Food System

'Growing Cities' Digs Into Urban Farming

Oct 17th, 2013 | By Laura Waldman

Recently we had the pleasure of speaking with Dan Susman, director and producer of the new documentary *Growing Cities*. The film follows Dan and his co-producer Andrew Monbouquette across the United States as they examine the growing urban farming movement. The Nebraska natives visited a total of 80 farms in vacant lots, rooftops, and backyards and interviewed the passionate people from all walks of life who tend them. Along the way, they learned a lot about community, food justice, and eating urban squirrels (spoiler: try at your own risk).
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Food System

Tackling the Food Waste Crisis

Jan 30th, 2013 | By Aubrey Yee

Sustainable food activists Anna Lappe and Danielle Nierenberg join forces to address the issue of food waste worldwide.
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Food System

The Whole Ox Deli

Jul 19th, 2012 | By Aubrey Yee

The local food movement has been gaining ground recently in the sunny city of Honolulu. At the forefront of the culinary shift are a few brave souls who believe in the power of combining locally sourced foods with creative menus and innovative restaurant concepts.
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Food System

The New Land Rush

Jun 14th, 2012 | By Aubrey Yee

What would you do if you were the leader of a country with lots of people, little water and not enough good land for growing crops to feed your population? You might buy property in another country that can grow your food for you.

Welcome to what some are calling the “new colonialism”. It’s a great land grab sparked in part by the 2007-2008 food crisis that left some countries like China, India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia wondering how they might feed their growing populations in the future. The purchase of cheap agricultural land also promises great profit to the investors.

A think tank in California, the Oakland Institute, recently published a report titled New International Land Deals Database Reveals Rush to Buy Up Africa In the report, they explain that some 5% of Africa’s agricultural land has been bought or leased by investors since 2000. And since 2008, the pace of land deals has really ramped up without much international regulation.

In response to this alarming trend, a consortium of five major European research centers and 40 civil society/research groups has created the world’s largest public data base of international land deals.  The portal was launched in April. Most of the deals have been shrouded in secrecy and a lack of available data has made it difficult to know how much land is really changing hands.

Their data has confirmed the suspicions that wealthy food-importing countries are buying up available agricultural lands in countries that already face food shortages. But increasingly, developing economies are getting in on the “new land rush”. In Brazil for example, agribusiness companies seem more inclined to invest in other South American countries while companies from South Africa tend towards investments in other less developed African nations.

But while nation-states may be leading the charge, invesment banks, hedge funds, commodity traders, pension funds, foundations and individuals are all getting involved in these land investments. Even some universities like Harvard and Vanderbilt are investing in foreign land for agriculture according to the Oakland Institute report.

The fallout of this shift in land remains to be seen, but with access to clean water a growing concern and food shortages like the famine in Somalia becoming more common, a clash between local farmers and foreign investors seems inevitable. Another report just published by the International Land Coalition and the Oakland Institute called Dealing with Disclosure aims to create greater transparency and regulation around these deals while giving local communities the tools they need to make fair and informed decisions when dealing with foreign investors.

Many of the investor countries see the purchase of viable agricultural land as crucial to their development of food security. Saudi Arabia, for example, has “earmarked $5 billion to provide loans at preferential rates to Saudi companies to invest in countries with strong agricultural potential,” according to the the U.K.-based Institute of Science in Society.

It seems that one country’s efforts to create food security may result in another country’s food shortage. To successfully feed the growing global population of 7 billion and counting, we are going to have to get creative and transparent, quickly.


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Food System

Local Produce Link

May 22nd, 2012 | By Aubrey Yee

In New York City, a innovative new program aims to bring healthy, fresh food to food pantries and the citizens they serve. Just Food is a New York City non-profit that “connects communities and local farms with the resources and support they need to make fresh, locally grown food accessible to all New Yorkers.”

Through Local Produce Link, some 44 farmers are connected with New York’s Food Pantries to provide fresh produce. Each food pantry receives approximately 200 lbs. of mixed vegetables each week, about 6 to 10 boxes. The produce varies with the season and often includes more unusual vegetables like bok choi (an asian cabbage) that patrons of the food pantry can try.

Farmers are paid by the pound through funding from the New York State Department of Health’s Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP).

Just Food also hosts community cooking programs and provides resources for recipes and nutrition information to help food pantry clients learn how to prepare the vegetables they receive in healthy ways. They host Farm Visits so that food pantry volunteers and clients can meet the farmers that grew their food, making the connection from farm to table.


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Food System

Food Stamps at Farmers Markets

May 6th, 2012 | By Aubrey Yee

Thousands more farmer’s markets are getting ready to accept food stamps as a form of payment. As part of the USDA’s (US Department of Agriculture) mission to get Americans eating more healthy, fresh food, they have been working to encourage the use of EBT  (Electronic Benefit Transfer - another term for “food stamps”) at the markets.

Today less than 25% of the nation’s 7,000 registered farmers markets accept EBT as payment. But a recent report from the USDA shows that spending at the farmer’s markets under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has jumped 400%. With more markets coming online to accept EBT, those spending figures are expected to increase. The trend is great for farmers and for those who have traditionally been unable to afford to buy local produce at the markets.

In May of this year, the USDA announced plans to begin allocating funds to the states that have the highest number of farmer’s markets without the ability to access EBT. The funds will be used to help those markets purchase the wireless point-of-sale technology that is needed to run the EBT cards as a form of payment. The $4 million fund aims to bring some 4,000 more markets online. California is the recipient of one of the largest grants of $426,945 to service 687 markets (Associated Press).

The USDA website has a search function to find the farmers market nearest you. And you can narrow the search down to which markets accept subsidized payments.  With its innovative approach the USDA has made supporting local farmers and eating healthy, locally grown food just a little bit easier.


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