Food: Low Price but High Cost

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Left, Jose, 25, cuts and ties cilantro, and Beatriz (far right), 31, picks jalapeños in the Rio Grande Valley. They work not far from one of the border fences (center).
Dan Winters for Fortune Magazine

There’s a price war raging in the grocery aisle—but the people who actually grow and gather our food may be the battle’s true losers. Meet the produce pickers of Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, whose penny-per-bunch harvest helps stock your pantry for less.

January 14, 2019

Our food is cheap—by some measures, cheaper than it’s ever been. Americans now spend less than 10% of their disposable income on what they eat. When researchers first began tracking this figure some 90 years ago, it was closer to 25%.

But the inexpensive supermarket fare that consumers now expect doesn’t come without a hidden human cost. To see, firsthand, the true price of keeping those shelves stocked, Fortune traveled down to the Rio Grande Valley—among the best areas in the country for growing food crops, and one President Trump put in the spotlight last week when he visited the region to make his case for the border wall. Continue reading Food: Low Price but High Cost

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Why We Can’t Separate Social Justice from Sustainability in the Food System

NOTE:  when we first started talking about “sustainability” it was rejected by those who held power and privilege in the food system including many academics.  When it became clear that sustainability wasn’t going away…. the next step was to co-opt the term and focus on environmental sustainability.  Many people, programs, universities and especially businesses would gladly leave the requirement that we focus on social justice out of the conversations and our work to create a more sustainable food system.

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IN: Union of Concerned Scientists by , SCIENTIST, FOOD AND ENVIRONMENT | JANUARY 31, 2019

Most of us wish we could eat with the confidence that everything on our plate has a story we can feel good about, a story about taking care of both people and the environment. In the food system (as elsewhere) these twin issues, justice and sustainability, have often been talked about as if they were unrelated, independent problems with separate solutions.

This disconnect has consequences. Our understanding of the connections between justice and sustainability shapes our work in the food system and determines our chances of making real progress toward our goals. We know that industrial agriculture–large-scale, highly mechanized monoculture farming systems making intensive use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers–does not meet these aspirations. We know that the food system with industrial agriculture as its foundation does not protect the environment, does not protect human health, and doesn’t produce enough nutritious food or distribute it equitably. Sustainability and justice are connected, in part, because injustice and environmental degradation are connected. And if we don’t see the connections between Continue reading Why We Can’t Separate Social Justice from Sustainability in the Food System

Unearthing soil’s role in climate protection

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Soil plays a critical role in global carbon cycling, in part because soil organic matter stores three times more carbon than the atmosphere.

Biogeochemist Dr. Marco Keiluweit, University of Massachusetts Amherst Stockbridge School of Agriculture and the UMass School of Earth & Sustainability, and colleagues, for the first time provide evidence that anaerobic microsites play a much larger role in stabilizing carbon in soils than previously thought.

Further, current models used to predict the release of climate-active CO2 from soils fail to account for these microscopic, oxygen-free zones present in many upland soils, they say…

“Without recognizing the importance of anaerobic microsites in stabilizing soil carbon in soils, models are likely to underestimate the vulnerability of the soil carbon reservoir to disturbance induced by climate or land use change,” write first author Keiluweit and colleagues at Stanford, Oregon State University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Institute of Soil Landscape Research, Germany.

Findings add another twist to the ongoing debate, they add, over “the mechanisms controlling long-term stabilization of carbon in soils.” Details appear in the current issue of Nature Communications.

Common Good “bank” helps support local business

Note: the Simple Gifts Farm Store in North Amherst is now accepting Common Good credit cards!  Many Stockbridge students studying Sustainable Food and Farming have worked there.

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And now for the story…..

By Max Marcus, Greenfield Reporter; January 25, 2019

Imagine a world where a community’s financial priorities routinely reflect its values.

Rather than being determined by faraway lawmakers or by single-minded corporations, a community’s economy would be managed by the people who use it. Community infrastructure, social welfare and local quality of life would all be in the hands of the people who are impacted directly by them.

That’s the idea behind Common Good, a local nonprofit organization that’s developing a system for giving communities control to fund the kinds of large-scale projects that typically require involvement of the government or big businesses.

“This gives us a hope of making the world as good as we want it to be, and to have some control over that, rather than feel like we’re victimized by our own institutions,” said Continue reading Common Good “bank” helps support local business

Carbon Farming and the Green New Deal

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By Brian Barth in Modern Farmer; January 29, 2019

Is carbon farming the most economically viable way to keep climate catastrophe at bay?

