Drawing by: Jana Vanderhaar w/ verdantconnections.com
Tahoe Food Hub interns: Taylor Wood & Jaynie Miller
Last week,the Tahoe Food Hub tabled at its first event giving deadline for our first banner, stickers and promo materials including the lovely foodshed map featured above.

The drawing is definitely Richard Scarry inspired. In fact, some of the buildings are actual structures found in the books. Like many, Richard Scarry drawings captured my attention for hours as a kid teaching me about how the world works and interacts. And when looking for the best way to help conceptualize the Tahoe Foodshed, I knew exactly where to turn.

A foodshed is often compared to a watershed because they usually share the same footprint....food grows where water flows! A watershed represents where a community gets its water. Likewise, a foodshed represents the local area where a community sources its food.  In the map, you'll see how the Truckee and Yuba Rivers lead Tahoe to its regional food sources. Key components of a foodshed include productive farmland, food distribution, waste disposal, processing facilities as well as food wholesalers and retailers. For non-food producing areas like North Lake Tahoe, a foodshed creates partnerships with food abundant neighbors who grow food year-round within 150-miles.

The goal of the map is to visually represent the role of the Tahoe Food Hub by putting it in relation to its foodshed. The map distills the efforts of a formal foodshed assessment which compares the food needs of a community with its food production capabilities. Foodshed assessments also display the social, economic and environmental benefits of consuming food within that foodshed. A foodshed assessment for North Lake Tahoe evaluates the potential to feed the North Lake Tahoe area from ecological growers within a 150-mile range of Truckee, CA both stimulating the economies of surrounding communities and increasing Tahoe’s food security and access to healthier, sustainably-grown food.

If every community evaluated the bio-capacity of its foodshed to source as much food regionally and rely less on the national food system...we would increase food security, create more equitable food policy, and see the benefits that sustainable farming methods can have on our health, economy and environment. We don't have to be so far removed from our food. Understanding our foodshed brings us closer so we can make better decisions about where our food comes from so we can still have our coffee and chocolate but without trucking things like eggs, milk and greens which can be produced locally year-round. Feed the world one community at a time! 

The holidays are always a good time to revisit the amount of waste we generate in this country because probably at no other time during the year is more waste produced than during the holidays. Its a good reminder too that no longer is recycle the operative word but REDUCE! If we consume less, there's less energy and resources used to produce and less stuff to throw away.

NPR's Science Friday with Ira Flatow had a great interview this past Friday, November 23rd about the amount of food wasted in the United States. Here is a link to the podcast. On the show was Dana Gunders, Project Scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland.

Over 40% of the food produced in the US gets thrown away and only 3% of it gets recycled or composted .When you consider that 50% of the land in the US is in agricultural production, we are squandering a lot land not to mention a lot of food. In the process, we are exploiting the natural resources used to produce that food such as fossil fuels for farm equipment, water for irrigation and soil fertility. And with water becoming a finite resource, its scary to think that 80% of the water used in this country goes to growing food.

To bring that into perspective, Project Scientist, Dana Gunders, made a great reference point, "Throwing away half a hamburger is equivalent to taking a one hour shower for the amount of water needed to produce that half a hamburger." Jonathan followed that up with another staggering statistic, "The amount of food wasted each year in the United Sates could fill up Crater Lake twice...TWICE!!

Food gets wasted at every step along the supply chain starting on the farm then at the grocery store and in our homes. On the Farm, food goes unharvested in the fields either because there was a surplus with no buyer or the price per bushel is too low to make it financially feasible to harvest. In the grocery store, tons of food gets thrown away each day simply because it has past a "suggested" Best If Used By date. Documentaries like DIVE expose this wasteful scenario and the dumpster divers who feed their families "well" off this trash but also rescue it for food banks and pantries. And we know all too well the amount of food that we each waste in our own homes. We buy in bulk because it is a good deal and then it goes bad in our refrigerators. And we don't plan meals properly. We buy a bunch of carrots when we only need one or buy a bunch of cilantro for one recipe but don't find a recipe later in the week which will use up the rest of the cilantro.

