Food System

Desperately Seeking (Black-Eyed) Susan

Dec 11th, 2013 | By Ellen Niz

Did you know there are 10 million acres of front and back yards in America—enough to produce 43.5 million tons of food—but only 35 percent of U.S. households grew food in 2012? Growing where you are gives people the power to eat healthier and revitalize their communities, but many gardeners lack the land they need, and those with the land don’t always know what to do with it.
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Food System

Fresh, Local Produce, Even in Winter

Oct 7th, 2013 | By Nicole Rogers

As great as it is to eat local, in most of the U.S. there are certain months of the year when it is difficult, if not impossible, to eat local food fresh from the field. Thankfully, a new crop of food hub entrepreneurs are thinking beyond the growing season by freezing fresh summer produce to sell locally in the winter.
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Eco Living

Sustainable America's Resolutions

Dec 31st, 2012 | By Nicole Rogers

The Sustainable America staff offers our food and fuel resolutions for 2013!
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Food System

The Eat Local Challenge

Nov 30th, 2012 | By Aubrey Yee

Kanu Hawaii's Eat Local Challenge aims to encourage production and consumption of more locally grown food.
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Food System

How CSAs help small farmers during times of drought

Aug 13th, 2012 | By Nicole Rogers

Sustainable America spoke on the phone with farmer Tim Huth, of LotFotL (pronounced like "hot bottle") Farm in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, about the drought of 2012, and how the farm's CSA has helped them weather the heat.
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Food System

The Locavore Index

Jun 14th, 2012 | By Nicole Rogers

There is collective sense of excitement at a an early morning farmers market. Nothing tastes better than the freshest possible ingredients, raised with care. But it’s not only about taste. The benefits of eating local are many - healthy fresh food, supporting the local economy, and reducing the nation’s dependence on oil for transport, to name a few. And if you ask the founders of Strolling of the Heifers, local food systems and the sense of community they create can be a whole lot of fun.

Strolling of the Heifers, an organization that works to promote sustainable local agriculture, is best known for their annual parade. Scores of pretty heifer calves wreathed in flowers, along with farmers, future farmers, floats, and various farm animals amble through Brattleboro, VT each year on the first weekend in June (National Dairy Month). It is an extremely popular event and captures the spirit of what the organization is all about. Strolling of the Heifers cherishes local farming, seeking to ensure that families hold onto their farms and produce more generations of local farmers to feed Vermont.

The state’s commitment to the locavore movement may be paying off statistically. Strolling of the Heifers created the Locavore Index (represented by our graphic above) this year, which indicates per-capita presence of local food sources by state in the form of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture programs) and farmers markets. Vermont tops the list.

You might think that a state like California would have a huge number of farmers markets and CSAs, and you would be right, but California also has a huge population. As you can see in the map above, they are number one in sheer quantity of farmers markets and CSAs, but they rank 41st on the Locavore Index (indicated by the bar graph) because of access per capita. The states that top the Locavore Index have the best ratio of farmers markets and CSAs to population. Higher rank equals better access to local foods for the residents of that state.

Prime farmers market season is upon us! Don’t miss out on the freshest produce, dairy and meat your community has to offer. Use one of these databases to locate your nearest Farmers Markets and CSAs:

Local Harvest

USDA Farmers Market Search

The Eat Well Guide

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Eco Living

The Transition Town Movement

Jun 8th, 2012 | By Aubrey Yee

What would our world look like without cheap and readily available oil?

If it looks anything like a Transition Town, things might not be so bad after all.

“Transition Network supports community-led responses to climate change and shrinking supplies of cheap energy, building resilience and happiness.” ~ Transition Network

The Transition Town Movement began in the towns of Kinsale, Ireland and Totnes, England in 2005 and 2006. Inspired in part by the Permaculture movement, Climate Change, and Peak Oil, Transition Towns aim to help local communities find elegant ways to transform their energy use away from oil while building local economies and all around resilience.

Rob Hopkins is typically noted as the founder of the Transition Town network, which in many ways began with his publication of a manual titled, “Energy Descent Action Plan”.

“These communities have started up projects in areas of food, transport, energy, education, housing, waste, arts, etc. as small-scale local responses to the global challenges of climate change, economic hardship and shrinking supplies of cheap energy. “ ~Transition Network

Today, you can find transition town movements springing up all over the world. Want to start one in your community? Transition Network has a wealth of information on how to successfully transition your town away from oil.

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Food System

Sustainable Seafood

May 10th, 2012 | By Nicole Rogers

Global consumption of fish has doubled since the 1970s. In the US we’ve witnessed a boom in the popularity of sushi restaurants, the Mediterranean Diet is all the rage, and the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are hailed on every talk show. It’s no wonder more Americans are seeking fish is an important part of a healthy, well-rounded, not to mention delicious diet.

As healthy as fish can be for our bodies, fishing can be a real problem for our oceans. Overfishing and other unsustainable fishing practices are the greatest current threat to our oceans, according to Ocean Wise. Aside from direct damage to the ocean, the carbon footprint of fishing can be huge. “Over 95% of the seafood consumed by the community of Santa Barbara, including UCSB, is imported. Additionally, at least 95% of the seafood caught locally is exported,” reports the Associated Students Coastal Fund. And Santa Barbara is a coastal area with fisheries nearby! Imagine the energy expenditure, not to mention the cost, of such a process.

