eric

Farm Subsidies Database

Want to see what your state/county receives in government farm subsidies? The Environmental Working Group has compiled a huge database that lists great details on who is receiving commodity based subsidies and the amounts they are receiving in your state.

About EWG

The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to using the power of information to protect human health and the environment. To learn more about we what do—and the many issues like farm subsidies, cosmetics, tap water, organics, and non-stick chemicals that we research

View the database here.

Eat It While You Can- because your great-grandchildren won’t. World water supplies are dwindling and that means the water intense animal based diet will eventually become a thing of the past. “It’s going to be almost impossible to feed future generations the kind of diet we have now in western Europe and North America.” (bbc)

Hate Thy Neighbor- If you are a Confined Animal Factory Operation (CAFO) owner and you move your operation to a new community, prepare yourself to be the most hated person in that community. “Can you imagine what it smells like when they burn a pile of rotting pigs for an afternoon or an entire day and night?” a nearby resident said. “The odor is just absurd.” (vernonbroadcaster)

Meats and Sweets = Breast Cancer- A study of Chinese women who adopted a more Western diet that included higher consumption of meat and sweets showed an increase in breast cancer. “The researchers found that overweight, postmenopausal women who ate a western-style diet had a greater than twofold increased risk of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers. There was no association between breast cancer risk and a vegetable-soy-fish diet.” (yahoo news)

Have You Hugged a Rat Today?- You should! Rats may be more caring and selfless than their reputation suggests. Or at least they can be very kind to each other, even to rats they have never met before. Ok, so this isn’t vegetarian or food related, but I found it interesting nonetheless. (nytimes)

Slap a Label On It- An overwhelming majoring of folks in the U.S. want to know more about thier food. In fact, 92 percent of Americans want to know which country produced the food they are buying. I hope this has a trickle down effect in create measurable standards for other food labeling initives (e.g. free-range, humane, sustainable), but after seeing what the USDA has done recently to undermine the ‘organic’ standards, I won’t be holding my breath. (msnbc)

Moo Cows Go Poo- I wanted to post this video on wannaveg, but it’s only available on MSN video. This is the PSA I mentioned that was shown at Live Earth last weekend. It encourages people to go vegetarian one day a week. It’s a bit on the gross side, but the message is fantastic! (msn video)

Sheepmower- No need for pesticides or herbicides in this vineyard….also no need for tractors. Some researches are training sheep to clean up vineyard weeds but stay off the grapes. “They don’t use gasoline and keep down weeds — a necessary task to deter pests and keep vines healthy — sans herbicides.” (msnbc)

jessica.schessler

Sustainable Harvest International

baby with baby greens

Obviously, rainforest destruction is a heated topic of discussion. Many popular websites claim to plant trees in exchange for donations, and even Dell has hopped on the bandwagon. When you buy a new computer you can select “plant a tree for me” as you checkout and help offset your carbon footprint. Planting trees can be a good thing, but are we really making progress if we do nothing about the source of the problem? Sustainable Harvest International is heading straight for one source. This small non-profit organization “has worked with nearly 1,000 families and 900 students in Honduras, Panama, Belize and Nicaragua implementing alternatives to slash-and-burn farming, the leading cause of rainforest destruction in the region.” Malnutrition is a huge problem in this area of the world, and many vegetables are considered a luxury item. SHI teaches new farming techniques to the local families, such as alley cropping, organic vegetable gardening, and seed saving and storage.

Since 1997, SHI has successfully:

· Planted more than 2,000,000 trees.

· Converted 6,000 acres to sustainable uses, thereby saving 30,000 acres from slash-and-burn destruction.

· Improved nutrition through the establishment of more than 200 organic vegetable gardens.

· Increased farm income up to 800%.

· Built 165 wood-conserving stoves (saving 1,650 trees per year)

Now, did you know that it’s possible to eat yogurt, help these farmers, save forests, and get free organic chocolate and tea all at the same time? Stonyfield Farm is featuring SHI along with two other non-profits on their yogurt lids this summer. Vote for your favorite non-profit and help direct funds their way, while getting cool prizes!

Visit http://www.sustainableharvest.org/yogurt/ for more information on SHI and Stonyfield’s “Bid With Your Lid” program.

eric

Charlie Is One Sad Tuna

The next time you visit Japan you could be surprised at what’s in your sushi. You may ask, is that octopus or crab, no wait it’s catfish!? Actually, it’s horse meat…but don’t worry, it’s still raw (in the words of Homer Simpson….mmmm horse meat). That’s right, the Japanese are starting to feel the effects of over-fishing and now they’re trying to find a suitable substitute for sushi. Tuna is becoming rare and expensive, and other markets like the US and Europe are demanding more of the fish. Currently, the Japanese fishing fleet is having to compete more than ever to fill Sashimi rolls.

Make no mistake about it, Japan is not the only country responsible for the over-fishing of tuna. The two other big consumers, the US and the EU are pointing fingers, accusing each other of abuse the fish stocks…and both are correct.

