From Pollan to the President

I’ve been arguing for a while that Michigan–the state with the second greatest agricultural diversity after California–ought to use innovations in sustainable agriculture as part of its plan to drive economic recovery.  Agriculture is going to have to be more sustainably produced in the future, and MI is uniquely suited to lead in developing the policies and technology to accomplish this goal.

But then, we should be talking about how to pursue this sustainable future more widely.

Which is what Michael Pollan does in this long letter to the next President, recommending a number of changes to our food policies. Here are Pollan’s comments on the ties between our food and the petroleum that goes into it. 

After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study. Whenever farmers clear land for crops and till the soil, large quantities of carbon are released into the air. But the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis — a process based on making food energy from sunshine.


The F.D.A. should require that every packaged-food product include a second calorie count, indicating how many calories of fossil fuel went into its production. Oil is one of the most important ingredients in our food, and people ought to know just how much of it they’re eating.


And you should also let it be known that the White House observes one meatless day a week — a step that, if all Americans followed suit, would be the equivalent, in carbon saved, of taking 20 million midsize sedans off the road for a year. Let the White House chef post daily menus on the Web, listing the farmers who supplied the food, as well as recipes.

There a many other great suggestions in the letter. The only problem is that Pollan uses arugula as an example–one I’m sure the lizard brains will use to discredit these ideas. 

  1. bmaz says:

    And you should also let it be known that the White House observes one meatless day a week — a step that, if all Americans followed suit, would be the equivalent, in carbon saved, of taking 20 million midsize sedans off the road for a year.

    Alright, I am not sure I buy this. Wouldn’t this depend entirely an what you consumed in place of the meat? I would suggest that many things probably have a rather large carbon footprint themselves. This looks somewhat goofy and arbitrary. Besides, I like to eat cow.

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, trust me, I like to eat cow, too.

      In fact, one of the proposals I like the most here is that there be a corps of meat inspectors who work localized processing facilities.

      There were a bunch of farmers here who wanted to put up a local slaughterhouse, so they could sell their meat locally in greater bulk–but there’s no inspector so it wouldn’t be feasible.

    • WilliamOckham says:

      Having grown up in fairly close proximity of Big Cow (and trust me there is definitely such a thing), I can tell you that there’s nothing in the food chain with the carbon footprint of beef, pork, and chicken.

      • LabDancer says:

        I agree with but with this qualification: put the word “Big” in front of all three animal food sources.

        There has been a [possibly counter-intuitive] effect from agricultural subsidies, not just in the US, but in Europe, particularly France, and to some extent as well in Canada; one that has been on the agenda of the WTO summits for the last 3 [the only ones I followed closely, starting from when the nature of some of my client interests led me to do so], being this:

        Whereas the impetus behind protectionism has always STARTED with the notion of “preserving” or “promoting” the small, typically family-based farm [”agricultural production mode” model or APM is the approved term, in parallel with the ACM for “automated cash machine” model for the typical person’s interface with his or her bank], from some point in the process the organizational foundations of farming interest communities always has ended up working to dove-tail with the unregulated free enterprise or Reagan model.

        The level at which sustainable agricultural production truly qualifies as acceptably “organic” has posed a number of problems, IMO chiefly in:

        [a] the price point on the farm [sometimes referred to as “farm gate”] is always going to reflect on a higher labor component;

        [b] the standardization of a number of pernicious Walmart concepts, in particular that transport costs and “shrinkage” will always be borne by the initial producer; and

        [c] large regional-to-national sized so-called “commercial” farming has enjoyed first position in seeking credit for capitalization, expansion and re-capitalization and expansion [I refer of course to the dinosaur days before the summer of 2007 when credit roamed the earth].

        Up until the summer of 2007, the smaller sustainable/organic farms had been able to exploit the higher end prices that even super markets were able to attract for their “niche” produce; but as consumers have become increasingly conscious of having to dip into their equity to put food on the table an awful lot of them became far more price conscious, and that stopped the trend that the sustainable farming movement was depending on lasting for at least a few more years to assure their credibility with their banks. At the risk of putting it too broadly, over the last year sustainable farming has had the crap kicked out of it.

        The next administration MUST put a priority on extending re-financing to smaller, sustainable and organic farms, and in effect leaving the Tyson Food models to fend for themselves, or this fundamental foundational piece to the country being able to resurrect a functioning economic system will fail.

        With the Neocon and Wingnut attacks on blowjob breaks and not showing foreign policy “muscle” and Kristol’s legacy [making it impossible to reform health care], IMO this truth doesn’t get touched on much: the implications of Bill Clinton’s being in the tank for Tyson for 8 years meant we entered the Water Boy-Big Dick era already down two quarts. All that was necessary to finish the job was to start a foreign war machine bubble and the remove the last vestiges of financial regulation of corporate interests, including banks. Those, as we know, were their first two priorities.

