Fear of chemicals in our food system scares some people to death. Is it warranted? Both organic chemicals and synthetic chemicals are used to grow, process, transport, preserve, package and serve our food, from farms to tables. Consequently traces of chemical residues can be found in all of us. Given declining trust in large corporations and government institutions some worry about this a great deal and some don’t give it a second thought. For the most part Federal government agencies and food manufacturers are assuring that safeguards are adequate and the fear is not warranted while many NGO’s draw attention to what they see as shortcomings in regulation and increased risks evidenced by certain scientific studies. The Genetic Literacy Project takes a more reassuring perspective on food safety. Its Founder and Executive Director, John Entine is also the author of “Scared To Death” and “Crop Chemophobia”. This episode of Farm to Table Talk explores the current facts, perceptions and ‘phobias’ about our food and how it is grown.
Across America there are a few special places where farm based, private, non-profit organizations carry out programs for the pubic good. In the Ohio River Valley on the northeast rim of the 2 million population Cincinnati metropolitan area, is one of those special places: Greenacres Farm. The Farm was established by Louis and Louise Nippert to preserve for the public an area reflecting the traditional environment and historic significance of its woodland and farmland–encouraging conservation and appreciation of nature, music, arts and sustainable “generative farming” of livestock and vegetables. A picturesque drive through rolling hills and pastureland brings us to Greenacres Farm for table talk with Peggy Schatz, Farm Sales & Office Manager; Chad Bitler, Research Scientist; and Dave Chal, Garden Production Manager. It’s a lively conversation that explores the past, future and consumer interest in biodynamic and generative farming. www.green-acres.org
There is an art and a science to farming and to food production.The science is based on objective analysis of methods, components and systems. The art is more subjective and includes impressions, feelings and instincts. The term Artisan describes small, specialized, less mechanized systems of specialty farming and food production.It’s not hard to recognize that food “artfully” produced and prepared by a creative chef or artisan practicing their kitchen craft for sale on line or at Farmer’s markets are functioning in a Farm/Art nexus. This perspective allows us to appreciate a farmer’s field or a chef’s creation on our plate as art.No wonder that Artists find inspiration in the country and where food is produced for the Artisan’s touch or Supermarket bounty. Many farmers see their crops as commodities, but there are artists who see beauty and creativity in their efforts. Artists are interpreting their visions through all paint media, fiber arts and sculpture.
Today County Arts Councils throughout the country are beginning to recognize the link between Agriculture and the Arts. One of the pioneers in this movement was the Madera County Celebrate Agriculture with Arts Show. As I toured their exhibit I realized that I was spending longer with some of this farm art than I did viewing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris. At a field day in the midst of a crowd that equally appreciates art and the art of farming and food production, Farm To Table Talk explores these ideas and learns about a successful Agriculture and Arts project with Alison Flory the Executive Director of the YoloArts.Org.
When a public institution has research, education and public outreach responsibilities that touch the needs of virtually the whole world, it gets to be called the World Food Center. That happens at UC Davis where a World Center started, stalled and then re-started with renewed focus. Today “the World Food Center (WFC) mobilizes the research, educational and outreach resources of UC Davis, in partnership with consumers, public and philanthropic entities, and the agricultural, marine and food industries, to promote innovative, sustainable and equitable food systems. Based in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the World Food Center works on local, national and global scales to support scientific research and policy development leading to implementation of food production and distribution systems that support the health of people and the environment while addressing the challenges of population growth and climate change.” Dr. Kent Bradford is a distringuished Professor of Plant Sciences and the Interim Director of the World Food Center. Dr. Bradford joins our Table Talk Table to explain the Center’s mission and what it means to farmers, the food chain and consumers in California and world-wide.
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?
“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.
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 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.”
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
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,