LocalHarvest Newsletter, May 25, 2011

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

While spring came achingly slowly to my part of the country this past month, I spent a lot of time pacing in front of the window looking out at heavy gray skies. The soil being too wet to dig, I had extra time for rumination, much of which revolved around what LocalHarvest most values.

In last month's newsletter I said that in this period of budget cutbacks we as a society need more public dialogue about how to make sure that everyone has enough good food to eat. My article struck a chord with many. With a number of others, it hit a nerve. There was plenty of emotion to go around. Readers from across the political spectrum wrote in to voice their frustration or support, aimed variously at the federal government, the media, Wall Street, liberals, conservatives, the system at large, and the poor. In addition, a number of people wrote to express their disapproval of LocalHarvest being vocal about the federal budget process. These writers argued vehemently that I should stay out of politics.

Most people don't give a hill of beans what we write about, but others absolutely want our work to reflect at least some of what they hold dear. This is particularly true for some of our members, the 25,000 people who list their businesses in our directory. Partisan politics is something we have always avoided in the newsletter because we know that our members' leanings cover the entire political map and then some. Steering clear of particular political parties or heads of state is relatively easy, but avoiding politics all together is impossible. Being a strong advocate for local food is itself quite political, given our current food system.

We stand behind our belief that having an adequate and steady supply of good food is a basic human right, and that those with plenty have a moral obligation to look out for those who do not. There is ample room for discussion and debate about how far that obligation extends and how it gets paid for.

Meanwhile, the rest of our manifesto reads like this: The best food is that which feeds body and spirit. This food can best be found at a farmers markets, through a CSA, and in your own backyard. Cooking fresh, unprocessed food and sharing it with people you love is one of life's great pleasures. We support farms which place primary importance on building healthy soils, protecting the ecosystem, fair treatment of farm laborers, humane treatment of animals, and a sustainable life for the farmers. Protecting biodiversity on farms and seed saving are both good ideas. Genetically modifying crops is a bad idea, as is the current approach to farm subsidies. Local and regional food systems are of vital importance in this changing world and should be encouraged on every level. There is plenty of work to be done to strengthen and expand these systems, work in which each of us can play a role. Onward!

As always, we appreciate hearing what you think.

Take good care and eat well,


Erin Barnett

From the LocalHarvest Store:

Planting a garden this year? LocalHarvest stocks a great variety of seeds to get you started. These varieties are well-loved by farmers and home gardeners alike. We also have many beautiful herb and flower plants available!

Eat more veggies than you can grow? There's still time to sign up for a CSA near you - maybe, hopefully. Find one and call soon.

If you're ready to fire up the grill and would like to try something new, you might like to try one of our more interesting grass fed and pastured grill-ables: we have elk burgers, grassfed ground beef, buffalo bratwurst and much more.

LH Signs on to Save the Bats Campaign

Bats are one of farmers' best friends, welcomed for the pest control services they offer as they eat insects all night long. LocalHarvest recently joined a campaign to save bats, some species of which are under threat of extinction because of a new and rapidly spreading fungal disease. Researchers estimate that the decline of insect-eating bats could cost American farmers billions of dollars annually and that some farmers may respond to the existence of fewer bats by using greater quantities of pesticides. The massive die-off of bats has serious implications for organic farming, food safety, and the health of rural environments. The campaign is spearheaded by the Center for Biological Diversity (www.biologicaldiversity.org). It seeks federal action to both limit access to caves on public lands, thus reducing the spread of the disease, and to fund additional research in the disease and its prevention. Watch future editions of the LH newsletter for opportunities to support this campaign. (The image at left is a bat box, used by farmers to attract bats.)

Food from the Farm: Maple Walnut Jam Cookies

The idea of baking with alternatives to white sugar has been hounding me for a few months now, and I have to admit I have been resistant. If I'm going to eat a cookie, I figure, I want it to taste like a cookie. All that changed when I tried these Marian Welch's cookies, which are sweetened with maple syrup. They are simply delicious, and couldn't be simpler to make.