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Now What? Seven Priorities for the Food Movement in the Age of Obama and Why Young People Will Lead the Way

by Anim Steel

“Is a sustainable food strategy on Obama’s menu?” asked Derrick Jackson in a December 30, 2008 Boston Globe column.  Don’t depend on it, he concluded, despite some pretty encouraging signs from the Obama camp.  The new president will face serious “blowback” from the agribusiness industry, he noted.  That’s a lobby that Michael Pollan described as the second most powerful in DC.

So if Obama doesn’t lead the way, who will?  And even if he proves to be a champion of sustainable food policy, what will bridge the enormous gap between vision and reality? What will force revolutionary change all the way from Capitol Hill to the corner store?

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Leading Food Advocates To Visit Farmworker Community Dubbed “Ground Zero for Modern Slavery"

Immokalee, FL – On Wednesday, March 4th, a dozen prominent authors, sustainable food advocates, and small farmers participated in a day-long delegation to Immokalee, Florida witnessing firsthand the miserable living and working conditions of migrant farmworkers. Delegates spent the day with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a nationally recognized farmworker organization at the forefront of fighting to improve farmworkers’ sub-poverty wages; combating forced labor in the Florida agricultural industry; and demanding that corporate food retailers use their market power to ensure more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers.

Who was there?  Anim Steel, Director of National Programs, The Food Project

Frances Moore Lappé, Author, Diet for a Small Planet; Raj Patel, Author, Stuffed and Starved; Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA; Bill Ayres, Executive Director, World Hunger Year; Ben Burkett, President, National Family Farm Coalition; Mike Moon, Family Farm Defenders;
Eric Holt-Gimenez, Executive Director, Food First/Institute for Development Policy;
LaDonna Redmond, President & CEO, Institute for Community Resource Development;
Tom Philpott, Food Editor and Columnist, Grist.org; Jim Goodman, Organic Farmer;

Farmworkers who pick tomatoes for the corporate food industry are among the country’s least paid, least protected workers. They earn about 45 cents for every 32-lb. bucket of tomatoes they pick – a rate that has not changed significantly in 30 years – working from dusk to dawn without the right to overtime pay. They receive no benefits and are excluded from the right to organize. In the most extreme cases, captive workers are held against their will by their employers through threats or violence – including beatings, shootings, and pistol-whippings.

There have been seven federal prosecutions by the Department of Justice for forced labor in the Florida agricultural industry in the past ten years, involving well over one thousand farmworkers.

This is the first-ever delegation of sustainable food advocates to Immokalee. The delegation is hosted by Just Harvest USA, a national organization that aims to build a more just and sustainable food system with a focus on establishing fair wages, humane working conditions, and fundamental rights for farmworkers. They achieve this through broad public education about the conditions in which our food is produced and mobilizing support for farmworker-led and other grassroots campaigns.

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What do those farmers do in the winter?

onion seedlings
onion seedlings
By Kate Mrozicki, Farm CSA Manager

Yes, we farmers do work some in the winter.  Now it is care for the inanimate object on the farm, not the vegetables, that occupies our time. Coming home from a day of wrenches and repairs I found an old essay by E. B. White that summed up how I was feeling: “farming is about twenty per cent agriculture and eighty per cent mending something that has got busted. Farming is a sort of glorified repair job.“ That is certainly how it seems at this time of year when our hands are more likely to be smeared with tractor grease than creased with soil. Fix-it projects vie for our attention before the season begins- the water hydrant that dribbles when it should gush, the door that swings at an awkward angle, the green house heater that stubbornly refuses to fire up, the tractor tire that goes flat as soon as it awakens from its winter slumber. Fluids need changing and filters need cleaning. We are becoming quite fond of our liquid wrench, sledgehammers and ratchets. Sometimes the problems require a much softer touch. That heater malfunction turned out to be more of a zoning than a mechanical issue. Generations of birds had squeezed through the narrow grate meant to keep them out and taken up residence in the chimney, eventually cutting our heater off from the oxygen supply required for combustion. A tall ladder and a long stick were all it took to evict the tenants and their nests, allowing the heater to rumble to life again. Luckily, just as we were beginning to feel more like mechanics than farmers, seeding time arrived and now the neon green of emergent onions brightens our lives. Once again we have living things to care for, vegetables to cultivate, dinner to grow.

