Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Joel Maps Factory Farms in Iowa

Ever wonder whether there’s a factory farm in your neck of the woods? And if so, how many and what kind of animals are confined there? A new online tool can help you get a better sense of where, how many, and what sort of CAFOs actually exist in your area, even in your own county.

The online tool is an interactive national factory farm map, the first of its kind, made available by the good folks at Food & Water Watch, an environmental watchdog group. It’s a fascinating and useful tool that, though limited in some ways, nonetheless helps fill in the blanks in our consciousness that industrial livestock agriculture would prefer to fill with marketable visions of happy cows, green pastures, and humble farmsteads.

Say you’re from Iowa, like me, and you want to learn something about factory farms in your dear old state. What can the map tell you? Some grim news, indeed: Iowa leads (!) the nation in combined number of sites for cattle, hog, and dairy CAFOs, with 17% of the total! Ouch. California, where I was born, is second at 12%. Kansas, where I lived for 8 years, is in sixth place with 4% of the nation’s combined sites for cattle, hogs, and dairy.

OK, let’s find out more about Iowa. Click, click…more grim news appears! Iowa again “leads” the nation in number of hogs confined on factory farms, with over 13 million. Our friends down in North Carolina place second with nearly 10 million CAFO’d hogs.

Now let’s get more specific, looking at Iowa county by county. Let’s check on Story County, smack dab in the middle of the state: The map tells us that Story County, where I grew up and home of Iowa State University, has 23 CAFO sites for hogs alone. Hmm. I wonder if little kids still play in the Skunk River as I did when I was a kid in Ames. What’s in that water now?

The national factory farm map is a great tool, and well worth repeated use by any of us concerned with taking action against CAFO-related food and environmental degradation. It doesn’t and can’t tell us everything we want to know about CAFO locations, site numbers, and animal volume (check out the map’s “methodogy” link for more on how the statistics were compiled and how the USDA continues to withhold important information). But as a first-of-its-kind online CAFO mapping tool, it makes a great mass of statistical information visually and very quickly available to anyone with access to the internet.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Jen Finds a Familiar Farmer Face in the Boston Globe

A few years ago I took a week off from Farm Aid to work on a real live farm. Dominic Palumbo, an organic farmer in Sheffield, Massachusetts, agreed to let me camp in his field and show me the ropes. I was totally green, having no real farm experience. But by the end of the week, the only thing I hadn’t done was milk the somewhat cranky milk cow Butterscotch. In the course of my week at Moon in the Pond Organic Farm I weeded, harvested, helped woman the tent at the weekly farmers market, rounded up errant Scottish Highland cattle and reset their acres-wide electric fence so they wouldn’t break out again (they did!), collected eggs, fed and watered the pigs, ducks, chickens, sheep, cows and ox, planted corn, started seedlings, and felt the good work deep in my bones. It is a week I fondly recall.

So this morning I was thrilled to see Dom’s smiling face looking out at me from the
Boston Globe’s food section. Dominic was doing amazing things two years ago, when I met him, and he’s only been doing more and more since. The article describes how he’s providing a local restaurant in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, with the freshest (and tastiest) homegrown produce and heritage breed meat. Now, I’ve got even more incentive to get back out to Western Massachusetts. If you’re in the area, eat at Route 7 Grill and then head over to Moon in the Pond Organic Farm to see from where your dinner came. In addition to being a “heartthrob,” as the article calls him, Dom’s a brilliant farmer with a passion to share his vision of sustainable agriculture.

Jeni says support the blogathon

Phelan over at "A Homesteading Neophyte" will once again be blogging for Farm Aid in the 2007 Blogathon. On July 28, she will start blogging for 24 hours straight with a new entry posted every 30 minutes. She'll be asking readers to show their support (and keep her awake!) by posting comments and pledging donations to Farm Aid.

Farm Aid is chipping in to support the marathon session by providing the Homesteading Neophyte a Willie t-shirt and Farm Aid CD to give away to the highest donor.

