Many organic farmers are hopping mad right now at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and their reason involves perhaps the most under-appreciated part of agriculture: plant food, aka fertilizer. Specifically, the FDA, as part of its overhaul of food safety regulations, wants to limit the use of animal manure.

“We think of it as the best thing in the world,” says organic farmer Jim Crawford, “and they think of it as toxic and nasty and disgusting.”

Every highly productive farmer depends on fertilizer. But organic farmers are practically obsessive about it, because they’ve renounced industrial sources of nutrients.

The NPR Report

The Philippines Disaster and Food Aid

An NPR Report that tries to relate the Philippines Disaster, Food Aid, and the U.S. Farm Bill.

I say ‘tries to relate’ because the underlying political economy of U.S. food aid appears irrational and driven by commodity politics.

Sadly, once American government went down this path it became extremely difficult to make decisions that are ethically sound for needy local communities around the world.

Food Sovereignty

“I don’t think we can call ourselves sovereign if we can’t feed ourselves.” This is what Paul “Sugarbear” Smith told me a few years ago when I went to visit him in Oneida Territory, Wisconsin. I think he’s got something here and it’s worth looking into.

What is food sovereignty? The ability to feed your people. Let’s say that. This could be through your own growing and harvesting, or this could be through trade, if you’re happy with it and it’s working out for you. This is where we need to be, but certainly aren’t there now.

A very interesting two part essay by Winona LaDuke

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

November 19th is the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Ken Burns is asking people to read and recite his short, but eloquent speech….

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Creating a Food Oasis

We recently worked with the African Alliance to fund a 2014 project that will put African vegetables in a pilot group of Providence markets. The new vegetables will be coupled with cooking demonstrations and family oriented events – impacting neighbors with food and nutrition education coupled with, as Wendell Berry would say, the pleasures of eating.

This CNN report catches the spirit of the project’s intention, as well as hits at some of the dilemmas of current food advocacy in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods (which focuses too much on defining the problem rather than developing solutions).

From the report:

What we need is a Food Oasis Movement.

There is an untapped demand for fresh fruits and vegetables. Unlocking the demand requires understanding that food access is about relationships, not transactions. Also, price matters.

Families won’t respond to the food police nagging them to eat their veggies. Outsiders dropping off a pallet of free food won’t cut it.

Families will respond positively to cooking classes with their friends, celebrations of family kitchen traditions and high-quality produce distributed through trusted sources.

Philadelphia grocer Jeff Brown has opened supermarkets in neighborhoods written off as food deserts. He hires from the neighborhood, adds specialty items the neighbors like and puts health clinics and community meeting rooms inside his stores. His stores make money.

Food Oasis innovators focus on what they can do, not what they can’t.

Political ‘Shock Wave’

Just a few weeks ago, McInturff had characterized the high negative ratings for Congress and the president as “ripples that will take a long time to resolve.” But McInturff is revising and extending his remarks.

“Ripple,” he says, was way too careful.

The word he’s using today is “shock wave.” He says his new polls have broken all records for a generation of NBC/WSJ polling data. He found:

The lowest rating for Obama of his presidency;
The lowest positive rating for the Republican Party;
And for the first time ever, a majority of people choosing not to identify with either political party.

A majority of people choosing not to identify with either political party!

The NPR Report