Friday, March 23, 2007

After a brief respite across the border, I'm headed to a bunch of cities in April to do a final sprint of outreach and education about local, sustainable, fair food and tying in my talks with all of the great organizing happening around getting those three values embedded in the farm bill. From Brooklyn School of Law (tonight!) to Wesleyan University (in awhile!), I'm really looking forward to meeting folks across the country. Check out the complete list here. I'm including the events in North Carolina below.

Wednesday, April 4th, 7:00-9:00pm
University Lecture, Booksigning & Reception
Center for Environmental Farming Systems
North Carolina State University J.C. Raulston Arboretum
Raleigh, NC

Thursday, April 5th, 12:30-1:30pm
University Lecture & Booksigning
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Michael Hooker Research Center Building South Columbia Steet
Chapel Hill, NC

Thursday, April 5th, 6:00-7:30pm
University Lecture & Booksigning
Duke University
Love Auditorium, Levine Science Research Center 450 Research Drive
Durham, NC

Saturday, April 7th, 2:00-5:30pm
Growing Food, Growing Community, Growing Justice An Afternoon in the SEEDS garden
2pm Get Dirty before Dinner
4pm GRUB Potluck and Public Talk
708 Gilbert Street
Durham, NC

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Update from National Labor Committee: Good News from Guatemala

I was so excited to read that there was a MAJOR breakthrough at the factory I mentioned below that the National Labor Committee had exposed. Read about the good news here. It's so inspiring to see that exposing the truth can actually make change. Kudos to the National Labor Committee.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Who Chopped Those Broccoli Florets?

You might be surprised to learn that it quite possibly could be a 13-year old living in Guatemala.

Today, the National Labor Committee released this damning report about rampant rights abuses of children in produce processing plants in Guatemala, with children ages 13 to 17 working long hours for little pay in often dangerous and debilitating conditions. And where are they sending all that cut broccoli, melons, and pineapples? Four million pounds of it, the NLC writes, gets exported to the U.S. via Sysco, ending up in schools, hospitals, and prisons.
The report and this New York Times article go public just as advocates are gearing up to push our elected officials to consider the rights of workers and all eaters as they redraft, and set funding levels for, the national Farm Bill. Some of the policies being pushed--and which seem obvious no-brainers--are procurement policies that would allow states to prioritize local fruits and vegetables when they're making purchasing decisions for schools and other institutions. No-brainer to me, maybe, but apparently a big fight.
If you'd like to learn more about what people are doing to push for a Farm Bill that respects workers rights and ensures that all of us -- no matter where we live, or how much we make -- has access to fresh, safe foods, check out the Community Food Security Coalition and the Food and Farm Policy Project.
Hear more about the report from Democracy Now! transcripts of Amy Goodman's interview with NLC Executive Director.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Where Have All the Bees Gone?

Could genetically modified crops be killing bees? asks John McDonald in The San Francisco Chronicle today. Yikes. Beekeeper McDonald raises some compelling questions in his attempt to understand the sudden decline in bee populations he's been documenting.

A couple of years ago, I was giving a talk about genetically modified foods to a Chemsity class at my old high school. After my presentation, one super sharp (and somewhat cocky) kid, raised his hand. With the kind of risk aversion (he did actually use those words!) you're talking about how would we ever innovate? Isn't there always some degree of risk when we're trying new things? If we didn't take any risks at all, we'd still be reading by candlelight and riding aroud in horse-and-buggies.

Damn good question, I thought. I was glad he asked it, because it allowed me to make a critical point. I said: Listen, I'm not against innovation, nor are any of the GMO critics I've interviewed. But if we're going to experiment, and take serious risks, we should be doing so in the laboratory, not in the wide open spaces of our fields and farmland.

That day, in that high school science classroom, I detected a few nods--even the cocky kid seemed somewhat satisifed with my answer. Today, as I read about the frightening prospect of this untested experiment-gone-wild on our bee friends, I'm reminded how important it is to speak up, and stand up, to this technology, one that still holds so many unknown impacts on our bodies, our plants, and... yes... even the bees.

Making Brooklyn Bloom

I got to spend the day today in a glass-domed meeting hall at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens for the 25th anniversary "Making Brooklyn Bloom" festival where bloom-goers could choose between workshops like "Making Your Rooftop Bloom: Gardening on the Frontier" and "Canning to Preserve the Harvest" and listen to the brilliant Joan Gussow speak. I was tabling for the Community Food Security Coalition next to a representative from a non-profit protecting street trees in New York. Throughout the day, people stopped by our table and picked up copies of the Coalition's Farm Bill organizing booklet and sign-up sheets to be a citizen pruner, protecting the green that we New Yorkers so appreciate.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

From Mali to Missouri: True/False Film Festival is Going Well in Columbia

I've traded in my short-sleeve shirts for my wool cap with ear flaps, going from over 100 degree temps to twenty-something and snowy here. I'm in town for the fourth annual True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri. Started by the team that brought this cool, college town RagTag Cinemas, the Festival has grown into an amazing tribute to some of the year's best documentaries. I first met some of these folks when I was in town for Grub research, so it's been fun to return and see many familiar faces and to hear about all of the ongoing great local foods work still alive and well here. Tomorrow morning, we head out for the "Reel Gone Round-Up" screening of KING CORN in a closed-down stockyard auction house where I'll introduce the filmmaker and producer and do a Q&A. Just saw our first films: Sari's Mother and Enemies of Happiness, about a courageous, amazing Afghani woman who ran for a seat in Parliament and despite multiple assasination attempts, survived and won.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Listening to Ali Farka Toure & Settling Into My Time Zone

I’m home. It’s grey outside. The rain is coming down softly now. From my office window, I can see the brownstones across the street and in the distance I can just make out the outline of the Empire State Building across the borough, and the water. Before I left Bamako yesterday, I bought the last two CDs Ali Farka Toure produced before he passed away last year. I’m listening to his music now and remembering Cheikh’s translation of the lyrics. The songs were about Ali Farka Toure’s childhood in the Timbuktu, where Cheikh was raised as well. Ali Farka Toure was singing the suffering of the people of the desert, Cheikh explained, the suffering that he experienced, too. Sang Ali Farka Toure: When my hunger kept me up all night, I would lie awake, unable to sleep, and count the stars.
I think about these words now as my mind goes back to the hundreds of people I met at Nyeleni, a community five-continents-large of people fighting to ensure that no one, anywhere on our planet lies down at night with an empty stomach, and that everyone, someday, will be able to fall asleep, the stars remaining uncounted.

Image: A village on the road from Nyeleni to Bamako.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dispatch from Mali on

Read my dispatch, "Food is Power," here on