        A comeback first requires food as much if not more than shelter. If I were in on the big picture planning stages of the Obama administration, I would refuse to shut up or leave the room until a plan to restore food security through sustainable agricultural production models was settled on.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          Good points, every one.

          I must have died and gone to heaven.
          eWheelies, plus one of my all-time favorite topics…? Be still, my beating heart.

          To say nothing of the fact that everyone here knows so much (!).
          I’m a bit dumbfounded.

          bmaz, here’s my super-simple rule of thumb to remember why the impact of meat products is so huge:
          – carbs are basically like a long daisy chain of atoms (see diagram):
          Fats, you get a bit more complexity, but still kind of long chainy things (see diagram):
          Proteins, you get complex 3-D structures (see diagram):

          To get those really complex, convoluted structures requires a lot of metabolic energy. Which requires a lot of grass, which requires a lot of sun, good soil, and water. In other words, growing a cow is magnitudes more times complex than growing a lentil, or a pea, or a lettuce.
          Anyway, FWIW, that’s my rule of thumb.
          And yeah, I eat meat; just pointing out that it involves layers of complexity that use up a lot more energy.

          However, it may be the case that fresh raspberries from Argentina have a carbon footprint bigger than a chicken grown 10 miles from you; I’ve not seen any really good, reliable data about that point.

          But it does appear that there is nothing but ‘opportunity’ for foodies and gardeners IF the government could get its act together and make some different policies. Farming is a tough business, and makes for some righteously independent, ornery folks.

          This is one topic on which I think some of the evangelicals and the ‘left/progressives’ really need to build on common ground. I swing by Rod Dreyer’s blog at because he often writes about Ag-related topics. Here’s his post about Pollan’s article:…..the-f.html

          • emptywheel says:

            Thanks for linking through to beliefnet, ROTL. I think you’re right—this is an area where there’s common ground between left and right. not only that, but if you can just get rural talking to urban again–and farming is the best way to do that–you’re going to restore a lot of social fabric regionally.

          • bmaz says:

            I fully agree with the principle, I am just not sure that the savings from one meatless day would be as big as the author stated. Savings yes; that big, I am dubious.

            On that note, I am going to get a burger!

  2. scribe says:

    Great idea overall, but IMHO the one thing which could do more to cut that fossil fuel footprint of agriculture is the production and consumption of foods locally.

    If your lettuce is coming from a plot outside the back door, then I’d suspect it highly likely that you’re actually taking carbon out of the air for every pound of lettuce you consume.

    I live in a city. I have a postage-stamp back yard – maybe 12 x 20 feet. I built my garden, literally hand-carrying tons of topsoil and brick/pavers (for the walls of the raised beds and walking/sitting areas) over a pair of high fences. And I can grow enough lettuce (and basil and tarragon and thyme and rosemary and sorrel and mustard greens) for my annual consumption, along with my flowers. If I can do it, John and Jane Suburbia can, too. And they have a lot more space than I do.

    Winter? Build a cold frame. You can have fresh lettuce through Christmas at least that way.

    And get a chest freezer to store your fresh-frozen veggies, bulk local fruits and so on.

    Some carefully planned and cared-for gardens would put those expansive suburban yards to productive use. It’ll take a couple years to get the hang of gardening and figure out how to make it work for you, but work it will.

    And, if you can’t grow your own, buy local from someone who does.

      • scribe says:

        Yes. One is called the “slow food” movement, at least in Euro media. I;m sure there are others.

        But, um, common sense tells me what I posted above. If I grow it, I have total control over what’s on my plate and how it gets there.

        And, FWIW, who wants a tomato in February where it’s clear it came from California, unripe, and the only reason its capable of being shipped that far is because it was bred to be more impact-resistant (pound for pound) than a new-car bumper.

        Right now, there’s fresh asparagus in the stores. It’s beautiful. It’s delicious. It was airfreighted in from frickin’ Peru. I have to wonder how many gallons of JP-4 were burnt to put those spears on my plate and whether my frivolous desire for the out-of-season loss-leader at the greengrocer is really sensible….

        In a month or so, one of a friend’s clients will start receiving fresh chestnuts (which I love) straight off the Alitalia air-freighter. We’ll go over to the warehouse and he’ll cut the shrinkwrap off the pallet and tear open the burlap bag so we can load up. Guilty, gas-guzzling pleasure again.

        Our bodies are part of the natural environment as much as any animal or plant. We are built for seasons, and seasonal changes. To remain in harmony with the world of which we are a part, we need to live in accordance with its rhythms. Raspberries in February and Asparagus in October are, for northern hemisphere people, out of harmony.

