Monday, October 31, 2011

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Willie Nelson & Karen O

MattFor today's Music Monday, we're taking a break from Farm Aid 2011 videos and going back in time to 2001. Why? Because today is BOORITO day at Chipotle Mexican Grill! You can get a $2 burrito when you wear a family farm-inspired costume from 6pm to closing. Half of that money goes to Farm Aid and the other half goes to Chipotle's Cultivate Foundation.

As part of Chipotle's BOORITO promotion, they created a spooky video called "Abandoned" that features Karen O (vocalist of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) covering Willie Nelson's classic "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys." Here's Willie singing it at Farm Aid 2001 Noblesville, Indiana and right below that is Karen O's version:

Be sure to snap a photo in your costume after you get your burrito tonight, then upload it to Farm Aid's Facebook page (you'll see the upload form later today). The two people whose photos get the most votes, get VIP tickets to Farm Aid's 2012 concert! Five other random entrants will win Farm Aid prize packs.

Find the closest Chipotle by clicking here. Check out more videos on Farm Aid's YouTube channel.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lauren's Farm And Food Roundup

LaurenAn update from the National Sustainable Agriculture Committee on the progress of what could pan out to be the speediest Farm Bill on record. The proposal, which will reflect a net $23 billion cut in mandatory farm bill spending over the next decade, is to be submitted by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction by November 1st. And could mean that you and I have no say in the Farm Bill.

Rural activists are proving that you don’t need to be anywhere near Wall Street to be a part of the Occupy Movement. Living on Earth’s Bruce Gellerman talks with a Nebraska-native who is occupying her pasture in solidarity with the 99 percent.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree announced her introduction of the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act that would reroute some federal subsidies from large-scale industrial producers to small, often family-owned local farms.

It’s almost time for a Boo-rito! Head into a Chipotle on Halloween in a costume inspired by the family farm and get a $2 burrito—all the proceeds will benefit Farm Aid and The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation!

Drought and disease in states such as Georgia and Texas have caused a peanut shortage that may cause a 25 to 40 percent spike in the price of peanut butter in the coming weeks. If you’re a PB&J fanatic, it may be time to stock up.

Check out these photos of how people across the country celebrated Food Day last weekend!

In the UK, a farmer was tasked with growing Mickey Mouse pumpkins for DisneyLand Paris. Check them out!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Farm Aid's Halloween Photo Contest

MattCome to any Chipotle Mexican Grill on Halloween — Monday October 31 — after 6pm dressed in a costume inspired by the family farm! You'll get a $2 burrito and all of it benefits Farm Aid and Chipotle's Cultivate Foundation. Chipotle works to source food from family farms, and has long supported Farm Aid.

What’s fair game? Get creative: Be your favorite crop, a farmer, farm animal, or even your favorite Farm Aid artist!

While you’re in your costume at Chipotle, take a photo and upload it to Farm Aid’s contest page on Facebook. The two people whose photo gets the most votes win VIP tickets to Farm Aid’s 2012 concert. We’ll also award Farm Aid t-shirts and prize packs to five random entrants who uploaded photos.

Visit Chipotle's website to read more about BOORITO and click here to find your nearest Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Farm Aid staff visited a local Chipotle today at lunch to show you how it's done! We've got several family farmers here, a free-range egg, some family farmed bacon and even a friendly barn spider.

Save the date and get your costume ready! Thanks for your support.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lauren's Farm and Food Roundup


Here’s the latest on the controversy revolving around the Keystone XL Pipeline that would transport tar sands from Canada to the U.S., cutting through farmland and passing dangerously close to the Ogallala Aquifer. While President Obama has said he will not make a decision until the end of the year, opponents and advocates alike have been throwing their weight around in an effort to tip the scales in their favor.

The FDA announced on Wednesday that the deadly Listeria outbreak was likely due to pools of water on the floor and old, hard-to-clean equipment at a Colorado farm’s cantaloupe packing facility. The equipment had previously been used at a potato-processing facility, and the bacteria could have been introduced from the past use of the machine. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says 123 people were sickened in the outbreak including the 25 who died.

The African Cocoa Initiative, a proposal to invest in sustainable cocoa programs in West Africa, will be launched in the coming weeks.  Cocoa is one of the most significant crops in West and Central Africa, 90 percent of which is grown on 2 million small family farms. Funding will go toward improving farmer incomes, alleviating poverty, strengthening government and regional institutions, and helping to advance food security throughout the region.

In response to the discovery of the disease Infectious Salmon Anemia in wild salmon off the coast of British Columbia (a previously benign disease that mutated and ran rampant through densely-packed farmed salmon populations), Paul Greenburg explains the options for preventing farmed fish from spreading disease to wild fish populations.

Lawmakers are calling for the end of the direct payment program, a subsidy that was created in 1996 to wean farmers off of government support. Unfortunately, it appears that most of the money “saved” by doing so will go towards a new subsidy that will continue to benefit commodity farmers.

In that same vein, would ridding our food system of subsidies actually make it healthier? Civil Eats blog reviews the history of government supported agriculture and explains why throwing it out won’t miraculously make zucchini cheaper than donuts.

And word is spreading that the congressional "super committee," deciding where to find $1.5 trillion in savings over the next ten years, may also decide the fate of the next Farm Bill.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The March Goes On - Demanding Mandatory Labels for Genetically Engineered Foods

HildeA few hundred protestors from across the country arrived at the White House this past Sunday, the culmination of the two-week GMO Right2Know March that began in New York City on October 1. (Congratulations all you brave marchers - my feet ache just thinking about it!) The demand behind all this foot traffic: that President Obama honors his campaign promise to label genetically engineered (GE) foods (also commonly referred to as GMOs or genetically modified organisms). Despite having opened the proverbial GE floodgates this past year, allowing even more untested and unrestrained GE products into our environment and marketplace, Obama actually campaigned around the idea of mandatory GE labeling. In fact, during his 2007 campaign he said that as president he’d “let folks know when their food is genetically modified because Americans have a right to know what they’re buying.”

For decades, behemoth biotech companies like Monsanto have lobbied against labeling products containing their GE crops – including plants modified to live after being sprayed with herbicides and plants which produce pesticides in every one of their cells. Their argument is that these plants are no different than those that didn’t undergo this genetic modification. Considering these plants could never exist naturally and require human manipulation at the molecular level, I’d have to disagree. As do 93% of recently polled Americans, who believe there should be a mandatory label for GE foods. We have a right to know what’s in our food and what we’re feeding our families.

If you weren’t one of the protesters to make the long trek from NYC to DC, the “march” to label GE foods continues. This time the target is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who has both the power and responsibility to require a mandatory label for GE foods. And you don’t have to lace-up your shoes this time around. Instead, click here and join Farm Aid and more than 400 organizations across the country as we call on the FDA to mandate labeling for all GE foods.

This isn’t just about our rights as eaters. Labeling GE foods will help family farmers who don’t plant GE seeds to have a stronger market for selling their goods. We know that mandatory labeling will not fix all that’s wrong with the regulation of genetic engineering, but it’s an important step in restoring our rights as both eaters and farmers.

Still not sure what’s the big deal over genetic engineering in our food supply? Click here to check out Farm Aid’s fact sheet and position on the topic.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Neil Young

MattIt's a beautiful fall morning here in New England, so why not celebrate with a couple new videos for this Music Monday? Here are two Neil Young performances from August 13 at Farm Aid 2011 in Kansas City. The first I've picked is "Sugar Mountain," just because it's one of my favorites and Neil has only played twice before at Farm Aid.

The second video is "Peaceful Valley Boulevard," which Neil has never played at Farm Aid (it's off his 2010 "Le Noise" album).

