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Evolving stories About Growing Food in a Big City

Filtering by Tag: sustainable

One Earth Film Fest April 27-29 in Oak Park/River Forest

Cassandra West

To stimulate dialogue and inspire planet-friendly action, Green Community Connections in Oak Park is hosting its first One Earth Film Fest 2012 April 27-29.The planning committee evaluated and considered more than 300 films, then narrowed its final selections to 16 feature-length films that have received critical acclaim within the green film community. Another 12-17 shorter features also will be part of the eclectic mix of cinematic offerings during the weekend, which kicks off with a

Green Carpet Gala at Oak Park Conservatory on the evening of April 27. Several of the films being shown include “The Last Mountain,” “Waste Land,” “A Fierce Green Fire,” “What’s On Your Plate?” “Wall-E,” “Journey of the Universe” and “Queen of the Sun.” Showings will take place at multiple venues in Oak Park and River Forest. “Our intent is to cultivate awareness, spur involvement, and promote environmental sustainability in our own community and beyond,” said Sally Stovall, who led one of the planning committees. “The films chosen by Green Community Connections for its first festival are compelling, powerful and rich in their diversity of topics, but also focused on inspiring each of us to think about the role we can play in protecting our planet. We’re hoping to offer something meaningful for every member of the family.” Tickets and a complete list of films and show times are available at One Earth Film Festival 2012. Admission is free to most screenings and events. Advance ticket purchases are required for the “Green Carpet Gala” on Friday, April 27. For more information on the fest, visit Green Community Connection’s festival page and its Facebook page. You can also follow the group on Twitter.

Midterm elections could change federal agriculture policy

Cassandra West

Iowa farm By Susan Richardson Last week’s midterm elections swept dozens of conservative Republicans into the U.S. House of Representatives, giving the GOP a majority. So, what will be the effect of the election results on the Farm Bill, sustainable food initiatives and other agricultural issues? Following is a roundup of views and news from bloggers and ag experts about the potential impact:

"Passing a farm bill is going to be hard work. Since American farmers would otherwise have to compete against heavily subsidized counterparts in other nations, this has always been a necessary bipartisan effort. This has occurred on track in recent years despite the caterwauling on talk radio and on editorial pages. We’ll have to wait and see.” Texas Agriculture Talks

“U.S. lawmakers will face increasing pressure to constrain spending on farm subsidy programs, possibly as part of government-wide austerity, in the wake of large Republican gains in the mid-term elections.” DTN/The Progressive Farmer

“Forty-six seats that flipped from Democratic to Republican hands represent districts that rank in the top half of those that get federal subsidies, according to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group. Those losses could have implications for the next farm bill. Mark Maslyn of the American Farm Bureau Federation worries that the Democrats who will join the House committee to fill empty seats may come from more urban and suburban districts and will be more interested in nutrition and environmental issues than farm programs. He’s also concerned that many of the fiscally conservative Republicans in the House could join up with more liberal Democrats to push for cuts in farm subsidies.” Des Moines Register/Greenfields blog

“Even before the outcome of the mid-term elections became clear, progressive reform of federal agriculture policy already faced steep hurdles -- most of them erected by the lobbying power of Big Ag interests. Now those hurdles are higher.” Grist

Chicago forum focuses on ethics, sustainability

Cassandra West

Sky

If the sky knew half of what we’re doing down here

it would be stricken, inconsolable, and we would have nothing but rain — Brian Turner

Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson, the editors of “Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril,” will be at the Chicago Botanic Garden Friday, Oct. 29 for a daylong forum on ethics and sustainability. Their book includes contributions from more than 80 visionaries—naturalists, scientists, activists, theologians, poets, professors, philosophers and leaders from across the intellectual, political, religious and cultural spectrum and from around the world.

In essays and sometimes poems, stories and economic analyses, the contributors make their case for why humans have a moral obligation to take action to assure the future of our planet. The poem above comes from one of New Zealand’s leading poets, and it is his complete contribution.

Other contributors include Derrick Jensen, an environmental activist and small farmer who writes: “Industrial capitalism always destroys the land on which it depends for raw materials, and it always will.”

Writers Barbara Kingsolver and bell hooks both look back over U.S. history for lessons on how social progress unfolds. Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of Africa’s Green Belt Movement Wangari Maathai writes that we are all called to help heal the Earth. “In the course of history, there comes a times when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground,” she writes.

Each of the book’s 14 sections ends with an “Ethical Action” — from how to protect the children to how to express gratitude to the Earth for all its gifts.

