Monthly Archives: March 2009

First Family to Plant White House Vegetable Garden!

From ABC News:

ABC News’ Brian Hartman Reports: President Obama’s latest shovel-ready project is close to home — in fact, right in his own yard. In an effort to promote healthy eating, the first family will be planting a vegetable garden right on the White House grounds.

ABC News’ Ann Compton and Sunlen Miller report that the new White House vegetable garden will be dug up and planted on the South grounds of the White House — near the fountain but out of view of the main house.

Though the 16-acre complex is maintained by the National Park Service, one worker who preferred to remain anonymous assured ABC News that National Park Service staff won’t do the sowing and planting. The White House residence staff will handle that.

As first reported online by food writer Eddie Gehman Kohan, who reports on food issues related to the Obamas, First Lady Michelle Obama told Oprah Winfrey’s “O” magazine, “We’re … working on a wonderful new garden project.”

In the April issue of the magazine, Mrs. Obama tells Winfrey, “We want to use it as a point of education, to talk about health and how delicious it is to eat fresh food, and how you can take that food and make it part of a healthy diet.”

A variety of organic food and sustainable agriculture advocates have been pressing the Obamas to plant such a garden.

Congratulations to our friends at Eat the ViewKitchen Gardeners International, who worked so hard to make this happen!

House Bill to Watch

There’s been some concern about the powers written into HR 875, a bill introduced in the House by Rosa DeLauro. It stated purpose is to “to protect the public health by preventing food-borne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination, and for other purposes.”

There are many elements of the bill of concern to supporters of Slow Food. And if you subscribe to food-related email lists, you’ve probably been getting emails about it describing its dire effects – there have been rumors that it would outlaw organic farming or backyard gardening, or that it would require new regulations on farmers’ markets or direct sales.

As it turns out, some of those threats are exaggerated or even made up. Food & Water Watch, a well-respected watchdog group, has written an analysis showing that some of the scary statements about the bill are myths.The environmental blog Grist published a good entry on HR 875, as well. And the bill’s odds of passing aren’t great.

However, what’s left in the bill is still nothing to look fondly on. It’s mainly a set of measures meant to react to the problems inherent in an industrialized food system – not create new alternatives to that system. And it’s only one of a few other bills currently making their way through the House approval process (like HR 814, which contains the NAIS animal ID progam).

While many food advocates think the approach in these bills is the wrong one, it might be wise to honor the impulse – concern about food – while letting our representatives know about the potentially negative consequences to the legislation. Food and Water Watch makes a wise recommendation:

There is plenty of evidence that one-size-fits-all regulation only tends to work for one size of agriculture – the largest industrialized operations. That’s why it is important to let members of Congress know how food safety proposals will impact the conservation, organic, and sustainable practices that make diversified, organic, and direct market producers different from agribusiness. And the work doesn’t stop there – if Congress passes any of these bills, the FDA will have to develop rules and regulations to implement the law, a process that we can’t afford to ignore.

But simply shooting down any attempt to fix our broken food safety system is not an approach that works for consumers, who are faced with a food supply that is putting them at risk and regulators who lack the authority to do much about it.

The project we take on in reforming America’s food system is a big and complicated one. As we go forward, we’ll be faced with many opportunities to take positions on legislation and be in contact with our representatives. It’ll be important not only to react – to let Congress know when it’s on the wrong path – but also to work with our Congresspeople to let them know what it is we’re looking for. Yes, the industrialized food system is under-regulated and puts more people in danger than should be the case. But the way to solve that should not be to unfairly burden small farms and organic growers with regulations that threaten to put them out of business – especially when they’re not the source of the problem. We need to help our representatives understand the differences between industrialized and sustainable farming and food production practices. W’re in a collaborative process of citizenship – of educating ourselves and our representatives while we try to craft a new food policy, together.

This hasn’t been the first, and won’t be the last of many pieces of legislation we’ll need to look carefully at in the coming years. Now is a good time to begin to develop our skills in reading and understanding the legislation and seeking sources of analysis that we can trust. It’s also important to be sure we’re responding to facts, not exaggerations or misunderstandings of legislation. But regardless of whether everything is accurately represented to us when we first learn about it, it’s still a great time to open up the conversation with legislators. Once you have the facts, and know your opinion on HR 875 or HR 814, why not send an email or make a phone call to your representative today? Introduce yourself and say hello. We’re going to need to know each other well.

–Michelle Moon
[This is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Slow Food Seacoast, its members, sponsors, or partners.]

Winter Workshop: From Pasture to Plate

Announcing a winter workshop sponsored by Seacoast Eat Local. Online registration: www.seacoasteatlocal.org/workshop/meat.html

From Pasture to Plate: Exploring Business Models for Processing & Selling Farm-Raised Meat, Poultry and Eggs
Thursday March 26, 3:30 – 6:30pm
Brentwood Community Center, 190 Route 125, Brentwood, NH
Workshop fee: $10 per person (include refreshments catered by Fresh Local Bayside)
Please pre-register!

- Gail McWilliam-Jellie, Division of Agricultural Development, NH Dept of Agriculture: “Finding Markets for Your Farm Products & NH Legislative Update”

- Janis Conner, Division of Regulatory Services, NH Dept of Agriculture: “Eggs for Sale! NH regulations for selling & labeling eggs”

- Local Producers & Processors Panel: how NH farm-raised meat is processed and sold
- Robert Gibson of Yellow House Farm
- Tim Rocha of Kellie Brook Farm
- Liz Conrad of Riverslea Farm
- John Medlin of Popper’s Sausage Kitchen

- Farmer-to-Farmer Discussion: marketing strategies for meat sales / how to successfully connect with consumers

Organized by Seacoast Eat Local with support from the New England Grassroots Environment Fund
Co-sponsored by Fresh Local and the Brentwood Agriculture Committee

Directions to Brentwood Community Center: Take Rte.101 to Exit 7 (125 toward Epping/Kingston). Take Rte. 125 south for 3.3 miles. The community center will be on your right at 190 Route 125. Parking and entrance are at the back of the building.

You can register for this workshop online at www.seacoasteatlocal.org/workshop/meat.html or send an email to kate@seacoasteatlocal.org / or call 603-580-5364.