for fracking…).  So I wanted to share with you “Bus trip to land of frac-sand mining provides insight to ‘new’ industry” by Lissa Blake, which was published in my home-town newspaper this week.  Having worked with the mining resistance movement in Guatemala, it was too easy to put faces with the situations she described seeing in Wisconsin.  In Guatemala sharing stories of what really happens when the mining industry moves in next door has been the best way to keep the industry from expanding (although it’s not easy), so I wanted to share these stories with you too.  It’s amazing how we can be so far apart from other people who are facing similar challenges (corporate threats, threats to our water, soil, wildlife, and livelihoods, temptation for individual greed instead of communal good) and yet be so connected; this was happening as we visited our friends in El Salvador who are still fighting a mine that wants to come into the village.  Solidarity is amazing.

Happy weekend!  May you enjoy the beautiful weather (or the warmth/comfort of home) and celebrate this week’s victories and prepare for next week’s challenges.

Dunnings Springs in Decorah, IA

Autumn at Dunnings Springs in Decorah, IA