“The Bluefin tuna quota shared between Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain was set at about 17,000 tons. That is the maximum amount recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, an international organization with more than 40 member countries. But it is roughly twice the limit stipulated by the commission’s own scientific advisers.”

…and

“Tuna experts like Carl Safina, the president of the Blue Ocean Institute, a nonprofit conservation group based in New York, places much of the blame for the collapse in west Atlantic Bluefin tuna stocks on the United States, which, he said, continues to allow fishing in spawning areas in the Gulf of Mexico.”

It’s plain to see that as this trend continues, tuna (and most marine life) are in trouble and as supply drops further down, prices and illegal poaching will increase. Last November, the NY Times published a report predicting a global collapse of fish species by 2048…given the recent news on the declining tuna population, this prediction may be well on its way to being realized.

eric

Farmer’s Market Shopping Tips

What better way to spend part of your Saturday or Sunday (or Mon-Fri) than paying a visit to your local farmer’s market? Going to the market is a mix of culture, community and of course, free tastings. One of the huge advantages to shopping at the farmer’s market is being able to ask the farmer questions about the food that he or she is selling. Another major benefit is knowing that the food you are about to buy is fresh, humane, and locally grown (as opposed to being shipped 1,800 miles). These are important things for our environment, and they are important for our farmers and our local economy.

Listed below are some tips to help you make the most out of the food you buy and the experience you enjoy, (they are not in any particular order). If you have any more to add, please let us know.

  • When was this picked?- Usually farmers pick their produce the day before or the morning of the farmer’s market. Knowing when it was picked will give you an idea of how ripe it is. Generally speaking, farmers want to harvest produce when it’s perfectly ripe, so you shouldn’t have to wait very long before you can eat it. It’s not a bad idea to ask. Also here is a guide on how to choose perfectly ripe fruits and veggies.
  • Where’s the farm?- This is another important question to ask. Our assumption is that all the food at the farmers market was grown locally. This is not always the case. If the food was trucked in from hundreds of miles away, then shopping at the farmers market will be no better than shopping at the supermarket.
  • Organic- Not all the foods at the farmers market are organic. The best practice is to ask. Many times, local farm representatives will tell you that their food is “organic,” despite the fact that they do not carry a “certified organic” label. The reason behind this is that for some small farms these certifications cost a lot of money that can prove financially prohibitive. In general I trust the farmers at the market, and in most cases, I think their hearts and practices are in the right place. If they say their produce is organic, I believe them. However, even if the food is not organic and was grown conventionally (using pesticides and fertilizers) and locally, this is still a good thing and definitely the next best choice in environmentally friendly agriculture. You may just want to subtly ask your farmer if they have plans to go organic in the future.
  • Sustainable- If you’re interested, you can ask your farmer if they perform crop rotations and employ bio-diversity on their farm. These practices usually help the farm become a closed loop where the plants, animals and soil all benefit from each other.
  • Are those free range eggs- There is a stand at our farmers market that sells eggs. If yours has one also, it may not be a bad idea to ask all of the above plus whether the chickens are allowed to roam about freely. I noticed the last time we were at the market the egg stand put up a sign that listed all of these answers, so they must get these questions frequently.
  • Is it in season- Because most food at the farmers market is grown locally, generally it’s in season. Just in case you are curious, here is a link to check what’s in season in your area.
  • Recipes and Storage- Who better to ask how to prepare and store the food than the person that grew it? Farmers usually enjoy the produce they grow and have some good tips and tricks on cooking it and making it keep for awhile. Who knows, you may even walk away with an old family recipe.
  • Create a list, and get those items first- Sometimes the excitement of the farmers market can send us into a buying frenzy…I think cheap, fresh food has that effect. However, stick to the list. If you’ve got your meals planned out for the week, get those necessary ingredients first. After that, you can check out some other treats. The key is not to buy so much food that it spoils before you can eat it. Since most of the produce is ripe when you buy it, it’s shelf life is probably only a few days.
  • Give the kids a couple bucks- Let them choose and purchase some fruits and veggies on their own. You never know, they may be more inclined to actually eat the healthy items that they picked it out and paid for.
  • Bring your own bags- Globally, we use 1 million plastic bags per minute. They fill up our landfills, open spaces and oceans. If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this, please use reusable bags to help reduce this number.

Overall, these tips should help you make an educated decision on the food you are about to buy. You’ll probably only need to ask them once, as you’ll purchase from the same farmers from week-to-week. After awhile, you will get to know them and they will usually take special care of you in pointing out the best produce and give you more tips and suggestions.

Happy shopping!

eric

Veg Travel

So you’ve put in your time at the workplace and the boss man (or woman) is going to let you take some of that well earned vacation you have been saving.  You pack your bags, book a flight, buy some sunscreen and you’re outta there.  But…what are you going to do about your veg day once you arrive at your destination?  I’ve compiled a list of links that will help you find many of the resources you may need during your travels.  I will add these to the wannaveg.com/resources page.