We are all trying to save money. But before we say we can't afford organic, think about all the money we are throwing away in the food we buy. Over $165 billion dollars gets thrown away each year in the United States. With food costs rising, consumers need to be more conscious, grocery stores need to be more thoughtful in how they transition expired food and our agricultural  industry needs to efficiently manage their land and water resources.

In this context, when we talk about feeding the world, we don't have to look much further than the end of our forks!

Spring Bounty
Nothing gets me more fired up then a farm tour. Yesterday I traveled to North San Juan outside of Nevada City, CA to pick-up veggies from Mountain Bounty Farm for our annual Slow Food Lake Tahoe fundraiser.

Mountain Bounty Farm is Tahoe's largest CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture) with close to 400 veggie shares. Owner, John Tecklin, is also a big supporter of all things Slow Food managing a 15-acre, organic farm.

For a budding farmer, I soaked up everything John was saying as we toured the rolling fields inquiring about planting tips, trellising ideas and crop suggestions. I was enamored by the abundance. Acres and acres of food popping out of the ground. It was glorious! No better time to be on a farm than late Spring...everything is so green and a cool breeze still lingers in the air before the dog days of summer settle in. As we passed by a row of lettuces, John volunteered the role a food hub could play in his business. I was delighted to hear his interest...John is a successful direct-to-consumer farmer not needing to depend on other retail markets to make a living. As much as I want a farmer like John to participate in the food hub, a part of me thought he may not have the need. On the contrary!

John Tecklin - Mountain Bounty Farm, North San Juan Ridge, CA
He may not need a food hub to make a living but it is not to say he doesn't have food to contribute or that he doesn't see an opportunity to make a little more money...He points to the row of lettuce and says, " See this crop here, we will harvest it tomorrow but we only need 2/3 of it. The rest will get turned under as green manure. My first priority is my obligation to deliver quality, on-time produce to my customers not to manage the wasted food. But it kills me to see it go uneaten,"

John plants six successions of crops in a summer. That way he has a new crop to harvest every two weeks. He has to plant enough in each succession to factor in crop failure, low yields and last minute orders. But when the crop comes in full and healthy, what do you do with the surplus?

He doesn't have orders lined up for surplus. Nor is it cost effective to call around trying to sell a few heads here and a few heads there to area restaurants. But one call to a food hub and that's 1000 more heads of lettuce in the regional food system and $750 more in the bank account of a small farmer. It affirmed even more the necessity of a food hub...to rescue the food that goes unharvested.

When we talk about feeding the world, we don't need to look much further than the amount of food wasted in this country. The average hovers around 40%. As we just saw, the waste starts on the farm. Once at market and after it pasts its sell-by-date, it gets thrown away. What makes it home, often times doesn't get eaten and spoils. If we just learned to manage our food better, we could feed a lot more people. And organic farmers like John Tecklin are proving you can grow strong yields sustainably. Combined with a food hub to help move food through a community more equitably and we've solved a lot more than one farmer's dilemma!

Billy McCullough - owner/chef, Dragonfly Restaurant

Side Story #1: On the drive home, NPR's Neil Cohen was interviewing first lady, Michelle Obama on Talk of the Nation. It couldn't have been more timely. Until listening to her, I was starting to think her backyard garden, school lunch and Let's Move campaigns were little more than green washing. But hearing her speak, helped me see how genuine she is in her quest. She talked about the initial transition that she made with her family from processed foods to whole, natural and real foods. It wasn't easy but they did it together. They worked in the garden together, went to farmer's markets together and experimented in the kitchen together. By including her kids in the process and not just making them eat their broccoli, they transformed.

Kids are adaptable! They aren't callused with years of poor diets like adults whose eating habits are hard to breakdown. They can change and they can help lead the change. With the parents involved, the kids will change and they will be hardwired to lead healthier lifestyles. "It starts with the kids," Michelle commented.

My favorite part of the interview was an anecdote she shared from a garden class she had at the White House, "I asked the kids, would you water your plants with soda? And they all crinkled their noses, shook their heads and said no! I reminded them, we are living organisms too just like those plants. What you feed the plants, like our own bodies, affects how it grows." Hearing her retell the story, gave me goose pimples just thinking about all the light bulbs that were going off in the brains of those little kids standing in that garden on the front lawn.