The Chicago Botanic Garden’s website has complete information on the “Chicago Regional Forum on Ethics and Sustainability,” 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 29. Tickets to the symposium also can be purchased online.

Kathleen Dean Moore is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and University Writer Laureate at Oregon State University, where she teaches environmental ethics and moral reasoning. Michael P. Nelson holds a joint appointment as professor of environmental ethics and philosophy in the Lyman Briggs College, the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Department of Philosophy at Michigan State University.

Seeding Chicago spoke with Moore and Nelson by phone Monday, Oct. 25. You can listen to the interview by clicking the play arrow in the video box (top right).

A visit to Camden NJ's green soup kitchen

Cassandra West

CAMDEN, NJ -- On Tuesday, a group attending the Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Funders Forum in Philadelphia visited the Cathedral Kitchen in Camden, N.J., which has provided hot, nutritious meals and other services to residents since 1976. In 2008, Cathedral Kitchen broke the emergency food service mold when it opened a 13,000-square-foot facility that also integrates medical and dental services. Camden faces daunting fresh food and poverty challenges.

Seeding Chicago interviewed (video above) the Kitchen's executive director, Karen Talarico, and chef Jonathan Jernigan about Cathedral's unique approach to serving its community.

Food funders gather in Philadelphia to discuss urban agriculture

Cassandra West

Awbury Arboretum in Germantown By Susan Richardson

PHILADELPHIA -- The 8th Annual Forum of the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders began with a reminder of how far the food movement has come since the group first met in 2003.  Thirty people attended SAFSF's inaugural conference in San Francisco; 155 people are attending  this year's conference in Philadelphia, said Executive Director Virginia Clarke on Tuesday, the first day of the event.

The rising interest mirrors the growing national conversation about urban agriculture, Clarke said. Citing a recent article by food guru Michael Pollan comparing the food movement to a "big lumpy tent," she said the movement's diverse participants, including lawyers, urban planners and designers, and philanthropists, can learn from each other despite differences.

The food movement has taken off, said Greg Horner, a program officer at the Cedar Tree Foundation in Boston and moderator of the opening plenary. He noted several examples, from the federal government's support for an office of urban agriculture within the U. S. Department of Agriculture to increased support for food initiatives by funders.

The panelists for the opening plenary, "Shall We Dance? How New Partners Are Helping to Build a Stronger Food System for All," reflected the range of interests coalescing around the food movement, including social equity, urban design and planning, and health and environmental protection.

Tour guide Joan Reilly, senior director Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Panelists were Kimberley Hodgson, manager of the Planning and Community Health Research Center at the American Planning Association; Maria Salgado, programs director of Nuestras Raices in Holyoke, Mass.; and Jason McLennan, an architect and CEO of Cascadia Region Green Building Council.

Emphasizing that urban agriculture is about more than food, Hodgson presented an overview of  initiatives across the country, from farms to community gardens to food banks.  Urban agriculture can help build communities, provide skills training and a recent survey states that it can increase property values in the surrounding neighborhood.  To succeed, urban communities have to overcome some risks, including soil and water contamination, she said.  Raised beds may make it possible to grow healthy food in these communities, but contaminants such as lead, zinc, and chromium can still negatively effect children who play in gardens.

Cities such as Cleveland are increasingly seeing the benefit of urban agriculture for economic development.  In conjunction with Cuyahoga County, the city is tapping into agriculture to create new jobs and businesses, Hodgson said.  The city has a goal to create one community garden per one-quarter square mile.  Cleveland changed its zoning ordinance to create an urban agriculture category, and allows residents to keep small animals such as pigs and chickens.

Salgado discussed how urban agriculture can help build social equity, using examples from Nuestras Raices' work in Holyoke.  The city has the highest percentage of Puerto Ricans of any city outside of the island and also ranks among the poorest cities in the country.  Asthma and obesity are staggering.  "You can't look at urban blight in silos," she said, adding that a "systemic" approach is necessary.

Formed a year ago, Nuestras Raices seeks to address these issues through developing jobs and businesses geared toward urban agriculture and energy conservation.  The organization has developed 10 community gardens with 100 families. It has a green jobs training program for youth, some of whom are working to complete their GEDs. And it plans to open a store that specializes in pork (or a Lechonera), which is popular in the community.

Nuestras Raices (Our Roots, in English) also seeks to grow a heritage: Puerto Rico's agricultural tradition.  Many of the younger generation have rejected it, Salgado said, viewing farming as a "stigma" and moving backwards, rather than a way to make a living.

