Category Archives: Guide to Good Food Blog Series

The Apple Project: Drink-Up to Save Farms

Image taken from iFood TV

Farms everywhere are struggling to survive. Faced with the mounting challenges of increased production costs, global competition, and encroaching development, it’s getting harder and harder for farmers to make a profit. Apple growers are not immune from these pressures.  Glynwood has been hard at work trying to find economic opportunities for Hudson Valley apple growers, and thus the Apple Project was born. Their solution? Forget eating an apple a day, how about drinking several, preferably in the delicious form of hard cider or apple spirits.

Glynwood’s Apple Project is encouraging diversification of apple varieties, giving growers new resources for knowledge and skill, and supporting a growing market for hard cider and apple spirits. Some of its programs include Cider Week,  Apple Exchange, and the Hudson Valley Cider Route.

October 16 to 23 will be the first ever Cider Week. Over 80 establishments in New York City and the Hudson Valley will feature ciders from all over the Hudson Valley.  There will be plenty of opportunity to learn more at tastings, classes, and special events.  A great excuse to celebrate fall, farmers, and local food with a nice glass of cider.

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We’re Back!

After a temporary hiatus, the Guide to Good Food is back! We are here to help you get to know your food. In addition, the Guide to Good Food is going to be bringing you all the latest information on what’s happening in the food and farming world as it relates to the Glynwood Institute. We will highlight some amazing people, organizations, and projects that are happening all over the country.


Speaking of amazing people, let me introduce you to 20 right now. You don’t even need to read, just sit down with some popcorn (organic and locally grown of course) and watch the TEDxManahattan “Changing the Way We Eat” videos that are now online. In case you haven’t heard, in February 2011 the Glynwood Institute was a lead-sponsor of the inaugural TEDx (x meaning independently organized) conference on the way the food system is changing. We had 20 speakers give talks on a variety of issues, including financing options for food entrepreneurs, growing vegetables in the back of pick-up trucks, what its like to be a family farmer, campaigning against hunger, and why we eat the way we eat, to name a few. Each video is about 8-10 minutes long.

The next TEDxManhattan conference is set for January 21, 2012-stay tuned for more information on the conference.

We’re happy to be back!

Change Food is a nonprofit whose mission is to connect and transform the food we eat, the people who produce it, and the world in which it is grown. To read and learn more, visit The Guide to Good Food blog. 

Guide to Good Food – Summer Days

food-inc_book-coverWritten by: Diane Hatz for ChangeFood

With a long weekend approaching and (hopefully!) better weather around the country, people will be heading to the beach, mountains, and various vacation areas to relax and unwind. The Guide to Good Food will be taking a little break, but while we’re gone, take advantage of a new crop of books and movies now available. Happy summer!

Books
Deeply Rooted, Lisa Hamilton
In this narrative nonfiction book, Hamilton tells three stories – of an African-American dairyman in Texas who plays David to the Goliath of agribusiness corporations; a tenth-generation rancher in New Mexico struggling to restore agriculture as a pillar of his community; and a modern pioneer family in North Dakota breeding new varieties of plants to face the future’s double threat of climate change and the patenting of life forms.

Food Inc., Edited by Karl Weber
Most of you have probably heard about Food, Inc., the movie, but did you also know there’s a companion book to the film? The book explores the challenges raised by the movie in fascinating depth through 13 essays, most of them written especially for this book, and many by experts featured in the film. Highlights include chapters by Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food), Anna Lappe (Hope’s Edge and Grub), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation and film co-producer), Robert Kenner (film director), and a chapter on asking the right questions from Sustainable Table! The book is so popular it’s already in its fourth printing.
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Eat Local (and sustainable!)

22_locallyraisedsignOne of the most popular food trends in the past year or two has been local food. So why is eating local all the rage, and what can you do to be part of this growing movement?

What is local?

We need to start by defining the word local. It has different meanings to different people, but I define local as being as close to home as possible. With food, that would mean buying food raised or produced as close to your home as possible.