Check out more videos on Farm Aid's YouTube channel.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Farmer Hero Friday: Tom Nuessmeier of Le Sueur, Minnesota

MattToday's Farmer Hero Friday focuses on Tom Nuessmeier, a fifth generation farmer in Minnesota. Along with his family, he runs an organic farm and raises hogs while employing many conservation practices to keep the land productive for many years to come.
Tom Nuessmeier
Tom Nuessmeier and his family recently experienced an early frost that halted the growth of a majority of their soybean crop weeks before the plants typically reach maturity. On a monoculture farm, this would have meant disaster. The Nuessmeiers, however, had already harvested and sold their winter grain, and grow several other crops which were unaffected by the frost. This diversity of crops is largely a result of the fact that almost all of the family’s land is certified organic and enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) enacted as part of the 2002 Farm Bill.

The CSP is a voluntary conservation program that encourages producers to address resource concerns, and rewards them for their conservation performance. CSP provides financial and technical assistance to help land stewards conserve and enhance soil, water, air, and related natural resources on their land. “Of course we’re farming for profitability, but we’re also trying to maintain environmental sensitivity,” says Tom. “We want to farm in harmony with nature, even though it’s working land.”
Click here to read the rest of our profile of Tom.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lauren's Farm and Food Roundup


With so much going on in the Occupy Wall Street movement, it can be tricky to stay on top of the issues being discussed. But food is definitely one of those issues, as the OWS declaration states, “[corporations] have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.” Here’s a great blog post by Slow Food USA that further explains what food has to do with the movement.

Some eye-opening graphics from the blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, about the distribution of wealth in the United States, how it plays into our political system, and what it has to do with Occupy Wall Street. The blog’s creator, Erika Kendall writes, “It ties into food because corporations have been working overtime trying to prevent us from knowing about our food – everything from veggie libel laws to outright lobbying to prevent non-GMO brands from telling us they’re non-GMO – and our government isn’t protecting us.”

Here’s a sort of “how-to” guide from the Honest Meat blog on ways to turn the discontentment on Wall Street into real solutions.

Want to share your thoughts and opinions on our food system? Check out Occupy the Food System, a Facebook page dedicated to getting back in touch with our farms and food.

Chipotle has released a new video in support of America’s small farms. The video features Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O covering Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings’ classic hit, “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.”

Take a look at this op-ed on how small farmers are up against corporate meat packers with huge advertising budgets in their struggle to get the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration rule (GIPSA) passed. The rule would protect the basic rights of family farmers by preventing large packers from driving them out of business and allowing them to speak out against unfair practices.

Monday, October 24th is Food Day! There are events going on nationwide to celebrate sustainable eating, like Boston Food Swap’s Community Sourced Potluck. Attendees will sample local foods, and the best dishes with the best stories will win prizes from area companies with sustainability as their mission. Check out the Food Day website to find an event near you!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring John Mellencamp

MattThis Farm Aid Music Monday has a couple of new songs from Farm Aid 2011 in Kansas City and a belated birthday wish to John Mellencamp (his birthday was last Friday). He's a co-creator of Farm Aid and has continued to work for family farmers over the past 26 years. Here's John being introduced by fellow board member Dave Matthews and performing "Authority Song."

And here's John performing "Walk Tall."

Thanks for everything you do, John!

Check out more videos on Farm Aid's YouTube channel.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Lauren's Farm and Food Roundup

LaurenMardy Townsend explains why we can’t wait any longer to pass the GIPSA rule that would level the playing field for small-scale farmers in an industry where corporate concentration runs rampant. “The meatpacking industry, giant poultry companies, and largest food processors have forced more than 1 million American farmers and ranchers out of business since 1980.” She points out that, influenced by the biggest players in the livestock industry, the House of Representatives is trying to stop the passage of this legislation by blocking GIPSA’s funding.

The New York Times Food & Drink Issue is out! Check it out for articles on the next food trend (eating algae?), the mystery of why your toaster is so bad, taste-testing the best worst beers, and Michael Pollan’s musings on whether or not consumers can really impact factory farming, unsustainable agriculture and animal cruelty.

