Pork is the most consumed meat in the world, yet there are mixed perceptions on how pigs are grown–in animal “factories” or outdoors on small farms. Large scale pig farmer Malcolm DeKryger and Fair Oaks Pig Adventure are taking impressive steps in transparency to show just what happens in a modern large scale pig farming operation. Over 80,000 visitors this past year were able to observe through glass windows everything from pig birth. Less than an hour from downtown Chicago, a steady stream of visitors are coming to the farm daily. In this episode of Farm To Table Talk, Malcolm, the President of Belstra Milling and the pig production enterprises, talks about pig production transparency, antibiotics use changes and the reasons for his optimism about a promising future in Agriculture. In their own operation the children of employees have gone to College and returned to be a part of the faming operation and many other young people are asking how they can follow the same track and become pg farmers too. More information about the Fair Oaks Pig Adventure is available at ffofarms.com and belstrafarming.com
All over America and around the world people yearn to be “Outstanding in the Field”—connecting their food and the farmers that grow it. This is evident by Farm to Table dinners in every State, led by the pioneer of this trend “Outstanding in the Field”. Farm To Table Talk gets the story from founder Jim Denevan (www.outstandinginthefield.com); the featured chef for this event Brad Briske, Home Restaurant (www.homesoquel.com); and winemaker Jeff Emery, Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard (www.santacruzmountainvineyard.com) “Connection is the thing that’s most powerful about agriculture and food. People are hungry for fulfilling theseconnections. It makes them happy!”
The Washington Post headline laments “The labels said ‘organic.’ But these massive imports of corn and soybeans weren’t.” Conventional grain shipped to Turkey from the Ukraine, suspiciously became Certified Organic in transit to its final destination in the United States, through the port of Stockton. Another headline posts “Why your ‘organic’ milk may not be organic.” Consumers follow these stories because they care more than ever about how their food is produced and that there is honest identification of origin and methods. That’s a lot more information than they can count on from product labels, but fortunately there are still a few Newspapers left in the Country that allow talented reporters to do ‘deep dives’ with investigative reporting for long form stories. The Washington Post is clearly one of the leaders of this type of journalism and Peter Whoriskey is that sort of curious professional investigative journalist. Peter is the author of these and other food/health based articles in the Washington Post. He joins us for a Farm To Table conversation about past, present and future reports on false identification in the food system.
Reports like these start wheels turning. The Cornucopia Institute raised questions about large scale organic farming. The California Certified Organic Farmers (a certification agency) in a letter to the Editor points out that organic certification is rigorous with agencies deputized by the USDA to review detailed farm plans and inspect each operation at least once annually. Government policy is effected by the news too. A new federal Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule is pending. A Chinese farmer admits that he can’t meet US Organic standards because of extreme water and air pollution contamination in China. Congressional oversight committees schedule hearings on these issues. Meanwhile Peter Whoriskey and his Washington Post editor keep an eye out for more stories that the “clicks” show that their readers care about a great deal.
What consumers believe about food and how they behave is continually evolving. To track, understand and predict the ever evolving consumer perspectives, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) conducts an annual Food & Health consumer survey. IFIC’s Dr. Alex Lewin-Zwerdling and Liz Sanders share with Farm To Table Talk key points that have been learned in the recently completed Survey. Not surprisingly consumers still rank Taste and Price as most important in making food choices, but Health has now passed “Convenience” and Sustainability has risen to the top tier of what matters most to consumers–especially Millenials. Consumers are ore inclined to make small changes instead of a big overhaul. Health “halos” are created with “fresh, short ingredient list, natural food store origin, expensive, name brand,”, etc. Consumers have different ideas about processed: a bag of baby carrots is viewed as “processed” food but if they are labled “Organic baby Carrots” they are not considered “processed”. The 2017 Food & Health Survey is available at www.foodinsight.org
If any University has the right to the claim “Mothership” of sustainable and Organic food production, it is the University of California at Santa Cruz. For the past FIFTY (50) years trainees and students have come to Santa Cruz from all over the world for inspiration and to learn sustainable farming and gardening skills. It started in 1967 with the unlikely intervention of a Countess bringing a global Organic prophet with unparalleled hands-in-the-soil experience to the beautiful new UC Campus on a hill overlooking Monterey Bay. The seeds of these endeavors have sprouted Agrocecology, Food Justice, Farm To Table, Farm To School, Urban Gardens and thousands of disciples. The celebration of this remarkable half century at UCSC is underway. More information on the 50th celebration and the on-going opportunities at UCSC are available at casfs.ucsc.edu , the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems. Martha Brown, Principal Editor and Daniel Press, Executive Director share the history and opportunities sustainability and organic devotees at the Mothership on the Farm to Table Talk Podcast.
If your wish is to “enhance public discussion of biotechnology” be careful what you wish for because you draw fire from both sides when you don’t choose a “tribe”. Biofortified co-founder Dr. Karl Haro von Mogel knows that feeling. His organization is clearly pro-biotech, but recognizes shortcomings too and has taken efforts to not simply be a cheerleader for the multi-national companies marketing genetically engineered products. Putting a clever spin on the jeers about “Franken (stein) Foods” they created Frank N. Foode, your friendly neighborhood genetically modified organism. Frank N. Foode and other resources can be found on their website, www.biofortified.org
“Alternative Agriculture” was the then controversial subject of a report by the National Academy of Science in the 80’s. It was “food for thought” that contributed to a decade of food/farming debates that culminated in a national law creating “Organic” certification. Nearly a decade later the rule was finally implemented and Organics have been growing ever since. In the middle of all this has been Dr. Chuck Benbrook. In this episode of Farm To Table Talk, Dr. Benbrook explores what’s gone right, what’s gone wrong and why we should be optimistic about the future of farm to table. To learn more about Dr. Benbrook’s current focus, you can visit www.hygeia-analytics.com
There is a lot to learn from a Barnyard and Ron Wasson is sharing those lessons with thousands of people by bringing the barnyard to them. It’s a known fact that there are fewer people living on or near farms and consequently fewer people that know anything about farm animals and farms. In this podcast there are guest ‘vocals’ from chickens, goats, sheep, ducks, horse, calf, pig, dog, cats, turkey and others (only the rabbits were quiet). What do barnyard animals have to tell us that’s relevant to modern farming. Actually quite a bit. www.barnyarddiscoveries.com
If Earth suffers, what’s for dinner? The Earth may have no better friend than Fred Kirschenmann, distinguished fellow with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, President of the Board at Stone Barn Center and North Dakota farmer. How well we care for soil has a direct effect on what our food does for us. Earthlings are getting ‘wake up’ calls at an opportune time when a new generation is no longer focusing just on “me and my” culture. How we farm and what we eat matters. Instead of just “growth” we can aim to regenerate life on earth–thriving and flourishing in our own ways and right in our own neighborhoods.
Do you need good soil to have good food? Not necessarily. Some say that to be Organic, crops should be grown in sustainably developed soil while others believe that should not be necessary as long as the production system used avoids pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. Melody Meyer, the vice President of Policy and Industry Relations for United Natural Foods (UNFI) explains the systems, the controversy and the implications for farmers and consumers on this episode of Farm To Table Talk.