November 11, 2014
Portulaca oleracea, aka purslane
“Most people have foraged for food at some point,” says Brent Kim, one of the researchers conducting Bountiful Baltimore, a study on Baltimore foraging. “If you’ve picked a wild berry and eaten it, you’ve foraged.”
Modern humans have been foraging for wild plants and fungi for 200,000 years. In comparison, humans have only been farming for about 12,000 years. But while we have a lot of documentation about our agricultural practices, we’re only beginning to understand the behaviors of present-day foragers—the who, what, where, why, and how. Much of what we know Read More >
November 10, 2014
What has Maui done to Dow and Monsanto?
Elections, the bad news. A lot happened on Tuesday at the polls, and how the shift in our representation affects our food system, our environment, and the health of our public is yet to be seen. One of the biggest disappointments is that with a Republican-majority Senate, we are likely to see damage done to the EPA’s already limited authority over the livestock industries that pollute our soil, water, and air, and we will probably see that agency’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) systematically dismantled. The political pressure from anti-regulatory forces on the USDA and the FDA is also likely to render both Read More >
November 6, 2014
We can all think of one right away: a bad neighbor. In Baltimore City, that bad neighbor leaves his smelly trashcan out front without a lid all the time so every time you open a window or a door, you are assaulted by the odor and numerous flies. She doesn’t pick up after her dog when it goes on the street or in her own backyard. He rents the house to one person but six people live there and have a constant stream of visitors. She double parks for hours, impeding the flow of traffic. He shares his bedbugs with you.
Now imagine that you live in a rural community in Maryland. Maybe it looks like Read More >
November 5, 2014
How much of this land can be used for gardens?
Just as community gardens are popping up in vacant lots and parks, they are also appearing in prisons. While you do not hear the term “prison farms” every day, they are becoming a more prevalent contributor to local food systems. Correctional facilities in California, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, and South Carolina have developed and publicized successful farming practices within their own institutions—inmate-managed dairy farms and vegetable plots are two examples. Maryland is no exception to this trend.
As a part of our farm-to-institution research, the Maryland Food System Map Project Read More >
November 4, 2014
Exhibit sponsored by Oregon Cattle and Horse Raisers Association, circa 1940 / OSU
My blogpost last week, “Taxation Without Representation, Beef Industry Style,” highlighting the problems of the federally sanctioned beef tax (commonly referred to as the “beef checkoff”) drew an analysis from Kendal Frazier, the chief operating officer at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). (See the comments section for his response.) He may not remember me, but I have interacted with Kendal periodically over the years when he was an agriculture reporter in Kansas, as well as working public relations for the Kansas Livestock Association, and I worked first at the Kansas Farmers Union and then as communications director for then Kansas Congressman Dan Glickman. Read More >
November 3, 2014
Because of Ava Chin, I now photograph weeds and mushrooms that pop up after a rain. Her memoir, Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal, has inspired me to ask, before I put on gardening gloves and tear something out by its roots, “But can I eat this?”
As the The New York Times’ former “Urban Forager” columnist, Chin has been writing enthusiastically about her hunts for wild edibles for years, and Eating Wildly rounds up those tales and weaves them with personal stories. While we scan meadows and roadsides and trees with her to find her bounties, she tells us about her childhood in Queens, her challenging single mother, her devoted Chinese grandparents, and her plight as a single, 30-something woman for whom it’s much more difficult to uncover a loving partner than, say, prized morel mushrooms. Read More >
October 31, 2014
Two days ago, documentary producer Laurie David joined us here at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) for a special screening of Fed Up, which explores the causes of the obesity crisis in America. Guess what? It’s Big Sugar’s fault. That’s an oversimplification, but not by much.
When I asked her for a comment on Halloween and its super-sized candy promotion, she said, “Don’t get me started. Every day is Halloween in this country.”
I kind of agreed. If we’re talking about candy, Christmas has become Halloween. Read More >
October 30, 2014
The Beef Checkoff Program is funded by
a beef tax on producers.
Most consumers are familiar with the advertising campaigns promoting specific diet choices—for example, “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner,” featuring the baritone voice of Hollywood actor Sam Elliott, or “Got Milk?” or “Pork, the Other White Meat.” All these campaigns seek to influence consumer choices and increase demand for the specific promoted commodity, often at the expense of the other choices. But do you know how these multimillion dollar advertising campaigns are funded? Few people do.
These campaigns are funded by a mandatory tax on producers. In the case of beef cattle, there is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)–sanctioned $1 fee levied on every head of cattle sold in the U.S., with a comparable amount levied on imported beef. This tax Read More >
October 29, 2014
The first food pledge week was October 29 through November 4, 1917. Yes, 1917! It was an effort by the federal government, with President Woodrow Wilson at the helm, to introduce voluntary rationing of critical resources during World War I. Along with gasless Sundays, Americans were asked to practice meatless Mondays and wheatless Wednesdays.
In 1917, the passage of the Lever Act was intended to direct the conservation of food and fuel. United States Food Administrator Herbert Hoover, appointed by President Wilson, launched a campaign that same year in which homemakers were asked to sign a pledge to conserve food in support of war efforts. First Lady Edith Wilson was the first to sign the pledge. Pledge signers received a “Membership Window Card” to be displayed in their homes. Read More >
October 28, 2014
Chesapeake Food Policy Institute, Oct. 2014 / CLF
The participants’ passion energized the conference. Some talked about their work with mayors and city councils, while others described their frustrations finding inroads into certain groups. Participants spent time together over meals, team exercises, and free moments, and shared their success, struggles, and ambitions with one another. They generated ideas together, and some agreed to work together on future projects. Most expressed that the most valuable part of the Institute was being together to learn from one another.
On October 5-8, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future hosted the Chesapeake Food Policy Leadership Institute for food policy groups from the Chesapeake region. The conference took place at the Pearlstone Conference Center in Reisterstown, Maryland. The goal of the Institute was to build a network of food policy leaders who can increase their efficacy in leading food policy groups and improve their understanding of food policy actions. Read More >