Vegetarian Phrases-  These are some common phrases in over 60 languages to help you communicate that you’re a vegetarian.

Restaurant and Health Food-  Our friends at Happycow.net have an excellent resource for vegetarians on the move.  The restaurant locater also allows people to post reviews and recommendations.   I have personally used this site for my travels in the U.S. and Western/Central Europe.  It is an indispensable tool.

Airline Food- This site has tons of information on vegetarian food in-flight.  It also has detailed information on each airline’s policies and guidelines.  As a personal tip, it’s usually best to bring your own, especially for short trips.

Hotel Chains-  A list of hotel chains that "get it."

Veg Guide-  This is a guide to help you plan your travels.  For example, be flexible…if you’re a strict vegan, Mongolia will be more difficult for you than London.

Veg Database- This site covers accommodations, shopping, people and everything in between.

Carbon Offsets-  That flight you just took across the U.S. dumped 1,900lbs of CO2 and used 100 gallons of fuel.  That’s for your seat alone!  You can buy alternative energy credits to offset your travels.

Do you have any more?  Let us know about them and I will add them to the list.

Carlo Petrini, the author of "Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food System Should Be Good Clean and Fair", made his first stop on his U.S. tour in Portland, OR on May 8th.  There he gave a speech on industrialized agriculture, inexpensive food, obesity and skyrocketing health costs are destructive practices that must be dealt with.  I recently wrote about his impending tour here.

A couple of interesting points from his speech included his view on on food "elitists" and the practicality of slow food in the modern world.

People who support Slow Food are not elitists, Petrini said. People have criticized the movement, saying its members and followers want to turn back the clock and that they "are not living in the real world." He disagrees.

The increasing numbers of farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture networks and a growing ecological movement shows the Slow Food Nation revolution is well underway in the United States.

Read the whole article at Capital Press

It’s not far from the truth!  Researchers predict that if poor countries switched to organic farming methods, they may be able to produce as much or more food than they do currently.  The benefit really shows when the farmers no longer need to depend on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified seeds, thus making it cheaper to farm.   Additionally, farmers would be able to have their crops organically certified, and that would demand a premium on the export market. 

Of course one of the other key benefits to organic farming is its reduced footprint on the environment.  With all kinds of studies showing that the poor will be hardest hit by climate change, it makes sense for poor nations to adopt a more natural way of growing food.  Although, we in industrialized nations need to get with the program faster than poor countries (we produce way more nasty stuff than they do). 

Read the story at the Yahoo News

image credit: WorldBank.org

I am out of town today, so I decided to put up an article from the past.  The weather looks to be pretty nice around the country….good weekend to visit the farmer’s market.  Have a great weekend, talk to you on Monday!

This article covers five areas that make farmers markets so cool.  Farmer’s markets are making a difference in the way we are eating and are growing in popularity all the time.  This is an excellent trend and I hope it continues.

1.  Freshness
2.  Variety
3.  Organic
4.  Creativity
5.  Cost

Farmer’s Markets, offering fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, nuts, honey, herbs and jams, are becoming more prevalent and increasingly popular in urban and suburban neighborhoods. Cities gladly cordon off designated blocks one morning a week or a month to give residents access to locally grown produce and to stimulate commerce. The Union Square Farmer’s Market in New York City is legendary for bringing the farm to the urbanites and the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market in Southern California has been called the “crown jewel” of such markets by Los Angeles Times food writer Russ Parsons.

These street markets are changing the way you eat. Farmer’s Markets are influential in food freshness, variety, nutrients, creativity and cost. Here’s how: continue here at Associated Content

It is refreshing to see studies being performed on ethical consumerism.  Having this information shows us how effective we are at getting the word out and getting us to think about what we’re buying…food or product.  This report is a little dated as it refers to 2005 numbers, but I am confident that the trend has continued upward.  A few figures that had a significant upswing were Organics at 30.5%, Fair Trade at 38.3% and Sustainable Fish at a huge 54.5%.  Another interesting note was that Food Boycotts increased by 17.7%

The value of UK ethical consumerism last year exceeded the sales of ‘over-the-counter’ beer and cigarettes, according to the Co-operative Bank’s annual Ethical Consumerism Report.

The Report, which acts as a barometer of ethical spending in the UK, shows that in 2005 UK ethical consumerism was worth £29.3 billion, for the first time overtaking the retail market for tobacco and alcohol which stood at £28.0 billion.

…Spending on ethical food which includes organic products, Fairtrade goods and free-range eggs was up 18 per cent from £4.6 billion to £5.4 billion. Green home expenditure, which incorporates energy-efficient electrical appliances, green mortgage repayments, small renewables (such as micro-wind turbines) and green energy was up from £3.8 billion to £4.1 billion.

read the whole report here

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