Archive for the ‘Food Rebels’ Category
Like the majority of Americans, seaweed is not a major component of my diet. Before interviewing Kacie Loparto, a hand-harvester of wild seaweed, the salty, slippery vegetable was, to me, something that occasionally wrapped around my legs while swimming in the ocean and held the contents of my sushi roll in one piece. Though seaweed may be new to me in regards to food, it has been utilized as food source for a very long time, and traditional methods of harvesting it have been passed down through generations. In 2007, after completing her degree at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, Kacie decided to continue her hands-on education in agriculture and found somebody to apprentice with in Maine to learn seaweed harvesting. Harvesting of seaweed, like any wild food, is a craft that must be learned. So, she traveled to Maine to learn from some of the best, from somebody who had been out on the ocean for almost 40 years.
As the consumption and growing of seaweed is quickly increasing in popularity, sustainable methods of harvesting this wild source of nutrition are becoming more and more crucial. There are many things about seaweed harvesting that may only be learned by apprenticing with somebody who has sufficient knowledge about the practice. There are things like California Frond Tip harvesting–not taking a whole plant from the stem, but just a portion of it in order to ensure that it can replenish itself. And, how to monitor seaweed patches to determine if they are healthy enough to harvest from in consecutive years. Kacie has traveled from the East Coast to the West Coast learning different methods and seeing what it really takes to run a seaweed business. Whether in California or Maine, the best months to gather seaweed are June and July, and she always uses boats to get out to the seaweed, either row boats or kayaks. Her day usually starts around 3am, at which time the tide is the lowest and she has approximately two hours of prime time harvesting. If the tide is low enough, she may even be able to reach the seaweed by foot. After the seaweed is gathered and brought back to shore, it is hung out on lines to dry before it is ready to be eaten,
So, you ask, why seaweed? Seaweeds are extremely high in iodine and magnesium and thus, good for protecting the thyroid and protecting us from different kinds of cancer that are caused by environmental pollutants. Kacie also told me that seaweed is a good alternative for people who don’t live by the ocean thus are not able to absorb the proper amounts of iodine through breathing the ocean air. Studies have suggested that, if used as a healing food, it can slow the growth of cancer cells.
Six years after Kacie began her apprenticeship, you can find her selling her seaweed at different farmer’s markets and blogging about her adventures on her website, She Sells Seaweed www.shesellsseaweed.com She educates people about different ways to eat seaweed, and is attempting to figure out how seaweed gathering is going to fit into her life. In the future she hopes to get into something like botany, lead plant walks, learn/teach how to use plants medicinally as well as food, and most of all, to educate people about wild foods. When asked why seaweed is so important to her, Kacie said that above all, she appreciates seaweed as a food source and likes harvesting for the adventure of the work. The interview ended with Kacie admitting, “I just love to eat seaweed.”
While Kacie uses seaweed in practically everything she cooks, her favorite recipe, also one of the best ways to soak up the most nutritional value from the seaweed, is miso soup! This recipe can be found on her website along with many others:
“To make the vegetarian dashi broth, boil 3 cups of water with slices of fresh ginger root. After about five minutes add a few strips of kombu, turn off heat and cover. Covering pot helps retain iodine and infuses broth with the healing alginates. Steep for 10 minutes, and then pour through strainer if you want only the broth.
To make the broth into miso soup, add a teaspoon of miso paste, sliced scallion, and grated carrots and daikon radish. You can also add umeboshi plum paste and coconut oil to enrich the soup even more.”
If you thought hacking is just a way for computer geeks to take technology into their own hands, think again. Now there are farm hacks, an innovative way to marry farming with technology to create new solutions to old problems. Farm hacks are events created through a program, appropriately called “FarmHacks,” organized by the National Young Farmers Coalition. Kristen Loria and Grant Schultz co-coordinated this year’s first ever Midwest Farm Hack in Mechanicsville, Iowa, a two-day event with a focus on on-farm energy production.
FarmHack is actually a forum for new and older farmers to connect and collaborate. It’s a space to brainstorm common problems through web-based mediums and nationwide events that attract not only farmers but also those more tech-savy.
