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Farm to Table Talk

 

 

 

Farm to Table Talk explores issues and the growing interest in the story of how and where the food on our tables is produced, processed and marketed. The host, Rodger Wasson is a food and agriculture veteran. Although he was the first of his family to leave the grain and livestock farm after five generations farming in America, he’s continually worked for and with farmers though-out America and around the world. From directly managing commodity boards and councils to presently building the strategic consultancy, Idea Farming. www.idea-farming.com .   The Farm to Table Talk podcasts have been created for anyone interested in individual journeys within the food movement, the modern food system and stories behind our every bite.

The tables are turned as Rodger shares his journey and why the Farm To Table Talk podcast was created in the following Urban Farmer podcast with  the Urban Farmer himself, Greg Peterson, www.urbanfarm.org.

New, Near and Urban – AJ Gomez, Chanowk Yisrael, Emma Torbert

New  farmers need new farms, near populations of appreciative consumers. With the average age of farmers over 60, we can say for sure it’s time for a changing of the guard.  And with farm land disappearing to erosion and development while the population of the Globe makes its way to 9 billion,  changes are necessary.  Those changes may be thousands of small changes instead of just gigantic solutions.  Fortunately progress is happening as innovative beginning farmers are finding uniques arrangements with land owners and under utilized spaces near or in cities. Farm To Table Talk explores these opportunities with a panel of farmers at the Farm To Fork Festival in Sacramento.  Our guests are Emma Torbert of Cloverleaf Farms, AJ Gomez of Gomez Farms and Chanowk Yisrael of Yisrael Family Farms. What are the challenges and opportunities for young farmers today: new, near or urban?

 

American Cuisine’s Father — Jeremiah Tower

“California Cuisine” began in the 70’s when innovative Left Coast chefs began to build their menus frtom the variety of fresh produce grown locally.  On the frontline of this trend and in the kitchen at Berkely’s Chez Panisse restaurant  was Jeremiah Tower–possessing and expressing a talent and vision that would become globally renowned. As Chef Tower moved on to create the famous Stars Restaurant in San Francisco, the California style of cuisine went on to influence the entire country with what was soon recognized as American Cuisine.  The consensus of foodies and culinary experts across the world is that Jeremiah Tower is the father of American Cuisine.  He is also a fan of the Farm to Fork movement taking place in Sacramento, where Farm To Table Talk caught up with him at the Farm To Fork Festival (with 80,000 attendees in one weekend) for a conversation on the status and future of Farm to Table.

Jeremiah Tower

Farm to Fork Festival — Michael Dimock, Patrick Mulvaney, Karen Ross

When over 70,000 people show up to celebrate Farm To Fork in a single weekend, it’s time to take stock of Sacramento’s celebration of this expression of the Food Movement.  Farm To Table Talk does just that by setting down with three pioneering leaders of Farm to Fork:   California’s Secretary of Agriculture, Karen Ross; Chef and Owner of Mulvaney’s B & L, Patrick Mulvaney; and Michael Dimock, President of Roots of Change.  Rob Carlmark, Meterologist of ABC 10 introduces Farm To Table Talk Host, Rodger Wasson as the group digs in to where Farm To Fork is today and how  they explain that as they speak thousand of city residents are walking around enjoying the sights, sounds, tastes and presentations of a region that is proud  to be the Farm to Fork Capital.

Farm To Fork’s Capital – Mike Testa

Farm-to-Fork isn’t a passing fad or a marketing slogan in the Sacramento region – it’s the favored way. The region has been an agricultural powerhouse for centuries, boasting a year-round growing season, ideal climate and a “mouth-watering bounty” of crops. The six counties surrounding the greater Sacramento region grows over 150 crop varieties, supports a regional $7.2 billion agricultural economy;  are home to more than 1.5 million acres in active farmland. There is a priority to engage the entire community in the local food system– helping to feed the nation and the world and celebrate that fact locally. The region is home to more than 40 regional farmers markets—including the largest California Certified Farmers’ Market in the state. Local restaurants utilize the abundance of regionally grown products to create a Farm-to-Fork freshness, whether enjoying a burger or an elegant dinner. And as the seasons change, so do the Sacramento region’s restaurant menus, ensuring a true taste of local flavor. Sacramento’s self-recognition of its status in the Farm To Fork world and subsequent declaration was no accident.  To share the journey, the accomplishments and the Farm To Fork promise Farm to Table Talk visits with Mike Testa, the President and CEO of Visit Sacramento, who faced initial criticism when the slogan on the highly visible water tower replaced “City of Trees” with “America’ Farm-To-Fork Capital.”  

