Archive for the ‘CSA’ Category


Citywatch: Japan’s Earthquake

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By Wayne Roberts

Citywatch: Whether it’s action or traction in the food world, cities are stepping up to the plate. The world is fast going urban, as are challenges of social, economic and environmental well-being. Citywatch is crucial to Worldwatch. Wayne Roberts, retired manager of the world-renowned Toronto Food Policy Council, has his eye out for the future of food in the city. Click here to read more from Wayne.

The world is still reeling and shaking from afterthoughts of what happened in March, 2011 when Japan was hit by a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, which exposed how vulnerable all basic institutions have become when Nature acts up—something bound to happen anywhere or anytime in this era of climate change and global transmission of hard-to-treat infectious diseases.

The aftermath of Japan's 2011 earthquake. (Photo credit:

Lessons from a tsunami are a terrible thing to waste, so last week, the Food Policy Research Initiative based at University of Toronto and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health hosted a symposium of Japanese food and agricultural experts and Toronto public health leaders to survey what others can learn from Japan’s response to the crisis.

Crises can provoke multiple breakdowns in government institutions and practices, keynote speaker Yoko Niiyama of Kyoto University told the crowd, so crisis preparation and management cannot just be about damage control.

The violent earthquake and tsunami killed over 15,000 people and destroyed or damaged some 400,000 buildings in short order, said Niiyama, who has helped design government communication strategies. But the longer-lasting human aftershocks included everything from destruction of prime agricultural land from salted ocean water, to a nuclear horror show and release of radioactive radiation, to widespread mistrust of government information, especially as relates to the safety of the food supply.



Innovation of the Week: USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass

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By Marlena White

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass in February to showcase the activities and achievements of its Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative (KYF2). The KYF2 Compass is an online multimedia tool designed to help consumers, farmers, ranchers, and communities navigate the many relevant USDA-supported local food projects, and to learn more about local and regional food systems.

The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass informs consumers about USDA-supported local and regional food projects. (Image credit: USDA)

Both the KYF2 Initiative and Compass are responses to the rapid growth of local and regional food systems in the United States. Rising consumer demand for locally produced foods, an increase in direct sales from farmers to consumers, and a growing number of beginning and young farmers has all contributed to their expansion. There is, however, still a substantial need for support to increase these food systems’ capacity and viability, including improved infrastructure, farmers’ access to markets and credit, and technical assistance. To address these issues, the USDA has increased its number of programs and resources for local food-related initiatives.

The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative was launched in 2009 to better maintain and coordinate these activities. The newly launched KYF2 Compass catalogues these efforts, making them more accessible to the public. The Compass contains informational sections on topics relating to local and regional food systems—like healthy food access and local food infrastructure—and aims to increase the understanding of local food systems among farmers, consumers, and communities. Each of these sections is interactive and contains relevant information, resources, videos, and case studies. Other features of the KYF2 Compass include lessons learned and next steps and a resources page listing relevant USDA programs. There is also an interactive map of the 50 states charting USDA-supported local and regional food activities.



In Anticipation of the Brooklyn Food Conference: An Interview with Nancy Romer

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By Laura Reynolds

Name: Nancy Romer

Affiliation: Brooklyn Food Coalition

Bio: Nancy Romer is the General Coordinator at the Brooklyn Food Coalition and a psychology professor at City University of New York’s Brooklyn College. She was instrumental in organizing the first Brooklyn Food Conference in 2009, and established the Brooklyn Food Coalition in the same year after becoming inspired to transform the way people produce, distribute, and consume food.

Nancy Romer is the General Coordinator of the Brooklyn Food Coalition. (Photo credit:

The Brooklyn Food Coalition is hosting its annual Brooklyn Food Conference this Saturday, May 12, at the Brooklyn Technical High School. Over 5,000 people are expected to attend the conference, including the prominent speakers Vandana Shiva, world-renowned environmental activist; Lucas Benitez, Co-Director of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers; and several others. Events and workshops such as “The Future of New York City Food Policy” and “Faith and Feeding the Hungry” will run from 8:30am until 6pm. The conference will also feature cooking demonstrations, film screenings, kids’ activities, and an expo of non-profit and for-profit organizations.

