Sheep and goats have a long tradition in California, a state that ranks #1 in lamb production and #2 in wool production. After years of decline from issues such as predation there has started to be encouraging increases in demand for lamb and public recognition for the important role of grazing for fire protection. Andree Soares of Star Creek Land Stewards has told us the encouraging news and now explains the existential threats to the survival of the California sheep industry. www.CAWoolGrowers.org www.starcreeklandstewards.com
The pandemic has been a nightmare for restaurants but a dream come true for curb-side, carry out and delivery. We cheer the climate friendly effects of some of our forced changes but what about all those Styrofoam and other non-recyclable packages that our encasing all of that take-out food or home deliveries? What if the packaging is grown on a farm just like the food and could also be traced back to the farm it grew on? Well that’s happening now in Tennessee where farmers are growing switchgrass that is processed in to packaging for takeout containers for a regenerative cycle. Native grasses like switchgrass are perennials that can grow to 8-10 feet high every year, without replanting. The roots go as deep as the plant is tall, building the soil and requiring minimal water. Native grasses for packaging will not typically be more valuable than major cash crops but they help make full use of fringe and marginal land on many farms across the country and may have a future in California where new water pumping regulations are expected to cause many Central Valley farms to fallow as much as a third of their acreage. Farmers in East Tennessee are being recruited by Genera to grow ag-fiber pulp like switch grass to produce compostable, fully plant –based food service products like to-go containers. Genera CEO Kelly Tiller and Vice President Sam Jackson join us to connect the dots from fields of perennial renewable grasses to a guilt free packaging of our delivered lunch. I know who grew the food. Who grew the package? www.generainc.com
The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic this year — and its enormous impact on our everyday lives – has already had dramatic consequences for the organic sector in 2020. As shoppers search for healthy, clean food to feed their at-home families, organic food is proving to be the food of choice for home. “Our normal lives have been brought to a screeching halt by the coronavirus” says the CEO of the Organic Trade Association, Laura Batcha. Laura joins Farm To Table Talk having just wrapped up the first ever virtual annual meeting of the Association. The over 650 members connected by Zoom were assured that consumer’s commitment to the Organic label has always resided at the intersection of health and safety, and is expected to strengthen as the public gets through these unsettled times. www.ota.com
Sometimes in some ways ‘silence is golden’ but especially in these times, breaking the norms of polite silence is essential. Stepping up, speaking out and breaking the silence is a public petition that Marion Nestle has pushed throughout her career as author, blogger, professor and respected influencer of food policy. She is the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public health (emerita) at New York University, visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell and host of the Food Politics Blog. Marion sees that the Covid pandemic crisis reveals issues such as the fate of today’s packing plant workers that need to be engaged–breaking silence. The price paid for speaking up may include occasionally being trolled on Twitter as @marionnestle experiences, but that’s “just politics” to be endured for needed progress. www.foodpolitics.com
The global pandemic crisis is an important reminder of just how essential are the farmers and workers at every stage, all the way from Farm to Table. Fortunately these “essential” members of the food system are also resilient, able to adjust quickly to difficult conditions. Their stories and examples of the food system’s resilience are being shared on Civil Eats and in this episode of Farm To Table Talk, in a conversation with the visionary Founder and Editor in Chief of Civil Eats, Naomi Starkman. www.CivilEats.com
Farmers want to do the best they can. That can mean much more than just better yields and better prices for their commodity to include social and environmental impacts. It’s not just altruistic to do the right things for the land, farm workers and the environment, since food manufacturers and retailers want to source from farms they can highlight to their own increasingly discerning customers. Woolf Farming has been going down this road for years and has recently found another way to step up their commitment by becoming a “B Corp”. B stands for social and environmental benefits. Stuart Woolf explains that adding the effort and expense of incorporating B Corp standards into their family company keeps them on the preferred supplier list for their own customers who are setting similar standards for themselves. It’s not just “greenwashing” as detractors might claim, but for the Woolf’s it is an earnest commitment to do the right thing and increase the odds that the farm will still be thriving 100 years from now. www.woolffarming.com
Tomato Products Wellness Council is a Farm To Table Talk sponsor, www.tomatowellness.com
Can organic farming be a solution to our toughest challenges? The California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) contend that it is and they have research from over 300 scientific studies to back up that claim, in a “Roadmap to an Organic California”. Rebekah Weber, Policy Director of CCOF says Organic systems sequester carbon, stimulate local economies and protect consumer health. Listen to the podcast conversation then: Read the Benefits Report online. Download a PDF of the Policy Report.
In these days some want to become farmers and some farmers are grateful if they can just stay afloat. Yet over the long haul farmers are growers so they grow food and they often need to grow their own business either horizontally (with more land) or vertically moving upstream to the ultimate consumers. Matt Billings is a 4th generation almond farmer in Kern County California who has put their boat in the vertical stream. They grow, process, market and export almonds. Now they have created and are marketing an organic almond milk yogurt, AYO. It’s a big step for farmers and ranchers to move up stream, but for many it’s the only way they are going to earn a better share of the consumers food dollar. When travel is again possible, Matt will take their AYO almond milk yogurt and their farm story to retailers–wearing his old farm boots in case they overlook that while he is there to sell almond milk yogurt, he is a proud, authentic ‘farm-to-spoon’ farmer. www.ayoyogurt.com
The pandemic of 2020 portends a world of food insecurity, unless it leads to farming and food distribution innovations putting consumers in closer communications with a wider variety of new small-scale farmers to compliment re-focused traditional agriculture. Coming from the crisis can be “gardens of eden” reducing hunger and poverty with just abundance of food and viable farmers. transforming communities as they support their own families and spark economic growth in rural America. Heifer USA a non-profit farm in the Oauachita Mountains of Arkansas, is providing hands on learning and accecess to livestock and horticulture experts to farmers in the Mid South and across the US to grow regenerative farming enterprises. Donna Kilpatrick is the Ranch Manager and Land Steward of Heifer Ranch. She explains how to pursue a regenerative mission and what’s at stake when the world could run out of adequate farm land in 50 or 60 years. An important partner in solving today’s marketing challenge for small scale farmers is the Grass Roots Cooperative that processes and delivers meat from the member farmers through an E-commerce platform. It’s a creation of new players and new solutions for the persistent problems of food safety, security, justice, taste and economic viability.
https://www.heifer.org/about-us/our-history/index.html | https://www.facebook.com/heiferinternational/ www.instagram.com/heiferusa www.grassrootscoop.com/
Being successful at farming is hard enough without a Pandemic. Now on top of the regular challenges of planning, planting, growing, watering, harvesting and marketing crops, farmers today have to take extra steps to keep their family and workforce safe from the Covid-19 virus. Aaron Barcellos, partner in the family farm, A-Bar Ag Enterprise, knows that in addition to providing gloves, masks, staggered schedules and equipment modifications for protective barriers, the farm team still must be safe both at the farm and in their time away from the farm so they don’t catch and spread the virus. Cropping plans have also been disrupted as exports have dried up and food service has almost disappeared. Through all of this it is more important than ever to acknowledge food security and to care about how and where are food is grown.