With ideas spanning from the “quadracycle” (a machine that allows farmers to lie down while berry picking) to a solar-powered chicken coop, this year’s event was deemed a success.
Kristen highlights FarmHack’s ability to embody a unique approach that is a “very practical, concrete project.” It builds from the community and interpersonal connections to create a new form of agriculture fosters that overcomes common challenges. FarmHack draws from communication and collective “creative ingenuity” rather than relying on “capital and input intensive solutions” that are traditionally utilized.
Kristen Loria coordinated this year’s first Midwest Farm Hack in Mechanicsville, Iowa, a two-day event with a focus on on-farm energy production. Kristen understood this event not only as a chance for farmers to think, tinker and talk about innovative approaches to age-old problems but also as a chance to begin discussions on widely shared agricultural problems. She intends for this to give more people a chance to become engaged and invested in the local food systems around them. Kristen became involved in Iowa’s Farm Hack through the Greenhorns, an organization dedicated to inspiring, recruiting and supporting new farmers with programs, events and multimedia resources.
Finally, Kristen tells us, “FarmHack provides the necessary support and relevant dialogue once the event has ended to allow for “long term communication and collaboration among people from all over the country.”
Want to find when a Farm Hack will be held near you? Visit http://www.youngfarmers.org/practical/farm-hack/events
Iowa may seem an unlikely destination for a young college graduate from Ithaca, New York. But not for Kristen Loria, who grew up with a passion for the rising food movement in Ithaca, later graduating from Cornell University in environmental science and sustainable agriculture. She grew to love a life rooted in agriculture with a commitment to creating a world that marries ecological and human well-being, rather than “one always being sacrificed for the other”.
After a splattering of experiences working on farms, in sustainable farm organizations and schools, Kristen landed in Iowa with AmeriCorps, immersing herself in garden and nutrition education programs. She found Iowa is a “place that embodies what our modern food system has become”.
Living in Iowa helped her to recognize “a serious flaw in the way we talk about food and agriculture” in terms of efficiency of production. She found although “many Iowans take enormous pride in Iowa’s effort to ‘feed the world’”, most of the productivity goes to energy and animal feed. This assumption stifles the necessary discussions to address and fix the food system.
However, changes within the Iowa food landscape are being introduced alongside conventional production practices. Kristen noted that while agriculture is a “very polarizing realm politically,” it is increasingly important to “collaborate with diverse farmers and perspectives” to truly make a change. Unlike New York, a relatively small producer state, Iowa has presented Kristen with a new, “beneficial dynamic.”
As her experiences continue to pile up, Kristen has realized the fluidity in which she can fit within the food movement–trying on different roles that “fit together and inform each other in valuable ways”, whether on the coast or in the cornfield.
Part 2 and 3 of this Iowa story will focus on two innovative programs that support the development of a new breed of young farmers, the Greenhorns and Farm Hack, which uses technology to create a collaborative environment between all farmers, young and old.
There’s a lot I love about the Midwest, but mostly it’s the people. And summer. Despite the worst drought on record raging through much of the lower and mid-region corn belts, you wouldn’t notice it at first glance in and around the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul
Out here in support of the Twin Cities Public Television debut of Food Forward, all I can see is lush green grass surrounding smaller suburbs and rural enclaves as I make my way down the Mississippi river valley and over to La Farge, Wisconsin, headquarters for our founding sponsor, Organic Valley.
After meeting up with the team in the main offices, we head through Amish country and over to Spring Green, WI for a picnic dinner and to see Shakespeare’s Richard III. Afterwards, I’m invited to stay at ‘The Kettle’ for a restful night of sleep below a bright and shiny milky way, deep in the back woods of rural Wisconsin and I’m reminded of how lucky and thankful I am to have these opportunities.
Back to civilization and its straight to the St. Paul farmers market in search of food rebels. Amidst a sudden mid-summer downpour we amble through the aisles and met up with several local pioneers, including Mary Falk of Love Tree farmstead selling her artisan sheep milk cheeses and Dean Schwake of Big Woods Bison, offering low fat, high protein meat.