Historic and Sustainable Farming– Derek Azevedo and Curtis Garner, Bowles Farming

Mexican and Spanish land grants created massive ranchos years before California became part of the United States. Later the Gold Rush lured the ambitious and adventurous from all over the world. One such dreamer was Heinrich Alfred Kreiser, a poor butcher who left his home in Germany and immigrated to New York City in 1846. Heinrich made his way to California in 1850. He renamed himself Henry Miller and soon built up a thriving butcher business in San Francisco.  In 1858 he partnered with Charles Lux, a fellow German immigrant and a former competitor. The Miller and Lux company expanded rapidly, vertically integrating from meat products to cattle raising. They became the largest producer of cattle in California and one of the largest landowners in the United States, owning over one million acreas directly and controlling nearly 22,000 square miles. Like a scene out of the “Lonesome Dove” movie they trailed cattle all the way from Texas to stock their ranch, headquartered in Los Banos, on the west side of California’s San Joaquin Valley where Miller played a major role in the development of much of the  Central Valley.

The Miller and Lux Corporation did not long survive his death, though his family reorganized their share of the holdings and are still engaged over 6 generations later. From these beginnings the Bowles Faming Company was formed in 1965. Today one of Henry Miller’s Great, Great, Great, Great Grandchildren Cannon Michael is continuing the enduring farming tradition with a  progressive Vision stating: “We farm with both organic and conventional techniques and strive to produce food and fiber in the most ethical and environmentally friendly ways possible. We also manage habitat areas that are key resources for our local ecosystem as well as for migrating waterfowl. … “Sustainability” is part of everything we do….  not just a catch-phrase … it is a way of life”.  To learn how this descendant ranch of the Henry Miller’s million acre spread preserves and promotes sustainability today we set down around a desk at Bowles Farming Company headquarters near Los Banos to visit with Executive Vice President Derek Azevedo and Senior Farm Analyst Curtis Garner. www.bfarm.com

 

 

Ending and Beginning Journeys – Rich Collins

Rich Collins was a 4 year old in the city when first he knew that he wanted to be a farmer when he grew up. Now on a farm he calls “Journey’s End” he can look back at productive years of farming, then a vegetable that he learned about as a dishwasher before tracking it to France; and then to look  ahead to helping small scale farmers compete and realize their own dreams as he has realized many of his own. Rich talks about his journey and why he believes he’s a approaching “Journey’s End” while he puts more irons in the fire establishing his new farm home and rolling up his sleeves to help farmer organizations, Community Alliance with Family Farmers and the Farmer Guild meld in to one. We could argue that it’s not an “end” but we can’t argue that it’s a worthy journey we share in the table talk,

Burning Bridges to Farm – Tim Young

 

We need new farmers and unhappy careerists wish they could farm. Is this a “just do it” moment?  There are a million reasons that it might not be that simple, but there are thousands of people who have concluded that they can’t take the “rat race” any longer and are looking for a better life on a farm of their own.  Some will argue that this movement won’t “feed the world” but no one argues that it can’t “feed the soul”.  Tim Young was an Investment Banker and his wife a Fashion Designer when they said “enough” and moved to a small farm hundreds of miles away in northern Georgia.  While many have to transition slowly, keeping an off farm job, Tim felt that the ideal was to “burn your bridges” behind you and that is what they did as they built a farm from scratch with pasture raised livestock, cheese production, farmers market, direct sales and all that goes with them- although they had never farmed before. They found that beyond just hard work and the passion for the dream of farming, “marketing” was the key to success.  Tim started sharing this formula for success with others who wanted to make the plunge and today operates the Small Farm Nation Academy.  In this Farm To Table Talk, Tim explains the difference between these beginning small farmers who must create their own markets and Commodity farming. Both kinds of farming can be environmentally sustainable but neither will not  if they are not economically sustainable.   https://smallfarmnationacademy.com/

https://smallfarmnation.com/ 

smallfarmnation.com

289 Million Dollar Verdict – Bob Egelko, San Franciso Chronicle

A jury in San Francisco awarded $289 million dollars to DeWayne “Lee” Johnson, a school groundskeeper who sued Monsanto because he has a terminal prognosis due to a cancer (Non Hodgkins Lymphoma) caused by his exposure to the weed killer Round Up and its active ingredient of Glyphosate.  Monsanto, now owned by the German firm Bayer, presented hundreds of scientific studies, US EPA, National Institute of Health and other evidence that Glyphosate was safe. However  the jury, presented with contrary conclusions by the International Agency of Health, the State of California, along with persuasive testimony by Mr. Johnson came to a decision that could be the first of more to come. Over 4,000 similar charges have been made.  With so much conflicting science, why did the Jury side with Mr. Johnson against Monsanto?  We ask one of the most experienced legal affairs reporters in the nation, Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle who covered the case and has posted the most thorough reporting  on the issue to date. On Farm To Table Talk Mr. Egelko explains what happened in this Court and points out that other court decision are coming out with seemingly conflicting  decisions about Glyphosate.  These cases are not about application of the herbicide on crops such as corn and soybeans that have been genetically engineered to tolerate Roundup as the weeds in their midst are killed. In a range of applications, the issue is whether glyphosate is as safe as has been claimed. Much more is coming on related questions, including the practice of “dessication” where Roundup is applied just before harvest on some crops, oddly including  some marketed as “Non GMO” –not genetically engineered but sprayed with Glyphosate.

Read Bob Egelko’s coverage https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Monsanto-case-Bay-Area-man-with-cancer-awarded-13147891.php

Grass To Fork – Martin and Sarah Emigh

 

Grass fed lamb is not a new idea; in fact it is a couple thousand years old but it’s being newly discovered by Millennials and meat lovers who want the protein on their dinner plates to be delicious and sustainably produced–preferably with few if any other ingredients to the lambs’ diet other than grass. The Emigh family near Dixon, California has been feeding lambs this way, on grass, since the 1860’s.  All of the things that concern many of today’s consumers such as GMO grain feed, antibiotics, hormones or cramped living spaces are avoided. Instead the lambs come to open spaces with fresh air in lush open pastures after they are weaned off their mother’s milk. Five generations of Emighs have fed lambs this way, with the primary innovation being irrigating the pastures so that grass is available for the lambs year round. Consequently fresh lamb is available year round.  The new generation of Emighs, Sarah, her sister Catie and Catie’s husband Kevin, have joined their father Martin Emigh to continue the tradition with a few modern twists, direct marketing and social media.  While riding in a pickup truck through their pastures, Martin and Sarah share their story , including how they now have customers for their lamb among the top farm to fork restaurants and discerning consumers throughout Northern California. And, gratitude that an old idea has new life as people care about the journey from grass to fork. Here their story on Farm To Table Talk.

Tariffs TAX Food & Farming – Josh Rolph

Tariffs are taxes on food and farming. It starts off sounding distant and hopefully strategic, then degenerates into retaliation.  Still trade “war” is an abstract concept for most of the public until the ‘chickens come home to roost’ months or years later in the form of higher costs of  food to consumers and reduced income–even insolvency on farms. Concerned as we are with successful marketing journeys from farm to table, disruption in these food channels must be addressed.  Organizations like Farmers for Fair Trade, the Farm Bureau and others are calling for the US Administration to reverse course before it is too late to avoid the consequences–consequences learned the hard way in the Great Depression following the Smoot Hawley Act passed nearly 100 years ago.  To sort out the cause, implications and solutions of the these battles we have a Farm To Table Talk with Josh Rolf, the Manager of Federal Policy for the California Farm Bureau. #farmersforfreetrade