Posts from — May 2010
Part of my work at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has been to report on happenings and announcements at the USDA and on the Hill. Here’s a repost of a quick update I wrote on the most recent House Ag Committee hearing for the 2012 Farm Bill. Check out the NSAC blog and other articles here, or sign up for the Weekly Roundup and you’ll receive regular updates to your inbox.
Thursday’s hearing in the House Agriculture Committee brought in two panels of farm and food policy experts to continue the conversation kicked off on late April in preparation for the 2012 Farm Bill.
As in the first hearing in late April, the witnesses’ testimony and Representatives’ questions covered a wide range of topics, but consistently came back to two underlying themes. First, the 2012 Farm Bill will need to shift “business as usual” especially with regards to farm safety net programs like crop insurance; and second, Congress will need to make these changes within a tough budget context. Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) has been calling the 2012 Farm Bill a “baseline” bill, but in the hearing, it was apparent that even a baseline level of funding is not guaranteed.
These themes played out in a back-and-forth on approaches to rural development. Professor Neil Hamilton of Drake University testified on the importance of continuing to support federal programs that promote the development of local and regional food systems alongside existing national and global commodity agriculture. This analysis was in line with prior comments from Chairman Peterson and Secretary Vilsack, but with overall funding for the Farm Bill likely to be limited, some in Congress feel threatened at what they perceive as an increasing emphasis on new and alternative markets.
In response to Professor Hamilton’s testimony, Rep. Jerry Moran (R-KS) expressed concern over what he saw as a “growing emphasis” on “lifestyle” agriculture over “production” agriculture and said that “a prospering mainstreet” would not come as a result of this “lifestyle” farming.
Hamilton countered by citing the potential for local and regional production to keep more dollars in rural communities and keep farmers on the land. In his written testimony, Hamilton also emphasized support for “Agriculture of the Middle” – farmers and ranchers who rely heavily on farming income, are too large to sell into direct markets, but too small to compete effectively on the commodity market but are finding new high value regional markets.
Fellow Iowan Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) reiterated that there was room in the tent for everyone: ‘There is not a threat to production agriculture,’ he said. ‘There’s room for both.’”
May 15, 2010 1 Comment
I’ve been doing a lot of yoga lately. There’s a studio called Yoga District right down First Street just a few blocks from my house. It’s simple, spacious, unpretentious, affordable. There’s a place to leave your mat and the same folks come around again and again so that you get to know faces. People ride their bikes and walk to class. “Interns” from the community help clean the place and sign people in, in exchange for free classes. The whole ethos of the place manifests most clearly in the studio’s outreach arm, YogaActivist.org, which helps bring yoga into communities that might not otherwise experience it.
I love this place. It’s kept me grounded over the past few months, and I’m going to be sad to leave it.
I’ve heretofore been a little skeptical of yoga. Classes I’d taken in San Francisco left me feeling self conscious, like I didn’t fit in among the lululemons and raw foodists. A friend took me to a bikram class in Orange County where a wiry black haired Chinese goddess barked at a room of slick, dripping, bendy people as they twisted and pressed and squeezed every last toxin from deep inside out their pores. It was an experience, but not of calm.
The classes I’ve come to love at this place are athletic. I move and bend and sweat. It’s not easy, but it feels really really good, and by the end, my body feels at once relaxed and also tighter, my mind is open and I’m ready to take life in stride.
Just yesterday I did a headstand on my own for the first time since I was a kid. I’d tried a few times against the wall, or with a spot from a kind instructor, but yesterday I felt courageous and powerful so I nestled the crown of my head between my palms, walked my feet up towards my face till I was on my tippy tip toes, and then gave a slight -push- and bent my knees and then I was up.
Judge not… but sometimes I’m curious when I twist around in some funny pose and see the full room behind me. I’m curious whether people’s posture in yoga belies something deeper about them. The ones that get me most are slouchers, people who turn languidly and poke their arms in the air halfheartedly at the beginning of each sun salute. I wonder if these people would make good coworkers.
