Monday, May 23, 2011

Cheese Touring

Here's a handy resource, the Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail Map.

Seems like lately whenever people talk about local cheese they use the overworked term "artisan" or "artisanal" - which seems to mean $20-30 per pound.
I guess I am happy that producers have found people to pay those prices, so that they can earn a living through cheese, but I tend to go to the older places where the prices are better: Vella and Matos.

Marin French Cheese has recently been acquired by a French cheese company, Tians. They promise no changes in the press release:
but any time I hear improvements I figure that means higher prices. I wonder if there will still be bargains at the factory? Tians also owns Laura Chenel, our chevre company before we had so many. The best prices on Sonoma chevre (Presumably Laura Chenel) are, curiously, at Trader Joe's.

Now that we have an official map, I wonder if it will be as much fun to put together cheese tours for my out of town guests?

Friday, May 20, 2011

I was disappointed

when I found the pictures of the Chinese exploding watermelons. Somehow I thought they would be more dramatic - instead of sad - wasteful and sad.

Sadder still is the fact that some Chinese farmers will not eat what they or others grow for sale, but grow their own produce for their family's consumption. I'm glad they have a kitchen garden - but what about the fact that they won't eat the food they grow to make a buck because of all the chemicals they use on it.

And then there's the shunning of domestic food in favor of what's imported. Buy local apparently may mean buying toxins.

I heard it on NPR, but here's a print story:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Less sodium, more umami

The Harvard School of Public Health and the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) have joined forces to tackle the excess sodium in our diets and that other epidemic - the one I can relate to - hypertension.

Many of the hints here
are ones you and I already know about it, but these 25 ideas are convincingly presented and recognize that more healthful food without good taste is just not going to fly.

What a breath of fresh air. Good science and good recipes.

It seems to me that these recommendations also underscore the need for more affordable fresh food, and for re-skilling in garden and kitchen, so that we can avoid the great scourge of fast and over-processed foods.

Monday, May 16, 2011

While I was complaining

about the neglect of the hungry and the workers by our food system alliance here, a few interesting reports have appeared.

On Cesar Chavez Day the Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States was published.
A joint effort of a corporate catering company's foundation, the UFW and Oxfam America, this report tells us two things we already knew. Working conditions and compensation for farm workers are not good, and data about their lot in life is scarce. These are two signs of a wider lack of care, I think.

Coverage of the report on KQED's Forum pointed out that regulations in California are stronger than in many other big ag states, and some situations have been improving. Sounds like labor contractors though, are still a concern in many cases. And managers who speak only English, when their employees don't speak either English or Spanish? has the podcast.

Here are some interesting reflections from one of the fellows who worked on the report, including the difficulty in getting good data on farm worker conditions.

I'm also rather taken with this new report, which covers workers throughout the food system and stresses the need for advocacy:
Read all about it at Green for All.

Perhaps these reports can spur us on here in Sonoma County to do more about workers in growing and producing food, and to see that improved conditions for workers could drive the greening of the whole (an in entire, not a dietary regime) food system.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Other projects

Today I will be taking one more look at the Sonoma County Food Forum report, on which the copy editing team has been working while I did Holy Week, Easter Day, and the annual meeting of the Ecumenical Roundtable on Science, Technology and the Church.

My work on food systems for the Episcopal Committee on ST&Faith was well received. In the works is a booklet for congregations, a food audit.

The backgrounder from the ST&F work and an outline of my workshop on May 19 have gone off to the National Episcopal Health Ministry folks.

Meanwhile, there is more to be done on GMO issues for a report to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church next month.

And the tomato seedlings could be a little bigger, given the prospect of a warm and dry May. They need some coaxing before going into the garden.

Does this explain why I haven't been blogging much?

the complexities of energy use in the food system

Here's a recent update on these issues from CNBC

Most interesting, I think, is the reminder that the greatest energy efficiency is to be found in regional food systems. Way local is better than global shipping, but regional is best.

Also, using elbow grease rather than an array of electric appliances as well as getting rid of the second fridge at home can make a real difference - or could if we all did it.

So can the shift that keeps coming up - less meat and dairy in our diets.

I'd like to know the energy use difference between local cheese from pastured cows bought on a trip I would have made anyway and tofu shipped from whoknowswhere made from soybeans from whoknowswhere.

A recent USDA report on energy and the food system can be found here: