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COMFOOD weekly recap

October 3, 2011
by Kasi Boyd

News from 9/26/11 to 10/2/11.  Also, see Conferences announced on COMFOOD and elsewhere.  (Note: only news and resources are included in this recap.  To read all the conversation, subscribe to COMFOOD directly.)

INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY

Landreth Seed Co., the oldest seed house in America (since 1784) and supplier of heirloom seeds, is facing possible closure due to financial problems.  They’re raising $1MM. They also have a beautiful educational catalog that one can purchase for $5 that they hope will also help. “For those involved in urban farming / gardening programs with African-American youth, Landreth has the largest inventory of seed varieties brought to this continent by African slaves.  The company has worked with academics and cultural historians to catalog and record the stories of these plants.”

RESOURCES

Surveys and videos documenting 11 CA school districts’ farm-to-school programs are now available.  From June 2010 to February 2011, these districts varied in their offerings of farm to school type programming, but they all demonstrated means of providing fresh fruits and vegetables to their students.

A few resources to raise K-12 students’ awareness of and willingness to eat local foods:

RESEARCH

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has just released a compelling comparison of two brand new polls detailing Americans’ views of our current food system. One poll was commissioned by the conservation-minded David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the other by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, (USFRA) a well-funded group intent on advancing the interests and restoring the image of big agriculture.

Results from a 30-year side-by-side trial of conventional and organic farming methods at Pennsylvania’s Rodale Institute are in.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, organic farming outperformed conventional farming in every measure.  Organic yields equaled conventional yields; however, organic crops were more resilient. Organic corn yields were 31 per cent higher than conventional in years of drought.

A 309 page, 18-month, “City of Rochester Urban Agriculture & Community Garden Feasibility Study” has been posted.

“Apples to Twinkies”, a new report from the US Public Interest Research Group  on childhood obesity was released.  The fact that so many tax dollars are being wasted on junk food demonstrates the need to reform national agricultural subsidies and end this wasteful spending. If these subsidies went directly to consumers to allow them to purchase food, each of America’s 144 million taxpayers would be given $7.36 to spend on junk food and 11 cents with which to buy apples each year – enough to buy 19 Twinkies but less than a quarter of one Red Delicious apple apiece.

 MISC. NEWS

NY Times: An Urban Garden Prepares Inmates for Green-Collar Jobs. Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest program operates the boot camp garden and provides instruction and a certificate in sustainable horticulture and urban agriculture in partnership with the City Colleges of Chicago. The nine-month course includes instruction in greenhouse and outdoor growing methods and Powerpoint classroom presentations on farm management, marketing and other business practices.

The Chicago O’Hare airport launches aeroponics garden to supply some of their eateries. The project is a collaboration between the Chicago Department of Aviation and HMS Host, the company that manages most of the airport’s concessions.

Colorado’s first farm on public school grounds delivers organic produce to cafeteria. Sprout City Farms (SCF) is a non-profit urban agriculture organization located in Denver that has the unique distinction of creating and managing the first large-scale farm on Denver Public School (DPS) property. In partnership with the Denver Green School (DGS), Denver Urban Gardens (DUG), and DPS, SCF recently signed an agreement – the first of its kind – with DPS Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) to provide local, organically-grown food direct to the school cafeteria.

Farm-to-school initiatives in Massachusetts have spread from an estimated 10 public school districts in 2003 to 217 districts during the 2010-11 school year, according to the Massachusetts Farm to School Project in Amherst, Mass.  Last year, 66 percent of the students in Massachusetts public schools were enrolled in a district that preferentially served local foods, an increase from 55 percent in the previous school year.

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