The following transcript is protected under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY
Nelson, B.C. Canada
September 30, 2010
Title - Produce To The People
Producer/Host - Jon Steinman
Transcript - Ross Vaga
Jon Steinman: Welcome to Deconstructing Dinner produced in Nelson, British Columbia at Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY. I'm Jon Steinman.
Produce to the People - the title of today's show and the title of a panel discussion hosted in March of this year in San Francisco. Similar to a recent panel discussion aired here on the show titled Climate Friendly Eating, this one was too hosted by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture or CUESA - a San Francisco-based non-profit who since 1994 has been educating urban consumers about sustainable agriculture and creating links between urban dwellers and local farmers. CUESA has also managed the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market since 1999.
The Produce to the People panel examined a few inspiring models for getting fresh, local food to residents in the Bay Area and featured Grayson James of Petaluma Bounty, Melanie Cheng of FarmsReach and Christine Cherdboonmuang of the Oakland Farms-to-Schools Network and Oakland FRESH School Produce Markets. Moderating the panel was Michael Dimock of Roots of Change.
And at the end of the broadcast today, a new episode from Bucky Buckaw and his Backyard Chicken broadcast. This week, Bucky discusses the pros/cons of eating raw eggs and provides suggestions on the safest source of those eggs to reduce the exposure risk to salmonella.
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Jon Steinman: Deconstructing Dinner has long been exploring the many ways in which farmers, businesses, organizations, and communities are accessing food using new and innovative models. On today's broadcast we hear more of those examples shared as part of the March 2010 panel Produce to the People hosted by the San Francisco based organization CUESA.
Moderating the panel was Michael Dimock - the President of Roots of Change - a collaboration of community, non-profit, philanthropic, government, and business organizations all seeking to accelerate the transition to more sustainable food systems in California.
Of the three panelists, heard first in this next clip is Christine Cherdboonmuang - the coordinator for the Oakland Farms to School Network and the Oakland Fresh School Produce Markets - a program of the Oakland Unified School District Nutrition Services and the East Bay Asian Youth Center. The markets are set up to sell fresh, mostly locally grown and pesticide-free fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, honey and other foods at public schools. The produce is purchased from local family farms and distributors, and sold by parents and students during after-school hours every week at each school site. The markets, which operate at 12 schools, are open to parents, students, staff, and community residents. And their goal is to open 25 markets by 2012.
Also on the panel, Grayson James, the executive director of Petaluma Bounty - a non-profit organization based in Petaluma California and formed in 2006. The organization works to create a sustainable Petaluma food system with healthy fresh food for everyone by helping residents to grow their own healthy food, by redistributing surplus food, and also providing affordable fresh food to low-income families and seniors.
And also on the panel, Melanie Cheng, the founder of FarmsReach; an online farm food marketplace focusing on the San Francisco Bay area that connects farmers to business buyers. Their mission is to help businesses source fresher and healthier foods and put better food on more plates while supporting healthy farms.
Here's Michael Dimock.
Michael Dimock: And I think what we would like to do first, is just have you each take about three minutes and not really describe the projects, we are going to get into that, but describe who you are, what it is that you do on a daily basis; that describes who you are and in essence what it is that you do. And Christine do you want to go first?
Christine Cherdboonmuang: So I coordinate the Oakland Farms to Schools Network and Oakland FRESH School Produce Markets. That is a network of twelve school produce markets in Oakland public schools. I can get more into the details about how it works later but we created it originally as a way to increase access to more healthy affordable food in the neighbourhood through, specifically, through the school institution. We decided to focus on the school institution. You know, each school that we work at has three hundred to seven hundred students and their families who go there and pick them up after school, and so very significant community institutions where children also eat one or two of their meals, a lot of them two because at least seventy percent of the children at all the schools we work at qualify for free reduced lunch and breakfast. But I am getting too much into the project.
Michael Dimock: What motivated you to get into it. Why did you get into this?