    • freepatriot says:

      what is this “lettuce” you speak of ???

      most of America has no clue about the lettuce sheds in Yuma, they probably fill 3000 semi trucks a day in December. That’s a lot of diesel fuel, all those trucks probably burn 1500 gallons a day just waiting to be loaded

      the “grow locally” thing is gonna work for people like me, cuz you can grow food all year around out here (if you like bananas, you’re shit out of luck though, they got the same fuel usage overhead you get in transporting lettuce, and they don’t grow here)

      but in Michigan, Wisconsin, North Dakoda, etc, they got a growing season that lasts what, 8 days ??? how ya gonna grow enough food for a year in a week ???

      you guys could come stay with me. I’m willing to let you eat any “Lettuce” type items you find growin in the yard (just remember to bring smokes and whiskey, okay ???)

      • 4jkb4ia says:

        I am sure that fp is joking, but root vegetables are very growable up there, as well as wheat in ND. The Census of Agriculture for each state is available at your local government document depository.

      • emptywheel says:

        Well, I’ve got a laundry basket full of winter squash I grew in the basement.

        And my CSA just offered a three week add on–because they’ve got so much left in the fields still growing. And I’ve got a Thanksgiving CSA coming in before Turkey day. And then my winter frozen CSA kicks in.

        So I’ll be eating local veggies through February just with what I’ve already paid for.

      • scribe says:

        It seems you think fresh veggies can’t be grown in more-northern climes merely because you might not have ever been there and gardened there. Living where the sun never sets on the desert can make one … lazy or uninformed about how to go about it.

        I grew up on the boundary between climate zone 4 and 5, and I can tell you it’s not a problem. There are literally thousands of varieties of the various garden vegetables. These varieties were developed for all sorts of purposes – better preserving, shorter or longer time-to-harvest, bigger or smaller fruit/produce, color, flavor, cold-hardiness, you name it.

        The coordinate problem to the Big AG approach of planting a hundred or thousand acres of one variety of seed for one variety of veg, and then harvesting it all at the same time – which is the only way industrialized AG can justify the capital investment in the processing and transportation plants – is that this develops the monoculture problem. If a particular variety of plant turns out to be susceptible to a particular disease or pest, then the whole crop can be lost, among many outcomes – all bad. That is the result from the loss of biodiversity which people talk about.

        Compare that problem to, say this example which I’ve picked out pretty much at random. This particular seed company lists for sale 8 varieties of one type of lettuce th so-called “butterhead” lettuces. If you start looking at their time to harvest, you’ll see they vary between 34 and 56 days.

        I think one could grow lettuce in 34 days – even 56 days, in North Dakota or Maine for that matter.

        And, remember, I haven’t even discussed starting the seeds inside and then hardening them off. That can extend your growing season by literally weeks. Same on the autumn end, too. By cloching, cold-framing and similar, one can – like I suggested above – stretch out their season until well after Thanksgiving. Again, where I grew up, we still had fresh homegrown lettuce through Christmas, by careful cloching and cold-framing. It was curly endive, but it was fresh.

        • Fern says:

          Two points – first, I live on the southern edge of zone 2b, and let me tell you, that is a pretty damned limited growing season.

          Secondly – some of live in apartments and can’t grow anything – and lack space for storage.

          • Rayne says:

            Lindy — scribe was referring to this kind of apparatus — a garden cloche — which is not as permanent as a cold frame. I’ve used them to extend my tomato season, simply using 5 to 7 mil thick plastic over my tomato cages, will get them through frost until hard freeze.

            They’re called cloches, at least the old-fashioned blown glass bell jar kind are, because they looked like a hat (cloche is the French word for a pull-on hat).

            In re: sustainable agriculture — in the middle of writing a short piece on sugar beets, of all things. Did you know that half of our U.S. sugar supply comes from sugar beets? Did you know that we’re going to have a record crop this year, between 20 to 25% larger than average?

            And did you know that there are so many beets that farmers are going to leave some of them in the fields to rot?

            They can’t afford the fuel costs to harvest them, and they can’t be processed fast enough, so they’re going to go to waste.


            • freepatriot says:

              drive down Innerstate 5 from Redding to Bakersfield

              you’ll see a shitload of sugar beets

              and so much corn that they just dump on the ground in giant piles

              btw, considering that sugar prices are artificially high because of the embargo on Cuba, maybe we don’t really need as many sugar beets as we’re using now

              and does anybody wanna rant on corn fructose sugar ??? we make that poison here too

              • Ishmael says:

                LOL! My rant at 57 crossed with your comment on HFCS! Actually, Pollan is a wonderful spokesperson for this issue, he doesn’t come across as some kind of Food Nazi, just that we understand the implications of our food choices.

                One thing that also must be addressed is the issue of supporting the crop or the business itself instead of the farmer, which is why we have large ethanol and corn subsidies to huge corporations (and let’s not forget that the petrochemical industry makes huge amounts of fertilizer that large scale agribusiness demands to increase yields in the short term). Preserving the land rights of farmers through community land trusts will keep the land in agricultural production while stopping urban sprawl.

                • freepatriot says:

                  Preserving the land rights of farmers through community land trusts will keep the land in agricultural production while stopping urban sprawl.


