Posts filed under ‘Food Miles’

‘Piedmont Grown’ means what it says

Does it drive you crazy when it turns out that the supermarket produce labeled “farm fresh” actually comes from China or Chile? How can we find out where our “fresh” food really comes from when the labels are hard to read and deliberately vague?

One answer for those of us living in North Carolina is the new “Piedmont Grown” label, which means what it says — this food was cultivated and harvested within our region.

Piedmont Grown is a new local certification program to clearly designate food and agricultural products that are grown, raised, or made within the 37 county Piedmont region, including the Triangle, Triad,and Charlotte areas.

The label helps consumers make informed buying choices that will benefit farms in the region and our local economy.

“Our mission is to support Piedmont farms and rebuild a regional, community-based, farm to fork, local food system,” says farmer Noah Ranells, board member of Piedmont Grown and Ag Economic Development Coordinator for Orange County. “We want to link consumers to local farm fresh foods, build local markets for farmers and food entrepreneurs, and grow healthy and prosperous communities.”

Local food retailers like Darren Stevens of Triad Meat Company in Greensboro are excited about being Piedmont Grown certified. “We believe our customers are looking for ways to get fresher, healthier food selections,” he says. “Being a part of Piedmont Grown is just one more way we can provide them with what they are looking for.”

Piedmont Grown will make its first public splash at the Farm to Fork Picnic at the Breeze Farm in Orange County on June 26th, and with the launch of www.piedmontgrown.org. The website provides a user-friendly local food directory and map spotlighting over 100 Piedmont Grown certified farms and businesses. The site also allows qualified new entities to become certified online. As the program grows, the website will become a central hub for consumers to find local food and to learn about the farmers and businesses that make up our local food economy.

“With so many consumers interested in buying local food we feel there is a need for a program like Piedmont Grown to both identify and reward those that provide it,” says Jay Pierce, Executive Chef of Lucky 32 Restaurants in Greensboro and Cary. “Piedmont Grown removes the mystery from local food purchasing.”

Piedmont Grown is actively certifying farms, farmer’s markets, groceries, restaurants, local food artisans, and other local food businesses. To become certified, members must meet standards and practices specific to their category and sign an annual license agreement to use the Piedmont Grown logo. The standards for using the logo are intended to protect the integrity of the brand and reinforce to the public that these are indeed Piedmont Grown products and businesses.
The annual certification fee of $100 has been prorated to $50 for 2011 and, thanks to a grant, is free for farms this year.

“We enrolled in Piedmont Grown to make the public aware that there are still family run dairies that process their own dairy products and are a valuable resource to the community in which they live,” says Teri Bowman from Homeland Creamery in the Julian community of Guilford County. “We do our own milk so we know it is fresh and isn’t mixed with other dairies as far away as New Mexico.”

The program is managed by Piedmont Grown NC Inc., an incorporated non-profit comprised of a Board of Directors that includes many local food visionaries. Current board members include Ranells and Pierce, as well as Dr. Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld (UNC-Chapel Hill) and Jonathon Romm (Elon University and Company Shops).  A keystone team helps to guide this effort and includes Debbie Roos (Chatham Extension Service), Marco Shaw (Eno Hospitality / Piedmont), Mike Lanier (Orange Extension Service), and Robin Crowder (UNC-CH Gillings Sustainable Ag Project). Piedmont Grown received support from the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and the Tobacco Trust Fund and is a partner with the 10% Campaign.

“Local means different things to different people,” according to Garland McCollum of Massey Creek Farm in Madison, Rockingham County. “Piedmont Grown is our effort to define local and identify those products that meet our definition. Small business is the force that drives the national economy. Identifying those local farms, restaurants, and markets that provide fresh healthy alternatives is a way we can all work to build our local economy, the national economy, and preserve our green space.”

For more information: www.piedmontgrown.org or info@piedmontgrown.org.

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June 21, 2011 at 9:16 pm 1 comment

A chance to change the world

Richard Heinberg

By Richard Heinberg

[Editor’s Note: Worcester (MA) Polytechnic Institute  invited Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, to give the 2011 commencement speech. Students wanted another perspective so they invited peak-oil expert Richard Heinberg, who was permitted to speak following the main ceremony. Here’s an excerpt from his remarks, reprinted from the full text in Yes Magazine.]

Whatever field you go into—business, finance, engineering, transportation, agriculture, education, or entertainment—your experience will be shaped by the energy transition that is now under way. The better you understand this, the more effectively you will be able to contribute to society and make your way in the world.

We are at one of history’s great turning points. During your lifetime you will see world changes more significant in scope than human beings have ever witnessed before. You will have the opportunity to participate in the redesign of the basic systems that support our society—our energy system, food system, transport system, and financial system.

I say this with some confidence, because our existing energy, food, transport, and financial systems can’t be maintained under the circumstances that are developing—circumstances of fossil fuel depletion and an unstable climate. As a result, what you choose to do in life could have far greater implications than you may currently realize.

Over the course of your lifetime society will need to solve some basic problems:

  • How to grow food sustainably without fossil fuel inputs and without eroding topsoil or drawing down increasingly scarce supplies of fresh water;
  • How to support 7 billion people without depleting natural resources—including forests and fish, as well as finite stocks of minerals and metals; and
  • How to reorganize our financial system so that it can continue to perform its essential functions—reinvesting savings into socially beneficial projects—in the context of an economy that is stable or maybe even shrinking due to declining energy supplies, rather than continually growing.

Each of these core problems will take time, intelligence, and courage to solve. This is a challenge suitable for heroes and heroines, one that’s big enough to keep even the greatest generation in history fully occupied. If every crisis is an opportunity, then this is the biggest opportunity humanity has ever seen.

Making the best of the circumstances that life sends our way is perhaps the most important attitude and skill that we can hope to develop. The circumstance that life is currently serving up is one of fundamentally changed economic conditions. As this decade and this century wear on, we Americans will have fewer material goods and we will be less mobile. In a few years we will look back on late 20th century America as time and place of advertising-stoked consumption that was completely out of proportion to what Nature can sustainably provide. I suspect we will think of those times—with a combination of longing and regret—as a lost golden age of abundance, but also a time of foolishness and greed that put the entire world at risk.

It’s a time when it will be possible to truly change the world, because the world has to change anyway.

Making the best of our new circumstances will mean finding happiness in designing higher-quality products that can be re-used, repaired, and recycled almost endlessly; and finding fulfillment in human relationships and cultural activities rather than mindless shopping.

Fortunately, we know from recent cross-cultural psychological studies that there is little correlation between levels of consumption and happiness. That tells us that life can in fact be better without fossil fuels.

So whether we view these as hard times or as times of great possibility is really a matter of perspective. I would emphasize the latter. This is a time of unprecedented opportunity for service to one’s community. It’s a time when it will be possible to truly change the world, because the world has to change anyway. It is a time when you can make a difference by helping to shape this needed and inevitable change.

As I travel, I meet young people in every part of this country who are taking up the challenge of building a post-petroleum future: a 25-year-old farmer in New Jersey who plows with horses and uses no chemicals; the operator of a biodiesel co-op in Northampton; a solar installer in Oakland, California. The energy transition will require new thinking in every field you can imagine, from fine arts to banking. Companies everywhere are hiring sustainability officers to help guide them through the challenges and opportunities. At the same time, many young people are joining energy and climate activist organizations like 350.org and Transition Initiatives.

So here is my message to you in a nutshell: Fossil fuels made it possible to build the world you have inhabited during your childhood and throughout your years in the education system. Now it’s up to you to imagine and build the world after fossil fuels. This is the challenge and opportunity of your lifetimes. I wish you good cheer and good luck as you make the most of it.

–Richard Heinberg is a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and the author of The Party’s Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies, Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines, and The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality.

June 2, 2011 at 12:43 pm Leave a comment

‘Big Spoon’ Nutty Butters

By Lyle Estill

Tread softly and carry a Big Spoon

Last Saturday I rousted my two teenage sons early so that we could attend the opening day of the new Pittsboro Farmer’s Market. As we sped toward Chatham Mills I explained how important it was that we do our part for the foodshed by playing the role of “eaters.”

They were not impressed.  Nor were they surprised that we were one week early, and that there was no new Farmer’s Market to attend. [It opens this Saturday April 16.]

Undaunted, I pushed on to Carrboro–to a market I have never attended.  It was an extreme use of fuel–much further than I would ever normally drive for such a task– but I was in the mood to seize the day.

My first booth in Carrboro was Big Spoon.  They had a selection of homemade nut butters that took me back to last fall, when a bunch of us shelled, roasted, and pureed peanuts grown at Piedmont Biofarm. Apparently they bottle up their wares at Ninth St. Bakery when baked goods are not coming off the line.

I bought a jar of peanut cashew–cashew nuts being one thing I miss horribly on my hundred-mile diet.  What can I say?  I was at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. I was in a weird mood.

We made the rounds, loaded up on some chicken from Castle Rock Gardens–whom we recognized as a Slow Money participant--and we bought a bunch of bedding plants to force our own hand in the garden.