Then it was across the street to meet with Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant and Farm Direct Market. Lenny is a true visionary focused on supporting small-scale and local family farms. We spent a good day of filming with Lenny and look forward to sharing more about his operation soon.
Finally, I watched the airing of Food Forward yesterday at legendary local hot spot, The 1029 Bar in Northeastern Minneapolis.
At this popular Sunday sports bar, we were able to coerce our lovely waitress into switching two monitors from the British Open to our episode on urban agriculture, sans sound. Sure, I’ve seen it literally hundreds of times now, but to watch it far from home, with just the crisp high definition picture, amidst an amazing display of really good food from the Smack Shack with none other than local host Doug Utter, was a real treat. Even though they are nationally known for their lobster rolls, it was the roasted leg of lamb sandwich with harissa, saffron aioli and fennel seed slaw that I’ll remember and will come back for again. Out of site, really.
Place and Excellence–that is what Jay Porter, owner and operator of two farm-to-table restaurants in San Diego, believes that his restaurants are about. In 2004, Jay wanted to do something interesting with his life. He felt that his neighborhood was seriously lacking places where people could go to get well-prepared, thoughtful food and drink. So, he opened up his his own restaurant, The Linkery, one of the first restaurants in San Diego to source locally and seasonally on such a large scale. About two years ago, he opened his second farm-to-table restaurant, El Take it Easy. Anybody who has eaten at either of these places can tell you that you will always be surprised when you catch a glimpse of the menu. You can find items like pork belly and chicken skin tacos, bacon-wrapped Octopus, fries with smoked liver on top, and you can pretty much put bacon on anything. But don’t let these dishes scare you away–there is some real thought that goes behind these crazy concoctions.
During my interview/lunch with Jay Porter at his restaurant, he explained the theory behind his restaurants while he jumped up every five minutes to DJ some thoughtful tunes for the lunch crowd. When asked why he thought it was so important to source locally and to know his farmers, Jay responded, “The depth of experience that you can have is just so much greater.” He feels that many people in the contemporary U.S. are very placeless- not many people are really able to connect to where they are from and they can no longer find solid roots in their communities. Jay attempts to address this problem through meaningful cuisine that incorporates both the physical and the cultural landscape of where we live. In order to operate in both of those landscapes here in San Diego, our very close neighbor must be included: Mexico. Local food in San Diego is influenced by what people grow both on the San Diego side and the Mexican side of the border. “We have so many different landscapes, it is important to meaningfully incorporate all of them,” said Jay in between bites of his locally-grown salad.
As a restaurant owner, Jay confessed that although he had dabbled in food activism, he realized that the most important thing for his restaurants to do is to build a market for better-quality, local food. They must work with the farmers to grow their farms, and explore alternative ways of operating in order to ensure this restaurant’s model is successful. Jay Porter, along with many other farm-to-table restaurants, doesn’t want to sell commodities. He wants to forge a connection with his community by not selling commodities, and therefore bringing them something new and different. Although he acknowledges that this massive shift in food culture/mindset is really only prevalent in certain big cities, and outside of them the shift is rather incremental, he states, “I want to help people have great experiences involving thoughtfully-sourced and thoughtfully-grown food.” In the long run, these are the kinds of businesses that will renew people’s love for food and the place they live.
Food Forward welcomes our second guest blogger, Ilana Nevins, a senior at UC Berekely, who covers an inventive new grocery designed to inspire “pre-cycling” as a way to deal with food packaging and waste.
Out of the Box: A New Spin on Stores
by Ilana Nevins
Sick of all the difficult packaging, plastic wrap and twist ties at your local grocery store? So was Christian Lane. He, along with his two brothers Patrick and Joseph and friend Chistopher Pepe, decided the time had come for a new type of store. They founded In.gredients, America’s first package-free, zero waste grocery store, slated to open later this summer. Both waste and cost are saved while you pick and choose the few missing ingredients for your chocolate chip cookie cravings and last-minute meals.
Christian and his brothers previously worked in the software business, but about 2 years ago decided that our society’s “disposable mentality” needed to be thrown away. The brothers and friends have always been interested in management of the biological life cycle, and food packaging remains an unchartered territory that is ripe for reform. This venture will encourage “precycling” in an effort to limit the potential waste before it even begins, and give you a reason to save those many mason jars.