Side Story #2: To bring the conversation full circle, and then I will close...tonight at the Slow Food event mentioned earlier, "Cooking Outside the Box, "Chef Billy McCullough of Dragonfly Restaurant in Truckee, CA, took the veggies of Mountain Bounty Farm's CSA box and created the most delicious and simple recipes."Many of my recipes include just five, whole ingredients. I like to keep it basic and let the flavors shine," he said.

Six tastings were paired with local wines for people to savor. He blew everyone away with samples of scalloped turnips and curried carrot salad but the showstopper of the night was the thin slivers of golden beets stuffed like raviolis with herbed, goat, cheese drizzled with balsamic vinegar and dressed with fresh arugula! Oh my goodness!

As he addressed the crowd during his cooking demo, he advocated for the importance of good, clean and fair food. "We are co-producers of our food! The choices we make drives what is produced. Safeway didn't start carrying organic because they wanted to save the world. They did it because they saw a business opportunity. There was a demand for better, healthier, more ecologically grown. By embracing our role in the produce what we eat, we can change the way food is grown.

Building blocks to a Sustainable Food Community
I've often referred to my independent study on sustainable food systems as my un-accredited PhD program. Over the past seven months, I've handcrafted an education program that brought together learning experience and opportunities that would be the most meaningful to me...interning on organic farms, taking short courses and workshops and interviewing experts in the field.

Last night, I had the chance to present my findings and solutions for building a sustainable food community at the Tools for the Table speaker series in Truckee hosted by the Genesa Living Foundation. It felt like I was defending my thesis but fortunately, the audience took it easy on me and didn't challenge my proposal ;)

The pyramid to the left sums up my theory in a nutshell. To have a sustainable food system, you must have the building blocks to support it. First, you need a foodshed assessment in order to measure your community's food security against its dependence on the national food system. A foodshed assessment will provide a food policy council the information they need to develop a food plan for their society. The formation of a regional food hub will provide a market which will encourage more local food production. And those new food producers will be born from farmer and specialty-food incubator programs.

Once there is a solid foundation, equity will start to be seen in the supply chain starting with the grower all the way to the consumer. As more land is put into agricultural production and partnerships are developed with food, abundant, regional neighbors, the community will become more food secure. Financial incentives which encourage consumers and businesses to spend money locally will be implemented to build the regional food system. Regional networks  keeps money circulating locally. When money stays local it stimulates the local economy to make it more prosperous and resilient. Whatcha get is a sustainable food community!

Me sailing to my blue sky dreams for a new food future :)
As I've moved through this food journey, I've called upon my blog to help me clarify my thoughts and work through perplexing questions. Now that I'm back in Tahoe and building a career around food, I find myself calling upon my dear friend "sustainability" way too much in order to explain what it is I'm doing. I know it's an overused word and in the moment before I say it, I'm hopeful that I will think of a new word or phrase. But alas, out it comes.

Regardless, it's a great word and I believe in what it means! In its solitary form, sustainability represents "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (as coined by the World Commission on Environment and Development). Toss in food and my favorite definition for sustainable agriculture is...and I admit, I forget where I got this from..."land management practices which balance food production with the conservation of ecosystems through soil biology and biodiversity." Therefore, I conclude that the sustainable food systems we build today will create an equitable supply chain from grower to consumer both now and in the future. Equitable being the operative word!

Let me develop that a little further...If the land, the farmers, the workforce and the consumers are treated fairly and with respect to their needs and services there will be equity in the marketplace. When there is justice in the food system everyone wins! The soil can sustain itself and support a healthy and vibrant ecosystem. And the marketplace can take care of its workers and customers because the economy will realize we are all customers. And it is in our valued interest to meet the needs of the people first before profit. By taking care of our ecosystem services, the return on investment will be a thriving community not a dividend.

