7 September 2010

Tonight we’ll be exploring local foods with special attention to a campaign of natural food co-ops nationwide called “Eat Local America!” We’ll be talking with Liza Tedesco, the general manager of Chico Natural Foods and Janae Lloyd, marketing and membership manager of what we fondly refer to as “Chico Natty.”  We’ll also give attention to some of the questions raised about the value of eating locally—economic, environmental, and health-wise.

A Debate Over Local Foods

The Eat Local, America! website has established a challenge for people who’d like to try to eat more local food. Here’s the challenge: “If you’re a seasoned locavore – someone who already eats lots of local foods – you’re encouraged to set a goal of eating four out of five meals with local food (or roughly 80 percent of your diet). If you’re starting out, you’re encouraged to begin by eating five meals a week made with local foods. And if you’re somewhere in between, you’re encouraged to create your own goal. After all, it’s all about eating, exploring and enjoying local food – and having fun while you’re at it.”

Not everyone is so enthusiastic about the local foods movement, however. New York Times Op-Ed contributor Stephen Budiansky wrote a piece on August 19 entitled, “Math Lessons for Locavores.” Budiansky argues that “the local food movement now threatens to devolve into another one of those self-indulgent — and self-defeating — do-gooder dogmas. Arbitrary rules, without any real scientific basis, are repeated as gospel by “locavores,” celebrity chefs and mainstream environmental organizations. Words like “sustainability” and “food-miles” are thrown around without any clear understanding of the larger picture of energy and land use.”

It is Budiansky’s contention that:

The statistics brandished by local-food advocates to support such doctrinaire assertions are always selective, usually misleading and often bogus. This is particularly the case with respect to the energy costs of transporting food. One popular and oft-repeated statistic is that it takes 36 (sometimes it’s 97) calories of fossil fuel energy to bring one calorie of iceberg lettuce from California to the East Coast. That’s an apples and oranges (or maybe apples and rocks) comparison to begin with, because you can’t eat petroleum or burn iceberg lettuce.

It is also an almost complete misrepresentation of reality, as those numbers reflect the entire energy cost of producing lettuce from seed to dinner table, not just transportation. Studies have shown that whether it’s grown in California or Maine, or whether it’s organic or conventional, about 5,000 calories of energy go into one pound of lettuce. Given how efficient trains and tractor-trailers are, shipping a head of lettuce across the country actually adds next to nothing to the total energy bill.

It takes about a tablespoon of diesel fuel to move one pound of freight 3,000 miles by rail; that works out to about 100 calories of energy. If it goes by truck, it’s about 300 calories, still a negligible amount in the overall picture. . . . Overall, transportation accounts for about 14 percent of the total energy consumed by the American food system.

Other favorite targets of sustainability advocates include the fertilizers and chemicals used in modern farming. But their share of the food system’s energy use is even lower, about 8 percent.

The real energy hog, it turns out, is not industrial agriculture at all, but you and me. Home preparation and storage account for 32 percent of all energy use in our food system, the largest component by far.

A single 10-mile round trip by car to the grocery store or the farmers’ market will easily eat up about 14,000 calories of fossil fuel energy. Just running your refrigerator for a week consumes 9,000 calories of energy. That assumes it’s one of the latest high-efficiency models; otherwise, you can double that figure. Cooking and running dishwashers, freezers and second or third refrigerators (more than 25 percent of American households have more than one) all add major hits. Indeed, households make up for 22 percent of all the energy expenditures in the United States.”

Again, that by New York Times blogger Stephen Budiansky, and we’ve posted the link to that controversial essay at ecotopiakzfr.net

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/20/opinion/20budiansky.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

 It seems to us that one of the glaring flaws of Budiansky’s argument is toting up energy to produce and transport food on one side of the equation and energy to preserve, store and prepare food on the other side of the equation. Whether food is produced locally or shipped from abroad, it will still have to be preserved, stored and prepared. Budiansky’s sleight of hand with numbers makes us immediately suspicious of his ways of calculating and presenting statistical information.