 

by Kate Mrozicki, Farm CSA Manager

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Urban Education Workshops

Neighborhood Tours

The Urban Education and Outreach (UEO) interns are responsible for providing community members and visiting groups tours of our urban farmland and about the history of the Dudley neighborhood where we work. Along with workshops, these neighborhood tours serve as an opportunity for interns to practice public speaking and learn about a variety of topics and issues.


Through our public education programs we remediate lead-contamined gardens and mentor backyard gardeners in providing safe, delicious, and healthy food for their families.

List of Youth Organizations

This is a listing of farming and gardening organizations that include youth programming as some part of their mission; many have it as their main objective.

 

Added Value
Brooklyn, NY
www.added-value.org
Added Value has youth working 17 hours a week to improve the neighborhood by creating and operating a socially responsible urban farming enterprise. They have founded the Red Hook Farmers’ Market and a Community Advisory Council to support their efforts in neighborhood improvement and youth development.

Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE)
Roxbury, MA
www.ace-ej.org/
ACE works support lower-income communities and people of color to work towards environmental justice and a healthy environment for all people. They support youth working on environmental justice initiatives through an internship program and curriculum.

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Soil Testing and Remediation

To assess the amount of lead in a gardener’s soil, we soil test in their gardens. To date, we have completed soil tests on 113 gardens within the Dudley Street community and 12 from the Bowdoin and Draper Street neighborhoods. 82% of these gardens tested have lead concentrations above the MA-DEP reportable limit of 400 ppm. The results of these soil tests are maintained in a database of gardens, started in 2000. Soil testing is a process of collecting soil from the garden and then bringing the soil to a lab at Wellesley College where we can scan it for lead content. After testing the soil we return the results to the gardener and help them analyze them. Often parts of a garden are significantly more contaminated than other sections. Along the drip line of a house is a common place for high lead contamination. In these cases, we advise gardeners to grow in the less contaminated areas, and if they are to grow near the drip line they should try and grow plants such as tomatoes or squash that do not accumulate lead in the same way that leafy greens would.

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CSA Produce List

We used to maintain a list of produce available by month. However, we've found that due to changes in conditions from season to season, this lead to more confusion and disappointment than it was worth.

Rest assured that our farmers will continue to provide the best produce they can for your shares!

Newsletters-CSA and Organization

Happenings

Reading this seasonal newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with things going on at The Food Project!  Email us to request a printed copy and get on our mailing list, or simply download them below (PDF format).

Fall 2008

 

Farmers' Market Newsletters

Every week check here for happenings at the market!  These newsletters can be downloaded by anyone, and give a glimpse of the fun and benefits of buying fresh produce from your local farmers!  All newsletters are in PDF format.

2008

2007

July 14 August 27
July 7 August 13
  August 6
  July 30
  July 23
  July 16
  July 9
  July 2
  June 25
  June 18

 

CSA Newsletters

Every week check here for happenings on the farm, as well as what's growing and how to cook it!  Though they're geared towards our CSA members these newsletters can be downloaded by anyone, and give a glimpse of the fun and benefits of buying a CSA share!  All newsletters are in PDF format.

2009

June 16
June 9
June 2

 

 

2008

2007

2006

2005

October 13 September 25  October 24  November 1
October 7 September 18  October 17  October 25
September 30 September 11  October 10  October 18
September 23 August 28  October 3  October 11
September 16 August 21  September 26  October 4
September 9 August 14  September 19  September 27
September 2 August 7  September 12  September 20
August 26 July 31  September 5  Sepember 13
August 19 July 24  August 29  September 6
July 29 July 17  August 22  August 30
July 15 July 10  August 15  August 23
July 8 July 3  August 8  August 16
July 1 June 26  August 1  August 9
June 24 June 19  July 25  August 2
June 17 June 12  July 18  July 26
June 10 June 5  July 11  July 19
June 3    July 4  July 12
     June 27  July 5
     June 20  June 28
     June 13  June 21
     June 6  March 4

School Partnership Program

What is the School Partnership Program at The Food Project?