Or the overachievers (who, me?) who lunge much deeper than is necessary and push and strive and breathe too loud and glance at their neighbors (I try hard to resist). But the people I want to be friends with (and strive to be more like) are the people who are strong, but calm. Straight, but contained. They sometimes shake, they sometimes fall, but always with grace.
May 12, 2010 1 Comment
This guy is a rockstar. Everything he says resonates.
What inspires you to do your work? “Problem solving… Creating interesting, innovative, and efficient solutions”
“I think we miss opportunities to connect food advocacy and other fields of interest because the nature of the work (and the method of funding) breeds specialization rather than integration.”
“I don’t know one initiative in any field of interest that has been able to create sustainable, game-changing outcomes within 12 months… But in the food movement, we overpromise and underfund, then get mad when we don’t change the world after a year.”
“Investing in communities to create things. Be a part of the creation movement.”
And yet another reason to move to Detroit:
“In two weeks Detroit will launch its Green Grocer Project, which is a grocery expansion and attraction program to help with operations, financing and giving them a direct liaison housed in the City for anything they need. To create a space in the city for a grocer at any level to get involved and give them a contact for anything they need: bookkeeping, accounting, store design, product handling, you name it.… the Mayor will make an announcement on May 17th and it’ll be like watching my baby be born.”
May 11, 2010 No Comments
The air is hushed between going and coming.
trips down my spine and hangs
on the air.
off my fingers,
off my blue suede moccasins
into a puddle under the desk
where I would be working
if it weren’t for
the big space
one thing and another.
Fill the room with belly laughs to keep from sighing.
My virtue is not patience,
but what is good just
won’t be rushed.
May 10, 2010 2 Comments
Roomie Chris just got home. I went up to throw a load of delicates into the washer and heard a bunch of shouting from the front of the house:
“GET DOWN, GET DOWN, GET DOWN!”
Twas a policeman, gun drawn, arresting a shirtless man with long dreads. Chris was watching out the peephole and saw another man run away down the street.
I was chatting with a friend this weekend about where she’s going to move when she starts a new job in a few months. “You should move to my neighborhood!” I said. “But don’t you feel unsafe at night?” she asked, eyebrows raised.
Honestly, not really. But maybe I have a false sense of security.
The only time I’ve felt personally threatened was once when I was riding on the sidewalk because the line of cars was pressed up against the curb so close that there was no where to go and a man lunged toward me apparently trying to knock me off. There was the horrible time that our friend Mike got jumped on the end of the block and then there are stories from Tim about gun shots in the back alley.
Apparently, the corner a block away is some kind of special intersection for a local gang and you don’t really want to hang ’round there. Then this weekend, we found out from Bates St. historian and clean-up orchestrator, Ms. Regans, that tagging on the garage doors of vacant lots ends up becoming a sign that advertises, “deal drugs here.”
It’s fascinating to try to understand what a difference it can make to clean a street, paint over graffiti, have people outside.
I love my neighborhood. It’s one of the very best parts about living in DC and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else (even Mt. Pleasant, which seems like a sylvan paradise, and also is the place — I’ve been informed — where all the “cool foodies” hang out…)
Around here, people are relaxed. They smile and look at me and say hello. They hang out on the street in the evenings and talk. There are lots of families. Sometimes I jump double-dutch with two little girls a few doors down (not very successfully) and their amazingly beautiful mother. The kids from the nearby KIPP academy stare at me when I ride back from work, and they wave back when I wave even though I’m 100% sure they think my helmet is totally uncool.
When I first arrived, I felt uncomfortable. I stood out. The way I looked and the way I dressed. I felt exposed. Now, I feel like my neighbors have my back.
May 5, 2010 4 Comments
A few weekends ago, I took a posse down to Florida market including coworkers from NSAC, visiting intern Kara from the Michael Fields Ag Institute (holla!), and friend Sara. We explored and laughed and made friends with taxidermed ruminants and then some folks followed me back home to cook up some traditional Cambodian fare.
What a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
Green Papaya Salad
1 green papaya shredded
10-15 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber in thin strips or matchsticks.
