Archive for the ‘Sustainable’ 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.”
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.
By Yvette Cabrera
For most Americans, the 4th of July means it’s time to put on their red, white, and blue and pull out the barbeque. So, I ask this: what is a better way to show support for your country than by supporting the backbone of it–agriculture and the local economy? Here’s a few ways to exercise your right to a healthy lifestyle.
- Build a better burger. Make an independent effort to use more sustainable products: some grass-fed beef at your local grocery store, or even go to the farmer directly! And don’t forget your vegetables: veggie burgers and fresh seasonal veggies on the grill, especially from your local farmers.
- Raise a brew! The United States, and California in particular, has one of the fastest growing rates of microbreweries in the world. There are beers of all flavors, strengths and sizes, so support your local brewery.
- Cool off with a “spritzer!” Mix mineral water with the juice of any fresh fruit in season with wine or non-alcoholic. Try pouring the alcohol-free concoction into some popsicle trays to have a delicious frozen treat to help beat the heat of these record hot summer days.
- Take a hike! Go on a bike ride or hike to a spot that is relatively elevated to catch the fireworks from a better view! If you live anywhere near the water, kayaking and sailing are always extremely refreshing ways to get to waterfront displays.
A little sustainable thinking can help to make Independence Day a little more healthy and active for ourselves, as well as the planet. Now that makes freedom ring!
Photo credit: David Reber’s Hammer Photography’s photostream via Flickr
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.
Living in the Bay Area it’s easy to feel smug about all the wonderful farms, local produce and restaurants we have. But one of the great things about working on Food Forward is I get to discover the food scenes in other parts of the country and I’m here to tell you the San Francisco Bay Area is not the center of the good food world. And that’s a good thing.
A strong movement requires many fronts and out in the Mid-West, the Twin Cities are holding it down admirably. I visited Minneapolis and St. Paul about four years and was impressed with the variety and strength of the area’s food scene. There are good and even great restaurants by the dozen. They know how to eat in the Twin Cities and they do it without the benefit of a sunny climate and year round fresh produce. Today Greg and I are wrapping up a trip to Minnesota to raise funds and meet the excellent people at Haberman, Food Forward’s new PR and marketing agency. I’m impressed anew with the vitality of the area’s local food scene and commitment to a greener, more sustainable regional food economy.
Thanks to my old friend and our Twin Cities host Doug Utter, Greg and I had some great meals (and great beer!) at places like Brasa, Haute Dish, 312 Eatery, The Local, the Red Stag Supperclub, and Sea Salt. These restaurants not only serve inspired cuisine, but they draw on the diversity and strength of the upper Mid-West’s many farms, creameries and ranches.
No place impressed me as much as 9-month-old Heartland, a St. Paul restaurant/market/charcuterie operation. Chef and owner Lenny Russo describes himself as both “the Che Guevara of the food world” for his left-wing politics, but also “the second coming of Adam Smith” because of his belief in a market-based approach to a reinvigorated regional food economy. I just call him food forward.
“We believe the way to affect change is going to be at the grassroots level and for people to become educated and concerned about what it is they’re doing when they feed themselves, not just to their bodies and their children, but to the environment as well,” Russo told me. Amen to that.
Russo champions local food in a way that few restaurants do. Just about every ingredient is local. In some cases he buys all the production of nearby farms and ranches, ensuring his purveyors have a predictable revenue stream, an arrangement that allows them to save on marketing and transportation. By doing so Russo is helping to keep local treasures like the Russet apple and the wooly, fantastically delicious Mangalitsa hog financially viable. Russo’s walk-in coolers and even some corner office spaces are loaded with legs of Mangalitsa on their way to becoming prosciutti (that’s the plural of proscuitto, don’t you know). He’s got plans to sell his proscuitti wholesale in the coming years. Keep and eye out for it.
What’s so inspiring about Russo and his Mid-West food emporium is he’s proving that locavore foodie idealism and profitability aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, they go together deliciously.
Food Forward isn’t an international show (yet), but when we do go global I want to talk to Arthur Potts Dawson, chef at Waterhouse and Acorn House, two of the greenest, most waste-averse restaurants in London. Arthur is way out in front. I like his slogan: Instead of just the three R’s (reduce, re-use and recycle) he adds a fourth R: refuse (an in refuse to use non-recyclable, wasteful materials). Check out his recent TED talk to see what makes him so food forward.