Wasting good food has always been frowned upon. There is something uncomfortable about throwing away perfectly good food or even tossing inedible scraps in the bin. But some how we have lost touch with waste being a taboo concept and instead, embraced it wholeheartedly. Every year in America we throw away 96 billion pounds of food. That’s 263 million pounds a day . Part of eating and advocating for good food is being responsible with its waste. Food loss and waste amounts to the careless use of resources like fresh water, land, energy, human labor and money, which all translates to the unnecessary emissions of greenhouse gasses.
In the USA, organic waste is the second highest component of landfills, which are the largest source of its methane emissions  .
Food waste is spurred by cosmetic standards that encourage farmers to throw away perfectly good produce because it is not the expected size or shape. We are so used to perfect shiny apples and round red tomatoes that we have lost our appreciation for mother nature’s variety and character. We are repulsed by worm holes or bruises as if our food actually came from someplace dirty…
An example was given in this awesome TED Talk by Tristram Stuart of the waste that ensues because of our lack of enthusiasm for the unattractive outcast, the bread heel. When was the last time you ordered a sandwich at a cafe and got the heel? Some places embrace creative reuse measures like croutons and bread pudding, to compensate for our picky standards. But many simply throw out perfectly good and fresh bread every single day. It seems as though the policy and practice behind our current food system encourages the squandering of resources and is down-right unproductive.
According to the UNEP, Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes) .
The good news is that there is so much we can do about food waste! I have taken a new found enthusiasm for composting and also felt inspired after hearing our fellow community Seedspot member, Morgan Coffinger, share her new compost accelerator business Bokashi Evolution. They offer a great composting kit to fit into any lifestyle and strive to address food waste issues with a holistic solution that encourages local action.
We all contribute to this mess but because food is a shared human experience, we all have the power to make a positive impact. A good first step is to simply keep track of your daily food waste. The weight and speed of how fast it piles up is fascinating. Other good tips include things like:
- better planning at the grocery store – only buy what you are going to use/eat.
- make lists (like a meal plan) — and really stick to them during the week.
- keep stock of staple items to go with fresh produce (like bread in the freezer, pasta in the pantry), and
- manage left overs. As in, make sure you eat them. Give them a creative new twist like incorporating them into a salad or sandwich the next day!
Also, go right to the source and support farmers who compost, practice good waste management, and recycle nutrients back to their land, like Singh Farms and Duncan Family Farms (though most all of the small-scale farmers in Arizona manage their waste smartly).
Food waste is a big lessen that there is no such thing as ‘away’. Just because we can toss items into our garbage cans at such convenience and watch them get hauled out of sight, does not make that the end of their presence in our lives.
If we chose to interact with our food a little longer from start to finish, find joy in natural beauty flaws, we can change waste into something attractive and productive.
Photo credit to Tristram Stuart and Morgan Coffinger
 check out Dive! the documentary for an eye opening introduction to food waste.
Artichokes are in season and a trip to Crooked Sky Farms was in order to harvest a fresh bounty for my Lemon Braised Artichokes over Spaghetti. This dish is quite the homage to Spring when fresh and light meals are what we look forward to enjoying on the patio underneath twinkling lights and amongst great company.
While braising may sound like hours of cooking is required, artichokes are an exception. Seasoned liberally with herbs and zesty lemon, it takes no time at all for these artichokes to be infused with vibrant flavors. Come to think of it, as I pulled the braised artichokes from the oven, I quickly thought these would be delicious on top of garlic-rubbed toasted crostini. I’ll keep that in mind for next time.
For now, a quick toss in hot spaghetti and spinach was perfect. For those carnivores out there, adding grilled chicken that’s been marinated in lemon juice and garlic would be perfect – and maybe a shaving of parmesan cheese as well. Cheers to a wonderful meal and Crooked Sky Farms for growing such wonderful artichokes.
Lemon Braised Artichokes over Spaghetti Recipe
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 lemons, juice and zest
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp dried rosemary
3 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
pinch of ground pepper, plus extra for seasoning
6 medium to large artichokes
1 lemon half
1 lb thin spaghetti noodles
4 cups baby spinach, washed
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine the olive oil, lemon, thyme, fennel seeds, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper in a baking dish; mix well and set aside.
Snap the outer leaves from the artichokes. Cut off the top half and using a paring knife, trim down to the heart and rub cut surfaces with the lemon half to avoid discoloration. Cut the heart in half and scrape out the choke with a spoon. Cut each piece in half again and coat in the herb mixture. Cover the baking dish with foil and cook until the artichokes are tender, about 45 minutes.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook spaghetti according to the package. Drain the noodles and in a large bowl, toss the spaghetti with the spinach, artichokes and herb mixture. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Joanna Meyer, writer of the Baked by Joanna blog, studies Food Industry Management at Arizona State University and is an aspiring Food Creative. Aside from being a wonderful daydreamer, she enjoys gardening (veggies and fruit of course!), snapping photos of delicious meals and sharing her love of everything edible. To learn more about Joanna and her enthusiasm for food, please visit bakedbyjoanna.com and follow her on Twitter @bakedbyjoanna.
