RTF: The First Acre goes ‘Back to the Start’

The First Acre Farm was discussed in the most recent blog post, RTF: The First Acre. Here is a look at the farm from Brian Schneider’s view point. The Scientist by Willie Nelson is used in order to reflect and honor the Chipotle commercial, Back to the Start, that was aired this past spring. Chipotle is choosing to be a role model for food chains by supporting sustainable farmers in each of their restaurants. To read more about that commercial and what it is doing for our food system look into a previous post of mine, An Approach Toward Educational Advertising.

RTF: Uphoff Farming

Uphoff Farming

This week for Real Time Farms I drafted a sound clip giving an insight on the Uphoff family that has created a long lifestyle that is dedicated to managing people and animals. Their meat is 100% Berkshire certified and while these hogs live a happy life on the farm in open houses they are also providing a high quality product to a variety of local food establishments in Madison, Wisconsin.

For further information check out their Real Time Farm profile or a previous blog post about their meats.

All hail a dedicated farmer.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: Making culture mainstream

Upon arrival in New York City there was an overwhelming amount of places to dine at, yet I wasn’t sure where in the world to start. My visit in the Big Apple was short lived but wildly successful. My first morning in the city riding one of the many yellow taxis I scrolled through the Twitter sphere. Within minutes I was reading New York Time’s most recent post in its Diner’s Journal, Two Fresh Approaches to Yogurt.

While many of us tend to know the healthy benefits that are naturally found in plain and greek yogurts it is slowly becoming a trend to enjoy the thick and sometimes quiet sour substance. Until now there are only few places that have capitalized on selling yogurt fresh and by order, nature’s true secret. As a foodie that digs the cool taste of my morning greek treat I had yet to see it sold anywhere besides rows of it in the dairy aisle of a grocery store – until now.

The Diner’s Journal was covering The Yogurt Culture Company along with a similar food establishment and their novel approach to selling fresh yogurt with an endless supply of pure, wholesome toppings.

The Yogurt Culture Company is doing exactly what their name says, creating a culture around yogurt. A fun pun is that this stuff is actually also packed with beneficial cultures and probiotics that keep your insides pleased and clean. Any of the employees will happily explain the natural benefits of the yogurt and how the cultures are one of the nine amino acids our bodies need to survive. The probiotics and natural cultures also help aid digestion, and in a delicious way. There are also a variety of pamphlets available throughout the store offering much more information, including their philosophies. Their approach is not only to sell the stuff but actually educate their customers and show them how yogurt can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or as a sweet snack depending on what’s on top.

    

Their plain yogurt is processed through Dannon in White Plains, New York and shipped to The Yogurt Culture Company store front. While their greek yogurt stems from the Battenkill Valley Creamery in Salem, New York allowing them to support other local New York food establishments. Where they source the yogurt goes along with one of their philosophies, to provide the highest quality of all-natural dairy. Battenkill Valley Creamery is over 100 years old as well as being family owned, making wholesome, sustainable milk their life long priority. Their cows are hormone free and allow The Yogurt Culture Company to offer a clean product.

Once in the store the customer has a variety of toppings to add on. The most impressive are the fruit purees that are made with 100% fruit that is hand-churned by a local New York fruit producer and naturally sweetened. Along with the fresh fruits, the Yogurt Culture Company is attempting to offer an experience to their customers that will help make yogurt shops a part of mainstream food establishments.

Beyond the high quality yogurt, the company actually upholds a second mission geared toward the business’s carbon footprint. All of the people behind The Yogurt Culture Company believe in having a company that is sustainable and environmentally conscious. All of the store materials as well as their cutlery is made from 100% corn-based plastics, 100% recycled fiber. The Forest Stewardship Council has certified much of their wooden utensils while their wooden counters come from reclaimed wood. All of the above gives a small glimpse at the kind of decisions being made at The Yogurt Culture Company.

Beyond the fresh yogurt and outstanding company philosophies, the menu extends to frozen yogurt and the opportunity to make parfaits or smoothies. The rustic inspired shop also offers daily baked pastries, salads and sandwiches all made with yogurt as a key ingredient.

All hail the healthy cultures.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: Food justice going beyond food.

“Food justice may focus on food, but in connects with issues like economic development, race and class inequities, education, vacant properties, and of course, environmental sustainability.”
-Sherry Linkon
Center for Working-Class Studies

Working-Class Perspectives

Last fall, I had the opportunity to interview Chris Hedges for my radio show, just after he’d delivered a powerful but incredibly discouraging talk about how Americans are becoming less able to think critically (based on his book Empire of Illusion) and how the Democratic party can longer be counted on to support the interests of working people (Death of the Liberal Class).  I asked him what he thought we ought to do about this depressing state of affairs.

His response: work on promoting locally-grown, sustainable agriculture.  Even though I serve on the board of an organization engaged in that kind of work, his response surprised me.