To purists, or locavores, local means buying food within a set radius, such as 50 or 100 miles. To others, local means as far as a day’s drive from where you live. Because geography and growing is different around the country (and world), I opt for a more flexible definition.

Technically, this means that any food you buy close to your home is local, even conventional or industrially produced food. So inherent within the local label is the concept of sustainable. Try to avoid food from a large industrial operation, no matter how close to your home it is. The best way to tell if a farm is industrial is to find out how big it is and how diverse its products are. A very large farm producing only one crop is most likely industrial – when you plant the same crop on many acres, you attract pests, which means you have to use pesticides. So focus on smaller farms, ones that have different types of crops, and find out what their growing practices are.

When you’re shopping for local food, look for local sustainable food from a small independent family farm. That means minimal chemical pesticides and fertilizers were used, the land and everything on it was treated with respect, and every effort was made to provide you with the most wholesome, nutritious food. In general, smaller farms are more sustainable because they tend to grow a variety of crops and undertake conservation practices such as crop rotation, so they usually have less problems with pests. But it’s always wise to find out exactly how your food was produced before you make the decision to buy and eat it.

Why buy local?

There are many reasons to buy local, including –

– Taste. Local sustainable food is most often picked when ripe because transport time to market is so small. It is also usually grown with minimal inputs such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This provides you with better tasting food.

– Better for you. Food raised close to home will not be shipped long distances so will be harvested when ripe, giving you optimal nutrition. Industrial food shipped long distances is harvested before ripe, shipped, and sometimes sprayed with chemicals to preserve or forcibly ripen it.

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Know Your Food: Quick Tip

Fresh organic vegetablesThe entire Guide to Good Food series has been developed to help you get to know your food, but here’s an easy tip to help you when shopping. This will apply mainly to grocery stores, not to farmers’ markets where you’re buying your food direct.

As you look for fruits and vegetables, especially now at the end of summer when stores will be overflowing with farm produce, look for the labels found on the food. For small items like mushrooms or green beans, look for the numbered label on signage or the container they’re placed in. These numbers are PLU (price look-up) codes and are used on food that’s sold loose, by bunch, by weight or individually.

To know what kind of food you’re buying –

  • – A four-digit number means it’s conventionally grown. (Or possibly a five digit number if the first one is a 0.)
    – A five-digit number beginning with 8 means it’s genetically modified.
    – A five-digit number beginning with 9 means it’s organic.

What this means
1. Conventionally grown – the produce was most likely grown on a large industrial farm that uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The food was most likely picked before it was ripe and shipped a long distance to get to the store. (The average conventionally-grown item travels 1500 miles to land on your dinner plate.) Farms such as these can contribute to ground and water pollution through chemical runoff.

2. Genetically modifiedGenetically modified organisms (GMOs) are very controversial and are banned in many countries due to the lack of sufficient testing to determine their safety. A GMO is created by taking the traits, or genes, of one plant and inserting them into another. This is different than traditional cross breeding where two similar plants are combined to create a different variation of the food. The genes can come from completely different species – such as inserting flounder genes into a tomato – and not enough is known about the long-term ramifications of this gene manipulation on human health or the environment.

3. Organic – The food was raised without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides (though some natural pesticides can be used), it cannot be treated with sewage sludge, and is not genetically engineered or irradiated. The fruits and vegetables can still be shipped long distances so finding a sign that says both local and organic is an even better option.

Why this is good
Do you ever go shopping for organic produce and wonder if it really is organic? Searching for the 9 on the PLU label on the food will help you know that your apple wasn’t accidentally tossed in from the conventional side.

Also, if you’re on a budget and have to make choices, knowing which foods are genetically engineered and which are not may help you with your decision. Avoiding PLU codes that start with 8 means you are steering clear of GMOs.

With everything we need to remember in order to buy the healthiest food for ourselves and our families, this is a quick and easy tip to know what’s conventional, what’s organic and what’s genetically engineered. If you want to learn more about PLU Codes, you can read their Users Guide.