If you’ve been to St. Francis you already know Aaron Chamberlin’s signature style of locally-sourced foods, simply prepared and offered in a space with textural modern design.
The all-day restaurant simply called, Phoenix Public Market Café, opens tomorrow and we got a chance to sneak in and give you a photo tour of what you’ll find at this much anticipated restaurant, giving new familiar energy to the space.
After entering through the main entrance, the coffee/cocktail bar is to the right featuring a pass through window to the outdoor patio.
Rotisserie chicken will be an anchor on the menu here.
Freshly baked pastries on display next to the walk-up ordering counter.
Have you heard of Dynamic Farms yet? If you haven’t, here’s your chance to get caught up. We ran into Caitlin Smith at the Central Farmer’s Market recently and wanted to learn more about the farm she and her partner Tim Carrillo runs in Tempe. We love their vibe and want to spread the love of this young urban farmer couple who started up Dynamic Farms two years ago.
Here’s our interview with Caitlin who shares the challenges of farming in the desert, her favorite swiss chard pesto recipe and their plans for expansion.
What is Dynamic Farms?
Dynamic Farms is a pesticide-free urban farm located in Tempe. We specialize in naturally grown produce for local restaurants and farmers markets around the valley. We also sell our vegetable plant starts at farmers markets for those who want to start edible gardens and urban farms of their own!
Who is Dynamic Farms?
The team behind Dynamic Farms consists of Arizona natives, Tim Carrillo, 24, and Caitlin Smith, 22. We started Dynamic Farms almost two years ago by transforming all 7,000 square feet of our backyard into an edible urban farm. Although it’s just the two of us that built and run the farm, we couldn’t have done it without the support of our families.
What makes your farm different?
Our farm is different because we took the training we received while working on a 6 acre, certified naturally grown production farm in Virginia and combined it with our knowledge of urban farming to create Dynamic Farms. We did this to ensure we’re producing the highest quality, natural vegetables at a production level but doing so on a much smaller scale. We do everything by hand, we grow everything from untreated, organic seed, and we don’t spray any chemicals or pesticides. We’ve also designed our beds so that everything is protected under shade cloth, allowing us to grow even tender greens during harsh summer months.
You mentioned that you don’t have separate day jobs that that you’ve jumped in head first. How has that been so far?
Ditching our day jobs and jumping in head first has definitely been a heck of an experience! Farming is unpredictable which makes some months much more challenging than others. I think at the end of the day though, it only pushes us harder because it’s all we’re riding on. It forces us to go outside of our comfort zone because we don’t have that nice financial cushion to back us up. Some months it can be really scary but we did it because we believed in it, and because it’s our passion to help feed and educate others.
Where can people find your food?
You can find our produce and plant starts at the Central Farmers Market on Saturday mornings and the Ahwatukee Farmers Market on Sunday mornings. You can also find some of our produce at St. Francis restaurant in Phoenix as well as the Lobby Grill in Phoenix. We love getting to interact with the public at the markets but it’s been a lot of fun getting to see delicious ways our produce is being used at local restaurants around the Walley.
What’s been the biggest challenge of becoming a farmer?
The biggest challenge with becoming a farmer is that the days are long, the work can be exhausting, and the pay isn’t always great at first. Farming is also very unpredictable, especially in Arizona. One particularly bad summer afternoon, or random frost in December can wipe out an entire crop of something if you’re not prepared. It’s also been tough for us because we’re competing with big, well established farms who have access to acres of land, machinery, and green house systems. Our farm is very mom and pop-ish compared to them because we’re operating on such a small scale which sometimes hurts us, and at other times helps us.
What’s been the biggest unexpected reward of farming?
The biggest, unexpected reward would probably be all the amazing people it’s given us the opportunity to meet. Every time we’ve left a farmers market or just dropped off a delivery at a restaurant, we leave feeling great because we got the chance to help others nourish themselves and their families through a local, sustainable economy. We’ve made some great friends, learned some awesome growing/cooking tips, and have met a few characters along the way.
Any favorite summertime recipes?
One of our favorite summertime recipes is a pesto recipe with a twist. This recipe uses swiss chard instead of basil, and you also use cilantro, jalapeño, lime, and garlic. We found the recipe here: http://www.closetcooking.com/2012/02/swiss-chard-pesto.html and it goes great on a cold pasta, or on sweet potato tacos!
Where will we find you when you’re not farming or at the markets?
When we’re not farming or at a market we’re spending time with our animals or families. We’re big foodies so we love getting little treats from the farmers markets every week and getting to cook or bake something up with it at home. I’m currently going to school at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts for a Transformational Psychology degree that focuses on holistic nutrition and urban farming. We also love staying active and making yummy green juices with veggies from the garden!
Any special summer tunes you’re listening to right now to keep you energized out in the dirt?
Our average farming tunes usually consist of Mumford & Sons, The Black Keys, Passion Pit, or sometimes even a little Justin Timberlake! It varies from day to day, more relaxing days get more of a bluegrass feel while our hard work days require something more energetic to push us through.