                  I didn’t even think of goin there

                  that subject is tied to water in a strange way, out here (I’ll splain later, if anyone cares)

            • Ishmael says:

              Regarding sugar beets – Pollan in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma talks about the pervasiveness of corn in the American food chain, and how this prominence is the direct result of government policies and corn’s unique properties. Pollan quotes a farmer stating that corn is the “welfare queen of crops”, with every bushel of corn currently enjoys a 50-cent subsidy from the U.S. government that was the result of cheap food policies in the 1970s during the first inflation spike. As for sugar beets, the subsidies made corn cheaper than sugar, so high fructose corn syrup has dominated the sweetener market, and is pervasive, Pollan says that a quarter of the items in the supermarket now contain corn derivatives, with predictable results on caloric intake, diabetes and obesity.

        • freepatriot says:

          Living where the sun never sets on the desert can make one … lazy or uninformed about how to go about it.

          uniformed, and we only live in a desert during the summer, during the winter we live in a swamp

          I got no clue how you guys grow food in the remaining 95% of America

          I live in a triple-valley that enjoys a Mediterranean climate, and the world’s greatest water shed. When the snow melts, water is gonna flow by my house, it’s that simple. We have an irrigation system in this state that would boggle the mind of your average ancient Egyptian (and they knew a thing or two about irrigation)

          my ignorance of agriculture in most of America is based upon a lifetime immersion in the most developed agricultural system in the world. I’ve never seen anything else, and what they do here is quite impressive

          I assume there is some level of irrigation going on everywhere. you guys can’t just be spreading seeds and hoping it rains, right ???

          wow, Dodgers get 5 in the first, WOO HOO

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            The Inland Empire of Washington state is fed by irrigation canals that feed out of the Columbia; there are different canal systems throughout Idaho and Oregon. Without those canals, very little would grow — if you use Google Earth and put in “Yakima, Washington” or “Baker, Oregon” you’ll be able to spot where the land is irrigated, as opposed to where its not.

            But water rights are a huge issue, even up this far north. And they’ll probably only become more intense. Part of my childhood was spent in regions fed by the Federal Reclamation Project — reclaiming land by laying irrigation canals. Truly, the canal systems built in the last 80 years have changed the world, but many people never really think much about them.

            Anyway… huge topic.
            Washington, Idaho, and Oregon grow TONS of sugar beets. As you point out, they all need energy for processing and transportation. All of the acreage that I can think of offhand is fed by irrigation canals.

            We lack your sunshine and moderate temperatures, but what we have are volcanic soils and they are great soils for certain kinds of crops — provided they are well watered.

    • Mnemosyne says:

      An excellent source of information on personal gardening, cold frames, and local food is Eliot Coleman, who’s been growing and writing about it for a looooong time: He’s forgotten more about organic farming than most of us will ever know. His wife, Barbara, too.

      He maintained some years ago that we should all be able to eat only local food, defining that as food grown within 50 miles of where you live.

    • emptywheel says:

      Thanks–I was thinking as I wrote it that I regret not raising it with her when I had a one on one with her.

      I think it’ll be my new passion once this damn election is over.

  3. freepatriot says:

    does Pollan mention that without fossil fuels, our current food production model fails on several different levels ???

    In Cali, most agriculture is dependent on irrigation, so you need power to run pumps. In the actual fields, Flood-Gravity irrigation is the most wasteful method, and most modern, water saving methods are dependent on pumps (the more complex they are, the more power you need). without power, most fields adapted to micro-irrigation are a wasted investment (and you don’t even want to get me started on the water wars out here)

    without petrochemical pesticides, our single crop system is wide open for insect infestation and destruction (we got thousands of square miles of orchards that are already suffering from the bugs)

    refrigeration- cold storage, is needed from field to market out here. Without diesel, your watermelons ain’t gonna make it to your house, trust me

    canning-preserving is an industry that uses massive amounts of power, and I’ve worked in the agricultural transportation industry out here; without diesel, Los Angeles is gonna starve to death

    California has a unique climate, that has resulted in a unique agricultural model

    without petrochemical pesticides and fertelizers, and without diesel fuel, that model is unworkable. without electicity, it’s totally non-functioning

    and that’s a problem we;re gonna have to address …

    • MadDog says:

      All of what you wrote may be true, but I think you’d also agree that getting smarter in our use of energy consumption can have an immense impact.

      Regardless of genuine differences about how elastic the timeframe, as time will ultimately tell, much of what we do and how we do it, is not of the “sustainable model” variety.

      • freepatriot says:

        getting smarter in our use of energy consumption can have an immense impact.

