Friday, January 18, 2013

Toni's Farm and Food News Roundup

ToniA student group that formed in 2008 at southeast Michigan's Oakland University received a $20,400 grant from the Americana Foundation to begin an urban gardening project that will benefit the community. Oakland University has agreed to match the grant funding so the Student Organic Farming Program at the school can hire a farm manager. The students are hoping to become USDA certified organic and focus on sustainability. The produce grown on the site will be sold on campus in order to raise money to become self-sustainable in the future. The program is ultimately part of a mission to raise awareness about where food comes from, as well as health and environmental issues.

Cattle production is expected to drop by 4.8 percent in the U.S. this year, which will likely cause a decrease in domestic consumption. The drop in consumption will probably be similar to that of 2011, during which time consumers saw a steep increase in the price of beef. In the past 35 years the decrease in production is only rivaled by the 6.4 percent drop in 2004, due to a sharp reduction in beef exports not a drop in domestic consumption.  This trend has been steadily occurring in recent years and is expected to continue through 2014, in part, due to the increasing average weight of livestock brought to market.

The National Museum of American History is creating a new exhibit highlighting the importance of U.S. agriculture. The first donation for the exhibit is from Tenn. farmer Pat Campbell, a member of the Tennessee Farm Bureau. Campbell is donating photographs and a modern cow tag, and sharing his story with the museum. A main goal of the display is to portray how farming has transformed in America since the time of our founding fathers. The National Museum of American history is partnering with the American Farm Bureau Federation to make this possible, but is also reaching out to farmers directly. A new section of the museum's website will be launched on March 19, National Agriculture Day, in hopes of collecting stories and photographs from the public in line with this new exhibit.

Wenonah Hauter's recently released Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America argues there must be an end to corporate control of the food system for the sake of both farmers and eaters. Hauter addresses the problems with consolidation in food production and how the U.S. can reach a solution. Hauter points out the common misconception behind organic food, explaining that even the majority of organic brands are under control of just a few companies. Additionally, she explains that while the recession may have briefly stalled consolidation, it is beginning to increase once more within the food industry. Within the past couple of months alone, the food giant ConAgra bought out Ralcorp and JBS USA purchased the Canadian XL Foods after XL Foods were under fire for selling massive quantities of e. coli tainted beef this year. Hauter shows that because of consolidation, local farmers are often receiving barely any returns for what they produce.

Grant Family Farms of Colorado shocked the state after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy last month, marking what might be the end of one of the nation's largest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects. The financial plights of the Grant family demonstrate bigger problems for agriculture, declaring bankruptcy after the drought, major storms, failure to receive crop insurance and a spinach recall, all of which have deeply impacted countless farms in the nation. Grant Family Farms is recognized as the first certified organic farm in Colorado, helping to spearhead the movement that established certification in the state. The farm had donated massive amounts of produce to food banks in the past. It is still possible that the Grant Family Farms will be able to continue farming to some capacity as it did after declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy seven years ago. Farm Aid's Development Directory Kari Williams paid a visit to Grant Family Farms last fall and blogged about it here.

The classic line "rock a bye baby" is taking on a new meaning, throwing rock and roll into the mix as classic Dave Matthews Band songs were released in a lullaby album for children. Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star is releasing its second compilation of mellow, instrumental versions of DMB tunes. Matthews' classic "Two Step," "Grey Street" and "American Baby" are just a few of the jam band hits that landed in nurseries this week. Matthews joined the Farm Aid family in 2001 as the newest Board Artist. Check out their version of "Satellite" below:

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