And we’re not the only ones who are skeptical of Budiansky’s arguments. Grist, a magazine of environmental news and commentary with humorous twist, provided a number of responses. In their feature Grist Talk: Food Fight, they write that the debate is over “whether locavores — those who prefer to eat food grown nearby, versus that grown thousands of miles away and trucked or flown in — are misguided in thinking their food choices are helping to save the planet.”

Ten writers—authors, analysts, and activist—weigh in on the topic of local eating. To read their full responses you can go to www.grist.org and click on the Food link and go to the article “Food Fight: Do Locavores Really Need Math Lessons?”

Food editor, Tom Philpott, takes issue with Budiansky’s contention that there “arbitrary rules” posited by “chefs and environmental organizations

Philpott says, “But he fails to spell out even one of those onerous rules, or name a single locavore, celebrity chef, or organization preaching it.

You know why? Because they don’t really exist; or if they do, they exert no discernible influence on the sustainable food movement. All of the leading lights in the movement who I know think in terms of regional, not strictly local, food economies. Fred Kirschenmann, surely one of the movement’s most influential thinkers, has been advocating for regional food economies, and the importance of mid-sized farms, for at least 15 years.”

Philpott goes on to describe various efforts to work toward regional food systems. And tells Budiansky and those who argue the same line that “No one is going to cajole them — much less force them — to subsist on a 100-mile diet.”

Jill Richardson, author of Recipe for America, agrees:

To begin rebutting this pack of B.S., I must correct his notion of locavory. Despite attempts by national retailers to reduce “local food” to a mere question of miles (i.e. Lay’s potato chips claiming they come from locally grown potatoes), true locavores are after more than just miles. At its heart, the movement is about relationships. When you buy food at the store, your purchasing decision rests mainly on marketing claims. But when I pick up my weekly box of produce from Farmer Phil, I know exactly how and where he grew my food, and that his values are consistent with mine. Organic certification alone does not certify anything other than a minimum bar of standards; by buying from farmers who are part of my community, whose farms I’ve visited, I am contributing to my local economy, supporting my friends’ businesses, and getting great, fresh food. And the farmers from whom I buy are taking care of the land right near where I live.”

 Many of the Grist arguments emphasize other values of the local food movement beyond the issue of food miles. Kerry Trueman, founder of EatingLiberally.org, contends:

Energy efficiency is only one small part of the equation when you add up the reasons to buy local. Other factors include: flavor and nutrition; support for more ecological farming practices; reduction of excess packaging; avoidance of pesticides and other toxins; more humane treatment of livestock and workers; preservation of local farmland; spending one’s dollars closer to home; the farmers market as community center, and so on.”

Budiansky’s support of industrial agriculture comes under attack by Dave Love, project director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future;

Mr. Budiansky’s argument runs thin when we take a hard look at what consolidated industrial farming and food animal production “return to our land,” as he puts it. It is difficult to be in favor of a farming approach that relies upon mono-cropping using genetically modified seeds and synthetic fertilizers. Likewise, food animal production facilities make for poor neighbors when their (virtually unregulated) wastes and associated land application and spray-field sites spread allergens and antibiotic-resistant bacteria throughout farming communities.”

Anna Lappé, author of Diet for a Hot Planet, also finds fault with the notion that our current way of farming is efficient or effective. She focuses on the artificiality, indeed, the political manipulation of crop production in industrial farming:

Budiansky argues that we should be advocating for raising crops in “places where they grow best and with the most efficient technologies” . . . .

In principle, all reasonable people — and I put most locavores in this category even if Budiansky doesn’t — would agree that choices farmers make about what foods to grow, and what time of year to grow them, should be informed by place. I haven’t heard of any locavores advocating for Hudson Valley pineapples.

But a food system based on a simplistic notion of “comparative advantage” is far from the reality of industrial agriculture that Budiansky seems to be defending, and much closer to the one we locavores are fighting for.

In the real world, here’s what happens — and what the sustainable food movement, locavores among them, is working to change: North Carolina becomes the second-largest home of pork in the country, not because pigs have some particular penchant for the Outer Banks, but because the state’s lax labor laws appealed to pork producers and so did the government’s incentives to lure companies like Smithfield.