My vision for a new food paradigm
I want to build food-focused communities. Communities that are invested in their food security. It begins with how and where the food was grown. To be food secure, you first must know the land can provide indefinitely. Only sustainable agricultural practices can provide that. Once we secure the food and the land is happy, we need to make it accessible by creating an equitable marketplace for farmers to sell their food at a fair price and at a price the community can afford. Food access includes educating people about diet, scratch cooking skills as well as food buying decisions at the home, school and institutional level. An informed eater will realize the positive impacts that buying local can provide and that sustainable agriculture is as much about sustainable, economic development. Food sovereignty is when food security and food access coalesce. It results in communities that are engaged in food policy. They come together to design a system that works for them ecologically, culturally and economically.

When I hear, "How are we going to feed the world?". I say, "We first need to think in terms of building self-reliant communities that can feed themselves." If ever community did that, we will have fed the world. Start by evaluating all available land resources to see how each region can grow as much of their own food as possible. It will require saving farmland from development, creating more urban gardens, using greenhouses to extend the growing season and establishing vertical gardens in re-purposed vacant buildings. In the process, it will have created jobs for new farmers, new specialty food producers and all the people along the supply chain. Trade with other areas will of course still exist but local economies will be stronger and more resilient if able to provide more for themselves.

In my community, I want to leverage all available food services in the Sierra Nevada in order to build a regional food system that can support the majority of our food needs. It will increase trade regionally between communities bolstering local economies. Money will circulate in the region encouraging more, small farms and area food producers but it w will also spark job growth and new business in other industries because that's what happens when money stays local. Economic drivers that promote a 25% shift to buying local will be implemented. By keeping money in the region, it will stoke the fire to ensure the model's longevity. I've quoted Mother Jones magazine on this one before and I'll do it again..."Fix the food...fix the country."

That's my BHAG: Big-Hairy-Audacious Goals! Gotta have'em!

Continued from the previous post on December 2nd...

What soil biology tells us is…conventional agriculture kills soil. If we need soil to grow plants, then eventually conventional agriculture is going to farm itself out of business and unable to “feed the world.” If we want to feed the world, we need to farm using biology. Soils farmed conventionally cannot store nutrients, retain water or sequester carbon because all the mechanics that enable these functions have been eliminated. When no organic matter remains, you have dirt. By enabling soil to store nutrients, we can reduce fertilizer run-off. Being able to retain water, soil can weather floods and survive droughts. By keeping carbon stored in the root structures of the plant, we can mitigate climate change.

Much of the “feed the world” discussion, however, surrounds yields. The Rodale Institute has proven yields are higher in organics. But some contest that the Rodale study can’t be extrapolated to large-scale farms. Perhaps they should look at the yields of Fred Kirschenmann who owns and operates a 3,500 acre certified organic farm in North Dakota. They employ many of Rodale’s farming principles. Fred’s success with large-scale organics is well supported and backed by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agricluture where he is a distinguished fellow. When asked the question about feeding the world in his book Cultivating an Ecological Consciousness, he said, “As our population increases, we have to use fewer of our ecosystem resources and services to restore and retain the health of our ecological neighborhoods. The only kind of agriculture that can hope to keep the world fed is an ecologically oriented agriculture that mirrors and maintains the natural ecology in which it is located.”

In large-scale ranching, there is a movement afoot in South Dakota called the Brown Revolution. It is setting out to prove the viability of organic, pasture-raised livestock. While still in the grassroots stages, rancher and lead spokesperson, Jim Howell calls the Brown Revolution, “a spin on the Green Revolution of the early 20th century.”  In an article by Lisa Hamilton (author of Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness), she explained, “The Green Revolution greatly increased agricultural productivity in developing countries to meet the demands of a growing world population.” She continued by saying, “Howell and his group aim to increase agricultural productivity around the world as a way of addressing one of the great challenges of our time, climate change. But while the Green Revolution hinged on implementing new technology, the Brown Revolution relies on restoring natural systems.” Jim and his partners’ holistic management style was developed by Allan Savory. Historically, grassland ecology was managed by the herding behaviors of wild, grazing herbivores. By mimicking this interdependent relationship, Savory and now Howell can facilitate these natural, regenerative cycles. In Lisa’s interview, she asked Jim, “How big can we expect the revolution to get?” He replied, "It has to be done on a freaking massive scale." He continued, “We need enough land to impact climate change, but also provide a model that becomes the standard for grassland management.” His passion and vision resonates with Mark Smallwood’s “massive awakening.”