        I TOTALLY agree with that. Shutting down the trucks while they’re waiting to load and unload would save thousends of gallons of fuel a day

        bio-mass and crop gleening would do a lot too. We grow apples around here, but they don’t get the nice red color, because of the heat. Tons of apples rot in the fields every year because only the best are picked (and those are used in canning-processed foods) the remainder could be used to make alcohol.

        sustainable alcohol production should become a major farm industry. use the waste mass (prunings, etc) to turn the excess fruit into alcohol, use the alcohol to run farm equipment

        it’s simple, easy, and sustainable. just a little labor intensive, but I’ve never seen anybody do this

        we gotta start creating models like this

  4. 4jkb4ia says:

    And looking at the 2002 results online, Wisconsin was second in the US in number of acres of vegetables harvested.

  5. 4jkb4ia says:

    Most of these vegetables are green beans, peas, and sweet corn (I was right to remember the sweet corn). Pumpkins, squash, and carrots each have more than 4000 acres.

  6. EdwardTeller says:

    emptywheel – I left a thank you msg at the bottom of the previous thread.

    Michael Pollen’s The Botany of Desire is the only book every member of our family has read since the kids were kids, and we all read things like The Magic School Bus books together.

    Now – out do dig up carrots and beets before the snow gets too deep….

  7. 4jkb4ia says:

    However when we get to North Dakota we have problems. Vegetables were all of 655 acres. ND and WI are entirely different ecosystems, I would think. WI isn’t prairie.

    And the Wisconsin squash was in the area of 1000 acres.

  8. Fern says:

    I wish I could find the source, but I have read that reducing meat consumption does more to reduce fuel consumption than switching to a more local diet. Meat production is a very energy-intensive process.

    • emptywheel says:

      But it’s partly because of the issue I said above–there are no more local inspectors, which means meat has to go through the bottleneck of a big-scale processing plant.

      The grass-fed beef the farmers local to me grow isn’t all that petroleum intensive.

  9. MadDog says:

    Somewhat tangential to the central topic of EW’s post, it is my sense that in the course of this next century, Nuclear Energy will become the primary source of power generation.

    I say this not because I’m a Nuclear Energy supporter nor do I own an Uranium mine, but because the supply of fuel it consumes dwarfs in size any carbon-based fuel source (oil, coal, natural gas, etc.)

    And pray tell MadDog, just what will be done with the storage of the eons-long poisonous radioactive remains?

    Folks, the powers-that-be in the leading societies who will ultimately decide to go this Nuclear Energy route (wtf, we’re going to actually emulate the French?), will also decide to ship this radioactive refuse off-planet.

    This choice will be sold as a minimalist’s industrial carbon footprint winner, but also much will be done to hide/mislead the world on its steady expansion of total planet heat output (air conditioning is a right not a privilege!).

    • R.H. Green says:

      I have to agree that the Age of Nuclear may well be on the horizon. Logically, it seems to me to be the only way forward, given the huge population and its distribution in unsustainable places (like Phoenix AZ). However the decision to proceed in investment in the infrastructure and operation (including the problem of waste) will be undertaken by the same group of “thinkers” that managed the auto and housing industries, whose eye is on the next few quarters of income return. I don’t believe they can be as responsible as needed to control the behemoth they will create. Hell, there is not a mile from my home an interstate highway expansion that has a cracked cement pillar holding up a now functioning overpass. I can’t get the oversight people to even take a look at it (yet).

      • MadDog says:


        I suspect the first proponents (in other words, dummies for us laypeople) of off-planet shipment of radioactive waste will glibly point to The Dark Side of The Moon.

        After the kibosh is put on that, the next set of dummies will propose sending the radioactive waste on a trajectory to burn up in the Sun.

        After a thumbs-down on that, a seemingly “sensible” set of dummies will propose sending the radioactive waste on a one-way trip out of our Solar System.

        In the meantime, another “pragmatic” set of dummies will begin storing the radioactive waste in holding patterns “scientifically” designed to prevent accidental fission on one or more “dead” planets in the Solar System.

        A place like Venus, though my bet is on Mars since it has almost no atmosphere.

        These “pragmatists” will prevail for a couple of hundred years, assuming we as a species continue to hang around, and then somebody will figure out how to use the radioactive waste itself for nuclear energy fuel.

        • freepatriot says:

          do the groups of dummies have names yet ???

          I wanna join the second group, if the dues ain’t too steep …

          what’s wrong with sending a spaceship full of nookuler waste to the sun ???

          it’s not like we’re gonna fuck up the sun or something. The damn thing will probably burn up before it gets half way between the sun and mercury, and the added radiation in that area ain’t gonna be noticeable

          now go ahead an rip me new asshole …

    • FrankProbst says:

      Folks, the powers-that-be in the leading societies who will ultimately decide to go this Nuclear Energy route (wtf, we’re going to actually emulate the French?), will also decide to ship this radioactive refuse off-planet.

      This is a very nice idea in theory, but there’s going to be at least one pragmatist who will point out that our space program doesn’t exactly have a 100% safety rating. We’ve had more than one manned spacecraft explode in the atmosphere. Can you imagine how much worse it would be with several tons of radioactive waste on board?