You can check out the blog at: http://a-homesteading-neophyte.blogspot.com

And if you're new to the blogathon idea, we found this helpful description on the 2007 Blogathon site:

"Now, remember when you were in school and you would bowl for charity? And for every pin you knocked down you got, say, ten cents? Or run for a dollar a mile? During the Blogathon, people update their websites every 30 minutes for 24 hours straight. For this, they collect sponsorships. Pledges can be a flat donation, or a certain amount for every hour the blogger manages to stay awake."

P.S. This is probably a good time to mention that we now have a Farm Aid badge available for you to use on your own blog. It's available at http://www.farmaid.org/badge/.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Getting to Farm Aid 2007: A HOMEGROWN Festival

We have lots of good information about getting to Randall's Island, the venue rules and what to do in NYC while you are there on our website.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Congratulations Live Earth, From Jen at Farm Aid!

You’d have to just be crawling out from underneath a rock to have missed the buzz about Live Earth, the Concerts For a Climate in Crisis. The concerts, one held on each of the seven continents, were meant to raise awareness about global warming and the small things each of us can do to effect positive change to save our earth. Al Gore, the force behind the concerts, has taken a lot of flack for the idea, getting comments like “Doesn’t everyone already know all about global warming?” and “How will a bunch of rockstars flying in private planes to a concert help save the planet?” Good questions and certainly those are issues to consider but ultimately we at Farm Aid are of the mindset that these concerts accomplished something very important because No, not everyone knows about or acknowledges global warming and artists have an amazing reach… their voices do more than just sing songs and if they are what’s needed to get this issue out there, and they’re willing to step up to the mic and talk about it or even just sing a song for it, then we’re lucky that they’re doing their part.

22 years ago, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young set out to have a concert to raise awareness about the issues facing U.S. family farmers (and money to help them). As they like to tell it, they were na├»ve, thinking that one concert would solve the problem—that the government would step in and create fair farm policies that help family farmers instead of putting them out of business. But each year, it was obvious that another concert would have to be held. And 22 years later, we’re still throwing an annual concert. But things have changed in those 22 years and recently those changes have become very obvious and very encouraging, confirming that the work of Farm Aid has been worth it. Farm Aid’s mission has evolved from making the public aware of the terrible things family farmers had to face in the 80s, to organizing to fight against the industrialization of agriculture, to working with consumers to promote family farmers as the best source for good, safe food. We’re in the midst of what we like to call The Good Food Movement, a wave of Americans reaching for and demanding family farm-identified, local, organic or humanely-raised food, and it is the best thing that has happened to family farmers and all of us who eat.

And that’s how it works, not all at once, but slowly, over time, building incrementally with momentum. Will one concert save the world? Probably not. But for every person who “gets it” and begins to make those incremental changes, the world starts heading in the right direction. If even a tiny percent of the 2 billion people who watched even a few minutes of Live Earth change one habit, a positive movement is growing.

Farm Aid feels a special affiliation with the cause of Live Earth. Family farmers and the consumers who buy from family farmers are doing their part to help our climate. When we buy locally, direct from farmers, we keep hundreds of thousands of pounds of CO2 from being spewed into the air. On average, locally grown food travels 56 miles from farm to fork; compare that to the average of 1,500 miles and you can see how much oil we can save when we buy from our neighbors. Farmers who choose to produce organically are doing their part as raising food organically produces fewer greenhouse gases and increases the ability of the soil to store carbon. Lastly, eating in season and choosing minimally-processed food also saves energy, petroleum, and our climate. So, for those of you who have answered the call and are making changes to help the earth, add this to your climate-saving practice: Buy from your local farmer. Your farmer, your local economy, your stomach, and our earth will thank you. And to Al Gore and all those behind Live Earth: Congratulations on a great event and thank you for inspiring all of us to start making changes; in our experience, it will lead to huge strides forward.