From Colorado’s Channel 9 News, an article about crops going bad because immigrants, legal and illegal, aren’t showing up to work for fear of being arrested. Farmers are calling on Washington to get these workers back on the land, arguing that their absence may mean higher food prices or food scarcity in the nation’s grocery stores.

One Colorado farmer hired out-of-work Americans on his farm, rather than rely on the migrant labor he traditionally has used to make his farm run smoothly. It was not a successful experiment. “Americans, he says, proved to be less reliable and less willing to perform the hard work necessary to run his corn and onion farm than foreign workers.”

Check out the designs submitted to Threadless Tees’ anti-GMO t-shirt contest.

Speaking of GMOs, Food and Water Watch recently released a report filled with GMO info for the wary consumer. The report reviews the history of GMO regulations, explains the impact of GMOs on consumers, farmers, and the world market, emphasizes the importance of GE labeling and debunks the myth that Monsanto’s GE soybeans are helping us move towards a more robust food system.

Finally, Anna Lappé continues her exposé of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, delving deeper into who they really represent.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Joel reports on the Texas wildfires from the Farm Aid hotline

JoelA hotline caller from Texas reported today that major wildfire has again hit the city of Bastrop and Bastrop County, Texas. What began at 2 p.m. yesterday as a small, two-acre fire was fed by strong winds and expanded extremely quickly, and by 4 p.m. had become a huge fire. Bastrop County is pine tree country and, given severe, prolonged drought, dried out pine trees burn like gas-soaked toothpicks tossed into a campfire. Catastrophe revisited. Bastrop is traumatized again but trying its best to cope.

Exactly a month ago, the city of Bastrop, about 30 miles east of Austin, made national headlines of the grimmest sort when wildfire swept through town. Residents had hardly begun to recover from that major calamity when this latest fire yesterday grew out of control so quickly, again threatening families, homes, ranches and livestock. The caller’s own 31-year-old daughter had to be hospitalized because of heart problems. The local feed store owner had a heart attack and died after the first fire. Ranches throughout the county that have not yet burned have little or no water to fight fire and many have pared down or sold off their herds. Many of those not in the path of wildfires have no hay to feed livestock.

“No matter what, “ today’s caller said, “Bastrop County will not be Bastrop County anymore. People are scared and bewildered. ” Yesterday, DC-10 and C-130 planes swooped in within a few hours—unlike the four days it took to get planes up a month ago—flying extremely low and spreading fire retardant for up to two miles at a time. Bastrop “looked like a war zone,” with charred remains of homes, stone chimneys sticking up into the sky and a blackened, soot-filled landscape.

Although largely unreported until last month, wildfires have been scourging less populated areas of the bone-dry state since last spring. Farm Aid friend and former Texas agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower made plain that Governor Rick Perry has been “months late in providing the most basic state leadership to deal with such disasters.” For the whole article, click here. To see photos of what wildfires and severe drought look like—steel yourself before looking at them--see this slideshow by the Austin Statesman.

Farm Aid is trying to help. Here is an article from the San Angelo Times about a hay run we helped coordinate to the small town of Miles, Texas.

Although this year of disasters has all of us on the verge of blinking away the latest disaster report, we ask you again to help us continue to deliver hay to those limited resource farmers in Texas and Oklahoma who cannot afford to purchase it and truck it in from out of state. Farmers in the Midwest have stepped up and done their part, donating tons of hay, which is just waiting to be picked up and delivered to drought areas. Presently, the great logistical problem—which Governor Perry is refusing to help with—is getting affordable (or donated!) trucks and truckers lined up to run hay down from the Midwest to Texas and Oklahoma. The need is immediate; animals cannot wait another two weeks or a month for something to eat. If you can help in any way—with a few dollars to help pay truckers’ fuel costs, with leads on trucks and truckers (especially those with flatbeds to carry large round bales!), or with info about farmers and ranchers who need help—email me directly at

Farm Aid is you, and you are Farm Aid. We cannot help America’s family farmers and ranchers without you. THANK YOU!