Christine Cherdboonmuang: In the present day and age in this society, distribution is important because you know going back to, in human history, we don't live in a reality anymore where our intimate knowledge of environment around us is how we get our food. We are not well crafting and hunting our food. But things like agriculture subsidies and living wage determine our food system and what kind of access we have to food and how institutions of like food retailers set up in our communities and just to kind of illustrate two examples, actually that was one example, was the Central Valley example because there is actually also produce markets in the Central Valley they run as a similar project and they were telling me something very similar that this is the breadbasket where they export tons of food to the whole world and residents there have to drive, you know, at least forty-five minutes to the nearest grocery store and they are surrounded by food and so that you know like that. That's what we live in. And another example is that a farmer that I've worked with like he comes from Mexico, and his parents and his grandparents were farmers and he went through the ALGA program to learn to, you know, kind of learn the economics of being a farmer in this country. It's, I'm just kind of empathizing with the farmers side of things, like it's a hard for him routine even with us working with him, it's hard for us to get a price that is something that our communities willing to pay for but at the same time is something that supports him and it's just kind of ironic that he can't make a living supporting folks who probably didn't even grow up in the same town that he did but I think that a lot of his livelihood probably depends on higher-end markets like the Berkeley Farmer's Market.
Michael Dimock: Grayson, same question: Essence of what you do and why you got into it?
Grayson James: So, I'm going to start by giving a little background about how Petaluma Bounty came to be which may or may not shed light on how I came to be involved in it. I was contacted as a consultant about five years ago by a local foundation in Petaluma and the foundation was interested in how to address the issue of hunger in Petaluma. Most of you know probably know Petaluma is a small burb. A gateway to the wine country about fifty minutes north of here and its very picturesque charming Victorian town and you know when you drive through on your way to other places you wouldn't think that there is much hunger or food insecurity. So I was interested in the project, and I began talking to all the folks in the emergency network, food network, which was really what where the focus of this foundation was. What can we do to bolster the food emergency food network to address hunger and food insecurity? And as I began talking to these people and talking to educators and health care folks it started to become clear to me that first of all the emergency food system is pretty strong and is in pretty good shape in Petaluma at least and there is a lot of food moving to a lot of people. The other thing I noticed was that probably we could multiply that quantity of food and people by ten or twenty and fundamentally things wouldn't be any different. We could put a lot of money into the system and we could get a lot more food purchased and moving and we would be where we are but worse in five or ten years.
Which led me to look at what other communities are doing that are maybe looking upstream of the food pantry lines. And that led to what's often referred to community food security approach so then the next nine to twelve months were really spent mapping out how might this work for Petaluma. One of the things in my background that I was very involved in working with teams and folks helping them to try how to figure out how to collaborate better and I saw all these disconnects in the emergency food system where all these groups were working and doing great things but they weren't talking to each other and the educators and the health care providers weren't involved in the process. So I saw this really great opportunity to start to create conversations and linkages and that led ultimately to Petaluma Bounty and I'd say that my abiding concern is how to really make some kind of a difference at a level where we don't have to keep thinking that we should be building more emergency rooms to solve our health care crisis anymore then we should be building more food pantries to solve our food crisis so that's fundamentally where I am coming from.
Michael Dimock: Good. Melanie!
Melanie Cheng: I first started Om Organics because I was really passionate about organic agriculture in particular and that was before I really understood the problems in the industry on a bigger scale and trying to work with these organic farmers it was very clear that one of the major problems was getting there stuff to market and it applied not only to organic farmers but all the farmers that I had, that I was working with at the farmers market, and that really opened my eyes to the bigger economic problems in the food system and distribution and it also led to FarmsReach, which is focused on connecting farmers with wholesale buyers. Because I went to a conference way back when and that was when and that was where I heard the surprising statistic that less than 1% of food sales is going through farmer's markets and CSA's. So even if it quadruples it is a tiny fraction of the volume of food in the country. So at FarmsReach I was thinking idealistically if we could create a market place for the wholesale channel that's a better chance for a big win and so it's been a journey.
FarmsReach was launched in 2007 and initially the focus was on farm co-ops because at that time these farmers market consolidation programs or rural area aggregation across multiple farms that was kind of the hot new model that everyone was thinking was the way of the future but it turns out that wasn't necessarily true and those models are still trying to figure out how to make a viable business out of it so in 2008 is when we really scaled back the feature set to really serve farmers directly to wholesale buyers instead of the aggregation model through these non-profits and so 2008 and 2009 was when we were really focused on the features for the farm to making sure a farm can broadcast their availability to their customers directly. This year is really when we are evolving again with the industry as one of the new models that is working across the country in various regions; is a concept of a cluster of businesses collaborating across the vertical. And these models, which I will describe in a second, they are profitable, and so the fact that there is at least six groups who have pretty established businesses following this model is really where we are trying to take FarmsReach to. To be the tool that can facilitate this sort of program in other regions and so just really briefly talking about what is what are clusters of businesses collaborating across the vertical is basically a mishmash of non-profits, for profits and maybe government agencies who help sign up specific farms, specific buyers, specific processors and packers, and distributors. Usually there is one non-profit organization or one or two who coordinate the whole shebang. So instead of assuming markets will organically grow it is just not happening and what is working in these collaborations is a lot of handholding and aligning manually supply and demand by getting the buyers and farmers engaged in one specific program and preplanning the market for the season and then helping facilitate the logistics. And sadly I think the industry is in such a dire state where it really needs that much handholding to align supply and demand and actually have a profitable regional food system and so that is really, in my opinion, one of the more promising models in the fact that it can survive and sustain itself.