McLennan, a leading international green building architect, explored how sustainable development can reinforce urban agriculture. He called for re-establishing the relationship between cities and food production, which was lost with the evolution of the modern city.  Citing films such as "Mad Max" and "Blade Runner," and cartoons such as "The Jetsons,"  McLennan said Americans have a vision of the future where they live in very dense settings removed from natural space and get their food by pushing a button.

McClennan said The Living City Design Competition, sponsored by the International Living Building Institute, supports efforts to create more sustainable cities.

With 40,000 vacant lots and a population that has dropped significantly in the last decade, Philadelphia is an example of how a city can tap into urban agriculture to create new economic opportunities.  Following the opening plenary, conference participants spent the afternoon touring urban agriculture projects in the area.

The conference continues through Friday.  For resources and to learn more about the panelists, visit the SAFSF website.

Chicago food activists stand with Haitian farmers in rejecting Monsanto seeds

Cassandra West

Since the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake, many Haitians came to see agriculture as the most practical and long-term solution to healing the land and the economy. Then in stepped big agribusiness, as always, with its own solution, designed more to help its bottom line than the Haitian population. 65th and Woodlawn Community Garden

Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agri-chemical company, announced recently that it would donate 60,000 sacks, or 475 tons, of hybrid corn and vegetable (cabbage, carrot, eggplant, melon, onion, tomato, spinach and watermelon) seeds, some of them treated with highly toxic pesticides, according to reports.

Haitian farmers called the donation “a new earthquake” with the potential to rock their island nation as much as the one that destroyed so many lives and structures earlier this year.

Bev Bell of Daily Kos reported: In an e-mailed letter sent May 14, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, executive director of the Peasant Movement of Papay and the spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papay, called the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti "a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds, and on what is left our environment in Haiti." Haitian activists have vigorously opposed agribusiness imports of seeds and food, which undermines local production with local seed stocks, and expressed special concern about the import of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture rejected Monsanto’s offer of Roundup (its popular and bestselling herbicide) Ready GMO seeds. A Monsanto representative, in an e-mail, assured the MoA that the donated seeds are not GMO.

The Director of Seeds at the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture says the seeds are treated with the fungicide Maxim XO, and the calypso tomato seeds are treated with thiram, which belongs to a highly toxic class of chemicals called ethylene bisdithiocarbamates. The EPA has determined that EBDC-treated plants are so dangerous to agricultural workers that they must wear special protective clothing when handling them.

Haitian farmers, who are trying to hold on to the one hope they have for rebuilding their damaged eco-system and economy, will stage a protest and burn seeds from Monsanto in Haiti on June 4, World Environment Day. In solidarity with the Haitian farmers, Chicago food justice activists are holding an evening of action Friday, June 4, 6:30 – 8 p.m., called “From Haiti to Chicago: Speak OUT against Monsanto!” at the 65th and Woodlawn Community Garden (corner of 65th and Woodlawn).

The gathering will feature: *Speak outs, testimonies about the right to quality food and food sovereignty *Performance by hot Chi-city poets and spoken word artists *Haiti Updates *Planting of heirloom seeds, reclaiming the tradition of seed saving, and rejecting the monopolization of genetically modified foods. For more information, contact Rising in Solidarity with Ayiti (R.I.S.A.) at: risinginsolidarity@gmail.com or call: (773) 979-3272

Local food production could yield big economic benefits

Cassandra West

Food grown locally could boost region's economyIf Midwestern farmers raised the fruit and vegetables eaten in the Heartland, they could create thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in income, according to a study reported recently by the Associated Press.

The Iowa State University study looked at what would happen if farmers in six states — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin — raised 28 crops in quantities large enough to meet local demand. The study found that if an ample supply of produce could be grown regionally, it would spur $882 million in sales, more than 9,300 jobs and about $395 million in labor income.

Growing enough food to meet regional demand also wouldn't take much land, said said Michelle Miller, associate director of the University of Wisconsin's Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, which helped fund the study. "That's one of the wild things about it — you can grow a lot on a few number of acres. Anyone who has a garden knows this."

How few acres? One of Iowa's 99 counties could meet the demand for all six states, said Rich Pirog, associate director for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State. The center requested the study after seeing increased demand for food grown closer to home, especially from public schools and colleges.

The study included apricots, asparagus, mustard greens, bell peppers, onions, broccoli, peaches, cabbage, pears, cantaloupe, plums, carrots, raspberries, cauliflower, snap beans, collard greens, spinach, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, strawberries, garlic, sweet potatoes, kale, tomatoes, watermelon and lettuce — both leaf and head.

