The Economist, our standard newsweekly, has had a series of worthwhile and fascinating pieces lately on agriculture. Of special note are:
The return of Victory gardens, which focuses on the growing interest in local foods in America. Of particular note is the coverage of efforts underway in Little Rock, AR:
Classes are being offered on canning vegetables and raising chickens. The Station, a new grocery store about to open in Little Rock, will sell primarily local foods. Heifer International, a non-profit group that hopes to fight world hunger and poverty through self-reliance and sustainability, will host a conference in the city later this year to encourage the use of local produce in school cafeterias. The two-acre Dunbar Community Garden in Little Rock has served as a model for several years. More than 600 students a month have learned about gardening there. The students can take these lessons home and recreate them in their own back yards. The garden, attached to an elementary and middle school, allows inner-city students to taste fresh-grown fruit and vegetables, sometimes for the first time in their lives. Produce grown in the summer months is sold to local restaurants. Perhaps the most positive aspect of the garden movement comes from ventures like the Backyard Garden Project, which helps inner-city families start gardens for self-sufficiency.
It's worth noting that these sorts of efforts are a core goal behind the Farmers Market Pavilion Campaign, as the Pavilion is seen as a resource for SF&C to engage in such work to complement the Market.
What's Cooking takes a fascinating look into the anthropological perspective on the history of food preparation:
Cooking is a human universal. No society is without it. No one other than a few faddists tries to survive on raw food alone. And the consumption of a cooked meal in the evening, usually in the company of family and friends, is normal in every known society. Moreover, without cooking, the human brain (which consumes 20-25% of the body’s energy) could not keep running.
This was especially interesting to me, since shortly after reading it I spoke about the Market Pavilion at a local gathering of raw-food advocates, and had done some research on that perspective in preparation for the presentation. I'd like to do a future post on this, but don't have time to do it justice right now.
Finally, George Will's column in Sunday's Washington Post made me rub my eyes in disbelief. It was one of the single best distillations of our current agricultural system's problems, and its links to health, government, and more, that I've read. Michael Pollan (whom Will cites often) would be proud. I enjoy reading Will's column, though I don't always agree, but I never thought I'd see something like this come from his pen:
Vilsack's department is entwined with the food industry that produces a food supply unhealthily simplified by the dominance of a few staples such as corn....Hippocrates enjoined doctors: "Do no harm." He also said something germane to a nation that is harming itself with its knives and forks: "Let food be thy medicine." That should be carved in stone over the entrance to Vilsack's very important department.
If we've won George Will, we're getting somewhere.