While it is good to think big, feeding the world will need to come in many sizes. Small to medium sized farms offer the best opportunity. And the Rodale Institute’s farming trials provide the research. By keeping farms smaller, we can get more people farming. It empowers local communities to secure their own food and puts people to work. Smaller farms can service a regional food system more efficiently making a local economy more resilient and adaptable to economic and climate fluctuations. A regional system shortens the supply chain driving down price. With more organic farms, overall supply increases driving down price as well. And Rodale is helping people to start farming with their newly launched “Your $.02” campaign. The program collectively pulls money from like-minded businesses and awards grants to aspiring, organic farmers.

When we look at soil biology, we need to see it through the lens of an ecosystem; something we need to protect. Like the critical habitat zones of polar bears and whales, we need to respect soil as a wilderness. In many ways, it is an endangered species. Rodale, Kirschenmann and Howell all take a whole systems approach placing humans in that same ecosystem. The soil is not separate. It is part of the human ecosystem.

Where do we go from here? Pay attention to the soil science in organic articles. Glean as much as you can. Absorb it, challenge it and share it. Don’t dismiss it as just some interesting facts. It’s the meat and potatoes of the whole issue.

Over coffee the other day, my friend, Dan Smith with the Genesa Living Foundation, posed the question, "How do we create more farmers?" It was like throwing me a ball of catnip.

First, let's define what having more farmers will provide the United Sates...a low unemployment rate and smaller farms. Because the more people we have farming, the more farms there will be. We won't need as many large-scale farms because farmers will have been brought back onto the land. We'll have put people to work and begun repairing the acres of land devastated by conventional practices. It's a trifecta...social, economic and environmental success! As Barbara Damrosch of the Washington Post said in an article advocating for small farms, "We feed the world, fight poverty and address climate change!

But how do we get more farmers? I immediately think of the phrase, "If we build it, they will come." In other words, create an environment that supports farmers and small-scale production. Just like plants, farmers need the right conditions to grow. We need to make it conducive to farm. In doing so, farming will be more attractive and less of an alternative but more of legitimate option. It's not surprising that the environment is lacking. Less than 1% of the population is farming and big ag lobbyists keep whittling it down further. Just as chemical toxins kill plants in the fields, toxic energy in the business is killing the agricultural field. In the early 20th Century, nearly half the workforce in the US were in agriculture. It was not only a way to make a living but to provide for your family. People want the same two, basic things today.. .    

The biggest barrier to more people farming is the lack of infrastructure. If there was a legitimate support network for small-scale farming like we have in other careers and public works projects such as utilities, roads, law enforcement and health care, farming would be considered a viable career and job opportunity. 

To build that infrastructure, we need a jobs program to train new farmers coupled with a grants system and a land bank. In a survey of 1,000 US farmers by the National Young Farmers' Coalition, "access to capital, access to land and health insurance present the largest obstacles for beginners." USDA grants exist but it is hard to qualify and bottom line there just aren't enough grants. Owning land is expensive and leasing land can be hard to find. Organizations like Farm Link and Farmland Trust do a great job of connecting farmers with available land but there is still lots of available land that could be acquired or repurposed to get more farmers farming.

Until that dream state arrives, there are grassroots efforts available that we can leverage to get more people farming...mentoring programs and public education. One is a short-term goal and the other a long-term goal. Apprenticeships, workshops and incubator programs exist around the country. ALBA Organics in Salinas, CA is an example. It's a 100 acre farm where graduates can lease land on a sliding scale. They pay 20% the market value for 1/2-acre and over time will pay 100% for up to 7 acres. Farmers work side-by-side learning from each other with continued education from ALBA's trainers. Business support is available for small entrepreneurs or farmers can sell produce to the organization's private label brand which is sells to Whole Foods and other grocers. Land trusts could help establish more programs like ALBA or regular people with land of their own or capital to buy, could create a center like ALBA that supports farmers through the entire process.

