Urban Farming News

Will Elisabeth Hagen Make Food Safer?

Posted in food security, global hunger, hunger, local food, Uncategorized, USDA by Urban Farming News on February 3, 2010


We are all aware of the prominence of adulterated food. Black pepper and salami are the current culprits. Spinach, peanuts, tomatoes, ground beef…. all harbors for food borne illnesses. Enough is enough.

We need a strict and efficient person to lead the attack. A “Food Czar,” as coined in USA Today.

Elisabeth Hagen, current food safety secretary nominee has an outstanding track record. In four years time, she has risen from assistant deputy of public health, through Food Safety Inspection Service chief medial officer and into the current nomination.

Can she do it? Can the USDA actually improve procedure and food safety?

Proposals include tightening E.coli 0157:H7 adulteration standards (currently, steaks and chops are considered safe if this bacteria is present)

What level do we have to reach before change happens?

My first realization of unsafe food was several years ago during the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak. I remember watching the news with my parents. As a child, I was aghast and terrified. Since then my younger sister has served as a quality control specialist for a large meat producing company. As a result, I grow continuously skeptical of commercial meat products.

I enjoy few things more then a fabulous summer cook out and a delicious, grilled, fresh hunk of meat. (Deepest apologies to my Veg buddies, I love you guys and veggies!). However, in the past few years I only indulge when I am aware of the exact source of the product. Preferably, the steer’s name…perhaps that’s saying too much, perhaps we all need to reach this level of caution.

Perhaps the USDA should step up and ensure that food is safe. Enough said.

– Karleen

Advertisements

Does Monsanto Help Farmers?

Posted in climate stabilization, distribution, farm labor, food security, fossil fuels, global hunger, Uncategorized by Urban Farming News on January 22, 2010

So, with all of this buzz going on around Monsanto this week, I decided to look a bit deeper into this big, bad company.

What is the cost of a GMO?

A farmer’s livelihood? The inability to stop cross  pollination? Increased food production on less land? Eradicating Hunger?

This is a topic that hits close to home for me.  Raised in rural Wisconsin, My family represents a strong hold of small family farmers. I will admit, I was shocked to learn that our family uses GMO’s such as “Round Up Ready”  soy beans (if you’re wondering,  Court Rules For Monsanto, Anti Trust Case Remains reported by NPR) However if you look at the facts, Monsanto does defend small farms around the world.

Farm Facts According to Monsanto

* Today’s farmer feeds an average of 155 people, compared to only 26 people in 1960

* Farmers are a direct lifeline to more than 24 million jobs in the U.S.

* To keep up with population growth more food will have to be produced in the next 50 years as the past 10,000 years combined.

* Go to Monsanto to read more!

Conservation & Security

Clearly we need to keep our farms producing at largest capacity  with high quality.  Many families depend on their crops and need income security. Conservation of natural resources is also a serious concern for farmers. Check out this nifty video, Conserve More featuring Dr. Klaus Ammann

In summery, the video highlights how Monsanto’s engineered seeds reduce the need to till the land, thus reducing fuel cost for equipment. In addition, water is conserved as a natural erosion barrier is maintained. Basically, GMO crops = decreased tractor use + erosion control.  This equation seems a bit too simple…

Eradicating Hunger

The highlight of Monsanto’s lovely website was the bit that stated “True or False: The world grows enough food to feed its population. Generally true, although to eradicate hunger, people in the developing world need to be able to access food either by growing it or through purchase, which means it needs to be affordable”

The “developing world” is a loose term. The United States is still developing, if you want my humble opinion. I hope I can one day tell stories of people being hungry, with out jobs and homes (wait a second…didn’t I hear those as a kid?)

What will it take to really end hunger?   Let’s make like a farmer, roll up our sleeves, work our butts off and find out!

Freezing in Florida : Juice For Thought

Posted in climate stabilization, food security, hunger, local food by Urban Farming News on January 12, 2010

Record low temperatures have swept across Florida freezing orange, tomato, corn, ornamental plants & fish farms. Chilling news as I sipped my coffee while listening to NPR’s Morning Edition today. This is an especially bad time for growers who are typically two weeks into their winter harvest. Fish farms are suffering as many species; including catfish begin to die at temperatures of 60 degrees and below. Don’t forget the large plant nurseries that grow palm trees and ornamental plants.

This is a hard hit for Florida’s agricultural industry. Rumors of an official disaster declaration are circulating. Orange juice prices have also been in dramatic flux this week. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, orange juice prices dropped to $1.3185 a pound on Monday. Experts say that the full extent of the frost damage cannot be confirmed for several days or weeks. <<insert snarky farmer comment here>>  Tragically, many young trees will not survive this dramatic frost. Orange juice prices will rally and recover, however these growers will still feel the lasting effects.

In the coming weeks, we may feel the impact of this frost across the nation. In the coming days, the weather experts are predicting more climate upheaval across the nation. Torrential rainstorms are predicted for California, hitting many areas that suffered wild fires hard. No need to comment on the dramatic damages that could ensue.

The big questions: Is climate change to blame? Can we expect odd weather patterns like this to up heave our agricultural practices in the future? What can we do to sustain our crops and stabilize our climate?

What do you think?

A side note: Most of our juice supply comes from Florida; while California’s orange crops typically go for fresh fruit resources.

US Army Takes The Heartland To Afghanistan

Posted in food security, global hunger, urban farming by Urban Farming News on January 7, 2010

Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime: teach a man to farm…you get the gist. (Pardon my use of the masculine.)

As reported by good ‘ole NPR: the US Military Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan Farmers. Due to the tumultuous and dangerous climate of the past few years, few farmers remain. Fortunately, many soldiers right from America’s heartland are fighting the good fight to end hunger. Troops from California, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina and Texas are presently in Afghanistan. There are plans for more on the way.

The endeavor began in 2008, currently the agribusiness units are in 14 out of 34 of the provinces. These Agribusiness Development Teams are equipped with agricultural knowledge and supplies. For the first time, many Afghani wheat farmers have hand-cranked seed spreading machines. Previously, all sowing was done by hand. The military is also providing supplies and soil testing, thus providing a scientific method to fertilizer use. In turn, the food yield will be highly increased. The vast majority of the farming is sustenance based; this food will feed families.

Of course, there are many facets of the Agribusiness development in Afghanistan. A major goal is to decrease the export of Opium poppies in lieu of other crops. The farmers hope to lead by example with the success of their wheat, nut and fruit crops. Don’t forget that there is also the constant threat of attack on these lands. Food security has a new meaning.

I have to say, this warms my heart. We all have someone near and dear who has served in this current conflict. As Urban Farmer’s we are battling to end food security domestically. I’ll take this bite of jingoism with a side of idealism; we can indeed rally together and end hunger.