Posts Tagged 'Urban Gardens'

Local Farms Are In

Whenever I explain my blog to someone, I’m bombarded with names of shops I should visit, restaurants I should check out, and recipes I should try. I love it – people are really enthusiastic about the local eating movement.

Why, though, have so many people started to take notice? Opinion pieces in The New York Times constantly discuss food, urban gardens and CSA memberships are considered very hip, and people rave about restaurants that use local ingredients. Locavore was the 2007 word of the year for the Oxford American Dictionary. I’m curious as to what has sparked this line of thinking that wasn’t nearly as prevalent in America only a decade ago. I have a few theories and as I continue my research I intend to add to this list. If you have your own ideas or disagree with mine, I would love to hear your contributions.

Food Lovers Have Faith in the White House

The Obama administration promised right off the bat to hold a commitment to nutritious and sustainable food. Michelle Obama started a White House garden in 2009, a few weeks after Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, drilled into the pavement in front of the USDA and introduced “The People’s Garden” initiative. The USDA came out with the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which promotes local food systems. Check out ObamaFoodorama for more info.

Pioneers of the local food movement, including Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse, one of the first restaurants to use local organic ingredients and hormone-free meat, and Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, now have someone listening to them. When I say listening, I don’t mean directly following their instructions – if we had it Alice Water’s way, we’d be tripling the budget for school lunches, something that most people would say we cannot afford – but their voices are not completely lost. Many members of Congress have been seen carrying The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Alice Waters visited Michelle Obama’s Kitchen Garden last week. Michelle’s fight against obesity, with her “Let’s Move!” campaign, also goes hand-in-hand with the push for fresh grown ingredients. She wants to eliminate “Food Deserts,” underserved communities without access to supermarkets that have fresh food.

I’m not saying that the road for small local farmers has suddenly been paved with gold. But these White House initiatives have provided an ideal climate for celebrity food advocates, and made the idea of local and sustainable farming less foreign to the general public. And with her great style and great arms, Michelle Obama is very trendy – her support for the local food movement can guarantee that of many Americans.

Urban Gardens are the New Victory Gardens

Okay, so I wasn’t around for Victory Gardens, but I get the idea. Also known as war gardens or food gardens for defense, they were planted during World War I and II to lessen the strain on public food supply during wartime. Eleanor Roosevelt started a Victory Garden on the White House front lawn (sound familiar?) and families across the country cultivated their own produce. With the start of the People’s Garden movement discussed above came the induction of urban gardens, which are also very hot right now. The New York Times did a feature on roof gardens in Manhattan, and people compete to see who can have the most creative location for a garden. Check out this Truck Farm video, an idea that has gained popularity:

Pink Slime is a Quite the Catchphrase

When Gerald Zirnstein coined the term pink slime for what Beef Products Inc. (BPI) calls Lean Finely Textured Beef, people took notice. How could you not stop and pay attention when people use the term pink slime to describe what your hamburger is made out of?

A brief recap: About ten years ago, BPI had the idea of taking fatty beef trimmings that had been previously deemed appropriate for pet food and cooking oil and to instead use them for ground beef. This had never been done before because these cuts of beef were extremely susceptible to salmonella and E. coli. To solve this problem, BPI sprayed the trimmings with ammonia. Presto, no more bacteria. This ground beef was then mixed with “normal” ground beef and then sent off to places like your Stop & Shop or school lunch tray.

It is, in a sense, beef so nasty that they clean it with ammonia.

The public lashed out against pink slime, and major grocery stores along with McDonalds pledged to stop carrying BPI ground beef. As a result, three of the four BPI plants have been temporarily shut down.

In response, Governors Rick Perry of Texas, Terry Branstad of Iowa, and Sam Brownback of Kansas, have spearheaded the “Dude, it’s beef!” campaign. They are determined to make pink slime a term of the past, and promise that Lean Finely Textured Beef is leaner and less fattening than typical ground beef.

Opinion writer for The New York Times Mark  Bittman weighed in on the issue. He points out that pink slime came into existence as a way to resolve the E. coli dilemma. If pink slime was the solution, he says, what then is the problem? He answers his own question: factory farming. He insists that in order to truly address pink slime, we must see it as a symptom of the larger issue of industrialized farming.

Pink slime, then, increased public apprehension towards factory farming, maybe even pushing towards local or grass-fed beef.

More theories to come about the popularity of local farming.

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