Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. Today's contributor, Emilie Dayan, writes a weekly SFA blog series called "Sustainable South" about food and the environment, nutrition, food access, food justice, agricultural issues and food politics.
Since 2000, Joe Nelson Icet has been advancing on Houston’s Northeastern front. He calls himself a guerrilla gardener. As founder and director of the Last Organic Outpost, he takes abandoned lots littered with trash and turns them into fertile land. Planted off of Emile Street, Icet engages the community in urban farming, his biggest plot in the industrial ruins of the old Comet Rice Mill. In doing so, land in Houston’s Fifth Ward is revitalized through farming.
The mission is simple:
Editor's note: Ron Finley is an artist, designer and co-founder of lagreengrounds.org. He spoke at the TED2013 conference in February. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to "Ideas worth spreading," which it makes available through talks posted on its website.
As a lifelong resident of South Central Los Angeles, I refuse to be part of the social system that breeds problems rather than solutions. South Central is a "food desert" where the lack of healthy food alternatives leads to obesity and preventable disease.
I have raised my sons in South L.A., and it is heartbreaking to see so many young kids on a trajectory to nowhere, potential high school dropouts prey to gangs, drugs, violence and incarceration.
So where do we start to create positive change?
Ask Joe Henderson any question and odds are he’ll give you a very thorough answer. But ask him how to save one of the most endangered breeds in the world, the Randall Lineback, he’ll give you a very short retort: You have to eat it.
Henderson, a Washington, D.C. real estate executive and farmer, raises around 250 Randall Linebacks on the rolling hills of his Chapel Hill Farm in Berryville, VA. And what exactly is a Randall Lineback?
“Well, we don’t know what to call it,” says Henderson.
About six months ago, I found myself standing in the middle of the International Rescue Committee’s New Roots community farm in the City Heights section of San Diego. It was there that I met Luchia, a refugee from Uganda who now lives with her daughters in City Heights. She is one of the strongest, most determined women I have ever met, so beautiful and proud.
She was there to meet me, show me her garden plot, and then, take me home to cook traditional Ugandan fare. When we met it was actually a little chilly out and her natural instinct was to wrap her arms around me, making sure that her scarf was wrapped around me too. Needless to say, it was an instant connection and she welcomed me within a heartbeat.
Over the past five years the IRC has been building its New Roots program – a program which connects refugees, newly arrived in the United States, with the land and helps them integrate into their communities. To date, the IRC has been able to establish community gardens and farms in 11 of the 22 cities where they help refugees restart the lives.
Miranda Lynch believes a vegetable garden has the power to revolutionize a community.
It's the idea behind of Isipho, the nonprofit organization Lynch conceived when she was just 12 years old. It all started in 2008 when her father, Tom, won a trip to South Africa at an auction.
The father-daughter adventure began with a stay on a wild game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal. Assuming it would be the only time he and his daughter would set foot in South Africa, Tom wanted Miranda to see more than the commercialized landscape of the reserve.
"It was important, as she was turning 13 that year, for her to see that the world that she knew was not the entire world," Tom says.
Stacy Cowley is CNNMoney's tech editor. She's in a complicated relationship with her CSA and explores the odd vegetables that show up in her haul in CSI: CSA. Previously, she discovered the weedy joys of purslane.
If you’ve got kohlrabi in your fridge, you’re probably in a CSA. I’ve never met a single person who has procured a kohlrabi in the wild*.
I’d certainly never run across one until my CSA started sticking them in its shares. With most new produce, I can at least take a guess at its likely texture and taste. With kohlrabi, I had absolutely no clue. Its appearance has famously been described by nutritionist Jonny Bowden as “a cross between an octopus and a space capsule."
Lacking any idea where to start, I hit the Internets. First step: Figuring out what to make. Kohlrabi turns out to be obscure but incredibly versatile - you can use it in pretty much anything that works well with root vegetables, but it will also stretch in unusual directions.
As the rover Curiosity makes its journey to Mars, food scientists on Earth are exploring whether astronauts with a green thumb will be the key to feeding at least a six-person crew on a future mission to the Red Planet.
"The big challenge is having a food system that is going to work for that long-duration mission," says Michele Perchonok, NASA's Advanced Food Technology Project Scientist.
A “Martian greenhouse” is one of the food systems being considered for a manned mission to Mars, which isn't scheduled until the 2030s.
It takes six months just to get to Mars and the team in charge of food, including Perchonok, is responsible for feeding the crew every day for two and a half years.
“If we didn't go with the plant-based bioregenerative food system, and all we did was provide packaged food for a 1,000-day mission for a crew of six, it’s about 20,000 pounds of food plus packaging," she says.
To housewife Mavis Butterfield of Gig Harbor, Washington, saving money is a game. And she isn't afraid to roll up her sleeves to win.
No, this thrifty, coupon-clipping mother of two plans on growing 2,000 pounds of fresh food this year right out of her own back yard. Armed with 1.25 acres of planting space, Mavis says spending less on groceries and growing as much food as possible is great way to save those pennies.
“Look at these...beautiful, purple. We just harvested these too.” Sam Kass brushes away the leaves to reveal Japanese eggplants.
It’s a beautiful summer day in Washington, DC. Instead of toiling in a government office building, Kass is digging in a backyard garden. And it's not just any garden; he’s in the White House kitchen garden. Kass is a White House assistant chef, working his dream job.
Chefs with Issues is a platform for chefs and farmers we love, fired up for causes about which they're passionate. Jay Pierce is the chef at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Greensboro and Cary, North Carolina and frequently contributes to Edible Piedmont Magazine and the restaurant's Farm-to-Fork blog.
As this year’s political season wends its way to Election Day, we voters will be implored to act, decide, stand up for what we believe in. Our voice matters; as every child learns in school, one vote can make a difference. No matter how disaffected or energized you are by rhetorical jousting about healthcare, debt ceilings or foreign aid, there is one topic that hits close to everyone’s home: buying and eating food.