Cooking classes, gardening and art shows will also be offered at this hub for healthy, local ingredients like produce, grains and other bulk foods previously imprisoned in packaging. Not only are ingredients freed from their confining plastic, but customers are also released into a realm of ownership, by way of IndieGoGo, allowing them to have a share in the company through direct investment. In.gredients is a new, innovative way to store, ship and share food from local grocers, all without a plastic bag to carry on the way out–or a lot of plastic packaging in any bag.
For more info, visit: in.gredients.com
Ilana Nevins is a Senior at UC Berkeley, studying Society and Environment. I
She was previously a Food First intern and now works with the Alameda County
Community Food Bank’s Summer Lunch Program. She was on the board of the
Berkeley Student Food Collective for the past two years as the
fundraising coordinator. She feasts on food books (current favorite is
Appetite for Profit), snacks on strawberries, and savors her morning swims,
the sweat after a long trail run and hopes for a future that unites
food policies and city planning, especially related to the corporate food
regime, transportation and zoning, and nutrition.
In search of food rebels everywhere, Food Forward welcomes our first guest blogger, Yvette Cabrera. Yvette visited Suzie’s Farm, a 70-acre farm located near the Tijuana Estuary, 13 miles south of Downtown San Diego and spoke with three composting pioneers who came up with an enterprising method to connect the farm and the table.
Closing The Loop
by Yvette Cabrera
“Our ultimate goal is to save family farms,” said Chris Young, one of the three founders of Closing the Loop-San Diego, a composting group that aims to make organic food more affordable, help local restaurants, fix our topsoil, and get people to love their food.
Closing the Loop was just an idea 4 months ago, and starting 8-weeks ago, this idea was put into action by three people: Chris Young (farmer), Chelsea Coleman (chef/farmer), Amrita Rumberger (chef/farmer). Closing the Loop provides a “for-fee” service, in which a couple of restaurants around San Diego coordinate a pick-up of their food waste that is then redistributed through a network of small farms. The restaurant generating the food waste pays a fee for the pick-up and that fee is split between the farmers that are receiving the food scraps, thereby “closing the loop” (hence their name. Essentially, they are actually paying farmers to do composting. Instead of paying big corporations to put this food waste in a landfill, they are inspiring restaurants to redistribute it back to the farmers and the land. Closing the Loop is one of the few companies in the U.S. doing this on a commercial scale. Since June 2nd, calculations have shown that 14 tons of waste has been diverted from the landfills back to the farms with the involvement of only 8 restaurants!
So, why composting?
When I asked the three composters this question, their response was that the average American produces around 5 pounds of waste per day, and a bulk of that is compostable. In the United States alone, 1 billion tons of topsoil is lost per year. Our food is less nutrient dense than it was 50 years ago due to a lack of nutrients in the soil. “Composting is just the responsible thing to do” said Chelsea, it allows us to cut down on waste, extend the life of our landfills, replenish our topsoil, create economies for farms, remake our food nutrient dense by feeding the soil and taking care of it, and educate people about these issues.
Approaching their work from the standpoint of both chefs and farmers, Closing the Loop San Diego is growing quickly and hopes to expand to different counties and cities, and one day, to maybe even shut-down a landfill and use this model to create alternate jobs in composting. Most of all, they know that what is needed is a paradigm-shift, one in which composting is no longer just another radical idea, but the norm!
For more information, please visit: http://www.closingtheloopsd.com/
Yvette Cabrera was born in Mexico City, and moved to the United States as a child and grew up in San Diego. At UC Berkeley, she majored in Peace and Conflict Studies with a minor in Global Poverty and Practice (GPP). There she became an ally of the West Oakland food justice group, People’s Grocery and thus began her interest in food issues. Since then, she has worked on organic farms in Argentina and San Diego, interned with the Oakland Food Policy Council, traveled throughout South America, and worked at a farm-to-table restaurant in San Diego. More recently, she has been accepted to volunteer with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic with the Health Extension Program. Until then, she will be surfing, sailing, working and enjoying life in San Diego–and trying to get some good food along the way!