Saturday, June 23, 2012

Occupy the hen yard

As I was driving over to the Joe Matos' cheese factory this morning, I saw a hand lettered sign, clearly the advertising of a diversified cottage industry.
Among the items listed were "chicken coups."

I knew the backyard hen movement had gone too far.   Now they are organized and taking over suburbia.   Shades of my second favorite barnyard movie, Chicken Run.  

With all the farm bill tussles and news or lack of it from Rio 20 years later I needed this (presumably) unintentional humor.   It didn't hurt to see a brand new Holstein calf as I drove by Beretta's dairy (Wallaby Organic Yogurt), too.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Land grab indignation

I didn't know whether to weep or scream in outrage when I heard this story about a land grab in Mozambique on NPR

It's just colonialism in a corporate suit.

Fair Food review

I just finished reading Fair Food by Oren B. Hesterman.   This is a pretty good read which does more than many popular titles about food system reform to stress the social equity dimension.

I was surprised that with all the interest around here there was only one copy in the Sonoma County Library system.   Maybe because this is less that a purist treatment?   Hesterman seems intent on restoring balance to the food system, not eliminating large scale production of commodity crops.  Speaking of our food system he says:

On the continuum between specialization and diversification, we have veered too far toward the specialization side.  We are similarly out of balance on the continua of centralization-decentralization, concentration-dispersion, and globalization-localization.
The book generated some interesting questions for me, and provided some useful definitions.  Good section on the Farm Bill.   There is also an extensive resource section, topically organized and annotated.   

On the related website  the resources are organized in a searchable way.   You plug in a key word or two, your state if you wish, and the area of interest.   Maybe my searching was a little lacking, but I couldn't find anything on a topic the book made me think about.   When we talk about farm to institution - why don't we mention jails and prisons?   Just think if their purchasing power were increased and turned toward the local agricultural economy wherever they are...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Water conservation on the farm

I don't suppose most people reading my blog need to know the latest techniques for water conservation in agriculture, but you might want to know that efforts along those lines are increasing, and there is a web site aggregating the relevant information.

Ag Innovations is doing this, and the link was in the email they sent me about it.

Hey - this is my 500th post!  Seems like there should be a prize somewhere here, or at least bells and whistles!

Legislation, legislation

There's lots of news out there about the progress of the farm bill through the Congress.   Some of it is better informed than others.   I've been struck by how little attention NPR pays to the largest agricultural state in their coverage.

Two of our local guys published this op ed piece in the Los Angeles Times,0,7923048.story
but I don't think their voices are loud enough to reach the other coast.

Meanwhile, I learned that a bill on preparing food for sale in the home could result in relaxing prohibitions on doing so in California as has been done in 30+ other states.   AB1616 the California Homemade Food Act is making its way through the state legislature.   It has cleared the Assembly, came to the full Senate, and was referred to the Senate Health Committee on June 7.   This would allow, under certain guidelines, the preparation for sale of foods that do not need refrigeration.   Baked goods that don't include cream fillings, meat and the like, for example, plus preserves of a certain pH or lower.   Will it become law in time for this year's preserving season?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

You can tailor and send a message to your senators

about the Farm Bill here:

Roots of Change has made it fairly easy to voice your support for an amendment in the U.S. Senate that would redirect dollars from subsidies of commodity crops and the insurance programs for them to increased funding for food justice, conservation and support for growers of speciality crops.
(Everything but the big commodities - wheat, corn, soy, rice, cotton, etc. or maybe there is no etc., is a speciality crop.   That is, fruits, vegetables, nuts.)

Friday, June 1, 2012

the California perspective

Excellent Forum show on the Farm Bill today.

This would be a great introduction for those who are just getting tuned in to the issues - but even food system groupies like me learned something.  The whole idea that the battles around how government funds are invested in agriculture are regional more than partisan really needs to be driven home.   Michael Dimmock's almost cheerleading for California agriculture also helps people see just how complex the issues are.

The anti-Monsanto hyperbole from the one caller was unfortunate.   They are bad enough - no need to exaggerate, but there is a need to be specific.  

The other disappointment I had was that no one picked up on the question, for which the host primed the pump, of who is doing and funding the lobbying.