Thanks to Ideal Bite for getting this information out!

(Diane Hatz is the Founder of Sustainable Table, Executive Producer of The Meatrix movies and co-Founder of the Eat Well Guide. This is the 21st installment in her series, Sustainable Table’s Guide to Good Food.)

Change Food is a nonprofit whose mission is to connect and transform the food we eat, the people who produce it, and the world in which it is grown. To read and learn more, visit The Guide to Good Food blog. 

Eat Less Meat – and enjoy it!

20_piefaceFor the past couple of weeks I’ve been encouraging you to eat less meat, preferably by cutting it out one day a week. You can also cut back on the amount you eat each day. Or you can go another way and not eat meat during the week. Do what is comfortable for you.

Let’s say you’ve decided to cut out meat one day a week. Now what do you do? First, remember that this is enjoyable and fun. You’re not just improving your health or saving money or helping the environment, you also have the chance to experience delicious-tasting foods and to try exciting new recipes.

It’s important to note that meat is a complete protein, meaning that it provides all the essential amino acids. You can find complete meatless proteins with soy or tempeh (fermented soy), rice and beans combined, and nuts. If you’re choosing to only cut out meat and not all animal protein, eggs and dairy are also complete proteins.

What you don’t want is to be eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or frozen cheese pizzas as meals on your meatless days. So let’s assume you’re a carnivore and the thought of tofu or tempeh is a little too adventurous. What can you eat?

Some ideas for recipes include:

Beany Red Wine Chili – Recipe by Maria Comboy, Jefferson, LA, courtesy of MeatlessMonday.com. (Serve with rice for a complete protein.)

Crockpot Mexican Chili – Recipe by Sylvia Sivley – Schenectady, NY, courtesy of MeatlessMonday.com. (Serve with rice for a complete protein.)

Edgy Veggie Chili – Recipe by Ilene Courland – Valley Stream, NY, courtesy of MeatlessMonday.com. (Serve with rice for a complete protein.)

Fresh Fettucini with Hedgehog or Shiitake Mushrooms and Ricotta – Recipe by Michael Natkin of Herbivoracious.com, courtesy of Sustainable Table®.

Garbanzo Bean Burgers – Recipe by Healthy Monday, courtesy of Sustainable Table®.

Goat Cheese and Veggie Pizza – Recipe by Denise Hughes, courtesy of Sustainable Table®.

Grilled Pizza – Recipe by Laura Edwards-Orr, courtesy of Sustainable Table®.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Crab Cakes – Recipe by John Shields, Chef and Owner of Gertrude’s in Baltimore, Courtesy of Sustainable Table®. (I make these in the summer when there’s an overabundance of zucchini – they’re delicious!)

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Eat Less Meat (part 2)

Hudson Valley lettuceLast week we discussed how eating less meat can benefit our pocketbook and our health. This week we’ll look at how eating less meat can help curb climate change, save the environment and lessen our dependence on foreign oil.

Curbs climate change
In 2006, a United Nations study reported that the livestock industry contributed 18 percent to greenhouse-gas emissions – more than emissions from every single car, train and plane on the planet. Livestock production contributes 9 percent of carbon dioxide, 37 percent of methane and 65 percent of nitrous oxide. The total food system contributes 33 percent of the total climate change effect with 12 percent from methane and nitrous oxide emissions, 18 percent from deforestation and land use changes, and 1.5 to 2 percent from fertilizer production and distribution. Information on transportation, waste and manufacturing were unavailable.

To sum up, emissions from factory farms – including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – contribute a great deal to climate change, so when you cut back on the amount of meat you eat, you are also cutting back on the emissions that contribute to global warming.

Want to learn more about the effect of meat production and agriculture on climate change? Check out Anna Lappe’s Take a Bite Out of Climate Change for more on the connection between global warming, the food on your plate, and the choices you make every day. And watch for Lappe’s book, Diet for a Hot Planet, to be released next spring.