But lately –in part because of a terrific panel at the Working-Class Studies Association conference in June – I’ve been thinking about the potential power of food justice as an alternative to traditional leftist organizing.  I still believe in unions…

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RTF: Farmers as social media advocates

When times change they change all sections of society, however only two of those sections tend to cross over and in a major way. Those two are food and the way people talk about food. As a food warrior intern we are working to find out about what is making what, how and when they are doing it as well as how it contributes to the bigger picture. All of these things are believed to not be new questions but perhaps are being expressed differently. Ever since roughly 2004 there has been a rise in how people talk about their passions. Individual passions are art forms and it appears that the most common and definitely most shared are music and food.

With the introduction of MySpace, many users utilized its services to share personal new tracks or their favorite biggest hits. the transformation to Facebook was a way for people in the elite academic circles to connect. Currently looking at the evolution of Facebook it is greatly used as a way for people to share their pictures.

Twitter joined the conversation in 2008 and soon because a place for people to hone in on their niche interests and ‘follow’ handlebars that speak directly to those interests. The live-feed of the Twitter sphere can be a public space for advocacy in food, women’s’ rights, politics in general or even children’s safety over seas.

Many of the pictures that stream through a foodies Facebook newsfeed come from the meals they eat, markets and grocery stores they shop at, restaurants they dine at, and even farms they visit. Today there is strong urge for restaurants, markets and all establishments striving to sell a product to join Facebook. This is even more apparent with the current shift in the food industry that is promoting locally and seasonal ingredients. The tweets that are being updated from these food establishments follow a similar track.

Years ago the majority of Americans were farmers and the food served to a community was different as you traveled across the world. Today you can chow down on something from each end of the universe, not really… but maybe someday? The technological advancements in agriculture, the government and then obviously our food production has removed people from food and even disconnected them from their own cultures. The shift in our food system today is fighting against this disconnect and striving to revert back to the ‘olden days’. The farmers, food artisans, and consumers are doing so because of their ingrained interest of enjoying food that is wholesome, good and clean.

Tying the growing social media spheres along with this shift in our food systems leads to a lot of different conversations. The constant stream of knowledge that each farmer, food artisan and establishment experiences can now be shared with others in the same field. The idea of competition between producers in a market is decreasing to build a community and overall shape society. Social media is a way for the producers to connect with consumers and offer them what is wanted as well as for consumers to learn more about what’s provided. Food systems have always been a two way street communication between producers and consumers, but until now there hasn’t been one sphere for this to happen. Thus introducing social network sites.

For more tangible examples a few of us who are Real Time Farms Food Warriors stumbled upon farmers that are sharing their stories through pictures and information online. Click the images to experience their farm from the virtual side.

  

  

To dive into Food Advocacy in the Twitterverse, check out one of my previous posts discussing just that.

All hail social connections and good food.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: Meet Rebecca Rosenthal

From Manhattan to Northern Westchester to Montreal and currently Boston with big dreams of back to New York, Australia and England Rebecca Roesenthal is quite the food advocating jet setter. Born in Manhattan, yet raised in Katonah-Northern Westchester, Rebecca was introduced to a way of life that revolved around the preservation and culture of food. In 2008 she was swept away by Montreal, Canada where she spent time as an undergraduate student at the University at McGill studying Urban Systems in their Department of Geography.

Rebecca has taken her life experiences of different cities to her university setting, where she is understanding how cities are broken down through their architectural designs. Rebecca has crafted maps focused on all things from food and sanitation to transportation, truly putting her degree to good use. Through this work she became very interested in food systems where she was able to tie in an environmental psychology minor. Before it is time for her to graduate from her undergraduate career Rebecca is roaming Boston to meet with local farmers and food artisans to understand their unique food systems. As a Real Time Farms Food Warrior with an Urban Systems and Environmental Psychology degree her blog on the Food Warrior experiences offers an outstanding look at our current food system.

While Rebecca is not spending her time studying psychology and mapping out cities, she truly enjoys writing. The Real Time Farms Food Warrior internship fit her well due to the amount of writing she is very used to. While at school Rebecca spends much of her free time contributing to a Food Blog at her university.

Beyond her interest in putting a pen to paper, Rebecca is most eager to engage with farmers and food artisans in order to learn the Boston food scene. This summer is the first time that farmers are allowed to sell fish at markets which is one of the many things Rebecca has already started to learn about. Rebecca is also interested in learning more about the business aspects, including sourcing and distribution. This past semester at McGill she won a Sustainability Case Competition that lead her to develop a self-sustaining, student-run cafe that strived to source locally. She learned a lot from her own experience but hopes to see how local sourcing and fair distribution is replicated in the real world. These are only two examples of what Rebecca hopes to learn from her time with Real Time Farms. The list does not stop there as this headstrong foodie wishes to learn more about the technicalities behind fisheries and fishermen, the stories behind the people supporting Boston’s food system along with the struggles and socioeconomic aspects of farming and food quality. To learn more about her adventures through all of this, dive into her Real Time Farms blog, ‘Local Life, Global Goals‘.