Jon Steinman: This is Deconstructing Dinner where we're featuring a panel discussion hosted in March of this year in San Francisco. In this next segment, moderator Michael Dimock asks panellists why they believe local/regional food systems are so important.
Michael Dimock: I think we should get at the underlying assumption around all this because if you are in a conversation like I was last week with these traditional market makers and distributors or produce houses; that is packers, shippers, in let's say Ventura County who are growing lettuce and vegetable crops. You know they might look at this system and say, "Well the system works, why are we doing something different?" So I want to get to the question, what is the focus of local and regional about? Where is the demand emerging from where you are responding to? Why is Grayson looking at local production? Christine why are you focused and why did you create a technology tool, what is it about local and regional? So Melanie why don't you take a stab at that first?
Melanie Cheng: Well basically the overall premise is that regional food systems are the only sustainable food system and there are some obvious reasons one it's the freshest quality food because it is right from your backyard and it doesn't need to travel a long time or a long distance. It is environmentally better in that less fossil fuels are needed to transport and cool these perishable things around the world and lastly it supports local economies which not only helps get more money back into the farmers pockets so they can make a living, but it keeps money circulating around a community for a baseline economic vitality. Another by-product of it is safety, just knowing where it is from and source identification because it is from your own region. There are very few if any Salmonella and E. Coli food outbreaks in regional food systems. And lastly the ecological and aesthetics of having a thriving vibrant rural agricultural landscape where farms are thinking about the land and water and biodiversity; it's an aesthetic, economically and ecologically smart thing.
Michael Dimock: Grayson do you want to add to that?
Grayson James: Yeah, I would just want to say all of the above and that from the sustainability perspective that Julia spoke about economic, ecological, and social. What we are looking for is elegant solutions. In any field we are always looking for the things we can do that can have the biggest impact; the simpler things that can actually ripple out and affect a lot of things. I think a local and regional approach actually does all these things very well. I would also just say, I would temperate it by saying that I don't think from my perspective we are not going for only local. I don't know any community in the United States that is in danger of having too much local or regional food, and we probably won't be for probably quite a while. If we were encountering such a situation, I think, at the other end spectrum there are some problems with that too, so I think that finding some kind of balance for a resilient food system that can respond to shock and disruptions. For instance if Petaluma was 100% dependant on growing food within a small radius and a major earthquake happened. That was a bad example, drought, which we do experience and water shortages; certain kinds of pests. We would find ourselves in a really vulnerable place. Kind of the other end of the spectrum about what usually talk about in the foody world which is the large scale long distance transport is always the enemy I think. Yeah, we should really move away from that as much as we can but I think we have to find some balance.
Michael Dimock: So it's about proportion.
Grayson James: Yeah I think, and it also really depends on the community. So Petaluma is also very different from Tempe Arizona, so looking at the right balance is for each community is important.
Michael Dimock: Good. Christine, what do you have to add?
Christine Cherdboonmuang: You know what really hits home for families at our markets is just the freshness just first of all. I think that connection to the memory of growing food which I think a lot of families have and then I also wanted to just add to that also just for folks to consider in the local food movement because it has been a challenge for us too at our markets because if you push local food and at the same time there is also demand for, because we work in a largely immigrant community, there is also demand for culture familiar foods that maybe grow outside of this climate or don't grow here year round in this climate like tomatoes and hot peppers and stuff like that.
Jon Steinman: That's Christine Cherdboonmuang of the Oakland Farms to School Network. Christine sat on a panel with Melanie Cheng of FarmsReach and Grayson James of Petaluma Bounty.
Today's broadcast is archived on the Deconstructing Dinner website at deconstructingdinner.ca and the September 30th 2010 episode.
Moderating the Produce To The People panel was Michael Dimock, who in this next clip asks panellists how they believe communities can work to increase the supply of food produced locally. Distribution appears to be one of the key areas of concern and opportunity.
Michael Dimock: There is some real demand out there for regional and local foods and so the question is how can we increase the supply and so what are the means you are pursuing? And there are a lot of things we will hear about in detail about the technology business models and the creative reuse or repurposing of existing facilities and infrastructure. So Grayson why don't you start?
Grayson James: Maybe a good place to start is when I think about distribution because I tend to oversimplify things; I'll do it here. So to oversimplify distribution is basically how we get food. So there are four ways I think we get food. One is we grow it ourselves. Another is we can glean it from somebody else that's growing it. Another is we buy it. Another is that we receive it as in food pantry; we accept it, donated food. The first two are similar and the second two are similar. So if we have that as the kind of the A definition of distribution, it makes sense of what a lot of our efforts are at Petaluma Bounty what we are doing is working each of these in a different way.
We have an educational urban farm in the centre of Petaluma where we have a professional farm manager to really maximize output but we do it in a way where it really needs volunteers, students, folks of all ages learning about sustainable agriculture. That has a CSA, which is community shared agriculture, which is a fancy term for a weekly box of food that goes to people who pay usually in advance to participate in this program.
We are fundamentally concerned with equity and concerned that everybody in our food system has access to healthy food. We sell food at whole sale prices to folks that cannot afford regular retail and we sell at retail prices to folks who can. We do that in our bounty box. We also do that in our Bounty Mobile Market, which is essentially a donated pickup truck which drives around locations in Petaluma selling farm food and food that we also purchased from other local organic farms. We have a network of community gardens; we started five community gardens so farm, including most recently one at Petaluma City Hall, which is something I think every city needs one; of course, we have a beautiful temporary garden out here in the summer in San Francisco.
We have Bounty Hunters program which is a community food gleaning program and the emphasis there is... so our mission is to create a sustainable Petaluma food system with healthy food for everyone. And how do you change a food system? Well we think you need to change a food system by engaging everybody in the communities. We can't just focus on one sector of the population the low income folks for instance. So we are trying to find ways to engage people at all levels of the community. All income levels and different cultures and backgrounds and gleaning is one way of doing that because we have a lot of gardeners in Petaluma; a long agriculture heritage. So we glean food from backyards and front yards and local orchards and we distribute it to local pantries and seniors and others.
Our last program is on the growing side is Backyard Bounty and that is essentially an edible landscape service. We are trying to be entrepreneurial, we are trying to create a more sustainable food system. And we are also trying to be more sustainable ourselves because I think that is something important to do. That's a start for Petaluma Bounty.
Michael Dimock: Great. So, Christine?
Christine Cherdboonmuang: Like I mentioned earlier the Oakland Fresh School Produce Markets are a network of currently twelve school produce markets at public elementary schools in Oakland. This is an expansion of a project that we piloted at two elementary schools in Oakland a few years ago and it just was really well received by the community, by parents, and by the school community as a way of providing a very convenient way for parents to come and pick up their kids from school to buy their groceries right there affordably. You know when they pick up their kids afterschool there are three long tables setup under canopy and scales and parents are selling the produce and there is an average of fifty varieties of produce on the table that they can buy. At affordable prices, a pretty low mark up from what we purchase from the farmers. And so we actually partnered with the school district, the reputation was built up for the nutrition services department to be interested in partnering with us and actually they are hosting the central distribution for the network and so that means they're the same trucks that are delivering produce to the cafeteria's for the school lunch are also delivering the produce to the school markets. The same truck driver's and we are using their central warehouse where they receive pretty much everything you know like from furniture to textbooks or whatever that goes to the school district and out to different school sites and we are receiving our food there at the warehouse and we are using their central cold storage as well and so that's actually where the farmers come to deliver to us; to the warehouse; so we work with a mixture of local farmers as well as distributors of veritable vegetables who most of you probably know; a distributor of organic produce and actually I mention because of the demand we have had from of a lot of our Latino parents which are the majority at many of the schools we work with. We've also, actually just this week, started to include conventionally grown produce.
So we have a partnership with the school district and in addition we also have a partnership with individual school sites so we require commitment from each of the schools to appoint a school site liaison which is an existing paid staff person of the school, you know it could be a teacher or the secretary or someone like that who is project committed to ensure it is successful and supervising the market manager and that is another commitment is that the school hires a part-time market manager to run the market and ideally that it is a parent and that they are supervised by the school site liaison. And so that team recruits more parent volunteers from the school to run that market and so that market is run by parents at the school, largely volunteer based, and the market manager is paid out of actually school funds. I think the main points to emphasize in that model is, one, that partnership with the school institution and using the infrastructure that the school district already has, and also I think you know that we have been able to tap into the community to run these markets and it's really run by the community and is very responsive to what the community wants and if we don't have what parents want out there then it won't succeed as a market and it will reflect hopefully what the community wants.
Michael Dimock: That's a great program. Melanie?
Melanie Cheng: Well Grayson, you are accused of simplifying things. I am sometimes accused of being to macro, so I thought I would do that now too. So the kind of the overall philosophy behind FarmsReach is just that there are three fundamental problems with the distribution of food. One is the lack of infrastructure that Michael talked about just not having the aggregation and distribution hubs in rural areas and urban areas anymore. Second, is that there is really no marketplace for local sustainable foods for the wholesale market. For consumers there's obviously farmer's markets but for the bigger wholesale channel there is no resource or database to identify who all the growers are in your area and actually know what they have available for harvest or to purchase at that moment. And the third is because there is no marketplace there is no historical data being collected of what is being produced and what is being bought and so how do you optimize the system when there is no data being collected. And with FarmsReach that is really what we are trying to address and another by product of not having a marketplace and not having data is that farms really guess what to grow and hope that they can sell it and then they guess what to charge. We talked with a lot of distributors and buyers where they, we asked them how they feel about pricing or how did they set pricing, for distributors when they are reselling they say so many farms call a distributor they trust and just ask what is the going rate or what do you feel like paying. So it doesn't follow any economic theory in any way and so again there are already problems getting fresh healthy foods into the mainstream wholesale channels. So it's no surprise there is problems getting healthy foods to underserved lower income populations as well, and so that's really why at FarmsReach we are focused so much on just these three fundamental things, infrastructure, market place, and price. Because we feel that if we can solve these major problems, these Achilles' heels then a lot of the other things will fall into place and getting better wages to farms.
Just a segway that illustrates how systemic the problem is, at Ecofarm preconference there was a guy talking about labour issues and getting farms fair wage and they were saying how they would have big successes getting farms engaged on paying their farms. Minimum wage for that area. And I talked to him afterwards and asked him how do you do that because farms, more than half of the farms in the country don't even report a positive income? How do they just up the wage just because they want to? And he confessed that was actually the biggest problem. They get them signed up in the program but because they don't have the distribution and market solutions they aren't that successful yet in getting the farmers a fair wage. So if we can just first have a market place that can even start collecting information of what is being grown and try to align it with demand more and that's a huge thing and then having that sort of data, you can start following economic theory and that was my major, of finding the right fair market value for things.
And just some examples of what is working to address these problems, just as far as infrastructure, Grower's Collaborative, they just change their business model to provide these aggregation centres. Previously they were doing more of the farm co-op distribution and I am really happy about this new move that is working in other regions and ultimately we have to recreate these aggregation hubs in rural areas and all these smaller and medium sized farms can reach the mainstream. Also in the Bay area specifically, FarmsReach is collaborating with four other organizations Run Organic, Calf, Great Valley, and Vault to do one of those clusters of businesses vertical collaborations you know and we will handhold big buyers with farmers and really make it happen as far as getting the food from the farmer to the buyer and that is going to be a partnership also with Grower's Collaborates, Aggregation Point and their great conventional distributor partners who can help actually move the stuff. So what I think the most compelling models to me are ones where it is collaboration of non-profits and for-profits working together and not trying to create a whole new alternative distribution system but rather leverage the conventional people who are ready to step up which is happening here and is awesome.
Jon Steinman: This is Deconstructing Dinner - a syndicated radio show and podcast produced in Nelson British Columbia at Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY. I'm Jon Steinman. If you like our weekly content and have not yet supported this not-for-profit radio show, you can donate to our work on our website at deconstructingdinner.ca
On today's broadcast titled Produce To the People, we're featuring a panel discussion hosted in March 2010 by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) based in San Francisco. Sitting on the panel was Grayson James of Petaluma Bounty, Melanie Cheng of FarmsReach and Christine Cherdboonmuang of the Oakland Farms to School Network.
With a couple more clips to share from that inspiring panel discussion, you can also expect later on the show today a new episode from regular contributor Bucky Buckaw and his Backyard Chicken Broadcast.
But first, moderator Michael Dimock who introduces the topic of gleaning, which for Grayson James of Petaluma Bounty is a focus of his organization's work.
Michael Dimock: So Grayson I would like you to talk a little bit more about gleaning. We live in Sonoma County and there is a lot of stuff going on with gleaning in Sonoma County and I know it is going on in other places. So I want you to talk about more about the full capacity of gleaning is and the potential for it and what you are doing specifically like the volume you are doing and that.
Grayson James: Gleaning has been around for several thousand years and it is starting to come back into its own as part of the local food movement I think. And, often associated with religious groups and faith based groups are often doing it and more and more just regular non-profits non-faith related groups are involved.
Michael Dimock: Does everybody know what gleaning is first of all, does everybody know, does everybody here not need an explanation? Good.
Grayson James: Okay so gleaning is when you, there are different models of it, but it is essentially helping to harvest somebody else's land and either using that food for yourself or to donate to somebody else. In the old days before all of us; gleaning was a part of the culture where farmers were admonished to always make part of their fields available to passers by and indiginent folks so that they could help themselves to certain parts of the crops. So the way we are practicing it; one of the spectrum as I said is in backyards and local orchards and there is here in San Francisco, a great group called Food Runners, which is gleaning from commercial institutions and caterers and restaurants and that's a whole different source of gleaning. We are not doing that but we are watching them closely. And there are folks in Marin Organics and they have an effort that gleans sort of systematically gleans fields, farm fields in Marin. And the food goes to school kitchens in Marin. And that is a great relationship there.
One of the questions people often ask about gleaning is what happens if somebody gets sick or the food is bad and in the mid-nineties under Clinton's watch the good Samaritan act was passed with basically supplies liability protection to anybody who donates food in good faith and what we do from a practical perspective is we just make sure that all the people who bring food to our collection sites and our volunteer drivers, it's all volunteer driven, if you wouldn't eat it then you don't pass it along. We started this program from the background that I personally was least interested in this program because it was the most directly in line with the emergency food system and I was much more interested in getting people growing food and other forms of distribution and so we put virtually no money towards this and we projected by this point of time about three and a half years out that we would be moving maybe about eight hundred pounds of food a month within the community and we are pushing two hundred thousand pounds in the last two and a half years and it turns out people really hate to see their food go to waste. How many of you can relate, you growers. So when you have an opportunity to see that food that you are growing go somewhere else then rotting on the ground you'll do it. So there is that. And it also ties into the well-established hunger relief mentality that is really strong in this country and certainly in Petaluma. So it turns out to be a really popular program.
Michael Dimock: So do you think that this is something in your networks nationally; are you hearing about gleaning taking off in many places all around? Or just in the Bay area.
Grayson James: Yeah definitely in the Bay area. There are all sorts of, some of the food permutations are food swaps. So we have a Wednesday morning food swap now in Petaluma. Somebody else started where people come and bring their own garden vegetables and they swap it out with each other. On the long list of things to do; we setup a block by block food exchange where everybody on the block would first exchange food with their neighbours and then the excess would go to bounty hunters or so forth.
Jon Steinman: Grayson James of Petaluma Bounty. More information on all of the panellists featured as part of the CUESA event are linked to on the Deconstructing Dinner website at deconstructingdinner.ca
In this last segment from the Produce To the People panel, a question from a member of the audience who inquiries into what types of policy challenges the panellist's organizations face. Grayson James offers an all-too familiar tale of policies stifling local food systems.
And a thanks to CUESA for making the audio heard today available. You can learn more about the organization by visiting their website at cuesa.org that's c-u-e-s-a dot o-r-g.
Audience: I'd like you guys to speak a little about the policy challenges that you face and things that can be maybe an easier or quick fix to policy or something that somewhere is a more idealist approach.
Grayson James: I have a good policy example. Our Mobile Market, the travelling pickup truck, was shut down by the city of Petaluma about two months ago. Somebody, it makes six stops, it stops at Kaiser, Petaluma Health Centre, elementary school, and several other places. And somebody at Kaiser complained that we were operating without a permit.
Grayson James: Somebody, somebody, I'm sure it wasn't Kaiser because they love us and they really want us to be there. We don't know who it was, we never will probably, but it turns out that when we set the program up last summer. We talked to the city and we said "What do we need to go onto private property and sell produce." Well, you're on private property, you don't need anything. We went in there and got the same answer twice; so we blithely went about our business and then we were shut down, so we went back, and they said we were operating without a permit. Well, what permit? Well, we don't know we don't have one. We don't have a policy for you. I had to actually tell them because it was somebody else of course. So, the City of Petaluma did a great job working with us, they get what we are doing, and they appreciate it. And they said, well, first they came back wanting to charge us eleven hundred dollars per site for use permit fee that we had to go through. And once we explained to them, you know, how we really needed to operate this, they said okay, we will let you aggregate that and waive all costs except for out of pocket costs. That was settled, but in the meantime, the County of Sonoma stepped in and we just got operational again this last week and here is one of the things we learned. We can grow food on the Bounty farm and sell it on the Bounty farm but we can't sell it off the farm without jumping through certain hoops. We can buy food from other farms including Veritable Vegetable which we do and sell it off the farm, on our Mobile Market, but we can't sell that food on the farm. So, what do you think we are going to do? So here what we are going to have to do is drive our Mobile Market truck onto the farm and pull up to our farm stand where we are selling our Bounty farm-produced food and sell the non-Bounty farm-produced food off our truck. And so that's a good example.
Audience: So you are saying there needs to be a patch, there needs to be a fix in that policy?
Grayson James: Well I would say more than a patch, we got the patch.
Audience: Integrated policy.
Grayson James: Yeah, we need integrated policy, there are these disconnects and a lack of alignment. One more example there are folks been trying to setup a community garden in Novato for many many years and the City of Novato is treating them like a developer. They have to raise about a quarter of a million dollars to do this garden because they have to do all sorts of rights of way and traffic mitigation and everything. Meanwhile Petaluma is giving us a list of properties where they would like us to setup gardens so they won't have to pay maintenance and water. So, you know, each community is different and the policies and the principles and the understandings of the folks making those decisions are really different.
Audience: So we need state policy or a suggested policy for every community for how about you could easily create urban gardens?
Grayson James: And we need to get the word out why this stuff is really important.
Song: Food for the Rainy Day
Jon Steinman: The Congos and Food for the Rainy Day here on Deconstructing Dinner. It's been a few months since we last heard from a regular contributor to the show, Bucky Buckaw and his Backyard Chicken Broadcast. On this new episode, Bucky discusses the pros/cons of eating raw eggs and he suggests from which source raw egg-eaters might find the most confidence that Salmonella is not a risk.
Bucky Buckaw: This is Bucky Buckaw with the backyard chicken broadcast. One of the great things of living with chickens in your backyard and having fresh eggs around is being able to make some traditional egg recipes. Now I know I already discussed the virtues of fresh eggs from the backyard over commercial eggs and even explained why you really shouldn't be eating commercial eggs in anycase. Whereas having chickens in your backyard is an exercise in self-sufficiency and sustainability and forcing a good relationship with your food and the animals that produce it. It is what I talk about for every week for about three years for as a matter of fact. What I haven't mentioned specifically in a very long time is how much I love making a fried egg in a style we used to call sunny-side up, with a nice runny yolk. Or making boiled eggs soft boiled instead of cooked to death. I also love a real eggnog with or without the rum. Not to mention all of the other nifty alcoholic drinks using raw egg; like the Pisco Sour, the Tom and Jerry, and the Ramos Gin Fizz. Now you may be saying Bucky I can, if I really want to, make all those things with commercial eggs. But the truth is you are probably risking Salmonella if you do that. I recently did a chickener profiler with listener Alan from California who said one of the main reasons he got started with backyard chickens was because he wanted to add raw eggs to his diet but was concerned about the Salmonella risk in corporate eggs. After the interview a partner told me that when she was growing up the kids used to make milkshakes out of milk, raw eggs, vanilla, and sugar: Cheaper and more delicious than with ice cream and my guess is healthier too. She thinks maybe their dad, a marine, passed the recipe on to his children but she doesn't really remember. Maybe they made it up themselves. At any rate I tried it with our little Ceramic eggs, a high quality small farm milk, and some maple syrup. It sure tasted good.
Now, there is a bit of a debate on how much safer backyard chickens are from Salmonella but I'm going to argue if you do everything right: keeping an amount of chickens you can handle, and keep well-fed, and housed, and clean, and conditions. Salmonella is going to be very unlikely; maybe not impossible but highly unlikely. Some say that a chicken doesn't have to appear to be sick to be carrying Salmonella but keep in mind how carefully you can monitor your bird's health and the conditions they are kept in if they are in your house. And then keep in mind that Salmonella is on a spectrum, generally, the really bad strains come from visibly sick chickens. A mildly infected chicken is not going to debilitate a healthy person. On the other hand, you are not going to find any mainstream source nowadays that tells you it is okay to go ahead and eat a raw commercial egg.
There is very little debate that industrialization has increased the risk of Salmonella from commercial eggs for several reasons. For one, factory birds routinely eat feed tainted with salmonella such as dead and diseased chickens that the factories recycle into feed. As well as feed grains that are sometimes fertilized with contaminated manure. For another, factory farms have encouraged stronger strains of Salmonella to emerge in the factories through excessive use of antibiotics. Then there is all the other unhealthy aspects of cramming an unconscionable amount of animals together and treating them like production units which causes a general immune deficiency and leaves the animals more vulnerable to Salmonella and other illnesses.
Now some of you may say, why even use raw eggs? It can't possibly be all you are cracking it up to be but if you are saying that it is probably because you have cracked open a store bought egg and seen how gross it is. But you haven't seen what the backyard chickener and their friends know well, what has inspired raw egg-eaters from days before factory farming to invent nogs and Hollandaise and runny over-easy breakfasts. When done right a runny yolk is simply uniquely delicious and sensuous pleasure. But I well may be preaching to the choir here. I have noticed of late that there is kind of a ground swell of interest in the culinary delights of raw eggs. In February 2010, the New York Times ran a pretty long piece of all the bars in Manhattan serving drinks containing raw eggs. Apparently it is against health codes to do that but it is spottily enforced. Over and over again bartenders said we source our eggs carefully, we treat our ingredients with care, we don't want our patrons to get sick, no one has, and enjoying these drinks is a good time. It makes me wonder what the real truth is about food safety laws. It is the industrialisation of food that has made all these codes necessary. Whereas it would seem as if industry would want you to think food is inherently dangerous unless it is wrapped in plastic, after going through a series of hidden tests. Yet, clearly that is not the case. Food safety rules do not seem to work contending judging to how many contamination stories run in the news.
I have noticed these same arguments coming from the raw milk enthusiasts. I'll tell you that I've tasted some of the semi-legal raw milk and it is awfully delicious. Yet I am right with the mainstream and I am a little scared of raw milk. I like how the raw milk clubbers talk but I also know I don't have all the facts. On the other hand I resent the industry doesn't want me to have those facts; makes me want to eat raw stuff just out of defiance. Just like with raw milk a lot of sensible folks will tell you from their personal experience, raw eggs can be pretty good for you, health-wise, especially raw yolk. It stands to reason that cooking eggs changes the structure of its proteins and alters the vitamin content. How much is I suppose a valid debate but it is not a bad bet to at least some of your diet unaltered by heat.
Significantly some people who have egg allergies are not allergic to raw egg and raw yolk has one of the highest concentrations of biotin found in nature. Biotin is one of the B vitamins required in a number of enzymatic reactions in the body; like the production of energy from carbohydrates and fats. It's one of the vitamins suddenly getting a lot of press even though it is not entirely clear who needs how much or why. Raw whites don't have as many health benefits but they are another piece of the egg that is very useful is certain recipes. And except for the case with pregnant women who should avoid raw egg whites, aren't going to hurt anyone, provided that it is a Salmonella and cruelty free backyard egg.
Now that so many people identify themselves as foodies or whatever; there is a lot of re-evaluation of what is good to eat. Do an internet search on raw egg recipes or raw eggs. I suspect most of you will want to try some of the recipes you find and maybe it will inspire you to get chickens or at least find someone with a small flock that you can see for yourself how clean it is and get some appropriately fresh eggs. Since I'm having trouble finding credible information one way or another about raw eggs, I'd really appreciate if folks would send me their own experiences; positive or negative with raw eggs. Send your questions and comments by email or send me a mp3 of your own voice to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is Bucky Buckaw signing off, I had a good time.
Bucky Buckaw ending theme
Jon Steinman: A thanks to Bucky Buckaw for that segment. Past episodes of Bucky Buckaw featured here on Deconstructing Dinner are archived as part of our Farming in the City Series at deconstructingdinner.ca. You can also find links to unheard Bucky Buckaw segments by visiting the page for today's broadcast posted under the September 30th 2010 episode.
Jon Steinman: And that was this week's edition of Deconstructing Dinner, produced and recorded at Nelson, British Columbia's Kootenay Co-op Radio. I've been your host Jon Steinman. I thank my technical assistant, John Ryan.
The theme music for Deconstructing Dinner is courtesy of Nelson-area resident Adham Shaikh.
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