LocalHarvest Newsletter, April 21, 2011

photo by Jenn Rensel

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

Like many of you, I have been following the recent goings on in Washington with equal parts disgust and concern. The shenanigans speak for themselves and don't require further comment, but one aspect of the budget problem deserves our collective attention. Some of the proposals that have been put forth to address the national deficit would damage the food stamp program and slash foreign food aid, further increasing the likelihood that poor people here and around the world will go hungry. As people who love good food and shared meals, who seek out local farmers and work for change in the food system, many of us know the blessings of an abundant table. Having been thus blessed, I believe we are called to speak out and make sure all are fed.

Americans agree about the need for fiscal responsibility, and a majority believe we will need to both raise taxes and cut spending to address the deficit. Given that common ground, the questions before us are about exactly how we allocate our resources. Years ago, in college, I was part of a discussion about a philosophical dilemma classroom teachers face: after teaching the regular lesson and engaging the majority of kids, where should teachers invest the small amount of time that remains? Should they focus on the kids who are in danger of failing, giving them a little extra help so they can pass? Or should they give that time to the A students to offer them valuable extra enrichment? Arguments were made on both sides, and the debate got heated. We all cared about kids, but it was hard to agree on a single educational philosophy. So too here, in our current national crisis of conscience. To whom will we give a little extra: to commodity growers in the form of subsidies? To wealthy individuals in the form of tax breaks? To society's most vulnerable in the form of safety net benefits? To the military? As has become increasingly clear over the last few weeks, the budgetary process reflects our moral philosophy. What we value, we fund.

Recent research by the Pew Research Center indicates that thus far there is very little agreement from people, regardless of party, on exactly which benefits we are willing to cut. That tells me that more discussion is needed. My hope is that we could move beyond sound bites and have an honest and substantive dialogue, as a nation, about who and what we are going to protect. We need to put even the untouchables on the table, things like agricultural subsidies and the defense budget. Let's talk about it. Here is one example of a serious examination of several approaches to addressing the budget deficit.

Many times last week I turned on the radio to hear a member of Congress saying, "What I'm hearing from the people in my district is that they're serious about cutting the deficit!" With Congress back in their home districts for the next two weeks, now is a good time to tell them that we are also serious about making sure that future federal budgets protect the food safety net. America can and should feed all its people. We who love good food can help make it happen.

Until next time, take good care and eat well,


Erin Barnett

From the LocalHarvest Store:

Plant a garden! You'll be glad you did. And if you get your seeds directly from some family farmers, you'll feel even better. We have a great collection of seeds for your garden. Take a look!

Not planting a garden this year? Join a CSA!

Planning a summer wedding? Many people are choosing fragrant dried lavender as a wedding toss. We have some available!

Food from the Farm: Hunger Fast.org

This month we have been eating a lot of beans and rice. It is part of our commitment to the national Hunger Fast, through which over 36,000 people have joined together in fasting, prayer, and personal sacrifice as a response to the disproportionate impact of the federal budget cuts on vulnerable people. This movement was begun by Tony Hall, former Congressman and Ambassador, along with Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners, Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and Ritu Sharma, president of Women Thrive Worldwide. Over the last three weeks, they have been joined by a large coalition of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, anti-hunger, political, and relief organizations, and many thousands of individuals. We are moved by their work, and encourage you to read their web site.

Your Morning Joe, CSA-style

Most farmers using LocalHarvest's CSAware raise produce and meat, but this month an international coffee cooperative began using CSAware. CoffeeCSA.org is a project of Pachemama Coffee, the first global cooperative of coffee farmers, with more than 140,000 small-scale farmer-owners in Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and Ethiopia. On CoffeeCSA.org, coffee drinkers can "meet" coffee growers from different countries, watch videos about production on their farms, and sign up for mail order delivery of favorite organic/free trade roasts and blends. Check it out!