With community gardens and farmers markets sprouting up all over the place lately, why do we still need events like the Brooklyn Food Conference?

We need the Brooklyn Food Conference, and other events that draw together all the actors working to reform the food system, because we need to change policy. We now have a range of activities, like farmers markets in certain neighborhoods, that can improve the lives of individuals or communities—but we still need far-reaching, major changes in policy that will spread these improvements across New York and the country. It is clear that the will to change policy is not going to come from the top; we need a heavy lift from the bottom to tell policymakers what we need and demand from our food systems, and the Brooklyn Food Conference is a major step in sending that message.



No stretch for local food in Hartford Courant

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The Hartford Courant recently published Nourishing the Planet’s opinion editorial that focused on the benefits of local food.

Small markets, like this one in Tanzania, are an important part of the transition to a locally-based food system. (Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack)

Purchasing local food has many advantages– buying locally farmed food is an important way to strengthen the local economy. From women in Senegal growing traditional produce and farmers in Kenya using local seeds to Community Supported Agriculture in Connecticut, this piece highlights how the local food movement is growing.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.



Produce During Wartime: Veterans Receive Farmer Training, Participate in Local Food Movement

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"War Veteran Farmer Shooting Star CSA"

Lily Schneider and Matthew McCue of Shooting Star CSA (Photo Credit: Linda Speel, FVC)

Matthew McCue’s memories of the time he spent in Iraq as a soldier are probably not what you would think. Along with the checkpoints, daily patrols, and desert heat, Matthew remembers vegetable gardens, carts brimming with watermelons, and local farmers. It is these vivid memories of Iraqi farmers and their produce that inspired his love of agriculture.

These days he lives in California and runs his own farm with his partner, Lily Schneider, in Suisun Valley. Growing food for local farmers’ markets and providing fresh produce for a more-than 90 member CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Matthew has also become an advocate for connecting other veterans with farmers to form mutually beneficial partnerships.

“Watching people stare down the barrel of a gun with a cart full of produce because they are trying to get to the market to sell it to other members of the community got me thinking about agriculture in a way I hadn’t before,” said Matthew when I spoke to him on the phone the other day.

Matthew came home from Iraq and spent the next couple of years learning to farm.  After serving with the Peace Corps in Niger, where he worked with a small community of farmers, Matthew came back to the United States, started his own small-scale, organic farm, and became an active member of a growing movement to rehabilitate returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through farming.

“To go from knocking down peoples’ doors and arresting them as a soldier to growing food and helping feed communities was a powerful experience for me. It can be hard to function as a veteran after existing in the context of a war, and learning farming skills can be a good way for soldiers to learn a new kind of job.”

Matthew is on the board of the Farmer-Veteran Coalition (FVC), an organization that helps place returning Iraq and Afghan veterans at small-scale organic farms where they can learn new skills while also making the often difficult transition back into civilian life.

“Overcoming the experience of wartime takes a lifetime,” said Matthew. “Working on a farm or receiving training for new skills helps ease that transition by allowing them to participate in the more pure, almost righteous, activity of farming.”

“Small-scale farmers are in trouble here in the United States,” said Nadia McCaffrey, founder of the McCaffrey Foundation and a board member of FVC, whose son Patrick was killed in Iraq in 2004. “Farmers and veterans working together is a perfect union because the veterans benefit from the training and the work, and the farmers benefit from the support and help on their farms.

The McCaffrey Foundation, which comprises small farms and veteran support groups around the country, has ambitious plans to create a large training farm in Minnesota, where veterans and their families will receive around-the-clock support in addition to training in farm skills.

“There is nothing more basic than producing food,” said Matthew. “Everyone buys vegetables and everyone who grows them eats them and sells them. It’s happening all over the world, even in the middle of war, and when you do it at our level it’s almost completely self-sustainable.”