Any fun future plans for Dynamic Farms in the coming months?
Right now we’re currently working on expanding Dynamic Farms to an acre pasture over in Laveen where some friends of our have agreed to let us farm on a small portion of their land. Right now we’re just using it to experiment with different growing methods to improve our knowledge but we hope to soon use it to provide more great produce for the markets and restaurants!
A few months ago, I stumbled upon an article about a Tucson couple, David and Kathryn Heininger, who decided to leave the rat race behind for an adventure in off- the-grid homesteading in Northern Arizona. Soon thereafter, they serendipitously found themselves starting a goat cheese dairy on their property called the Black Mesa Ranch. When I learned that they would be hosting an open house in April, I jumped at the chance to meet this amazing couple and their goats in Snowflake, AZ.
Black Mesa Ranch’s goat cheese dairy consists of roughly twenty to thirty Nubian goats. Nubian goats are known for their adaptability to desert environments and produce the highest percentage of butterfat content in their milk; a cheese maker’s dream.
Providing the absolute top quality cheeses starts with raising and caring for goats like they are part of your own family. That’s what these goats are to Kathryn and David. This is most evident in the extensive online photo albums, bios, and updates of each of their goats on their website.
Kathryn manages the “girls”, while David, a professionally trained chef, is the artisan cheese maker. The beauty of Black Mesa Ranch is David and Kathryn’s simple and practical approach to producing a superior product. Simply put by David, “happy goats make happy milk make happy cheese”.
Kathryn spearheaded the efforts in BMR becoming Certified Humane in 2011. The Certified Humane Raised and Handled® program is a certification and labeling program that is the only animal welfare label requiring the humane treatment of farm animals from birth through slaughter. The goal of the program is to improve the lives of farm animals by driving consumer demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices. To date, BMR is one of only two goat dairies in the country that holds this recognition.
In addition, where most ranches separate the baby kids from the adult goats, the kids at BMR roam freely with the rest of the herd, which is reflective of their natural habitat. At the same time, the kids are bottle fed to properly socialize and create a bond between them and their human caregivers. These were the friendliest and happiest goats I have ever encountered.
Their herd of goats range freely across their 280 acre ranch where they forage across the desert landscape. This produces a seasonal flavor to the cheese, depending on what the goats have been feasting upon. This is a highlight to foodies and top local chefs eager to discover the seasonal differences in flavors within the cheese. Black Mesa Ranch cheeses are sought after by top Arizona restaurants such as Quiessence, Pizzeria Bianco, and Rancho Pinot.
But simple doesn’t always mean easy. The “girls” need to be milked twice daily. While many commercial dairies “pool” their milk over several days to make cheese, BMR’s milk goes straight from the milking parlor to the cheese kitchen where they make their cheese twice a day. They work in small batches (no more than 14 gallons at a time) to ensure quality control. Kathryn jokingly states that working on your own ranch means that “you can pick the 16 hours of the day you want to work.” But their efforts shine through in their award winning cheeses that regularly nab top honors at the annual American Dairy Goat Association competition.
Their fresh goat cheese is distinctively creamy with a subtle hint of tartness, without the harsh “goaty” flavor many other cheeses have. But perhaps the best testament to this was seeing seven children at the open house ravenously devour the cheese and chocolates in the tasting room. I was lucky to have gotten a couple of bites. On a seasonal basis, BMR produces an array of chocolates and other confections. Their made from scratch goat milk fudge (no fluff here) is to die for delicious.
Black Mesa Ranch is also known for their breeding and selling of nationally recognized Nubian goats. The superior genetics of their goats (has earned them top awards year after year by the Dairy Goat Association among other distinguishments. Their website also chronicles a kidding diary by Kathryn, and a wealth of information on how to raise and care for your own goats.
David reflects, “I think the love we have for the animals, and the love they have for the ranch, and being here, and doing what they do naturally, I think that passes through to the cheese.” We couldn’t agree more, Dave.
Here’s the video Whole Foods made last year at Black Mesa Ranch:
Allyson Perreault is a food writer and recipe developer. She is the creator of www.localfarmfoodie.com, which features cooking and eating locally in Arizona. She is trying to convince her husband and HOA to let her have a goat.
Photo credit: Allyson Perreault, Local Farm Foodie
Attending the Phoenix Style Collective blogger conference was an opportunity for Good Food Allies to visit with the Arizona blogger scene as it relates to good food – ‘cause we know these bloggers are already sharing loads of good food stories.
We firmly believe that the easiest way to live a happier, healthier life is by knowing where your food comes from, and what we found out after attending the PSCBC was fashionistas are right there with us connecting and sharing.
We heard from many great speakers like Sarah from EMMA Magazine where they feature delicious recipes as part of their lifestyle content and even have beautiful photos from a shoot they did in Downtown Phoenix at Frances and Urban Cookies (among others) in their April issue. We also love their tortilla española recipe from that same issue.