Crops such as pumpkins, apples and cherries weren't included in the study because the Midwest already grows enough of them to meet local and regional demand. Corn and soybeans are considered grains, not produce.

Financing Local Food: 'Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is'

Cassandra West

By Susan Richardson From support for supermarkets in neighborhoods with more liquor stores than healthy food choices to efforts to increase the number of USDA certified organic poultry processors, philanthropic organizations are increasingly taking part in a growing movement for sustainable agriculture and access to healthy food. 

 “This is a time of convergence,” said Karen Lehman, director of Fresh Taste, a Chicago-based collaborative supported by area foundations that encourages diverse local agriculture and healthy eating in Illinois. 

Last week, Lehman moderated a panel on food finance at the PRI Makers  National Conference in Chicago, a group of foundations and other funders that provide low-interest loans and other creative financing for charitable purposes.

Though food finance is still an unknown for most foundations, the panel discussion, titled “Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Local Food Finance,” underscored the rising profile of food issues in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.  Panelists shared experiences in financing local food initiatives, discussed the importance of building the capacity of organizations to execute food-related projects and emphasized the need to grow efforts in communities of color, where food financing can potentially have a great impact on public health and economic development.

News coverage about food recalls, First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to combat childhood obesity, and the spread of community gardens as a tool for both revitalizing neighborhoods and building community have all increased public awareness about what Americans eat, where it comes from, and how it is produced.  At the PRI session, almost everyone raised their hand when asked if they had seen the documentary Food, Inc., which skewers the food manufacturing industry. 

But today’s tipping point in terms of food awareness is the result of years of labor by grass-root organizations to bring public health, environmental, social justice, and economic development concerns together around the food delivery system. “These issues are in the spotlight as never before,” according to the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders, which is holding its annual conference in Philadelphia June 15-18.  “Efforts over the past decades helped sow the ground from which today’s opportunities have grown. But what next?”

 Under the theme of “Shaking it Up, Making It Last: A Real Food System for All,” the conference will explore issues including cross-disciplinary efforts to build community health through urban agriculture; the challenges of making healthy food accessible to everyone; financing local food initiatives, and changing the certification system for domestic agriculture.  In addition, participants will tour various project sites in and around Philadelphia, including food-producing farms and a community garden built on abandoned inner-city lots.  

A keynote speaker will be Jeremy Nowak, founder and CEO of The Reinvestment Fund, which was instrumental in financing the first grocer in West Philadelphia in years.  The Fund worked on behalf of Pennsylvania’s Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a model for the Obama administration’s $400 million National Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which could provide support for grocery stores, farmers markets and other efforts to provide healthy food in underserved communities. In February, the First Lady visited a North Philadelphia grocery store supported by the state’s fresh food financing initiative in conjunction with the launch of her campaign against childhood obesity. 

The focus of the Sustainable Agriculture Funders conference is to tap into the momentum around food issues to create a national food system that better serves public health.

For more information about the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders, visit www.safsf.org.

"Dirt! The Movie" screens @ Chicago Cultural Center

Cassandra West

"DIRT! The Movie" explores the wonders of the soil and tells the story of Earth's most valuable and underappreciated source of fertility.

Chicago Community Cinema will present a screening of "Dirt!" 2 p.m. Saturday, March 20 Chicago Cultural Center 78 E. Washington St. In the Claudia Cassidy Theater

We hope you will come out and join us in viewing this enlightening documentary, which brings to life the environmental, economic, social and political impact of soil around the world. Find out how industrial farming, mining and urban development have led us toward cataclysmic droughts, starvation, floods and climate change.

Narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis, "DIRT! The Movie" shares the stories of experts from around the world who study the beauty and power of soil, which is made from the same elements as the stars, plants and animals, and us.

The movie teaches: "When humans arrived 2 million years ago, everything changed for dirt. And from that moment on, the fate of dirt and humans has been intimately linked."

Dirt is part of everything we eat, drink and breathe--and that's why we should stop treating it like, well...dirt. "DIRT!" is more than a movie. It's a call to action.

Following the film, some of Chicago's most innovative ecologists/gardeners/recyclers will share ideas on composting methods and gardening techniques for city dwellers and talk about ways to transform our urban landscape. The Community Cinema guests are: Ken Dunn, Resource Center Orrin Williams,Center For Urban Transformation Pete Leki and Jordan Rivera, Waters Elementary School Nancy Klehm, Spontaneous Vegetation Moderator: Erin Kennedy, SCARCE

See you there!