Looking at Rebecca on a more personal level allows you to understand her strong interests in food. Everyday she eats with the philosophy, “know thyself.” For Rebecca food has strong and important qualities that can make a true impact when adjusted correctly to help support our bodies. Joy McCarthy is a nutritional role model for Rebecca as McCarthy strives to explain that there are ‘seven billion diets for seven billion people.’ While arugula is one of Rebecca’s favorite vegetables she struggles with a handful of food sensitivities that have pushed her to better understand foods. She has returned to basic, wholesome cooking but finds herself exploring new spices and dishes along with keeping her mind on the benefits of food while she strives to alkalize her body through food.

Cheers to Rebecca and her summer of adventures.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: The Golden Bear hogs

As a part of the food warrior internship a video is to be produced in order to help our journalistic skills evolve. While visiting Golden Bear Farms I spent some time with the happily grunting piglets and their trusting farming. Here is a look at the life of a pig.

RTF: ‘Dance while you can’

As part of this summers activities and adventures as a Food Warrior I am exposed to a variety of literature and documentaries offered from farmers, friends and our amazing Real Time Farms core team. The most recent review is on American Meat, a documentary discussing exactly that, the meat in America. This documentary dives into the good and bad about the animals raised to produce America’s meat from the view of ‘Commodity Hog Farmers’ to farmers practicing ways that resemble the work done generations ago. The documentary does a phenomenal job of showing all sides of meat and allowing the consumer to learn about what is happening in today’s society revolving the 59 billion pounds of meat consumed by Americans every year.

The producers arranged the content into three parts that cover today’s current farming system, compared to ‘A Different Path’ and ending with a portion that tells viewers that it is simply ‘Up to Us’. In order to feed America meat that is grass-fed and following the practices similar to Joel Salatin ‘we’ would need to have roughly 4 million people start farming that way. There is an increase in young farmers, yet there is also a skepticism that the urge of new farmers needed will not be pursued  by the majority of society.

The documentary starts with a woman completely disconnected from her meat, while stating she would ‘never’ eat her own chickens and prefers the grocery store meat due to the fact that it is packaged and ready to be cooked without needing to ever cross her mind. Traveling to a variety of farms, while meeting the farmers and food markets, restaurants and artisans it ends with a couple turning their backyard into a garden and farm in order to support their families diet. The story ended with them stating, “Get to the party when you get there and dance while you can”. They are a middle-aged couple that have changed their way of life and plan on fulfilling the American dream from here on out reducing the 4 million by 2.

All hail knowledge. Watch, learn and plant a seed.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF Interview: Yona Roberts Golding

In order to begin the Food Warrior adventures there was a need to understand those who I will be working with. Currently there are about 25 Food Warrior interns that are covering ten different cities across the United States and all are striving to bring food transparency and justice to the forefront offering customers choices when choosing where to chow down! Our job is to meet and experience what farmers and food artisans have to offer. The information we gather is added to the Real Time Farm website and then used as a national food guide that is focusing on food transparency to give consumers a choice when it comes to food. The end goal is to show which farms restaurants’ menu items are directly coming from and then also being able to explore the farmer’s information.

Yona Roberts Golding is an undergraduate studying in Connecticut, from Massachusetts and currently living in New York City. Attending Wesleyan University Yona studies Anthropology and Film. She is one of the dedicated food warriors that is eager to explore New York’s hard-working farmers and food artisans along with an abundance of outstanding markets. During the academic year she works on a farm on school property that helps to bring local, wholesome ingredients into the university’s kitchens and local food pantries.

Through her work as a Real Time Farm Food Warrior she’s excited to learn more about different farming practices and to ask questions about issues that have come up for the farm at Wesleyan. Yona is also curious about the livelihood behind a farm and wants to meet the people who are producing different foods. While being in New York she is looking forward to experiencing an array of new food products and information through her work. The business end of running a farm is also an area of interest for Yona because of her work on Wesleyan’s farm. This is a feature of farming that may not always be explained or fully understood but definitely holds a lot of importance.

Yona’s food philosophies push her to steer away from eating meat and understanding food’s impact on her body as well as the environment. This makes the work done through Real Time Farms influential when acting as a consumer.

Yona’s role model is her mother because she has offered Yona a deep understanding of providing through gardening. Yona has grown up with a garden in her backyard and experiences fresh strawberries, cucumbers and so much more as her mother skillfully fills their kitchen with homegrown produce.

Yona Roberts Golding  

Next up will be some exploration of Madison farms and maybe along the way I will be blogging about Yona and my adventures in New York City.

All hail a good garden.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior