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Battling the bugs—and the temptation to use chemical WMDs

I'm at war with the common stalk borer. As much as I believe in sustainability and chemical-free agriculture in theory, I've never been more tempted to use insecticides as I am right now. For years, the signature for my email has been a quote from the agtivist-scientist Vandana Shiva, "Sustainability begins...

Chicken expert Gail Damerow answers newbie questions

Cluck, cluck, cluck. Bwaak! These are not sounds I expect to hear on a stroll in my North Oakland, Calif. neighborhood -- the usual soundtrack is more like thumping bass, sirens, and the rattle of fast-food paper bags. And yet chickens are pecking in backyards on practically every block, in converted sheds...

Mapping the farm with my ears

Ever since taking a cartography class in graduate school, I've had a penchant for maps. Full of information, they elegantly highlight places and ideas that we may have missed otherwise. As a visual person, I can appreciate the splashes of color and clean designs. But not all maps are visual. We can create...

Survey explores why Americans garden, but not why they don’t

[Update 6/24/10: corrected heading for column 2 in table] With a terrible economy and lots of coverage of gardening in the mass media, more and more Americans are growing food in home and community gardens. According to a 2009 survey, almost a third of American households intended to grow food that year, a...

Growing with the grain: Review of “Homegrown Whole Grains”

As you may have guessed by now, I love to bake. And since part of my self-employment now entails baking goods to sell at Local Roots, I'm keenly interested both in sourcing what grains and flours I can find locally — as well as growing what I can. Thanks to the inspiration offered by Gene Logsdon in his...

Q&A with John Scharffenberger: First wine, then chocolate, and now … tofu?

Before founding the chocolate company for which he became famous, John Scharffenberger made California sparkling wine. In both cases, he was one of the first Americans to find success in what had been a European-dominated market niche. (Fun fact: Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev used his bubbly to toast...

The USDA looks at local food

Every now and then, newspapers print an article that makes it seem like locavores are running the U.S. food system, throwing our weight around, causing Big Ag to cower in corners. If only we had even a small fraction of that power...  In reality, the local food movement is  a tiny piece of the nation's food...

So long office, hello farm!

Maybe there's something in the air (or soil or water).  Maybe it's the growing (no pun intended) interest in farming around the country.  Maybe... it's just time.  How else do you explain not one, but three Ethicurean contributors heading off into a new field? Unlike Stephanie and Steph, though, I'm not...

The first rule of farming: Be prepared

(Steph Larsen photos)Everyone knows the Boy Scouts' motto: Be Prepared. While my immediate inclination is to ask "For what?", it's as good a command as any to live by. One at which I failed miserably last week. I came home from work and went out to the sheep paddocks to make sure they looked healthy and had...

Two recipes – and lots of opinions – from ‘Farmers Market Desserts’ author Jennie Schacht

Summer fruits from the farmers market are the supermodels of the produce world. Just like Heidi Klum doesn't need makeup to be beautiful, a super-fresh White Lady peach or Seascape strawberry doesn't need extra sweetening or seasoning to shine. But given the right recipe—one designed expressly for fruit and...

Students slice and dice for a better future in ‘Pressure Cooker’ documentary

With a supervisor who doesn't mince words and likes to yell, men and women battling over hot stoves for their big chance, and a ticking clock and other on-camera conventions, Pressure Cooker could be mistaken for a prime-time reality show. But it's actually a "real" story about students in the Culinary Arts...

Target, Wegman’s top Greenpeace’s report card for seafood sales

If we're going to have anything approaching a sustainable seafood system, we need to combine personal adherence to seafood lists with moves up the supply chain to the big buyers, the wholesalers, and supermarkets that sell the bulk of the seafood. Whereas wholesalers primarily work in the background, their...

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