Public education on the other hand sets us up for the long term. At the elementary school level, class-based curriculum and from-scratch lunch programs will plant the seed for tomorrow in younger generations instilling a value for food and the hard work it takes to produce it. Food has become so convenient that we are not only disconnected from where it comes from but almost how to feed ourselves. At higher-levels of education, land-grant universities all need to embrace sustainable agriculture programs making it not just a degree but a school of thought. The later has a bit more red tape to get through which is why our youth are our best hope for change. Concerned parents can pressure school districts and integrate lunch plans that are healthy and made from whole foods ideally from local sources.

In an interview with Michael Pollan, he said government driven agricultural reform will not happen till there is stronger leadership and a national organization for the food movement. But in places like Venezuela, the government under President Hugo Chávez, are helping the people acquire farm land. Venezuela realizes that their people not only have an ancestral right to work the land but that economic prosperity and food security are result of an equitable society. A society where people take pride in being able to provide and be a contributing member of the community. It's a reminder that  food justice is a social movement. If the US government saw food through a larger lens they would realize too that the groundswell they are waiting for already exists.

The current political climate doesn't indicate that change will be happening anytime soon especially with $15 billion in cuts to the USDA budget for the 2012 Farm Bill. Progressive, conservation bills are at stake like the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Act. And whatever happened to Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack's, 2010 proposal for 100,000 new farmers in the next few years? His plan outlined the infrastructure necessary to make it happen. Guess that's my next assignment!

Parting thought from Barbara Damrosch's earlier mentioned article, "let's bring a livelihood to the farmers, not just to the companies selling them products or trying to commandeer their lands."

Here is a short 4min video from one of my favorite filmmakers, Joaquin Baldwin. Whimsical in nature but hopeful in its message, the video demonstrators the power of farmers to provide whether it be food or in this case...renewable energy! Enjoy!

Born and breed in Ohio...mountain biking and composting
Mountain biking and composting together...two of my favorite things. It's like a Reese's cup but only better for me and the environment. When we arrived at Vulture's Knob Mountain Bike Park in Wooster, Ohio and saw the sign, I thought we had found paradise...as the name implies ;)

The joint enterprise is a perfect example of how land can be repurposed. Once a landfill, an innovative group of locals got together 16-years ago and turned the 125-acre dump site into a recreational area including a 6-acre mulch and organic food waste facility, Paradise Composting. Brilliance! Only needing room for an 8-mile bike trail, they wanted to incorporate other features that benefited the community. Features that invested in the region's future. A compost facility connected with the agricultural history of the area but communicated a mission of sustainability. Surrounded by monocultures of corn and soybean, Vulture's Knob is finding ways to connect with area partners and hopefully rebuild not only their ecosystem but those of their neighbors. The remainder of the property has naturally restored itself and is now a thriving woodland where carbon can be sequestered while still being able to manage the forest and harvest evergreens sustainably for local construction and Christmas tree sales.

Entrance to the mountain bike park at Vulture's Knob
Rehabilitating the land through projects like Vulture's Knob and Paradise Composting demonstrates the kind of thinking we need to take with all properties. One of the solutions to "feeding the world" is better utilizing land already available and putting it into agricultural production. If food security is a concern, we need to inventory all land opportunities. Providing food abundance will require more than just preserving farmland but reclaiming lost land. Large, private estates could lease portions of their open land to young farmers instead of sitting fallow. Incentives could be provided to turn lawns into edible landscapes. Vacant city land could be rezoned to allow more urban farms, community gardens and farm incubator programs. State and local parks could be reconfigured and initiatives for things like roof top gardens could be implemented.

I can't end this without giving a few props to the trail itself...it's the best mountain biking I've found so far in Ohio. Littered (pun intended) with features like bridges, log rides and balance beams, I was a hog in heaven. What struck me most was their efficient use of space. Just like you have square-inch gardening, this was square-inch trail building. A terrain park parallels a portion of the cross-country trail. The two zig-zag above and below each other with natural bridges so they never have to intersect.Phenomenal! It was consistent with their whole philosophy...use only what you need.

Joel Salatin on Polyface Farms
"Festivaling with my Mom" had not been on my bucket list of things to do but after this weekend, it had a speedy induction and then swiftly checked off. It wasn't a music festival but an earth festival. One we could both appreciate. Together we attended the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA. My mom was the first to teach me about healthy eating and growing food so to share this experience with her was a mother-daughter trip of a lifetime. One to remember!