      • bmaz says:

        How you gonna get all this stuff up there? Weight of payload is the issue for breaking through the atmosphere and up to or beyond a geosynchronous orbit distance. The lead or whatever containment vessels would take up so much weight that I don’t see how you are going to get enough volume of this stuff transported to make it economically feasible for a long, long time.

        • freepatriot says:

          How you gonna get all this stuff up there?

          giant catapults

          really BIG ones

          gonna be fun as hell to watch …

  10. bell says:

    4 things have to happen to move forward with these types of ideas…

    1) the corrupt FDA needs to have it’s powers challenged so as to represent the small farmer more then the multinational corps…

    2) companies like Monsanto need to be taken out to the woodshed..

    3) people need to be made aware that eating meat is a much bigger tax on the planet then they have been led to believe…

    4) people need to eat locally…

    they’re interconnected..

  11. Lindy says:

    We need more highly skilled small farmers in more places all across America — not as a matter of nostalgia for the agrarian past but as a matter of national security. For nations that lose the ability to substantially feed themselves will find themselves as gravely compromised in their international dealings as nations that depend on foreign sources of oil presently do. But while there are alternatives to oil, there are no alternatives to food.

    The whole letter is worth the read, but that one paragraph stood out for me. I’ve been saying that for years and people roll their eyes and tell me I’m paranoid.

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m with you. One of the biggest worries I’ve got about the economic crash is that the crash of food markets will make a lot of communities with no non-cash ag lose access to food.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        My ancient father has been fretting for at least a year, “Where will people get food when something bad happens?” He grew up in the Depression able to eat out of the family garden, but now that we’ve paved over rich farmland for subdivisions…?

        And note that McCain’s lobbyists strategists have worked for the very forces that fueled this very kind of insanity — mega subdivisions and commercial developments on good crop and farmland. However, the Dems have been complicit, and that needs to s-t-o-p.
        Leadership can make a difference, provided it’s not hamstrung by home builders, mortgage brokers, and fraudulent sprawl-enablers.

        Not that I have any opinions on the links between sprawl and eating… (ahem).

        • emptywheel says:

          One of my friends here is in the local tree hugging school at UM. She was talking about maybe doing a thesis on the way Cuba’s small-scale ag developed after they lost the oil from Russia.

          Because that’s a model we’re going to have to emulate quickly.

          • LabDancer says:

            It’s also the model in the part of the world Monsanto hasn’t screwed over yet – Southeast Asia – where, like the rest of the two thirds of the world’s population for whom bugs are a consciously cultivated staple of the human diet, small home-based bug farm-lets are a big portion of the small business component.

            So far the North American and European conceptions of acceptable bug eating are pretty much focused on lobsters and crayfish. I’m sure we’re going to have to start looking a ‘hoppers as a commercial opportunity.

            • LabDancer says:

              gawd, my lack of preview’s showing: looking AT hoppers.

              Also, certainly termite larvae- very yummy if you choose the right light oil and don’t overdue- but I don’t know enough about cockroaches at this point.

          • LabDancer says:

            First you have to get in there. The back half of the assinine Bush administration even pulled Ry Cooder’s ability to go there.

            Mind you, the faculties of the leading agricultural universities are peppered with Canucks – though I expect you have to put in some effort to separate the wheat from the chaff.

            Has skadl or anyone of that lot been to Cuba?

  12. Boston1775 says:

    I’m excited that you’re writing about this. This is my passion: better health through real, nourishing food. Small diversified farms sustain communities.

    Organic fruits and vegetables
    Farm fresh milk, butter and eggs
    Pasture raised beef and chicken

    Life is good.

  13. Waccamaw says:

    ew –

    It never ceases to amaze……no matter what the topic, there will magically appear people with an extrodinary depth and breath of knowledge about the subject!

    Thanks so much to all of you for sharing; bookmarking for in-depth absorption when there’s not company coming for dinner. Please do follow-up with more posts like this…….if the election ever *does* end.

  14. behindthefall says:

    I live in what by rights ought to be an agricultural area, and one blessed by a number of factors at that. Yet, in the offerings of the local community college and extension courses, there is not a single course about agriculture. Even if a son or daughter wanted to take over the family farm, or buy some land and start one, where would they find the latest information? As a child, “the aggy school” was a fixture of the town, and it drove and sustained much of the economy directly or indirectly, protecting the land from early “development”. As a glance at Google Earth told me last night, though, — as long a glance as I could stomach — that shield wore thin and let through the fatal strokes.

  15. MadDog says:

    OT – And sort of Breaking – I was just watching the NBC Nightly News and they had a clip of McSame at some function today and he said this about the upcoming debate with Obama:

    “After I whip his you-know-what…”

    Nice imagery there Colonel McSame!

    Old white Overseer guy talkin’ about whippin’ the plantation folks iffen they don’t pick that cotton.

    I don’t know when NBC will have a transcript or video up, but when it does, I’m sure it will make a splash!