Chelsea Brown is iced coffee obsessed (we are too) and loves to share her snaps of her favorite local coffee haunts on her blog, Tea Talk. Here she is brunching and toting her adorable Mason Bar Company tumbler of coffee:
Designers and boutique owners know the value of supporting local better than anyone and while blogging may be more abstract we often hit close to home with our agreement on how food and fashion go together.
These style advocates are speaking out about their ideas and inspiring others. We talked to fashionistas who love putting on their favorite sunnies and shopping at the Gilbert Farmer’s Market, the Phoenix Downtown Public Market and other local farmer’s markets.
Jessie from Style and Pepper inspired us all with her blog success and regularly posts about good food, healthy lifestyle and outfits of course. All these amazing ladies and many more came together to learn from each other and share their awesome stories. We all have an interest in creating, whether it’s the latest design, blog or the food on your dinner table.
Photo credit to Phoenix is Haute, EMMA, Tea Talk, and Style and Pepper, respectively.
Next Wednesday plan to head down to downtown Gilbert to visit one the sweetest dang BBQ joints in the Southwest. The one with the darling 1929 brick building, murals, smoked meats and that root beer.
Every year, they thank their customers with free BBQ and are planning to serve over 5,000 meals. To make the day even more special they’re incorporating a book drive by inviting you bring new or gently used books (for adult readers) that will then be donated to the Gilbert non-profit Loving through Literacy.
Here’s a rundown of next Wednesdays giveaway details:
Hours: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm (closed between 3:00 pm and 4:00 pm)
Free meal includes:
Choice of a pulled pork or chicken breast sandwich
Fresh homemade coleslaw, BBQ Pit Beans, and a drink.
There will be children’s sized sandwiches available for the little ones
Editor’s note: We’ve been big fans of Joe and Tad (and the rest of the gang) since we (Jen) was their “Coke lady,” as in Coca-Cola representative back in 2000 when they started their customer appreciation days 50,000 free meals ago.
Heads up Tucsonans and those affiliated with the University of Arizona, here’s a perfect opportunity to share you voice and gather to make some good food work happen. Local food heroes Gary Nabhan and Dr. Jeff Silvertooth will be speaking about the current state of affairs and what can be accomplished from this summit.
“At this working summit, participants will develop action plans for how University of Arizona entities and partners can support socially equitable, economically viable, and environmentally sound local food systems. To break out of our disciplinary silos, this summit will foster collaboration among various University departments and partner organizations who are working to develop Arizona’s local food systems.”
Gather up your friends and coworkers and let’s continue to foster positive work toward our local food system. Details of the event are below:
Growing up around horses, it’s natural to have barn animal sidekicks like chickens, geese, peacocks, and goats running around, too. I was able to observe these animal’s natural behaviors and watch them create bonds, take dirt baths, scratch for bugs and form escape plans to eat an extra flake of hay.
Many of us already know the horrors of factory farms and how they ruin an animal’s chance to express any of these characteristics. It is always hard to hear or watch the suffering that goes on at the expense of our eating habits but an occasional reminder serves as motivation to get back into action and do our part to look for the good egg of best practices.
Here are 6 good reasons to avoid factory farmed eggs and the labels they hide behind.
#1. Chickens (and turkeys) are not protected under the Humane Slaughter Act, which is a federal law that requires some animals to be rendered insensible to pain before they are slaughtered. Get ready, this next part is hard to read. According to Farm Sanctuary 260 million male chicks are killed each year upon hatching by methods like being gassed, ground up fully conscious, or piped down a tube to an electrified “kill plate” (all female hens are sent to slaughter after they are no longer useful egg layers).
#2. Battery cages are where 95% of egg laying hens spend their lives, commonly hold 5 -10 birds and have less than the size of a sheet of paper to call their own. These cramped quarters lead to extreme feather loss, bruises and other injuries.
#3. Debeaking is a common practice where the tip of a chick’s beak (filled with nerves) is sliced off with a hot blade with no numbing. Debeaking the birds is desired because of the abnormal feather pecking that results from the intense stress the chickens undergo in their situations of confinement.
#4. Forced molting is the intentional starvation (up to 14 days) to create shock in a hen’s body and induce molting that doesn’t happen naturally inside the conditions of a factory farm. This process tricks the hen’s body into laying additional eggs during a time when her hormone cycle would be taking a break from producing eggs.
#5. “Free Range” is a label we throw around a lot and many consumers ease their mind and justify buying eggs because of this label. The USDA definition only states that the animals have access to the outdoors. In reality this means pretty much nothing. No provisions are made to the size, accessibility to this space or to the overall quality of the animal’s environment.
#6. Certified organic is not as good as it may sound. Is simply means that the chickens are fed an organic vegetarian diet and are required to have access to the outdoors but the duration or size is not specified. Debeaking and forced molting through starvation is permitted.
This PBS video can help illustrate some of the labeling myths that confuse us all:
The good news is that there are SO many great farmers that produce eggs locally where chickens have real ability to range free, take a dirt bath, nest and perch. We owe it to these animals to allow them a life of respect and compassion.