Another example: The United States comes to dominate the global market for corn (we control 71 percent of the market) not because corn is the best crop we could be growing, either for the ecological health of the Midwest or the physical health of consumers, since most of it is used for high-fat feedlot meat, high-fructose corn syrup, exports, or ethanol. No, corn’s “success” in those uses was made possible in large measure by U.S. government policies propping up the biggest industrial corn growers with $73.8 billion in subsidies from 1995 to 2009.

The reality of our food system has never been, and will probably never be, the result of this mythological “comparative advantage” in a free market. And agribusiness insiders know this. Referring to grain, an Archer Daniels Midland executive once said, “The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians.”

What we grow and where we grow it is the predictable result of massive public subsidies to the largest industrial producers. In this context, the question that we locavores are asking is what kind of support and subsidies should we have, directed at which outcomes, and in whose interest? Do we want a food system that subsidizes chemical farming and feedlot meat production — the kind that has given rise to foodborne illnesses sickening hundreds of thousands every year and spreading salmonella causing a 380 million egg recall? Or one that fosters sustainable practices, fairly paid farmers and food workers, clean water and healthy soils, all while bringing us affordable good-tasting food?”

Eleanor Starmer, Western Region Director at Food & Water Watch, a national consumer advocacy group, takes up the issue of food safety in her essay and is critical of how little choice consumers are given in our current system of farming:

As it happens, I was already doing some food calculations the day Budiansky’s piece ran — but not of the sort he discussed.

My numbers included the following: As of Friday, 450 million eggs originating from two Iowa egg operations — both of which buy feed and chicks from the same company — had been recalled from stores in 14 states for salmonella contamination. These days, record-breaking food recalls are happening with disturbing frequency. We won’t soon forget the 2009 peanut recall that affected nearly 4,000 products; the 2008 recall of 143 million pounds of ground beef, the largest of its kind in history and which included beef distributed through the National School Lunch Program; or the 2006 recall of E. coli-contaminated bagged spinach that sickened hundreds in 26 states.”

. . . [V]irtually our entire meat supply is controlled by four — soon to be three — companies: Tyson, Cargill, Smithfield, and the Brazilian powerhouse JBS, which is vying for a Smithfield takeover. (Grist’s Tom Philpott does the meat math here.) Cargill and two other companies process more than 70 percent of U.S. soybeans, which are in turn fed to livestock and added to processed food products as soy lecithin and other ingredients. And most of our corn — a staple in livestock feed and present in virtually all processed food — is grown from seed developed by one of two companies.

 What does it mean when so few companies control so much of our food? It means that unless we happen to live in a place with a lot of local farmers and the infrastructure to process and distribute their products, we have virtually no control over what we’re eating or feeding to our kids. If these companies choose to raise meat using hormones and antibiotics (and they do), or grow corn from genetically-modified seed (and they do), then that’s what we’ll have access to. And if one thing goes wrong at one of those companies, we all risk being affected.

So here’s my message to Mr. Budiansky: The local foods movement is not so much about choosing between what’s grown here and what’s grown elsewhere. It’s about having any sort of choice at all.”

 The rest of her piece argues eloquently for farm policies and a farm bill that would give more power and control to smaller growers and to consumers.

 http://www.grist.org/article/food-fight-do-locavores-really-need-math-lessons/#mcwilliams

For a detailed and scholarly examination of food miles, we recommend that you visit National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website, a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology….The site explains that:

Recent studies have shown that this distance has been steadily increasing over the last fifty years. Studies estimate that processed food in the United States travels over 1,300 miles, and fresh produce travels over 1,500 miles, before being consumed.” The publication of food miles “addresses how food miles are calculated, investigates how food miles affect producers and consumers, and evaluates methods for curbing the energy intensiveness of our food transportation system.”

