Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stumbling Goat in the NY Times!

This is just a quick notice that Seattle's very own chef Seth Caswell from Stumbling Goat Bistro is quoted in this week's New York Times food section. Big shout out to our friend Seth! And to the Ozette potato!


Monday, April 28, 2008

News and...

Happy Tuesday!

The sun is shining, our neighbor, Seattle Tilth, is gearing up for its annual Edible Plant Sale this Saturday and Sunday and we're getting ready for the Eat Local Now! event this evening.

This post is going to be a brief brain dump. Bear with me.

We mailed the 2008 FoodLust invitations this morning. Buy your tickets here. I really like the final logo design. I think it's memorable, funny and captures a lot of the different elements that the event is about. It looks a bit grainy at the brownpapertickets site, but if and when you get an invite in the mail, I think you'll be impressed.

At the Symposium last week, we picked up a bunch of the "10 Reasons to Buy Local" from Fred Berman. These are a FANTASTIC resource. I'm thinking about carrying them everywhere with me. Any time someone asks me about local food, I can simply hand them one of these concise yet comprehensive handouts, instead of talking their ear off. Plus, the "10 Reasons to Buy Local" has the added advantage of going home with the person, further encouraging the principals it endorses.

The Seattle City Council passes the Local Food Action Initiative.. While the initiative doesn't include many regulations or concrete legal actions, it provides a policy framework from which to build greater sustainability and food security in Seattle.

Here are some links to interesting articles from the last few days:

Clark County Home Grown - An interesting approach to low-income food access and nutrition education.

Looking at the Local Farms Healthy Kids bill in action.

Dan Rather on the impending food crisis.

An example of how "green biz" can help save rural towns.

That's all,


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Busy, busy, busy

It's been wild around here. Earth Day is now Earth Week, and everyone wants a piece of our action. Which, in general, is a good thing, but since Mary and I are the only staff, it means that we're both VERY busy making appearances at various events and handling the day-to-day activities of the organization.

Enough excuses! Time to blog!

Here's an glimpse of the weekend up 'til now:
  • Saturday and Sunday: King 5 Healthy Living Expo
  • Saturday: Seattle Diabetes Expo
  • Sunday: Eastshore Unitarian Church Environmental Fair
  • Sunday: St. James Cathedral Health Fair
  • Monday: Farm-to-Table Workshop for Clark County
  • Tuesday: King County Earth Day Meeting
  • Wednesday: Sustainable Agriculture Symposium
  • Wednesday Evening: King County Food and Fitness Initiative Community Forum
Wow. That's a lot of meetings/events/fairs/expos/whathaveyou. But all good experiences and great opportunities to spread the word about CHC and all of the great work that we're doing.

I'll discuss one event from the list above: the Sustainable Ag. Symposium. Tim Crosby, from Growing Washington, organized the event. There was great representation from a variety of fields within the food and farming sector. I won't list all of the attendees here, but may post the spreadsheet once Tim compiles it.

I have been to quite of few of these types of meetings over the past six months and Mary has been attending them for the last decade or so. Typically, I find that these events are a great chance to get a lot of the "players" in the sustainable ag. field together to discuss current issues, ongoing projects and to brainstorm for the future. Often, though, as great as the conversation is, the outcome for the meeting is...more meetings. Sure, getting everyone together to "talk it out" is beneficial, but only to a point. After that, it's time to act. It's time to "walk the walk."

Luckily, this meeting was somewhat different. Yes, one of the major outcomes was planning further meetings, but there were some interesting "actionable items" proposed as well. For instance, I participated in a small group discussion about what's needed for innovative business development. One of our recommendations for the group was to catalog past, current and future innovative sustainable models to serve as a resource for entrepreneurs who want to "walk the walk." I think that's a great idea. It sounds simple, but it hasn't been done. It's a discreet task that could prove extremely valuable.

The need for "innovative business models" is put forth as "the way" to push positive values in our capitalist society. This may be true (I tend to agree) but it never seems to have enough follow through. Someone can have a great idea for a business, but without a thoughtful and well-researched business plan, that idea will never get off of the ground. The business world is very complex and can be extremely difficult to navigate, especially when trying to present a new idea. For the great ideas that occur at these meetings to move out of the brainstorming sessions and into the real world, they need to be examined in the context of what has worked and what hasn't worked. A catalog of models would be valuable in creating that context. It would be a tool for those who want move past discussion put together a business plan for their idea. Specifically, it would be a great asset for greater success when trying to secure funding (often the most difficult piece of the puzzle).

That's just one example of some of the concrete tasks that were discussed at the meeting. Will it actually get done? That's now in the hands of the folks that attended. I know that I've already talked with some of the other attendees to try and find methods for moving forward, beyond the brainstorming and into reality. Because it will be the work done by the smaller groups, outside of the larger meetings, that really keep the movement going forward.

I hope that this entry isn't too negative. It is not my intention to rant about meetings (though there have been a lot lately) but to try and make sure that we move out of the meeting with renewed diligence, instead of contented apathy. It's easy to attend meetings and talk about the need for new, innovative businesses/programs/organizations/etc. It's hard to actually make them happen.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Public Hearing for Local Food Action Initiative

Last night, the Seattle City Council held a public hearing for Council President Richard Conlin's proposed Local Food Action Initiative (LAFI). Rebecca Sayre, from WSU Extension - King County, did a wonderful job getting the word out and organizing folks from a variety of industries and backgrounds to testify in support of LAFI. Farmers, local non-profits, business owners, students, community members, chefs, environmental activists, and many more all showed up in force to support the initiative. By my estimate, over 100 people showed up, of which about 75 people testified. The proceedings were recorded by the Seattle Channel and should be available for online viewing in the next month or so.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

2008 CSA Directory and Farm Guides

The 2008 CSA Directory is finally here! It's already picked up some press at the Seattle Weekly's Food News and Reviews blog, Voracious. Nice. Someone out in the food writing community is paying attention. I will now read all of Jonathan Kauffman's articles with greater appreciation.

In addition to the CSA brochure, we also have the 2008 Puget Sound Fresh Farm Guides. When it rains, it pours! We will be distributing them around the Puget Sound region over the next few weeks.

In other news:

Here's a video made by a French documentary-maker (documentarian?): "The World According to Monsanto."

An interesting article that explores rising food costs from multiple angles. "Putting your money where your mouth is."

And another article, this one from NY Times Op-Ed Columnist Paul Krugman, that succinctly connects the rise in popularity of biofuels and the current World food crisis. "Grains Gone Wild." One question: yes, replacing land that can grow food with crops earmarked for biofuels isn't a solution, but shouldn't distribution of food also be a primary concern? What's the point in growing food if it never feeds anyone? Previous policy has given farmers the option to not grow food in an effort to balance supply and demand, but in an increasingly global society, where overpopulation and hunger are daily issues, shouldn't efforts be made to grow as much food as possible, so long as an efficient method of distribution is in place to effectively feed people? As I wrote that, I found that I disagreed with myself. Anyone else? Why?

Finally, an interesting study that examines the link between organic agriculture and climate change. If Tim Crosby ever reads this blog, this one's for you. "Organic Farming and Climate Change."

That is all.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Okanogan and Plastic Bags

Last Monday, April 7th, I crossed the Cascades and braved Bluett pass to put on a Farm-to-Table Workshop at the Okanogan Fairgrounds, home of the world-famous Omak Stampede and Suicide Race. I'm gonna go out on a limb and write that the workshop was just as exciting - maybe more so - than the rodeo. Yep.

This was the first workshop in Eastern Washington and it was remarkably different, yet eerily similar to the workshops held in the Puget Sound region. Okanogan is very rural; Puget Sound, by comparison, is quite urban. Okanogan is very dry; Puget Sound is very wet. The comparisons can go on, but, despite the differences, there are some marked similarities. Okanogan, just like the Puget Sound, has many small- to mid-sized farms that are looking for ways to compete in the marketplace and keep their operations economically viable. Okanogan, just like the Puget Sound, is full of innovative ideas and increasing gusto about local agriculture. While a much smaller population, there is still great demand for more locally produced products. These similarities were on display at the workshop.

One of the most fascinating examples of small farms innovating for the marketplace is the Okanogan Producers Marketing Association (OPMA). OPMA is a three-year old cooperative marketing group of six farmers in Okanogan county. By grouping together, they reduce their overhead costs and have a greater ability to increase their profits. At the same time last year, the group was worried about whether or not OPMA would be effective. As of the workshop, Watershine Woods, the group's coordinator, reported that overall, OPMA tripled profits from last year. Tripled. That's mighty impressive. Can OPMA provide a model of success for small farms? More to come as we continue to build our relationship with them.

In other news, it Seattle officials have proposed a $0.20 surcharge on plastic grocery bags. "The proposed fee, the first of its kind in the nation, is the latest green legislation from a mayor intent on making environmental stewardship his legacy," writes the Seattle Times. This is a big step toward addressing sustainability on a city-wide scale. We'll keep our eyes peeled for more great work from the Mayor and Seattle City Council. In fact, next Wednesday, we will participate in a hearing about Councilmember Conlin's Local Food Action Intiative.

Okay, that's all for now.