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Michael Pollan on PBS

michaelpollanIf you missed the last Bill Moyers Journal on PBS with Michael Pollan, don’t dispair — the episode is available online in two parts. Moyers presses Pollan, the author of In Defense of Food and the Omnivore’s Dilemma on just why our food/farm policies are so bad and what we can do to cut down on greenhouse gases and plant a garden.

I’ve read both books, so already know a fair amount about Pollan’s ideas, but I liked a couple things he said in the program:

1. The School Lunch program shouldn’t be run by the Department of Agriculture and used as a disposal site for excess food. It should be run by the Health and Human Services Department or by the Department of Education.

2. We should have a Food Policy Czar to overlook all of the aspects of food policy, from food production to food safety. It’s odd that food is now regulated by two agencies — the FDA and USDA — who have competing goals.

3. Everyone should try to plant a garden! There is something very rewarding about growing your own food. It makes you feel like you control one aspect of your health.

Photo Credit: PBS, Photo by Robin Holland

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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Plant carrots, save the world (or at least avoid pesticides)

I had just finished transplanting my heirloom carrots from their egg carton home into planters outside when I came back in and browsed through an article in the New York Times about the revival of the kitchen garden. People freaked out about the spinach E. coli scare, the numerous strawberry-Hepatitis A incidents and the Humane Society video showing animal cruelty at a meatpacking plant have been turning to their own backyard as a source of nourishment.

Quite likely as a result of my parents’ own hippie tendencies (they make their own soymilk, and, before cow’s milk became déclassé, they had a cow and made their own yogurt), I’ve always been interested in growing and making my own food.

My first real taste of urban agriculture, however, took place at Fairview Gardens Farm and the Center for Urban Agriculture in Goleta, Calif. This place is a haven for organic fruit and veggie lovers. I worked as an intern for three weeks, helping to sow the seeds, weed the rows, harvest the fruits and vegetables and eat a few in between 🙂 What struck me was just how, well, difficult it was to keep the pests and weeds away. No wonder we turned to pesticides. But at what cost?

I also helped to coordinate the Community Supported Agriculture program, where people came each week to pick up their “share” of the farm — a basket filled with fruits and vegetables all harvested only hours earlier.

This was years ago, before the explosion of the locavore movement, before Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food” books, and before organics were regulated by the USDA.

Now, it seems like everyone’s jumping on the wagon. Kitchen gardens are now chic and shopping at the farmers’ market has become uber trendy. CSAs are becoming increasingly common and eating local has become an obsession for some.

But you don’t have to jump in all of the way to enjoy some of the joys and benefits of tending to your own garden. You can plant a few herbs by your apartment window (egg cartons — the former home of my carrots — make wonderful little pots for seedlings) and join the local movement. I’m currently growing some cilantro and basil. All it took was a quick trip to Home Depot for a few seed packets and a bag of seed starer mix. The article had a great website — kitchengardeners.org — that has tons of tips on how to grow your own garden.

So come on, join us. After all, everybody’s doing it.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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Chipotle and Polyface Farm

omnivoresdilemma_med.jpgIf there’s one book you should read this year, make it “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. One of the most interesting points he makes in the book is just how far we’ve strayed from our natural eating habits as omnivores. Although walking through a modern supermarket makes one gape in amazement at the assortment and bounty of food available, in reality, Pollan writes, we’re eating soy and corn. These two ingredients are added to all sorts of foods, from soups to cereal to sports bars. And they’re fed to the chickens, pigs and cows we consume, much to the detriment of the animals’ health.

But there are a few farms out there that are breaking the mold. In the book, Pollan lauds Polyface Farm, run by Joel Salatin, as the model of the way a farm should be run. Instead of force-feeding corn to weakened, antibiotic-pumped cows, they graze on grass. Chickens run outside, rather than being cooped up in cages.

It’s a lovely, bucolic scene. But is it feasible to run farms like this and feed the masses? I didn’t think it was possible, until I read this article in the Washington Post by Jane Black. According to Black, Chipotle (I know! Of all places!) is buying pork from Polyface Farm for its Charlottesville branch. Previously, they’d bought all of their pork from Niman Ranch, known for its sustainable, high-quality meat. I was impressed by the chain’s commitment to purchasing meat that is more sustainable, even though it is more expensive. My sense is that your average Chipotle burrito eater has no idea that the pork being consumed had a happier life than its counterpart at Denny’s, let’s say, so it can’t be just for PR reasons that Chipotle is doing this. It’s about time we treated food as more than something we shove in our stomachs.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2008 in Food Reads

 

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