Another of the concerns addressed by National Center for Appropriate Techology is nutrition:

The ability to enjoy consistent produce and exotic ingredients at all times of the year is a luxury that, according to many food system analysts, has its price. The farther food travels and the longer it takes en route to the consumer, the more freshness declines and the more nutrients are lost. Many fruits and vegetables are engineered for a long shelf life, sacrificing taste and nutrition for preservation.”

 The site also addresses the carbon footprint of food:

While studies vary, a typical estimate is that the food industry accounts for 10% of all fossil fuel use in the United States.(5) Of all the energy consumed by the food system, only about 20% goes towards production; the remaining 80% is associated with processing, transport, home refrigeration and preparation.”

The site explores how far various foods travel and the modes of transportation used to transport food. They conclude that local foods use less energy and site a number of ways producers can get their food to markets more efficiently, including farmers’ markets, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), direct marketing, and Farm-to-Institution programs.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology site includes with a list of recommendations from for individuals to reduce food miles, adapted from Brian Halweil’s Home Grown: the Case for Local Food in a Global Market.

* Learn what foods are in season in your area and try to build your diet around them.

* Shop at a local farmers’ market. People living in areas without a farmers’ market might try to start one themselves, linking up with interested neighbors and friends and contacting nearby farmers and agricultural officials for help. People can do the same with CSA subscription schemes.

* Eat minimally processed, packaged and marketed food. Generally speaking, the less processing and packaging you see, the less energy went into production and marketing, the less global warming pollution was created.

* Ask the manager or chef of your favorite restaurant how much of the food on the menu is locally grown, and then encourage him or her to source food locally. Urge that the share be increased. People can do the same at their local supermarket or school cafeteria.

* Consolidate trips when grocery shopping. Consider carpooling, public transportation, or a bike trailer for hauling groceries to reduce your personal contribution to food miles.

* Take a trip to a local farm to learn what it produces.

* Limit the amount of meat you consume and when you do buy meat, look for organic or free-range meat produced on sustainable farms.

* Produce a local food directory that lists all the local food sources in your area, including CSA arrangements, farmers’ markets, food co–ops, restaurants emphasizing seasonal cuisine and local produce, and farmers willing to sell direct to consumers year-round.

* Buy extra quantities of your favorite fruit or vegetable when it is in season and experiment with drying, canning, jamming, or otherwise preserving it for a later date.

* Plant a garden and grow as much of your own food as possible.

* Speak to your local politician about forming a local food policy council to help guide decisions that affect the local foodshed.

http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/foodmiles.html

 Our Interview with Liza Tedesco and Janae Lloyd.

Northstate Local Food Resources

We’re lucky here in California to have access to great food sources. In addition to stores that carry local foods, we have a number of farmers’ markets and Community Supported Agriculture (known as CSAs), in addition to some local food networks that give attention to how we can take advantage of local foods. Some of them will be familiar to our listeners. Some may be new.

Local Organic Food
Farmer’s Markets

Chico

Saturdays Year-Round

2nd & Wall, Downtown Chico

7:30 AM-1:00 PM, Rain or Shine

Wednesdays

North Valley Plaza Mall

(at the corner of East Ave & Pillsbury Rd)

June – October • 7:30 AM

Tuesdays

Enloe Market

North Parking Lot, 1528 Esplanade (at 5th Avenue.)

June 2-September 2-6 PM

Wednesdays

University Market

Outside Miriam Library

Year round (weather permitting) 3-5 PM

(Student vendors coming)

Saturdays and Sundays

Butte Community College

Chico Center Campus

2320 Forest

April 10-October 31 9AM-2PM

Wednesdays

Gardeners Swap Meet Free

6 – 8 p.m

(Locations vary in Chico; look for announcements/posters)

cCHAOS

(collaboratively Creating health access opportunities & services)

16th & C Street, Chico CA (in the park)

Fridays

When School is in session–2:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Summer Hours (When School is not in session)– 5-8 PM

Our mission is to facilitate, improve and maintain healthy lifestyles by increasing access to fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts, and opportunities for physical activities and using the consumer safe food shopping environments created by certified farmers markets to develop grassroots community leadership to maximize human health.

www.cchaos.org

Oroville

Saturdays

Municipal Building on Montgomery St.