The details about this massive explosion in Texas this week in are still coming out but we know that the fallout is nothing short of a disaster.
The small fire that may have been caused by a cigarette at a retail fertilizer facility in Texas has killed at least 5 and as many as 15. The city has been in the process of evacuating from the toxic fumes.
Ireland and several other countries have banned ammonium nitrate, the synthetic chemical compound in question in these fertilizer explosions. Many of today’s media stories are referencing America’s deadliest industrial disaster at the Port of Texas City in 1941 when 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded killing 531 people. That same 1941 disaster also initiated the first class-action lawsuit against our government under the Federal Tort Claims Act that had been enacted just one year earlier.
Of course, ammonium nitrate is cheap and easy and we understand why that would be desirable to shareholders in the business of making a profit. Still, why are we using explosive fertilizer? Apparently, the human cost is less important than saving a buck.
“A ton of ammonium nitrate fertilizer costs, on average, about $100 less than a ton of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer, one of the best alternatives…It’s quite effective with fruit trees, for example, providing more efficient nitrogen delivery than ammonium sulfate. Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is also popular for top-dressing pastures at midsummer since it evaporates more slowly than some competitors.” – Brendan Koerner, Slate Magazine
What do you think needs to happen to keep more people safe from horrific disasters such as these? Tell us your thoughts.
If you are curious about what it takes to become a successful farmer, the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County is offering a two-day workshop for people interested in starting a farm in Arizona. The workshop will explore the realities, benefits and challenges of starting a new farming operation.
This workshop will provide participants with the opportunity to interact with local producers and lenders, visit three successful farms in the Phoenix area, and learn from experts about accessing land and capital, obtaining credit, writing solid business plans, insurance, equipment needs, marketing, food safety, irrigation, farm diversification, and organic certification.
It seems as though a new wave of conscientious farming practices is underway and this is a great chance to get involved in the action! If you are looking for an excuse to get out for a weekend of farm education or are serious about starting up your own farming operation check out the details below and confirm your spot! Registration is limited to 65 participants.
Pavle Milic is known for his smooth Colombian accent and sweet salutations while tending to guests at his restaurant FnB co-owned by bad-ass chef and vegetable whisperer Charleen Badman. We definitely don’t wan’t to play favorites with these two as we are enamored with them both. However, today we wanted to sneak upstairs at FnB into the little sound booth that could where the latest community “radio” station will be housed. It’s called My AZ Now Radio and it’s their latest creation to bring the community together through food.
Please enjoy the show (and a note to those with kids, you might want to cover their ears during a few parts):
My respect and admiration for farmers is always growing. I realized last weekend after I visited a small family farm in Camp Verde Arizona, how little I actually know about growing food. It was a beautiful and sunny day for a good visit. The willow trees and lovely sound of the irrigation canal gave life to the farm’s name. Willowbrook Farm is owned and operated by Denise Gould and her two daughters. The farm is dedicated to growing a variety of nutritious seasonal fruits and vegetables. At the moment the farmers are planting onions, garlic, chard and kale and fresh apricots, plums, peaches tomatoes, free range eggs, squash and honey make their seasonal appearance. This farm strives to be in balance with nature, using all organic methods focusing on soil quality and water conservation. They spend time hand planting every crop and are happy to be part of two farmers markets and a CSA in the Verde Valley. The farm is home to a variety of chickens, three beehives and towering pecan trees.
Talking with Denise filled me with a desire to know and understand more about actual farming techniques. From water conservation to soil management techniques, there is so much to learn. Willowbrook Farms takes a very scientific approach to finding the right balance of nutrients in their soil and regular testing takes the guess work out of providing a healthy home base for their crops. I learned about the importance of microbial diversity in the soil and how to responsibly manage an irrigation canal, all while listening to the happy clucking of chickens outside the farmhouse doors. It was so refreshing and encouraging to see ideas about holistic and sustainable farming in action!
The experience was also very humbling and highlighted how much we take farmers for granted. There is so much work to be done on even a small piece of land. We are often so far removed from our source of food we never stop to think that behind every product there is a farmer, plant or animal that worked hard to provide for us. This is why visiting farms is more than just a nice change of scenery; it is a reminder of how lucky we are. It puts things into perspective and makes me want to support local farmers that much more. Next time you visit the farmers market chat about a farm tour and I think you will be surprised at how positively the inquire will be received. Farmers want you to ask these questions about how the food is produced and remind you that food does not magically appear on grocery store shelves. I recommend a good visit for every eater. It is a reality check and an opportunity to be more thankful for every mouthful.
It was a hot Arizona summer day when I got stung by my first bee.
I was sitting up on a fence post watching the horses work up a sweat cantering around in the pasture. As I jumped down, I felt a sharp jab under my arm. It burned and itched for a couple hours then I got over it. But as a culture we have decided to outcast and fear a creature that provides a huge service to humanity. What most people picture when they think of a bee, is getting stung.