Wondering what all the hoopla is about climate change and why you should care? Check out the movie An Inconvenient Truth or Al Gore’s program The Climate Project.

Helps save the environment
Industrial meat production not only contributes to climate change but also pollutes our air, land and water. The huge amount of manure factory farms create cannot be absorbed by the land. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 335 million tons of manure is produced each year on U.S. farms. This waste sits in open air lagoons, emitting hundreds of kinds of gases, including hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon dioxide and methane. The North Carolina hog industry alone produces 300 tons of ammonia per day.

The manure is then often over applied to land or leaks from storage areas, polluting the land and water. One dairy farm with 2500 cows can produce as much waste as a city with around 411,000 people – and the manure does not have to be treated! In 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency identified agricultural activity as a source of pollution for 48 percent of stream and river water.

Manure also contains high levels of disease-causing microorganisms, called pathogens, which can find their way into the soil and water. In every disease outbreak from water in the United States from 1986 to 1998 where the pathogen could be identified, the Centers for Disease Control concluded it most likely originated in livestock.

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Eat Less Meat

18-openrangeDoctors to rock stars to Nobel Peace Prize-winning UN panels and even nonprofit organizations are telling us to eat less meat. But why?

To start, if we cut out red meat, fish and/or poultry one day a week without changing any other part of our diet, we would reduce animal protein consumption approximately 8.4 ounces a week, the daily amount the average U.S. citizen eats. That comes out to 27.3 pounds a year. Multiply that by the 304 million people in this country (as of July 2008) and collectively we would reduce our meat, fish and poultry consumption over 8 billion pounds!

That’s a lot of meat and would have an enormous positive impact because reducing your meat consumption saves you money, is better for your health, curbs climate change, helps save the environment, and lessens our dependence on foreign oil. Really. All that from cutting back on the amount of meat you eat. To help even more, make sure the meat you do eat is from local sustainable farms.

Let’s take a quick look at each of these reasons.

Saves you money.
Meat can be expensive, oftentimes the most expensive item in the grocery store, so it can take a big dent out of your weekly food budget. A good way around this is to simply cut back on the amount of meat you eat. The 8.4 ounces of red meat, poultry and fish Americans consume per day comes to almost 192 pounds per year.

By cutting out meat just one day a week, you’ll be cutting out 27.3 pounds of meat per person each year. The amount of money you save will vary greatly between where you live and the type of meat, but if you buy ribeye steak on Long Island, NY, you’d pay around $7.99 a pound, so if you ate the 8.4 ounces an average American eats, you would save over $218 a year. Cutting back on a pound of meat a week would save you over $415.00 a year. And if you’re a family of four and you buy 2 ½ pounds of steak, that’s a savings of $20 per week or over $1000 a year!

Better for your health
Diets high in red meat like hamburgers and steaks and processed meats like cold cuts, bacon and hot dogs have been linked to an increased risk of death from heart disease and cancer. (The risk from fish and poultry is less.)

The National Cancer Institute studied over 545,000 people from 50 to 71 years old and followed their eating habits for 10 years. There were more than 70,000 deaths during that time. The report, released in March of this year, states that middle aged to older Americans who ate only a quarter-pound hamburger (that’s 4 ounces) a day were 22 percent more likely to die from cancer and 27 percent more likely to die of heart disease, in comparison to individuals who ate only 5 ounces of meat a week. Women had a 20 percent higher risk of dying of cancer and a 50 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease than women who ate less.

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Asking Questions – Part 2

Fleishers MarketLast week we gave you tips for asking questions at farms and farmers’ markets so you can find the best food for you and your family. This week we continue with information you need to shop at stores and restaurants.

Stores
Because the vast majority of stores buy their food from distributors, they’ll be less likely to know as much about the food as the farmer does. But don’t let that stop you! Don’t forget that your questions are sending a message up the supply and distribution line. If we all start asking for something, we will greatly increase our chances of getting it.