    • MadDog says:

      And so folks know I just didn’t make this stuff up, here it is from the horse’s own…ahmmm…mouth:

      McCain: ‘After I whip his you know what’

      From NBC/NJ’s Adam Aigner-Treworgy
      ARLINGTON, Va. — After doing some debate prep and satellite interviews at his campaign headquarters for most of the afternoon, McCain headed downstairs to his Virginia Victory offices to rally a group of volunteers who had been making phone calls on his behalf.

      He referenced recent poll numbers and the state of the race in Virginia before telling his supporters that this news should only make them want to work harder.

      “After I whip his you know what in this debate, we’re going to be going out 24/7,” McCain said of his upcoming debate with Obama, but seeming to consider recent criticism that his words have been too inflammatory, he quickly told supporters to be respectful.

    • FrankProbst says:

      “After I whip his you-know-what…”

      Nice imagery there Colonel McSame!

      Old white Overseer guy talkin’ about whippin’ the plantation folks iffen they don’t pick that cotton.

      You know, I didn’t even realize that people were upset about about the “whip” part, although I see it now. When I first saw this story, my first thought was, “Grandpa is too much of a wuss to say ‘ass’.”

  16. DeadLast says:

    Great post.

    It warms my heart that now our society is dissembling, the progressive blogosphere is adaptable and organized to look for real solutions. Whether or not this one works, it probably would, we need an unfettered renaissance where the only judgments are 1) can it work and 2) is it for the good of the children.

  17. skdadl says:

    Ooh, LabDancer — I’ve been known to eat just about anything (except coconut — I have this childish thing about coconut), but I really think I have to pass on the larvae. Pulses are protein, and if larvae become our only meat source, I think I’ll stick to teh lentils and black-eyed peas and chickpeas and so forth. Very easy to store, too, if you live in a cold country.

    We’ve had an epidemic of listeriosis here this summer, twenty people or so dead all across the country and many more very ill, all of it originating from one meat-processing plant in Toronto. That has a lot to do with over-centralized processing of food and even more to do with sudden deregulation of inspection, which we had learned about only months before from a leaked gov document. Our beloved neocon health minister has been quoted as saying that people are just going to have to “get used to” the notion that anyone with a weakened immune system will succumb to any epidemic that comes along — this is the same guy who, as provincial health minister, fumbled through the SARS epidemic in 2003.

    No, I’ve never been to Cuba, although I know people who have lived there and loved it. I have a lot of sympathy, although I also always have my civil-libertarian concerns.

  18. Loo Hoo. says:

    I have 2 1/2 acres here in SoCal that I do nothing with, but pay taxes on. Fertile soil too. (Avocado country) I’d like to do a community garden type thing, but I’d grow broke paying the water bills…

  19. WilliamOckham says:

    OT: The NYT’s Jacob Heilbrun is an idiot. To wit:

    As governor of Texas, Bush hewed to a centrist course, working, as he often boasted, with the Democratic­-led State Legislature.

    I didn’t know there were any idiots left who believed that Rovian BS. Bush had a far-right agenda, but in Texas, the Office of Governor is very weak. Every time he was about to get his a** handed to him by the not-quite-so-far-right legislature, he would ‘compromise’ by giving the opposition everything they wanted and the declare victory.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Wow, and you think the press could have covered THAT in 2000, rather than the fact that Al Gore was ‘a nerd’?

      I’m really trying to be grateful for improvements that I see in the US press (and I do see a few). But man, it’s just so infuriating to be reminded how completely and absolutely they fell down on the job in 2000. Completely irresponsible not to have pointed out the facts you note about GWBush.


      • bmaz says:

        It was out there if you looked and analyzed critically. I could tell just about everything from here, but you had to look a lot deeper than the surface coverage and rely more on investigative pieces and deeper articles in the print media; if you relied on teevee, you would never have seen it. Unfortunately, most people do not really plumb the depths of even one print newspaper these days, much less multiple sources.

  20. bmaz says:

    Heh. Heilbrun is an idiot. Well, that is not exactly breaking news. And lest we not forget that one of the claimed Bush success stories, his education policy, came out of a criminally fraudulent program in Texas. Right there in Houston I believe.

  21. Neil says:

    “If Sarah Palin wants to avoid spending her sunset years telling her children and grandchildren about a time in America when freedom thrived over tyranny, she should vote against the McCain-Palin ticket.”