Enter the Santa Barbara Sustainable Seafood Program. Run by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, their mission is to help the public make more informed decisions about the seafood we eat. Local restaurants and markets gain free membership to the program by taking a pledge to take steps to avoid unsustainable seafood. In return, the program helps members make the switch to sustainable seafood, and promotes member businesses by letting the community know that they provide consumers with an alternative to unsustainable seafood. Each restaurant and market gets a certificate and a sticker for their window to signify their participation in the program. In addition the Sustainable Seafood Program promotes participating businesses through exhibits, banquets and festivals held at the Ty Warner Sea Center.

An exciting development this spring: A Community Supported Fishery Program. Like a farm CSA, the CSF will provide local seafood shares directly to the consumer. The program, funded by the Associated Students Coastal Fund, starts this spring at the University of California Santa Barbara, and will go community-wide next year.

A local fisherman’s perspective on the CSF:

“California fisheries have some of the most stringent regulations and well managed fisheries in the world, and we (fishermen) embrace those regulations if it protects our marine ecosystem while providing food for the community. A CSF provides an opportunity for us to fish less and make more money to support our families.” - Stephanie Mutz, a commercial fisherman and Research Coordinator of Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara

The future looks bright for a program that helps local fishermen, the community and the ocean.


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Eco Living

Six Ways To Help

Apr 15th, 2012 | By Nicole Rogers

The image of the family farmer holds a special place in the hearts Americans. Fifty years ago a small family farm would probably have been passed down from one generation to the next, or sold to another small family farmer. These days it’s much more likely that the land will pass into the hands of a large scale farm. According to the 2010 Family Farm Report, of the two million remaining farms, large scale farms (annual sales of $250,000 or more) account for 84 percent of the value of US production. Large scale farms have more resources and tend to be more willing to ship their produce further to increase the number of markets available to them. (source)

Aside from our national admiration of small family farmers, there are solid environmental and economic reasons for supporting them. They have a vested interest in the community and the environmental health of their family and neighbors, not to mention the fact that they put their income back into the local economy. But big farm or small farm, the more we can buy from the farmer next door rather than the farmer across the country, the less shipping is done in the process. The more we limit shipping, the less fuel we use, and the less our country is dependent on limited oil resources. In a world of rising fuel and food costs, not to mention food waste, it makes sense to focus our attention and buying power on the farmers in or near our own communities.

Here are some ways you can help your local family farmer.

1) Shop at your local farmer’s market or purchase a CSA share.

Find a local farmer’s market with Sustainable Table’s Eat Well Guide

Find a CSA farm near you


2) Volunteer at a farmers market.

Most farmers markets have volunteer positions available. Volunteers are integral to helping farmers markets operate smoothly, from answering questions at information booths to unloading farm trucks. The next time you make a trip to the farmers market ask about volunteer opportunities.


3) Eat seasonal foods

This goes hand in hand with shopping at CSAs and farmers markets. There are all sorts of resources for seasonal recipes. Martha Stewart has a whole section on seasonal produce recipes on her website hereSustainable Table offers recipes and information on eating seasonally. Two great recipe blogs that categorize by season are 101 Cookbooks and Smitten Kitchen. If you want to go one step further, preserve a favorite local food for the winter. Check out The National Center for Home Food Preservation for tips.


4) Get to know your local farmer and thank him or her when you buy food at the farm stand, farmer’s market or CSA.

The more respect farming gets as a profession, the more young people will be drawn to the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the EPA, about forty percent of the farmers in this country are over 54 years old, which doesn’t bode well for the future of local farming unless young people start picking up the torch.


5) Ask your grocery store manager to supply foods from local farms.

Many grocery stores are open to suggestions, particularly if a few customers ask for the same thing. Be prepared to provide a list of local farms and dairies the manager could contact. If the manager says he or she isn’t authorized to make those kinds of decisions, ask who does and call or write to that person.


6) Help establish a relationship between local farmers and your school.

Feeling really ambitious? Download Farm Aid’s Farm To School 101 Toolkit. It provides you with the tools you need to start or expand a Farm to School program in your area.

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Food System

Biodynamic Farming

Apr 8th, 2012 | By Aubrey Yee

What is biodynamic farming?

There’s organic, and then there’s biodynamic. Taking organic farming a few steps further, biodynamic farming incorporates social, ecological and economic sustainability into consideration for the total health of the soil as well as the plants and animals that are cultivated on it.

Based on the teachings of Dr. Rudolph Steiner, who also founded the Waldorf school movement, the foundation of biodynamic agriculture is in Steiner’s philosophical ideals which he labeled “anthroposophy”. In this system, nature is seen as an interconnected whole organism with its own rhythm to be observed, respected and supported.

From the Biodynamic Farming Association: “Biodynamics is thus not just a holistic agricultural system but also a potent movement for new thinking and practices in all aspects of life connected to food and agriculture.”

Following phases of the moon, consideration of soil microorganism health and using precise mixtures of minerals and biological composts to replenish the system, biodynamic farming aims to create an ecosystem that needs little to no imports to maintain its health and produce delicious food.

By supporting the total “immune system” of a piece of land rather than just the particular symptoms of a crop, like pests or low yields, biodynamic farming seeks to build a robust and healthy complex and adaptive environment.

The Demeter Association founded in 1985 has taken on the lofty mission of “healing the planet through agriculture.” They describe the biodynamic style of agriculture as a perfect example of a truly sustainable closed-loop system, “It is the biodiversity of the farm, organized so that the waste of one part of the farm becomes the energy for another, that results in an increase in the farm’s capacity for self-renewal and ultimately makes the farm sustainable.”

Biodynamic farms and vineyards can now be found all over the country and internationally. For those interested in learning more, check out these online resources or attend a Biodynamic farming conference this November in Madison, Wisconsin.


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