The farmlanding of America

Suburbs? No, farms

July 29, 2011

As the Associated Press reported recently, U.S. farmland ain’t cheap; in fact, there’s a boom right now in investing in farmland. As reporter Bernard Condon wrote,

A new breed of gentleman farmer is shaking up the American heartland. Rich investors with no ties to farming, no dirt under their nails, are confident enough to wager big on a patch of earth — betting that it’s a smart investment because food will only get more expensive around the world.

Who’s squeezed out in the land grab? Traditional farmers, of course, who can’t afford to expand their farms or get into farming in the first place. And planting crops based on market value stimulates price spikes and crashes. When the bloom is gone, where will investors go next? And will farms still be producing food?

The great honey-bee count

How many do you see in 15 minutes?

July 28, 2011

Earlier this month, the first annual national Great Bee Count took place, in which volunteers across the country stared at flowers and counted the number of honey bees they spotted in 15 minutes. The average count? Just over two bees per quarter-hour. That’s not a lot, and one of the chief reasons why the count was held.

Honey-bee populations have been dwindling in the U.S. for decades, but drastically so in recent years, and given their agricultural importance — they’re responsible for pollinating most of the crops we eat — researchers want to know where they still are and how they’re doing. For more info, check out the Great Sunflower Project and Your Garden Show.

The future of fish

Industrial farming seems to be inevitable

July 27, 2011

Time magazine notes our declining fish populations and explores aquaculture. »

Egg-industry reform

Is it for real?

July 26, 2011

Major egg producers call for new laws and better industry standards. Believe it — or not. »

The obesity police

Should fat kids be removed from their homes?

July 25, 2011

Not necessarily, say the authors who originally called for government intervention. »

Carnivorous confusion

Should you eat free-range meat or not?

July 22, 2011

Yes, to help bees; no, to be virtuous. »

Cafeteria reform

Some are good, some not so good

July 21, 2011

School-lunch reform ain’t easy. »

Garden smackdown

A public-garden tiff

July 20, 2011

In case you missed it, the latest spat in the vegetable-gardening world took place recently in Oak Park, Michigan, where the city threatened to sue a family for filling the front yard with vegetables.

As the family in question noted in the blogosphere, the front-yard veggie patch — a very tidy, organized patch, to be sure — came about as the result of the family having to rip up the front yard to replace the broken sewer line destroyed by the tree planted by the city in front of the house years ago . . . you get the picture.

Of course, after the brouhaha went viral, the city dropped the charges against the family — only to renew them for the family not being speedy enough on getting their dogs licensed. Who knew that both veggies and dog tags could get you three months in jail?

Fuchsia Dunlop’s picks

A Browser Q&A

July 19, 2011

Obscure Chinese-food books. »

Fishing ups and downs

Invasive species and dwindling species

July 18, 2011

Eat more of the former, less of the latter. »

The battle of the bulge

America just keeps getting fatter

July 15, 2011

Junk food, marketing, and rising obesity rates. »

Soda and candy

Can one be bad and the other good?

July 14, 2011

Eat, don’t drink, your sugar. »

Eating pesticides

Can meat consumption give you diabetes?

July 13, 2011

The persistent problem of ancient chemicals. »

Spam you can’t delete

A nerve-disease scandal at Hormel

July 12, 2011

In the July/August issue of Mother Jones, Ted Genoways examines the possible links between the production of Spam — yes, the infamous tinned meat product — and nerve disease in factory workers.

In an echo of mad-cow disease, production staff at Hormel who spend all day standing in a fine mist of pig brains have been coming down with autoimmune nerve disorders.

Genoways provides succinct histories both of Spam and of Hormel, and details the company’s record of worker exploitation. The headline wrap-up: “First, Hormel gutted the union. Then it sped up the line. And when the pig-brain machine made workers sick, they got canned.”

Farm Bill activism

The next bill is coming soon

July 11, 2011

A news round-up. »

Lapham’s Quarterly eats up

A food issue

July 8, 2011

The summer issue of Lapham's Quarterly is all about food — specifically, about all ways of experiencing food, from the political to the aesthetic. Divided into categories (Feast or Famine, Chefs and Gourmands, and Dishes and Ingredients, plus the magazine’s regular departments, such as Essays), the issue includes food writing both new and classic, from such luminaries as M. F. K. Fisher, Michael Pollan, Madhur Jaffrey, Ruth Reichl, and Anthony Bourdain. (Alas, the mashup Ruth Bourdain does not make an appearance.) Much of it is available online, if you don’t feel like tracking down the heavy paper original. But check it out nonetheless.

Chemicals and birth defects

Two new reports

July 7, 2011

Herbicides aren’t good for babies. »

The anti-antibiotics act

Will it pass?

July 6, 2011

The bill that won’t die. »

The global seafood map

Just how big is China?

July 5, 2011

For a nifty visual representation of the planet’s aquaculture industry, check out this map of the world. On the map, the Americas, Africa, and Europe are scrawny skeletons, but Asia looms large, and China (as in so many other areas of industry these days) dominates the entire map.

The map comes from a WorldFish Center report titled "Blue Frontiers: Managing the environmental costs of aquaculture." As Daniel Fromson noted on the Atlantic’s website, China’s current supremacy in fish farming is reason for concern:

China accounted for 61.5 percent of global aquaculture in 2008, a fact that has profound implications for the rest of the world in terms of food safety. When we deal with fish from China, we can’t be sure the fish is free of a host of risky antibiotics and other chemicals — and in the U.S., at least, the government isn’t adequately prepared to check.

Obesity in kids

A multipart exploration of the problem

July 1, 2011

Seattle families struggle to eat well. »

Sift archive — July 2011

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