Digest – Features: Meatpacking towns, Illinois goes local, Severson’s got soul food

starWhat Big Meat giveth, Big Meat can taketh away : This remarkable piece by AP reporter Roxana Hegeman documents how, just as the arrival of the Santa Fe Railroad in 1872 brought white settlers to populate the dusty towns and farms of fledgling America, the relocation and consolidation of the meatpacking industry has once again transformed icons of the West such as Dodge City. (Forbes via Associated Press)

Take that, California: Eager to embrace the 'eat local' trend, Midwesterners are negotiating their geographic challenges. And they're not just voting with their forks: A proposed Illinois Food, Farms and Jobs Act calls for creation of an Illinois-based local food system, while Chicago has a plan called "Chicago: Eat Local Live Healthy" to create "a climate where the production and distribution of locally grown, healthy food is available, accessible and affordable to residents year-round." (Chicago Tribune)

starAmen to all that, sister: In the New York Times on Sunday  — appropriately enough — Kim Severson had a wonderful, reverent paean to SOLE food, plus a brisk recap of why the connection might appeal to Americans. Here's a sample, before the article gets walled off: 

My church is a farm. Give me a few chickens, a long row of carrots and the smell of dirt, and I’ll find the open heart and inner peace others might seek from a prayer book or a pew. The connection between what I put in my body, the land around me and the miracle of things that grow makes me feel as if I’m part of something bigger than myself.

The terroirist: Arlin Wasserman, who has a Minneapolis consultancy called Changing Tastes, specializes in showing farmers and manufacturers how to sell food based not on price, but on where it comes from and how it is grown. (Washington Post)

The king of …compost, at least: A visit to Highgrove, the home of Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, where he has spent "26 mucky years creating what must be the finest garden anywhere based on strict organic principles." (New York Times)

Buy local fuel: Six organic farmers near Santa Cruz have teamed with a Berkeley researcher to harvest locally grown mustard seed and use it for biodiesel. (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Of beasts and burdens: Christians, Jews and Muslims who see food through a moral lens are putting their beliefs into practive. Worth reading the whole article for the wacky (or wacko?) quote at the end from Polyface poster-farmer Joel Salatin. (New York Times)

Barber poll: Q&A with Dan Barber, the chef and co-owner of the Blue Hill restaurants in New York and a longtime advocate of sustainable farming. Best comeback to "elitism" charge: "The question isn't, Can we all eat organically? The question is, How much of us can eat organically to make a difference? And my argument is 100 percent of us can do something, even if it's very small." (Salon)

Good night, mooooon: A UK manufacturer sells £45 mattresses for dairy cows forced to lie on uncomfortable concrete floors — and has gotten a government grant to help, because they're said to help the cows produce more milk. The mind boggles. (BBC NEWS)

Your food mileage may vary: Tom Philpott doggedly tries to track down the source of the oft-cited (including by him) figure that on average, your food travels 1,200 miles to your plate. (Gristmill)

starGleanliness is next to...: Volunteers working for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank go out to local farms and pick produce after the harvest to distribute, in an ages-old practice known as "gleaning." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Manure spreading: A Great Lakes Radio Consortium segment looks at the states' debate over who, in this defanged federal environment, should be regulating the pollution caused by big farms. (GLRC)

Focus on the Bay Area

Haute in the 'hood: Our favorite sultan of snark, John Birdsall, takes a sympathetic look at Oakland's food-justice nonprofit, People's Grocery, which now farms 2 acres in the country and has some picky chefs to please. (East Bay Express)

The Chez diaspora: Tracing all the restaurants started by proteges of Alice Waters, all taught to "honor the ingredient." A complaint: Paul Bertolli of Oliveto, founder of the Fra'mani charcuterie company, says he "scoured America’s Midwest to locate farmers who were breeding hogs in a natural way and were concerned about quality." Yo bro, didja check your Northern California backyard at all for hog farmers? (Financial Times)

Farmers marketing 101: A long, in-depth look at the economics, history, and community of the Marin farmers markets. Interesting note: Most farmers make between $300 and $2000 a week in direct sales. In this expensive real estate market, we sure hope that's net, not gross. (Marin Independent Journal)



One Responseto “Digest – Features: Meatpacking towns, Illinois goes local, Severson’s got soul food”

  1. jen maiser says:

    Thanks for the Marin FM story -- super interesting. From what I know of working at farmers' market booths, I would guess that those dollar amounts are gross, unfortunately. But they may not include any restaurant sales that they do at the market.