The School Partnership curriculum enriches the classroom experience by using The Food Project gardens and kitchen as tools for hands-on learning. Students gain a firsthand understanding of environmental, health-related, and social, issues by immersing themselves in interdisciplinary, hands-on activities. The School Partnership program is a unique opportunity for students to do real purposeful work while seamlessly connecting with service learning in their community, food systems and our relationship to food and land (where our food comes from), and academic areas such as math, science, and social studies. The program invites students to farms in their neighborhood and ties into Massachusetts standards for science – teaching third graders about plant biology and life cycles in a tangible way.

 

 

A Young Person’s Secret Garden…Endless Possibilities for Learning

It is mid-October and Mrs. Scheer’s class of fourth graders from Emerson Elementary School in Dorchester has returned to the Langdon Street lot in Dorchester to unearth and harvest potatoes they planted last spring. In the spring, they had turned a bed of soil where they had grown lettuce and prepared the bed for planting potatoes. They learned that potatoes, part of the tuber family, are an underground stem that stores food. Mrs. Scheer’s class is a bilingual group of students from Cape Verde. One boy explains to his fellow student in Creole that she must find a dead plant and big mound of soil in order to locate her potatoes under the ground. Laughter and squeals of joy are heard in the lot as each student pulls out one…two…three…large potatoes from the ground and gently places them in a plastic container. Although the potatoes and the students’ hands are dirty, they are brimming with excitement to cook their potatoes the following week at The Food Project kitchen in Dorchester.

 

 

Cooking at The Food Project’s Kitchen

The following week the Emerson fourth graders run to the front door of The Food Project’s Dorchester office with great anticipation. They are coming to cook their potatoes. As the students enter the office, they are welcomed by The Food Project staff. Staff ask students how to act in a kitchen, and the students shout out suggestions: "Don't run in the kitchen, especially with sharp knives! Listen to the adults for instructions and wash your hands thoroughly before working with food!"

 

The Emerson students enter the kitchen and go to their food preparation stations after cleaning their hands. On the menu today: rosemary mashed potatoes, potato pancakes, and herb roasted potatoes. Cammy asks “What part of the plant is this?” “A TUBER” comes the enthusiastic reply. Patrick points out the roots as he chops up an onion, and Danny gathers the potato peels into a pile “This is for the compost, to give the plants nutrients”. Monica asks “if the recipe calls for 3/4 teaspoon salt, and we already used 1/2 teaspoon in the water, how much is left?” Students screw their faces in thought, and finally measure out 3/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, and get to measure out the answer, giving subtraction real meaning.

 

After peeling, chopping, measuring, boiling, mixing potatoes and other ingredients, the young chefs gather around a table and dine on a sampling of all three dishes with some sweet organic apple cider to wash their palates. Bon appetite! Before leaving The Food Project kitchen, the Emerson students get copies of the potato recipes that they prepared that day and with much enthusiasm they are excited to show off their cooking talents to their parents.

 

To see a day in the School Partnership garden and The Food Project kitchen, look on your local PBS station’s schedule for the Arthur Show episode "Buster’s Green Thumb".

 

 

History of the School Partnership Program

The Food Project’s School Partnership program started in 2000, as a collaborative relationship between The Food Project and three schools in the Dorchester neighborhood, Emerson Elementary School, Mason Elementary School and Clap Elementary School. School Partnerships gives students hands-on knowledge of where their food comes from at a young age, letting them grow and cook food for themselves. The program works with third and fourth graders in our urban garden on Langdon Street during the fall and spring semesters of the academic year. The Food Project also works with the Lincoln Public School kindergarteners, bringing corn into classrooms in the fall and inviting all 80 students to the 31-acre Lincoln farm in the spring, when they get to pick potato beetles off plants, tour the greenhouse and beehives, and plant a row of sunflowers.  

 

To learn more about the School Partnership program please contact Kathleen Banfield, (617) 442-1322 x12.

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