1 carrot in thin strips
1 cup peanuts toasted and crushed (optional)
1 cup unsweetened shredded, toasted coconut (optional)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar, palm sugar or regular white sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small green chili, minced (optional)
Peel the papaya and grate with a large grater or shred by the “hack and shave” method: holding the papaya in one hand and a sharp knife in the other, strike the fruit with force with the sharp edge of the knife to make multiple vertical parallel incisions. Next, take the knife and shave a thin layer off that side of the papaya so that it comes off in thin ribbons. Do the same with the cucumbers. Julienne the carrots into similar strips or matchsticks.
Prepare the dressing by mixing the ingredients in a bowl. Add the dressing to the salad and toss again.
Place on a serving platter, top with coconut and peanuts if you feel like it and your friends have no crazy allergies.
May 3, 2010 1 Comment
This is the first of a few posts I’m planning on Florida market (aka Union, aka Capitol City). The whole area is slated for redevelopment — a plan that’s been evolving for the past 3+ years and is surrounded by controversy. It’s a totally fascinating story and something I wish a real journalist would take up. Sara R?!
I am obsessed with Florida market. Anyone I meet these days ends up with an earful about my favorite place in the whole district. I love markets. I really really do. Especially the ones that are a little gritty, that remind one that food isn’t meant to be intimidating or inaccessible, or elitist, but something elemental, raw, real, that we all share.
The Union Market buildings were built in the first phase of market construction from 1929 to 1931 and designed by architect E.L. Bullock Jr. in a reduced “Classical Revival” style.
Florida market is gritty. So much so in fact, that people who have visited sometimes crinkle their noses when I mention it. “You buy things there?” they ask. “But those dumpsters with rotting produce! The trucks! The exhaust! The derelicts! The peeling paint and vacant buildings and signs in foreign languages. The noise, the heat and the smell, and the butchers in that warehouse with all that MEAT.”
I eat it up. This is the place that feeds DC. The wholesalers in the market distribute to restaurants and retail grocers throughout the district. No one who eats out or shops outside of farmers’ markets can pretend like they don’t eat from here. And when you come here in person, you can find all sorts of treasures you can’t find at Safeway, at Eastern, or even at the wonderful Freshfarm markets.
Also known as Capitol City market or Union Market, this is the place where the “other half” of DC shops. Mostly African and Latino families, with some Southeast Asian representation and occasional neighborhood hipster looking for a deal on tahini.
On Saturdays, most of the shops are open for retail sales, including Sam Wang produce, where besides the staples, you can find banana flowers, shiso leaf, nopales, chayote, lotus root, thai parsley, mini thai eggplant, masa, frozen banana leaves, tamarind pods, plantain, and every starchy root your heart desireth.
Most families fill up two or three cardboard boxes with produce. Receipts I’ve average $60-100. Many folks ask the cashier to let them know when they hit a limit — “All I’ve got is $67 today, so let me know when we get there.” — some get to the end of the weighing and decide to put back the pumelo or melon because it puts them just over.
Sam Wang’s just one of the many shops. Down the way is a tofu production facility where you can get a tub of three super-fresh tofu blocks for $3. My roommate who once ran the kitchen at a vegetarian restaurant in town used to bike here every morning to buy in bulk.
You can also get a huge bag of fresh sprouts for $3 that’s bigger than a baby, but I don’t recommend it unless you plan to make pho for an army.
So far, I’ve brought about a dozen friends to the market with me on mini trips and all of them have found something to love:
Besides the produce, there’s a wonderful Halal market with basil seed juice (?!), samosas, frozen ready-made paratha, ginger tea, and lots of spices. Apparently you can also get goats, but I haven’t had time to set up a spit, so I haven’t indulged yet.
Then there’s the flea market where you can find everything from rusty industrial muffin tins to dancing panda radios, and also some useful things like an adapter for your beat-up no-frills cell-phone or sea foam stilettos to add a splash to your otherwise staid pantsuit.
There’s a great market directory here of the businesses that sell direct to consumers. See you there Saturdays.
May 2, 2010 1 Comment