When we arrived home I cracked the Big Spoon for a sample on hot toast.  Arlo loaded up a banana (his diet is not quite local yet–although I did point out that our bananas would be ready in the fall).  Zafer vanished with just the jar and a spoon.

That was the last I saw of it.  I fished the empty jar out of the recycle bin for Tami to photograph.

I thought it made a bold statement about the quality of the product.  And I’m delighted to have Big Spoon doing their thing in Durham.

April 13, 2011 at 8:50 pm Leave a comment

Food Matters

By Dee Reid

I haven’t bought a cookbook in years. When I need a fresh idea for dinner, I Google a new recipe or improvise on an old one based on what’s in the fridge and the pantry. Yet one of the most important books I’ve read, and re-read, this year is Food Matters, by Mark Bittman, the New York Times Minimalist columnist.

Of course it’s not really a cookbook, but rather, as the subtitle claims, “A Guide to Conscious Eating.” The fact that it includes 75 recipes is a bonus.

Bittman’s premise is that we can change our impact on the world and our health by making a few simple but profound adjustments in the way we eat and cook for the rest of our lives.  After reading his book and following his advice, I believe he’s right.

This is not about losing weight, though if you follow Bittman, you will inevitably shed pounds. It’s also not about counting calories, because if you eat wisely, you can eat as much as you want (and even splurge on the high-cal stuff once in a while).

Bittman’s plan requires no secret  ingredients or complicated rules. And it won’t cost you more than you’re already spending on your diet, because you’ll be cooking more and spending less money on meat and junk.

He says, simply, we should eat less meat and processed foods, and more fruits, vegetables,  legumes and whole grains.  Sounds like Michael Pollan right? The only difference is that Bittman shows us how to do this with ease and flavor, and without breaking the grocery budget.

Bittman believes that food matters more than just nutritionally. Industrial agriculture depends on petroleum-based pesticides and transportation, producing more than its share of carbon emissions, thereby contributing to climate change. What’s more, factory meat farms use too many hormones and antibiotics, and also degrade the landscape.  And processed food contains too much fat and high fructose corn syrup, contributing to diabetes, obesity and other diseases.

Okay, we knew this. While Bittman acknowledges it will take wholesale policy revisions to dramatically reduce Big Ag’s impact on climate change, he shows that what we do in our own household will matter, and may influence policy change down the road. That got my attention.

“Eating a typical family-of-four steak dinner is the rough equivalent, energy-wise, of driving around in an SUV for three hours, while leaving all the lights on at home,” he writes. “If we each ate the equivalent of three fewer cheeseburgers a week, we’d cancel out the effects of all the SUVs in the country. Not bad.”

The Minimalist is not interested in tying anyone to the kitchen stove. He takes a practical approach to cooking and shopping. Stock the pantry with basic staples (flour, grains, olive oil, herbs and spices) and the fridge with fresh fruit, vegetables , eggs, cheese and if you like enough meat to enhance your meals. Do this and you should be able to whip up a great healthy dinner in no time.

He also recommends cooking up a pot of beans and a pot of grains every week, so that you’ll have the basis for many meals that can be put together quickly.

Cook up a big batch of your favorite meal and freeze some for those times when you’re too busy to plan dinner. Take the leftovers to the office for lunch.

For folks who don’t know how to do this, he includes a simple daily plan with recipes. I’ve tried his approach and he’s right: it has transformed the way I shop, cook and eat, all for the better.

Now you’ll have to excuse me while I re-heat my favorite tomato-white-bean-onion soup and grab a slice of the no-knead bread that was baking while I wrote this. I’m about to do my bit to reduce global warming  the Bittman way.

October 3, 2010 at 1:51 pm Leave a comment

Bad math, twisted logic

Last week, Stephen Budiansky (liberalcurmudgeon.com) wrote an op-ed in The New York Times taking locavores to task for insisting that eating local uses less energy than eating industrially processed food. Never mind that he cites old and contradictory data and that his math is just plain pitiful (see rebuttals at Grist and Cook for Good). What’s even more mind blowing (and perhaps telling about his real agenda) is the giant leap he takes to reach this conclusion:

“The relative pittance of our energy budget that we spend on modern farming is one of the wisest energy investments we can make, when we honestly look at what it returns to our land, our economy, our environment and our well-being.”

Excuse me? One can argue all day about how to count food miles and whether or not locavores need to give up coffee and bananas.

But it’s quite another thing to assert, as LiberalCurmudgeon seems to be doing, that destroying our topsoil with monoculture, polluting our land and water with pesticides, and infusing our food with fructose, antibiotics and sometimes ecoli, is “the wisest energy investment we can make.”

Dude, if that’s the case, we’re in more trouble than I thought.

–Dee Reid

August 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm 1 comment


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