The 40yr. old magazine comes to life once a year hosting one fair on the west coast in Washington and a second on the east coast in Pennsylvania. In only its second year, Pennsylvania's attendance has doubled from 10K to 20K visitors. A testament to people's hunger for planetary knowledge. Mother Earth News is the largest and oldest, environmental magazine. The festival is a 3D version of the print copy and gives readers a chance to interact with experts and leaders in sustainable living through workshops, presentations and demonstrations. It was a major download of information and a exuberant upload of inspiration.

One of the keynote speakers was farm evangelist, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms (as seen and heard in Food, Inc. and Omnivore's Dilemma). Having seen Joel speak before, I was ready with pen and paper to scribe some of his "Joelisms." He has a deep command of the English language which commands a crowd's attention equally.

He began his speech with an open invitation and detailed directions to his farm in Swoope, Virginia. It immediately diffused any naysayers because it demonstrates his transparency and his integrity. Pointing to the ground, he shakes his hands like a preacher reminding us that there is more life below our feet than there is above ground and that it is largely responsible for our survival. It draws a profound and spiritual connection to the role soil plays in our lives. He should know. Joel is in the soil business. Or "land healing ministries" as he likes to call it. With the help of his "teammates and co-laborers," the cows, pigs and chickens, he runs his soil through an "exercise program." Animals and land are treated fairly and with respect for the abundance they provide. He "massages the ecosystem through a choreographed dance with his co-workers to create healthy soils and a forest of perennial grasses."

Here's a look at his rotational grazing method...The cows "dump goodies" on the ground from their backsides. As they rotate onto the next pasture, the chickens arrive in their "Goobley-Go," a chicken coop on wheels (egg mobile). They pick out the larvae spreading the manure around with their beaks - yummy! "Pigaerators" then move onto 1/2-acre paddocks disturbing the land mimicking nature's biological cycles just as wildfires do in forests and on prairies. He describes his pigs as being "four-wheel drive plows" using their snouts and hooves to root and stomp the ground to "the next succession in his accumulation of biomass," a.k.a. grass. According to Joel, and I agree, there is not ONE reason why we need a single CAFO in this country considering the natural technology that Joel and others like him have designed. We know we will arrived he says, "when soccer moms exclaim in jubilation that little Johnny wants to be a farmer," just as they would now when told he wants to be a doctor or lawyer. With new models like Joel's and new markets for local food, we will get there.

Here is a sampling of Joel's lexicon with my best-guess definitions:
  1. Constipation of Imagination = failure to use ingenuity in conjunction with nature's biological processes.
  2. Portable fermentation tanks = cows
  3. Carbonization diaper = the layered bed of manure, hay and sawdust that is collected when the cows are in the barn.
  4. Bankruptcy tubes = corn silos
  5. Pasture sanitization program = rotational grazing
  6. Wheel of Fortune = the cone used to slit a chicken's throat
  7. Rent-a-Chicken = Joel's chicken take-back program - at the end of summer, customers can bring back the egg-laying hens they purchased earlier from Joel if they have no way to winter them.
  8. Germinating = young farmer apprenticeship program
  9. Grass farmer = Joel Salatin

These aren't the best videos so treat them more like podcasts with optional viewing capacity. I was about seven rows back and wanted to be discrete with my camera. Most of the videos are under two-minutes, so not very long but definitely worth checking out. Get a glimpse of Joel's gospel with two or three of the following:
  1. Prioritize your purchases and we can all afford sustainably grown food
  2. We can feed the world with edible landscapes and pasture-raised livestock practices
  3. The Pasture Principles  - mimicking wild herd behaviors when raising happy cows and healthy grass
  4. Before we can demand a better food system, we need to start at home and reclaim "family time"
  5. Mechanical vs Biological - the land can heal itself, machines can't (this one goes a minute too long. I was hoping he was going to bring it back around but he didn't. i don't know how to edit film footage yet, so just stop at 2:25)
  6. Move and we will dance - Joel's closing remarks.