Michelle Obama recently announced the launch of the California FreshWorks Fund, a partnership between the California Endowment and a variety of financial institutions, which is designed to provide loans to projects that will bring fresh fruits and vegetables to food deserts throughout the state. The program has committed $200 million to projects in four priority areas: 1) Construction and Renovation Loans, 2) Real Estate Acquisition and Term Loans, 3) Equipment Loans, and 4) Inventory Financing.
The Freshworks Fund joins numerous efforts already underway that aim to reduce the number of Californians living in food deserts. The LA Food Policy Task Force launched an initiative modeled on a Chicago program to bring fresh produce into food deserts using food trucks. New regulations will also allow low-income individuals to use Calfresh at farmer’s markets.
discussed some of the ways in which purchasing organic food doesn't always guarantee sustainable production or that it will be a healthy meal.Last December, I
Last week, a more extreme version of this line of thinking appeared in Scientific American. Its author, Christie Wilcox, argued that the organic industry was disseminating "propaganda" regarding production techniques, and she was out to set the record straight. Her claims were that: 1) organic farms use pesticides, 2) organic foods are not healthier, 3) GMOs are vital to environmentally friendly production and are necessary to feed a growing global population, and 4) organic production should not be an all-or-nothing question.
Despite an early disclaimer in the piece that she is "not saying organic farming is bad,"she touched off a pretty lively debate. Among those responding to the piece was Matthew Yglesias, who suggested that greater USDA oversight of organic pesticide use would be prudent. Other responses were not so kind - bloggers Tom Laskawy and Tom Philpott took issue with her presentation of the academic literature and were particularly bothered by her claims regarding the nutritional value of organic produce and the promise of GMOs.
A month ago, I announced the beginning of the kickstarter campaign for a documentary currently in production which will explore implementations of urban agriculture around the world. There are now 18 hours left in that campaign, and it's your last chance to help. The project has met its fundraising goal and the project will move forward, but you can still contribute above the minimum "ask" and claim rewards for donating, if you hurry.
Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann recently announced her candidacy for President in our mutual birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa. Along with our birthplace, Congresswoman Bachmman and I share an interest in farming. Recently, she drew flak for the $250,000 in agricultural subsidies that she received for her share of a family farm in Wisconsin.
Although we at Farmscape consider ourselves farmers, the members of our disaggregated “farm” in Los Angeles have not received a cent of subsidization. So what should they receive?
According to the Environmental Working Group, the tab for agricultural subsidies from 1995 to 2010 is $261.9B. That comes out to roughly $16.4B per year, or $52.52 per person per year.
In this world, slavery is tolerated, or at best ignored. Labor protections for workers predate the Great Depression. Child labor and minimum wage laws are flouted. Basic antitrust measures do not apply. The most minimal housing standards are not enforced. Spanish is the lingua franca. It has its own banking system made up of storefront paycheck-cashing outfits that charge outrageous commissions to migrants who never stay in one place long enough to open bank accounts. Pesticides, so toxic to humans and so bad for the environment that they are banned outright for most crops, are routinely sprayed on virtually every Florida tomato field, and in
too many cases, sprayed directly on workers, despite federally mandated periods when fields are supposed to remain empty after chemical application.
The article is a greatest hits from the food movement canon--terrible labor practices team up with heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers to produce a nutritionless, tasteless final product. While the broad strokes of the story sound familiar, the details of the tomato industry in Florida seem particularly alarming.