    – Bruce Fein 10/9/8

    Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer with Bruce Fein & Associates and author of “Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy.”….._palin/?ln

  22. freepatriot says:

    here’s the deal about land conservancies and community land trusts and the california water wars

    if you draw a triangle on a map of california’s central valley that stretches from Modesto to Sacramento, with the point located about Richmond, you would have an approximation of the San Joaquin – Sacramento river delta

    this area is the confluence of the draingage system in the central valley. It has about 2000 miles of rivers and canals that wind thru high banked levies that protect the farm land

    the land is below sea level, so it’s all reclaimed (ie, within a reclamation district)

    urban sprawl is encroaching westward from the bay area, and from the east by an intensely developed swath of urban sprawl along interstate 5 from Tracy thru Stockton to Sacramento. So the delta is being squeezed from the south, the east and the west

    while we’re fighting the sprawl, we also have the water wars to think about (In short, they want to take vitally needed water out of the delta system at the mountain source and ship it south in a seperate canal system. Our rivers are already dying because of the water being siphoned off for agriculture, and now they want to take more water out of an already failing system. Not gonna happen)

    the delta is where sprawl wars and water wars intersect

    we have some bozos proposing that we flood two “islands” (really, they’re totally surrounded by water, so what else ya gonna call em ???) as a way to store water and preserve farmland

    I ain’t figured out how flooding thousands of acres is considered “preserving” farm land, and the idea of “storing” water always leads to some asshole coming up with a way to SHIP more water

    we ain’t that stoopid

    in addition, we got some other bozos who want to refight the “peripheral canal” fight

    and we got a bunch of morons who bought houses in the middle of agricultural areas and now they want to bitch about all the farming that goes on in their neighborhoods (some of those bay area liberals really are as dumb as repuglitards, I swear …) we can thank the family of former congresscritter pombo for a lot of these dolts. Thankfully most of em just got eviction notices, so I think the farmers will survive

    so if we’re gonna discuss new ways of farming, all of this political tornado has to a part of the discussion

    we’re talking about a lot of political forces, and a lot of economic forces, that are ALREADY grating against each other at the ballot box

    come to think of it, I’d rather try to solve social security instead …

  23. Boston1775 says:

    Here’s a great tip:

    Susan Sumner, a food scientist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, worked out the recipe for just such a sanitizing combo. All you need is three percent hydrogen peroxide, the same strength available at the drug store for gargling or disinfecting wounds, and plain white or apple cidar vinegar, and a pair of brand new clean sprayers, like the kind you use to dampen laundry before ironing. If you’re cleaning vegetables or fruit, just spritz them well first with both the vinegar and the hydrogen peroxide, and then rinse them off under running water.

    It doesn’t matter which you use first – you can spray with the vinegar then the hydrogen peroxide, or with the hydrogen peroxide followed by the vinegar. You won’t get any lingering taste of vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, and neither is toxic to you if a small amount remains on the produce. As a bonus: The paired sprays work exceptionally well in sanitizing counters and other food preparation surfaces — including wood cutting boards. In tests run at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, pairing the two mists killed virtually all Salmonella, Shigella, or E. coli bacteria on heavily contaminated food and surfaces when used in this fashion, making this spray combination more effective at killing these potentially lethal bacteria than chlorine bleach or any commercially available kitchen cleaner.

    The best results came from using one mist right after the other – it is 10 times more effective than using either spray by itself and more effective than mixing the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in one sprayer.


  24. Leen says:
    C-SPAN offers gavel to gavel coverage of the U.S. House of Representatives. C-SPAN also offers a variety of public affairs programming including congressional hearings, press briefings from the White House, State Department and Pentagon, campaign and election coverage, and international programming.

    ON NOW

  25. Leen says:

    To think Frances Moore Lappe was on top of this issue close to 40 years ago “Diet For A Small Planet”. Since then we have witnessed small organic local farms, produce and farmers markets explode and still growing.

    EW Have almost made myself sick picking and eating local cherries and blueberries in Michigan during the summer.

  26. alank says:

    The drift for the past eight years, at least, has been the escalation of corporative enterprises, producing the most in the least amount of time without bearing any of the costs of the huge externalities generated thereby. It’s a familiar capitalist model.

    A tree monoculture in Michigan emerged after overcutting most of the forests in the associated ecoregion, dominated by ash species and presenting an opportunity for a non-native borer species to devastate the populations. Monoculture is destructive in so many ways. A sane policy would discourage this tendency.

  27. timbo says:

    Thank you for having this discussion on CBA for food…and the problem of food supply to billions of people generally brings in case the current distribution system falls apart.

    I am curious if anyone has more info on the carbon footprint benefits of nuclear generated electricty as a replacement for petro generated energy. Up until six months ago I was an anti-nuclear power knee-jerker. In the past few months though, with the dawning realization that our economy has become so wasteful of power, we’re going to have to switch to nuclear to get away from carbon…or so the theory goes, eh? Anyone have a link to the carbon foot-print of building and maintaining a nuclear infrastructure? Would there actually be a benefit directly from going to nuclear with regard to the atmosphere…or is that just conjecture and/or pablum? Because I see both candidates talking about re-introducing nuclear energy dependency as a national policy…but is there any actual academic or CBA on this that rings true?

    At least it would seem Obama may actually be thinking about these things in some depth…but is he? And where is a balanced analysis of the issue for nuclear…as studies seem to have been for food distribution and its impact on the environment, one would think there are similar studies for nuclear…