(between Huntoon & Myers)

May 10th – September • 7:30 AM-12 noon

Paradise

Tuesday Mornings

Paradise Alliance Church

6491 Clark Road (next to P.O.)

June – October

7:30 AM-Noon, Rain or Shine

CSAs—Community Supported Agriculture

(From edible Shasta-Butte)

Barbarosa Ranchers

Year-round Pastured Meat

http://barbarosaranchers.com/

Chaffin Family Orchards

Winter Pasture-Raised Meat and Eggs

http://chaffinfamilyorchards.com/

Churn Creek Meadow Organic Farm

Year-round Organic Fruit and Vegetables

http://ccmof.com/

Freshies—Local Food Gone Wild

Fruit and Vegetables

http://www.freshies530.com/

GRUB

Vegetables (and gleaned fruit)

http://grubchico.org

Little Folks Produce and Meats

Fruit and Vegetables

www.midnightowllivestockranch.com

Pyramid Farms

Summer through Harvest Vegetables

Pyramidfarms2000@yahoo.com

Sawmill Creek Farms

Vegetables

530-877-5734

TurkeyTail Farm

Meat (and more)

cheetah@turkeytailfarm.net

Twining Tree Farm

Winter Fruit and Vegetables

http://twiningtreefarm.wordpress.com/

Windmill Farm

Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables

windmillfarmofgridley.blogspot.com/

Windborne Farm

Vegetable, Grain, and Eggs

windbornecas@yahoo.com

Food Networks

Slow Food Movement—Shasta Cascade

http://www.slowfoodshastacascade.org/

Mission: Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic organization that supports a biodiverse, sustainable food supply, local producers, heritage foodways, and rediscovery of the pleasures of the table. www.slowfoodusa.org

Chico Food Network

Mission Statement:

The purpose of the Chico Food Network is to foster a local food system that contributes to the long-term viability of farms in our region, provides Chico-area residents with fresh, healthy food choices, provides education regarding local food systems, and creates an awareness and interdependence between Chico consumers, food businesses, and local farmers.

http://www.chicofoodnetwork.org/

Weston A. Price

The Chico-Butte Valley Chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation was formed to:

1. Provide a place for members to learn about and access nutrient dense foods.

2. Promote a healthy local food economy

3. Teach about the work and research of Dr. Weston A. Price

4. Promote Sustainable and Grass Based Farming

5. Help members access support and services to facilitate a traditional foods diet.

This chapter meets the 3rd Monday of each month, 6 pm at the Chico Grange.

http://www.meetup.com/Chico-ButteValleyWAPFChapter/

Food Not Bombs

Food Not Bombs . . . [has] hundreds of autonomous chapters sharing free vegetarian food with hungry people and protesting war and poverty. Food Not Bombs is not a charity. . . . For nearly 30 years the movement has worked to end hunger and has supported actions to stop the globalization of the economy, restrictions to the movements of people, end exploitation and the destruction of the earth.

http://www.foodnotbombs.net

Depot Park (W 3rd St & Cedar).

Food share every Sunday Noon

Other Resources

GRUB

Community Gardens: The goal of the Community Garden project is to establish a sustainable food network in Chico. We are achieving this by creating a network of neighborhood gardens that are supported by our community. In order to do this we have two staff members who help match garden space requests with available lots and help establish the gardens and offer ongoing support. We need community members to work the gardens.

Fruit Tree Registry: The goal is to create a registry of trees that are producing fruit that is not used.

GRUB also keeps a binder of food producers–Local, Seasonal, Organic and Bulk.

http://grubchico.org

Miller’s Bakehouse

Natural fermentation

Certified organic grains from Black Ranch, located near Etna, CA

Grains milled on site the day before baking

Whole grains

Wood-fired oven for baking

Whole-grain pastas

www.millersbakehouse.com

Edible Shasta-Butte

Celebrating the Abundance of Local Foods, Season by Season”

www.edibleshastabutte.com