Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jen Admires a Celebrity’s Extravagance – For Once

Fine China she’ll break out of the cupboard maybe once a year? A fondue pot she’ll never use? Useless kitchen gadgets that perform tasks she can perform with her own hands without a gadget? Elizabeth Hurley’s not having it—her wedding registry consists entirely of farm animals. Now, that’s a wedding registry I can get behind (but thank goodness I’m not invited to the wedding – how do you gift wrap a rooster?)!

The celebs invited to the upcoming wedding of Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayar are being asked to purchase livestock (organic preferred) for Liz’s 400-acre farm in Gloucestershire, England. Here at Farm Aid we fund Beginning Farmer programs that help new farmers get started, but this takes the (wedding) cake!

See the full story here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Link to article about groundbreaking court decision on GMO's

Finally, someone with guts and common sense has applied the brakes to the runaway train of our increasingly genetically-altered food supply. Yesterday, for the first time ever, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture failed to comply with federal laws governing the testing of new genetically altered crops.

Back in 2005, the USDA had approved genetically engineered alfalfa without conducting a full Environment Impact Statement. A lawsuit was filed on behalf of family farmers, consumers and environmentalists to contest the USDA’s actions. That lawsuit was settled with yesterday’s ground-breaking court decision, which puts the government and their corporate allies on notice: Gone are the days of blank checks and rubberstamps passed between the corporate boardrooms and government regulatory agencies.

For a full account of this story, please see the New York Time for the article by Andrew Pollack, "U.S. Agency Violated Law in Seed Case, Judge Rules".

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Valentine to the Family Farmers of America

Dear Family Farmers of America,

We here at Farm Aid admire your strength, independence and
perserverance. We are grateful for your integrity and
passion. We are thankful that you get up every day at 5am
to milk the cows, that you work in the fields no matter the
weather and that you care deeply about your animals, your
crops, your family and your land. We adore all the freshly
farmed, yummy tasting food you produce for all of us.
Where would we be without juicy peaches, mouthwatering
tomatoes and delicious steaks?

Quite simply, you are our heroes.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Farm Aid

Monday, February 12, 2007

Jen Blogs About Her Favorite Blog

Farmgirl Fare is just about the best blog out there for wanna-be farm girls like me. Love witty writing? Love great recipes? Love adorable photos of farm animals and the hilarious stories they often give word to? You’ve got to check out this blog.

“Farmgirl” is an organic farmer named Susan who lives in Missouri. I wish she lived here in Massachusetts so she could be my best friend, or at least teach me a little tiny bit of all the wonderful things she knows. She’s hilarious and smart and talented. She takes gorgeous pictures that show what’s going on on her farm throughout the year. (Check out the cutest lamb ever on the right!) Her cast of characters—chickens, sheep, dogs, cats, and even a donkey—keep me tuning in daily for updates. Through her blog I’ve become obsessed with a tiny lamb named Caraway. Caraway, or Cary for short, was born last spring, a cute little twin lamb with a bad leg. Her mom, as animals will do in the cruel way of evolution, decided to focus on her healthy son and basically left Cary an orphan. Farmgirl couldn’t let Cary just die. She bottle-fed Cary until she was strong enough to survive on her own. And in the process Farmgirl gained a fuzzy friend who would curl up at her feet as she blogged, or provide company as she worked in her fields. Cary’s now 9 months old, but you can read her whole story on the blog. I recommend it. But have some tissues handy… it’s a heartwarming tail! : )

Monday, February 05, 2007

Laura talks about weather disaster planning

There’s a big freeze in California, a damaging ice storm in Oklahoma. The price of corn is high…but that means dairy farmers who lost their hay this year to flood and drought can’t feed their cattle. If you think that disaster talk, and in fact actual disasters, have been taking over lately, you’re right. Just last year, there were 52 declared disasters in 36 states. Over the past 10 years, there have been an average of 52.2 declared disasters, compared to 35.6 in the 1990’s and 14.7 in the 1960's. At this pace, it seems timely to start thinking about the impacts of global warming on agriculture.

Through my years at Farm Aid, I have been working with a group of farm advocates and farm policy experts on issues of access to credit and disaster programs. This team put together the disaster trainings that toured the Southeast last year in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. A year and a half later after the hurricanes we got together at the annual Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference to discuss lessons learned and our next steps to make sure that farmers are getting what they need and that they are able to prepare for future disasters.

While wading through existing disaster assistance programs, one of our team members mentioned a friend who grows diversified fruits and vegetables, crops that are not covered by most disaster programs. This team member asked his friend, “How do you deal with disaster? How are you protected?” The farmer answered “Diversity is my protection.” Crops are lost every year but with multiple crops in the ground this farmer can bank on getting by. Now, this plan doesn’t work for everyone and there are a lot of disasters that could pose a problem for farmers across the board BUT it started us thinking.

Diversified crops, well maintained soil, wind rows and any number of farming techniques that often fall into the world of sustainable agriculture make farms more resilient in the face of disaster. For farmers to weather a storm they also need a healthy marketplace that ensures a fair price for their crops. In essence, healthy food and farm systems are our first line of defense. A simple idea perhaps, but that single thought reframed and reorganized our entire conversation about disaster response. New programs, improvements on old programs, everything was reorganized towards an ideal of disaster preparedness through a sustainable and elastic system. One farmer who joined us for breakfast said “I had no idea you folks were out there doing this work but I sure am glad that you are!”

I don’t mean to make light of any farmer struggling with weather disaster right now. At Farm Aid, we hear from farmers every day and their difficulties feed my motivation to understand these programs and to create a big picture for family farm agriculture that is safe and sustainable. Some people may not get excited about spending their weekend talking about tax forms and labor policies, but this past weekend I had the privilege of sitting down with some folks to talk about the big picture and for a second, enjoy the idea that if no one else was going to fix everything that we could.