Saturday, September 13, 2008


As recent as yesterday I had a conversation with someone discussing the vast opportunities that local farmers had in supplying New York City with more locally grown food. At least as of September 13 2008, there doesn't appear to be an abatement of demand or desire for local least on the surface. Problem is that our current food distribution systems doesn't support actually working with local growers and as the costs of even local transportation--say from farm to farmers market--rise, it may become harder for New Yorkers to get local food because it'll be harder for local farmers to stay in business. That is unless we have a revolutionary movement--a modern day Boston tea party--where local communities eschew produce brought in from all over the world in favor of the same crops grown right around the corner.

A recent study by The American Farmland Trust suggests that in the Bay Area of San Francisco/Oakland, California that only 0.5% of the total food consumed is sold direct to consumer (e.g., through a farmers market), but that there is more than enough food grown in the region to supply the Bay Area food needs and then some. SO, if I understand the study correctly, that means that 99.5% (or 5.87 million tons of food) is sold through other channels (probably global supermarket chains mostly). According to the study, however:

β€œIt’s impossible to determine precisely how much locally-grown food [~20 million tons] is consumed in the City of San Francisco, or in fact, how much of what is consumed is produced on local farms and ranches,” The commercial food system in the region, as throughout the United States does not track the origin of what it sells, primarily because consumers do not yet demand to know the origin of the foods they eat.” [from the American Farmland Stories/San-Francisco-Foodshed-Report.asp.

So, if in fact we are to realize all of the benefits of a strong local farm and food economy, then we need a massive shift in how food is transported off of the farm onto the plates of Americans.

In New York's Hudson Valley, we're losing farmland annually. Yet, the demand from food savvy New Yorkers for local food is growing. Everyone, Californians and New Yorkers, and everyone in between, alike need to demand that they know where their food comes from. Even if you don't want to shop at a farmers market, or can't get to one, ask your whomever is in charge of providing you with food to tell you where it came from, who grew it, how they grew, can you meet the farmer. If they don't know, then leave. Go somewhere where they can answer those questions.

By demanding that more local food go into local communities we can shift how food moves from farm to table, save farmland, and get a great meal to boot.

For more information, visit the The American Farmland Trust web site:

Friday, September 12, 2008

Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture

OK, folks. If you believe in good, safe, clean food and FARMS, the please sign onto the declaration and help secure a future for our farmers.

Thanks, Mike Biltonen

Monday, September 01, 2008

Culinary Equality

I love food. Who doesn't? I love everything (almost) from snails and caviar to a great cheeseburger and french fries (just not the industrial types). Yet as the Slow Food Nation wraps up in San Francisco, I worry about how a food culture that was supposed to celebrate and invite everyone, is becoming increasingly upscaled and out of reach of the people that need good, clean food yet may be able to least afford it. I have always felt that my first highest responsibility to people who have worked for me is to train them to take over my job some day. That is, raise them up, not shut them out. The same should be true of our food economy and culture. Slow Food, farmers markets, u-pick farms, Whole Foods, and co-ops should not be seen as elitist enterprises. But often through various marketing schemes, that's exactly how they look to those on the outside looking in. But neither should these same enterprises stop their marketing approach. They instead should continue to pave the way, ushering in new food devotees and supporting culinary equality.

One of the sad facts about how Americans generally approach food is that they expect it to be cheap. Americans spend less of their income--per capita--on food than practically any other nation on Earth. On the whole, we need to realize that in order to get better food, we need to spend our dollars differently and "invest" more in a food system that encourages small farms, and good, clean, safe food, rather than encourage one that comprises dollar menus and the destruction of the Earth's environment.

Not everyone will be able to shop at Whole Foods, Balducci's, or Dean and DeLuca. This blog isn't about economic equality per se, but rather about a cultural shift in what's really important to our quality of life and how we "invest" our income in the future of this country. But it is also about how the food providers make sure they encourage a shift in buying patterns by making sure the best in good clean food is available to their customers, instead of pandering to the lowest bidder and providing only the cheapest stuff (I hesitate to call it food) they can buy at the terminal markets on any given day. This approach doesn't encourage better eating or spending patterns, it is destructive to the Earth, and it perpetuates a system that has shown itself to be bad for the environment.

We need small farms that produce food that is not only good to eat, but good for you and the Earth. And the only way to grow that kind of system is make sure we have a system of culinary equality (producer driven) with a cultural shift in food values and where a household's food dollar goes (consumer driven).

Not everyone likes or even wants caviar. So if we could just start with making sure everyone has access to food that hasn't had the bejesus sprayed out of it, sucking all the nutritional value with it, that would be a good start. Know Your Food, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Roots! Put out the Welcome mat today!