I often use my mother as an example when I’m speaking. She’s not an activist or a foodie, but she wants what she wants. She happens to know the owners of a dairy in Lewes, Delaware, which is very close to where she lives in Rehoboth Beach, and she loves their milk. She went into her usual grocery store and asked the manager if he would start selling some of their products. He said no. She went back a week later and asked again. He agreed to sell a couple of containers of milk, which quickly sold out. I was just down visiting and went to buy milk for my parents and saw that Lewes Dairy now has several shelves of milk on display in the milk section, and people were literally grabbing it up while I was there.

When my mother told the dairy owners what she’d done, they said they’d been trying for years to get their milk sold locally. And it only took one customer asking two questions to change the milk supply in the Rehoboth Beach area.

So if you have a favorite local sustainable food item that you don’t see in your grocery store, ask the manager to stock it. You could even go so far as to find a suitable farmer to supply the product to the store. A word of advice, though – if you are going to get a store to stock a particular item, please make sure you purchase it. Grocery stores work on slim profit margins and shelf space is limited, so make sure you really want what you’re asking them to stock.

If you’re unsure about meat, poultry and dairy items sold in the store, download Sustainable Table’s Questions for a Store Manager, Meat Manager and/or Butcher (which includes answers also). It supplies questions like, “Do you know how the animals were raised?” You can also download Questions for a Farmer and see if the store is able to answer them.

If the store manager or butcher doesn’t know the answers to your questions, ask them to ask the distributor. The same applies to vegetables – talk with the produce manager about where the fruits and vegetables come from. Ask if any are grown locally. I was pleasantly surprised when shopping in Decherd, Tennessee, last year. I asked the very young produce employee if any of the food was raised locally, and he went through the whole produce section and pointed out which was grown close by, which was from Tennessee, and which was from other nearby states like Georgia. If the employees at your store can’t answer these questions, just keep asking until they find out. You may be surprised, though, at the depth of knowledge store employees have these days.

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Asking Questions

Mt. Shasta CA farmers marketBecause there are no official standards for sustainable food, you need to ask the right questions to find the information you need to make the best choices for you and your family. There are generally three types of places you can buy fresh food from – direct from the farm/farmers’ markets, stores and restaurants – and you can ask questions at each outlet.

To start, know that it’s okay to ask questions. When I first started eating sustainable food, I tended to look for organic because I was hesitant to ask farmers questions about how they raised their meat, dairy and produce, and I knew what I was getting with organic (or so I thought). My biggest concern was that I wouldn’t like something about the way the farmer produced the food and would have to walk away. It seemed a bit rude.

So, first off, understand that you are not rude or inappropriate for asking questions. If you buy a car, you ask questions, and odds are you won’t buy the first one you look at. You shop around – and you don’t feel guilty for doing so. You do the same for any large purchase – appliances, computers, electronics – so why would any of us feel uncomfortable asking questions about our food? It’s your money and your choice.

Also, asking questions sends a clear message to farmers and businesses. If all of us asked for pesticide-free or pasture-raised food and shopped around until we found it, farmers would find a way to start producing food that was completely pesticide free or from animals raised on pasture. Many consumers may not understand that even organic food is permitted to be produced with a certain class of “natural” pesticide. This is much better than the chemical pesticides sprayed on industrial food, but if you want to go a step further and you make some inquiries, you may find farmers who use no pesticides at all, and yet their produce may not be labeled organic. So it’s important that we learn the issues and then go out and start asking questions.

Farm Direct/Farmers’ Market
If you’re shopping at a farm stand or a farmers’ market, odds are you’ll be speaking with one of the farmers who works the land. Ask them general questions about their farm so you can get to know them better – remember, they’re your neighbor. Questions you could ask include:

Where is your farm?
How long have you been farming?
What type of farming do you do?
What do you raise?
What are your favorite crops?
What’s your favorite way of cooking (kale, chicken, squash, any product they produce)?

You can also ask about their growing practices. Sustainable Table has wonderful handouts that give you both questions and answers for meat, dairy and poultry, so you can find out such things as –

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