What we tend to ignore, is the fact that bees are the primary pollinators for all produce. Without them, you can practically kiss goodbye juicy apples, pears, peaches, oranges, and blueberries just to name a few. Our diet would be all starches and pretty darn boring without these helpful creatures. What is more concerning than our general fear of honeybees, is their dramatic rate of disappearance. Over the last two decades, the number of beehives, estimated by the Agriculture Department to be 2.4 million, has dropped by a quarter and the number of beekeepers by half. To cope with the losses, beekeepers have been scouring bees to fulfill their contracts with growers from as far as Australia. There is definitely something strange going on here.
Scientists have coined the term “Colony Collapse Disorder” which basically means the abrupt and rapid loss of adult bee populations. There is no clear indication of what exactly is happening to the bees. However, it is clear the bees are undergoing an extreme amount of environmental stress. From intense use of pesticides, malnutrition, and migratory beekeeping, the typical honeybee is subject to a
magnified amount of toxins and stress than their ancestors. The combination of all these effects makes for a weaker bee colony and one that is susceptible to more diseases like mites which have the capacity to do some major damage. In addition, the insecticides used to try to kill mites are harming the ability of queen bees to produce as many worker bees and the queens are living half as long as they
did just a few years ago.
What is so fascinating about the issue of Colony Collapse Disorder is the red flag that is frantically being waved in front of our nose. When bees are dying it is an indicator of environmental imbalance. If this is happening to bees that come in contact with the pollen of our food, then what is happening to us, the ones that eat this food?
With the domination of industrialized agriculture bees have less bio-diverse crops to choose from and so do we. Many of the problems we face can be traced back to our obsession with monocultures. They eliminate the biodiversity bees and plenty of other species depend on. For example, take the 740,000 acres (enough to cover the state of Rhode Island) of almond orchards in California. When we eliminate a ecosystem full of plants growing and blooming at different intervals we are depriving alternative food sources to pollinators like the honeybee. To keep the bees’ energy up and while they are transported and pollinating, beekeepers now feed them “protein supplements” and a liquid mix of corn syrup. Tens of billions of bees are transported around the country every year in order to pollinate rising numbers of mono-cultured acres because beekeepers now earn many times more renting their bees out to pollinate crops than in producing honey themselves. There is something wrong with this picture, we are feeding bees high fructose corn syrup as a replacement for the natural biodiversity of a typical ecosystem. In a system so reliant on outside inputs there is no hope of sustaining it.
Instead of trying to sustain a broken system however, what we need are eaters who support smaller scale biodynamic farmers. From a positive perspective there are incredible farms and beekeepers fighting to keep rich and diverse farms alive. Honeybee sanctuaries are springing up everywhere, even in inner city habitats! Search The Good Food Finder for local honey in your area. From there you can check out great farms like Skull Valley Lavender Farm, nestled in the middle of the Prescott National Forest who makes lavender infused honey http://goodfoodfinder.com/?s=honey.
For more on the fascinating life and troubles of the honeybee check out the documentary Queen of the Sun. It is very informative and outlines positive solutions to help us get back in balance with the natural talents of the honeybee and our environment as a whole.
I was invited to be a guest earlier this month on the mountaineering podcast In Ice Axe We Trust. They had a show dedicated to Arizona and Arizona’s highest peak, Humphrey’s Peak in Flagstaff. This podcast is put on by Chris and Matt, you may or may not know them by their twitter handles Last_Adventurer and ThePeakSeeker, respectively. In the interest of full disclosure, I have known Chris since junior high and we’ve kept in touch through social media over the years and have learned of our mutual interest in radio/podcasts.
An important part of trailblazing is staying fueled and thankfully these guy love good food. They also invited @JesstheCCC to be a guest host and she shared her favorite local foods from Phoenix, too.
When I was a kid I loved getting my hands dirty, having mud pie bake sales and taking mud baths. Now back then it was a little more socially acceptable and some may even say endearing to be a muddy mess and live in the barn with the horses. Now I have to keep my dirt time to a minimum but it always amazes me how little time and acknowledgement we give to such a powerful substance.
Dirt is the true Mother Earth. It is the foundation for all life and civilization on this planet. We rarely give it enough credit and most of the time we are simply annoyed by its presence. Soil is just a fancier way to talk about dirt and get a little more respect. But whatever you call it, the ground provides free ecosystem services vital for the balance of the biosphere. Billions of microorganisms take up residence in the soil and contribute to much needed biodiversity.
What does good food and good dirt have in common? Well quite a lot actually. Healthy biodynamic soil provides a nurturing environment to the crops we eat. Good soil has a strong immune system and doesn’t require synthetic chemicals to keep it alive and kicking. Good soil has the natural ability to fight of pests and utilize nutrients. However, the nature of industrialized farming does exactly the opposite of what dirt needs to become good fertile soil.
Firstly, large-scale farms use massive tractors and equipment for everything. The constant tilling, planting and harvesting of monocultures yield after yield depletes the soil of all its natural fertilizers and nutrients. Topsoil is lost to the wind easily because of intensive plowing and it becomes necessary to use more and more artificial fertilizers and pesticides to produce the food. When our body’s immunity is low and we chose the remedy of antibiotics over and over to get a quick fix, we are not addressing the root of the issue but simply masking the real problem. It is the same for soil quality and industrialized farming practices.
