Posts Tagged ‘obama foodorama’

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

September 18, 2009

riverdog.farm.farmerPhoto of farmer Ramon Mojica taken by Brian Lee, courtesy of Riverdog Farm

Finally, a government policy I can dig. And based on such a simple premise: Know where your food comes from and who produces it.

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, a new federal initiative which culminated in Michelle Obama shopping for greens at a farmers’ market right outside the White House yesterday. (Critics sniff that there are already three farmers’ markets within walking distance of the Obamas.)

It’s easy to be skeptical. The U.S.D.A. supporting small farmers, sustainable practices, and local food? The same agency that has traditionally backed Big Ag? But the folks behind the government’s campaign say it is intended to inspire a national conversation on where food comes from and how it ends up on the plate. Bring it on.

An integral part of the initiative is a farm-school program that would make it easier for schools to use federal funding to buy fresh fruit and veg from local farms.  The agency even has its own farm-to-school tactical teams, set up to scope out school cafeterias and find ways to get more local food into students’ mouths, according to an announcement this week by Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.

alhambra.valley.farm.pearsI’ve decided to take the campaign to heart and make a concerted effort to get to know the folks who bring us our food.  Yesterday, at a farmers’ market in Concord, an outer East Bay suburb, I quizzed vendors who grow divinely delicious dry-farmed Bartlett pears about their farming techniques.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area: This Saturday Pie Ranch in Pescadero, on the relatively undeveloped coast south of San Francisco, hosts its work day and barn dance. (If you can’t make it tomorrow, these events are scheduled every third Saturday of the month and folks are welcome at other times as well.) Tomorrow volunteers will help harvest potatoes, dry beans, tomatoes, and berries.

On October 3, Full Belly Farm holds its annual celebration of rural life at its Hoes Down Harvest Festival in the abundant Capay Valley. And on October 18, about a mile away from Full Belly, Riverdog Farm hosts a pumpkin patch picking and meal sharing under walnut trees. Or check out the Family Farm Days at Slide Ranch, which boasts an organic garden with dramatic ocean views and farm animals too, near Muir Beach.

These events are hands-on, kid-friendly, and encourage eating.  Feel free to chime in with your own favorite get-to-know-a-farmer event. To learn more about the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, check out Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s YouTube video or submit your own food-related videos or comments about the campaign via email: KnowYourFarmer@usda.gov.

Photo: Darryl and Judy Pereira, Alhambra Valley Farms, courtesy of Contra Costa Certified Farmers’ Markets

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White House Farmers’ Market: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

August 21, 2009

Think of the potential for produce everywhere: Barack Obama choosing his favorite potatoes, Michelle bagging tender salad greens, Malia and Sasha squeezing peaches and pluots.

Average Janes and Joes from DC and beyond motivated to buy fresh fruits & veggies for a chance to rub shoulders with the President and his family gathering ingredients for dinner.

The Prez’s announcement yesterday about plans for a White House Farmers’ Market  — check out the informative and frequently fun Obama Foodorama for details — is a bit exciting for anyone passionate about the prospect of folks eating more greens.

What say you?

Image courtesy of Roger Doiron at EattheView

The First Lady of Food

June 19, 2009

So the week began with Paul McCartney’s plea for Meat Free Mondays and ended with Michael Pollan and Novella Carpenter discussing slaughtering chickens, rabbits, goats, and pigs for dinner.

What a difference a few days makes. Carpenter, in case you’ve missed her, is the author of Farm City, a new book on urban gardening that’s garnering rave reviews, like this one from Dwight Garner in last week’s New York Times. She’s not just growing greens people, she’s got an animal farm in her ghetto-fabulous digs. She describes how she lovingly cares for her edible pets and the respectful rituals she performs before readying them for the family meal. There are amusing accounts of dumpster diving near chi-chi restaurants for high-end swill for her hungry pigs.  She’s very funny, peppers her speech with cuss words, and this past week she packed both the bio-diesel gas station that sprang up overnight in my neighborhood and a church, no less, full of folk eager to here her talk dirty. She didn’t disappoint. “You work your arse off trying to feed your pig really well,” she told the church crowd, “and then you find yourself massaging salt into her leg and thinking, ‘this is going to be good’ — it’s a little sexy.”

Linda McCartney just rolled over in her grave. Meanwhile, I’m probably the only person alive in Berkeley who hadn’t attended a Michael Pollan food chat. As advertised, the man who urges us to Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. is accessible and charming and graciously played the role of the proud professor lavishing praise on his student and her success.

But here was the real take-home message from the evening. Carpenter, the relative newbie to food writing, asked Pollan whether this whole obsession with what we eat isn’t getting a little out of hand. Pollan used the opportunity to point out that the politics of food is just getting interesting, now that there’s an administration that gets why it’s important to reform this country’s food system. Of course, as he pointed out, it’s one thing to “get it,” and quite another to bring about change.

That’s where the First Lady of Food comes in. It seems Michelle Obama is on a mission to raise people’s consciousness about our diet. The White House Victory Garden was just the beginning; this week she revealed a plan detailing how to profoundly alter the way we eat. Pollan thinks if the Obama administration can get people to realize that to carry out health care reform the country also needs to overhaul its food industry (drawing the connection between obesity, type 2 diabetes, and skyrocketing health care costs) then maybe real change is possible. That’s something to chew on.

Photo: Lynn Sweet.

To learn more about what Michelle’s got cooking on the culinary political front follow her every food move at Eddie Gehman Kohan’s amazingly exhaustive Obama Foodorama blog.

What’s Cooking in the First Family’s Kitchen?

June 2, 2009

The-obamas-eating-dinner-001-1

Not much, judging by recent mainstream media reports. On Sunday, the New York Times noted that Michelle Obama’s big push on the eat-locally-grown-food front (think White House victory garden) may not extend to making a home-cooked meal. And last month the Washington Post revealed that when the First Lady was asked (albeit, it turns out, some time ago) for her favorite recipe, she responded, “Cooking isn’t one of my huge things.”

Wait. What’s that sound? Alice Waters on the West Coast having an anxiety attack. There’s more. When a boy visiting the White House asked Ms. Obama if she likes to cook, she said: “I don’t miss cooking. I’m just fine with other people cooking.”

Cue collective groan from nutrition educators who tirelessly attempt to whip up enthusiasm for the quaint concept of a family dinner made from scratch by parents.

But going after Michelle over her reluctance to make a meal feels a bit retro folks. Has anyone asked Barack if he bakes? Does he fix dinner for his girls? I mean, I know The President is a tad busy, what with the downturn in the economy, health care reform, and a smattering of global crises he needs to stay on top of, but everyone has to eat, right?

The Obama Foodorama blog immediately went on the defensive in a post challenging many of the assumptions cooked up by Amanda Hesser in her op-ed article for the Times. But no word on whether either parent makes dinner at home in the long post. Others weighed in on this food fight, perhaps no more scathing and succinct as Regina Schrambling over at gastropoda. Still, I suspect a guest appearance on Oprah is in Obama’s future, where those much-discussed arm muscles could be put to good use whisking up a vinaigrette for a gorgeous salad sourced from the White House veggie patch.

Now it’s your turn: Just how important is it to see the First Lady and Commander in Chief play chef? Should Sasha and Malia routinely sit down to a meal made by mom and dad? What do you think?