A year ago, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez worked as a bartender in Queens. Now the 29-year old is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, the Democrats’ biggest rising star since Barack Obama. She has pushed a decade-old idea called the Green New Deal to the political fore, which has major implications for the food system.

Carbon Farming

The overarching goal of the Green New Deal is to develop a carbon-neutral economy. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not coal-fired power plants and automobile tailpipes that emit the majority of greenhouse gases; it’s food production. Tillage, synthetic fertilizer and the manure lagoons of industrial livestock operations emit copious quantities of carbon into the atmosphere. However, agriculture also holds great potential to pull carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in soil and plants, just as natural forests and grasslands do. There are proven techniques to do this, collectively known as carbon farming, though it would take massive government incentives to redesign our agricultural system to become a net absorber of carbon. But there is a growing consensus that, compared to the investments required to transition to 100 percent renewable energy, electric vehicles and the like, an agricultural approach might actually be the fastest, cheapest and most practical way to dial down carbon emissions before it’s too late.

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Continue reading Carbon Farming and the Green New Deal

Docs to Prescribe Food as Medicine

NOTE: the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture offers degree programs to help you move toward careers in Sustainable Food and Farming.  For more information, see: https://sustfoodfarm.org/new_students/

BOSTON (THE CONVERSATION) — In this new year, millions of Americans will make resolutions about healthier eating. In 2019, could U.S. government leaders further resolve to improve healthier eating as well, joining public health experts in seeing that food is medicine?

In 2018, Congress initiated a series of actions that represent a shift away from placing the full responsibility – and blame – on individual people to make their own healthier choices. These actions also show a growing recognition that many stakeholders – including the government – are accountable for a healthier, more equitable food system. This shift in thinking reflects an understanding that government can and should play a role in improving the diet of Americans.

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Among the Farm Bill changes, we believe that the new Produce Prescription Program holds special promise. Already offered by some nonprofit and private insurance programs, this new federal program will allow doctors to prescribe not just medications but also subsidized purchases of fruits and vegetables. (James Cohen, Flickr/Creative Commons)

As faculty members at Tufts University, our expertise spans clinical medicine, nutrition science, public health, policy analyses, Congress, federal agencies and government Continue reading Docs to Prescribe Food as Medicine

Urban bees: yards and gardens help

Research also identifies pollinators’ favourite flowers, including brambles, buttercups, dandelions, lavender and borage.

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Yards, weedy corners and fancy gardens are all urban havens for bees and other pollinators, a study has found.

The widespread decline of bees resulting from the loss of wild areas and pesticide use has caused great concern in recent years, but towns and cities have been suggested Continue reading Urban bees: yards and gardens help

Report suggests food systems change

FRANCE — In the report, the World Resources institute suggests ways of feeding almost 10 billion people by 2050. Food demand is set to rise by over 50%, with demand for animal-based food products (meat, dairy and eggs) likely to grow by almost 70%. Hundreds of millions of people already go hungry, Farming uses around half the world’s green areas and generates a quarter of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Unsurprisingly, the report says that there is no silver bullet. However, it does offer a Continue reading Report suggests food systems change

Addressing Food Security and Getting Students Paid: UMass Farmer’s Market Grows

Addressing Food Security and Getting Students Paid: UMass Farmer’s Market Grows UMass Food for All network handed out free vegetables and educated people about food security at UMass while other students sold their original work at UMass’ second to...

UMass Food for All network handed out free vegetables and educated people about food security at UMass while other students sold their original work at UMass’ second to last “Food For All Farmers Market,” a market which has grown this season.

“By eating this, you are reducing food waste,” said Dan Bensonof as he served market-goers paper cups of sweet potato & peanut butter soup– the sweet potatoes in the soup were gleaned by his students at Czajkowski Farm in Hadley. Bensonof, who just started working for UMass this June, helps organize the Farmer’s Market, is teaching the practicum class, Permaculture Gardening, as well as coordinating the Permaculture Continue reading Addressing Food Security and Getting Students Paid: UMass Farmer’s Market Grows

UMass Stockbridge School Launches Student-Run Vineyard on Campus

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November 7, 2018
Contact: Elsa Petit 413/545-5217

AMHERST, Mass. – Fall may not seem like a good time for planting, but cool temperatures and ample soil moisture can help plants settle in, says viticulture expert Elsa Petit at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where students in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture have been busy this fall planting dozens of cold-tolerant grapes at the campus’s first student-run vineyard.

Continue reading UMass Stockbridge School Launches Student-Run Vineyard on Campus