Dirt helps illuminate the natural rule of interconnectivity. We depend on dirt to supply the natural resources we use to build our homes, make our products, fuel our lives and most basically feed us. When we cease to appreciate how connected we are to the environment and treat the natural world solely as a commodity the whole system is thrown off balance. Almost 35% of all greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere due to anthropogenic activities since 1850 are linked to land use changes . We have lost one third of global topsoil in the past century due to poor farming and forestry practices. This loss leads to more droughts and desertification in some areas and floods in others. Conflicts over dirt and fertile soil are extremely common especially in areas experiencing harsh climate shifts or those who are living in deforested and polluted lands. This unbalance brings us to seek solutions and help bring the dirt back to life.
There are many soil restoration practices and ways to regenerate the vitality of dirt. Many farmers use crop rotation techniques between plants that naturally fix nitrogen like legumes and those that are heavy users. Mixing crops together and encouraging bio diverse farming techniques can reduce pest problems and diseases. Hardy and healthy soil that provides a place for many different plants to sink their roots is not easily eroded or lost. The functions of soil organisms are enhanced, especially helping the cycling of nutrients and with building and maintaining the soil structure.
Finally the financial risk is reduced and food security is enhanced because we have more faith in the natural ability of dirt to do its job and less reliant on outside sources of nutrients. I think its time to start embracing and appreciating dirt on the daily. Lets support our local farmers that are kind to our mother dirt and farm with best practices in mind.
P.S.: Want to learn more about dirt? Check out the film aptly titled, Dirt!.
On Double Check Ranch in Winkelman, is an intimate cabin (named the Thoreauvian Cabin) built right next to the cattle and horse pastures. Paul, the rancher, offered the cabin to Good Food Allies to stay in during the March 2013 pasture dinner weekend. Of course, we said yes.
Good Food Allies helped Paul put on the event for Double Check Ranch this last weekend and it was rather convenient to have had the cabin since Winkelman is about an hour and a half drive from Phoenix.
We fell asleep to the sounds of cattle calling each other — certainly different from what we’re used to and a great memory to bring back home. The cabin has a small sink and microwave, a loft and double size futon. Thankfully, we’re in the mild weather season so we weren’t too hot or too cold. If you do happen to come during the colder part of winter, perhaps you might want to bring your sleeping bags.
Jen loved having an actual outhouse to use — a first for her. It reminded her of a painting her grandmother had made, a picture of a red outhouse of the same exact style with the words: “gone to pot.” That “gone to pot” painting still hangs above her grandmother’s toilet. Perhaps we’ll take a cue and make this photograph below our own bathroom art.
With a few added comforts of home and practically camping under the stars (with no need to pitch a tent), we loved it.
If you do have a telescope, bring it. This is prime star-gazing territory. Bird lovers should note that this is an Audubon-designated Important Birding Area and it’s right next to the San Pedro River.
We wanted to be sure tell you all that Paul has opened it up for rent. We think it’d be a fantastic place to run away from Phoenix for a weekend. Just be sure to bring food, there’s not much in Winkelman beyond the general store that’s down the street from the post office back in town.
Here are more details about the cabin. Channel Thoreau himself when you go, and get inspired with big thoughts and simple living.
Last week, we defined good food. Now, let’s begin to dig a little deeper to discover why it is important to eat good food.
I have to give credit to my parents for teaching me about good food early in my life. My mother especially, is a wiz of health facts, remedies, nutrition and why it’s all important. My passion for food really started in high school on a research project I presented on GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). This senior project started me on a continual journey through documentaries, books, articles, a study abroad and of course a college education. Much of this blog is inspired and sited from an influential book called “Just Food” by James E McWilliams as well as the infamous “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer. Influencial films include Forks Over Knives, Future of Food, Earthlings, Blue Gold… I could go on and on! If you are interested in any of these films check out www.topdocumentaryfilms.com .
#1 Environmental Impact
Most of us conscientious eaters are well versed in environmental issues and realize the role food production plays as part of the problem, as well as a solution. Firstly, industrialized agriculture is a primary driver of deforestation, soil erosion and water contamination. Deforesting land to make room for cash crops like soy, corn and canola, leads to a rapid decline in biodiversity. Monocultures become the replacement (a monoculture is basically when a single variety of crop is grown on a mass scale). You could view biodiversity like an environmental immune system. When it is low, the ecosystem is more vulnerable to attacks from pests and the soil quality decreases drastically because less friendly critters can survive these harsh conditions. This translates to mass amounts of synthetic chemical inputs to make up for the lack of nutrients. Applying heavy pesticides and fertilizers like nitrogen lead to run-off pollution and the contamination of waterways downstream. The industrialized agricultural industry is energy and resource intensive and ultimately unsustainable.
#2 Animal Welfare
Livestock production also has a tremendous impact on the plant. The rapid ascendance of factory farms has produced unintended and often unanticipated environmental and public health concerns. From the impact of growing mass amounts of grain to feed the animals, the unappetizing amount of waste they produce (not to mention methane, which is 20 times more efficient greenhouse gas than CO2*), livestock truly do cast a very long environmental shadow.
In the US alone an astounding 80 percent of all grain produced goes toward animal feed. The conversion of forest to cropland has been enormous in the past century and is still occurring on a massive scale in places like South America and Central Africa. According to the World Wildlife Fund, 12-15 million hectares of forest are lost each year, the equivalent of 36 football fields per minute! From a natural resources perpective, fifty times as much water is used to produce a pound of meat than a pound of grain. It takes 2400 liters of fresh water to make a hamburger, compared to 13 litters to grow a tomato. Not only is raising livestock for food a huge waste of energy, animals raised on factory farms are subject to unspeakable cruelty. These animals never get a chance to see the light of day, have room to turn around, roll in the dirt or even eat a blade of real grass for that matter. Because of this stressful environment, animals are driven to self destructive behaviors and are often treated inhumanely by workers and subject to unnecessary violence.
Don’t be fooled by misleading marketing.
For example buying “free-range” does not mean the chickens have a chance to even get outside. “Free-range” according to the USDA means that the animals must have “access to the outdoors”. This definition means absolutely nothing and leaves plenty of loopholes for corporate greed. A “free-range” chicken generally has 1 to 2 square feet of maneuverability inside a factory shed instead of the typical 50 square inches. To hammer in this point, a chicken needs at least 75 square inches to simply stretch out his wings.
Organic does not mean cruelty free.
Buying organic milk does not mean the dairy cows get to graze or have room to stretch their legs. Most industrialized dairy farms keep their cows perpetually lactating and hooked up to milking machines. This concept goes for meat as well. Organic meat may eliminate antibiotics but it does not ensure the animal was treated humanely. Allowing animals to graze on pasture is a more environmentally friendly and sustainable solution because well-managed pasturelands can act as carbon sinks, preventing carbon for being released into the atmosphere and providing a better life to the animals.
Because of the conditions in which our industrial food is raised, there is a tremendous effort just to keep it alive. Factory farmed meat comes leaden with hormones like rBGH and antibiotics intended to keep the animal alive during it’s miserable upbringing. Grains and produce farmed on an industrial scale are soaked in synthetic chemicals to combat pests and ensure the item makes it to the grocery store shelves. Consuming even small amounts of pesticides can lead to weakened immune and nervous systems and has even been linked to cancer.
#4 Support Community
Lastly, by choosing good food we are more likely to support local farmers and community producers. We can slowly shake the hold “Big Ag” has on our farmers, our environment and our health. Buying produce straight from the source ensures a higher nutrient level because the items are harvested closer to maturity. Organic or not, smaller scale farms incorporate a more holistic view of farming and often embrace sustainable practices like crop rotation, no-till soil conservation, and water management.
There are so many reasons to eat good food with awareness and compassion. The horrors of factory farms go unspoken. We must raise our voices and vote with our dollars because our positive food choices create a feeling of empowerment. We choose with every bite and have the ability to improve our environment, support our community, show kindness to animals and nourish our bodies, with every good food selection.
So many of you entered our Instagram contest to win tickets to the Desert Botanical Garden, which ended last night. It was a joy to see all the thoughtful food photos and clever ideas of what good food means to you.
It was a difficult choice but we decided upon marneyb1209‘s “health and life.” We love that it incorporates both the healthfulness of whole, real, good food and life. Here’s our definition of good food. We think life (as related to good food) means that it gives a life (or a living wage) to the food producers and it gives a good life of sharing delicious food with your friends and family. And we think the pic of the gentleman holding the sign is adorable.
Here’s the winning photo:
Thanks so much to all who participated! We had so much fun with you all and seeing all your create snaps.
We are so happy about the weather lately. This is arguably Arizona’s most romantic season with the cool morning breezes and warm (but not too hot yet) sun in the afternoon.
We’re packing up our cars with our gear to set up a pretty booth to greet you at Devoured Phoenix Culinary Classic. So, if you’re going (and you know it’s sold out, right?) come say hello! We’d love it!
Especially enjoying Justin Lee‘s Instagram feed lately.
This fun and new (to us) food website started by four female veteran journalists who want to explore why we eat what we eat: American Food Roots.
If you’ve enjoyed going to the Devoured Culinary Classic, and we have, you’ve got a few people to thank and Margaree Bigler is one of them. We chased her down this week during planning at the Phoenix Art Museum. Devoured is this Saturday and it’s sold out, save for a few giveaways and Facebook purchasing exchanges.
In this podcast you’ll find out Margaree’s love of fashion and civic pride. And you’ll learn that recording a podcast on just a mildly windy day makes for imperfect audio. Asi es la vida. I’m learning.
Please enjoy our second podcast with Local First Arizona’s Local Foods Representative and one of our favorite people. Click below to play.