LocalHarvest Newsletter, July 24, 2008

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter. Last time I wrote about the choices we have as we face a rapidly changing future. It was a broad topic. No sooner had we finished reading your comments -- and thanks to all who wrote in! – when the New York Times published an editorial exemplifying the very fear we talked about last month. The Times editorial used the recent salmonella outbreak to call for a national food tracking system. Proponents of this system say that having the ability to track our food "from farm to fork" is the way to keep our food system safe.

A safe food system is a most excellent goal. It is fundamental. But the logic of traceability is fundamentally flawed. It relies on endless paperwork and pop inspections and numbered tags and microchips. Out of all this bureaucracy, "farm to fork" tries to build an edifice of safety, a Great Wall between us and the bad bacteria.

What we want is a guarantee. We want to trust that we won't get sick from our food. The thing is, "traceability" can't offer that guarantee. Say my grocery store watermelon comes with a barcode sticker on it. I peel the sticker off and throw it away. The garbage goes out. Two days later I get sick. Now what?

A traceability system would not change the things that need changing. Its purpose and methods concern themselves only with what went where when. It is about command and control, not quality. What we need to focus on is stewardship -- of land, crops, and livestock. Traceability is blind to issues of scale and the logic of the small scale farm. If something goes terribly wrong on a small farm, at worse a few hundred people are affected. No national, multi-million dollar sleuthing involved. If something goes terribly wrong in an industrial size farm, whose products were mixed in, processed and distributed with the goods from a dozen other mammoth farms, the numbers affected can reach the thousands, and as we are seeing now, the sorting out takes months.

One final thought: a farm to fork bureaucracy would place a disproportionate burden on small scale farmers, who often have no employees to pass the paperwork on to, and who would really like to spend their time growing healthy food, thank you. Should the government decide to implement such a scheme, we would hope that small scale farmers would be exempted. Requiring them to shoulder the same paperwork as the true offenders only makes family farming harder. What we ought to be doing instead is creating programs that encourage people to go into farming, so we can have as decentralized a food system as possible. That -- and developing relationships with the farmers who grow your food -- is where true food security lies.

With that, I'll invite you to browse the rest of this month’s newsletter, where green beans take the starring role. As always, take good care and eat well!


Erin Barnett
Director, LocalHarvest

From the LocalHarvest Store:

A bumper crop of chanterelle mushrooms is now sprouting in the Southern Indiana forest, and Cathy Crosson, from Red Rosa Farm, is busy collecting them for you. The Audubon Guide to Wild Mushrooms calls them "the most prized wild mushroom in the world."

The lavender harvest is in full swing, so it is the perfect time to order this year’s crop. As an herb, lavender is known for its calming, relaxing, and antiseptic properties. We love having it around the house just for its heady fragrance. Get yours today.

Speaking of herbs, LocalHarvest also offers a dazzling array of herbal products, everything from tinctures and teas to salves and supplements. We are fortunate to work with several great herbalists who grow and wildcraft their own herbs, and then make their own formulas. If you haven't browsed through our herbal department, you should take a few minutes and see what's there.

'Tis the camping season, and we have discovered a great trail food, dried blueberries. If you like blueberries, you will want to try these on your next campout!

Nancy's Nutrition Corner: Green Beans

When I was younger, I didn't give much thought to my dietary choices. These days, I like to think about what I am eating--I like to ponder exactly what I am getting out of the things I put in my mouth. This doesn't mean I don't occasionally enjoy a greasy slice of pizza—but that when I do eat vitamin rich foods--it actually excites me to imagine all those vitamins and phyto-nutrients going to work for me in my body.
(Read on...)

Recipe Corner: Green Beans with Smoked Paprika and Almonds - By Lorna Sass

I don't usually think much about green beans until the gorgeous yellow wax beans appear in my local farmers market. Although the yellow and green specimens are in separate bins, I love buying some of each and steaming them together for a simple vegetable side dish or a refreshingly crunchy summer salad.
(Recipes and More...)

As always, thanks for your interest in and support of LocalHarvest.org! See you next month, and until then, take good care and eat well!