Saturday, January 19, 2019
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Dean Williamson

(Some) Milk Does a Body Good

There is a very quiet, national campaign afoot that you may want to learn about. True, it seems each new sunrise brings new national campaigns about something or other, and so I understand the activist-panic fatigue. This one is a bit more intriguing, if only because it involves our kids. The Center for Food Safety has launched a national letter-writing campaign to change the milk being served in America’s schools. Change it for the better.

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The Function of Food

Let’s file this one under the heading, “If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is.” The Wall St. Journal reports this week on a surge among food processors to create what are called functional foods. Beyond the irony here (aren’t all foods by definition functional?), the story reveals that foods “believed to possess health benefits beyond the basic function of providing nutrients” now total more than $30 billion annually. The research firm Packaged Facts anticipates that this figure will grow by 40% over the next five years. What does this mean? It means an increase in the packaged foods in the grocery which tout the additives included. Think ketchup infused with probiotics; think pasta with calcium; think, if you can, marshmallows with collagen, to—supposedly—give your skin a healthy, collagen-fed glow.

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Food For Your Brain

Michael Pollan started it, at least on the national scale it has reached today . . . and the criticism of the American industrial food system continues to grow. That's good news, I would think, for everyone. More information means we can make better and better-educated decisions, in this case, about what we eat. And, what's more important than what we put into our bodies? Information and revelations like Pollan's may mean that we think twice before heading for a fast food drive-through, but then, what's wrong with thinking twice? And, so it is today, that the attack on the American industrial food system continues, with the release of a new documentary: Food, Inc.

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The Youth Shall Lead Us

More great news about the future of local farming. The New York Times reports on an optimistic (in my opinion) national trend—more and more college students are seeking internships not on Wall Street, but on the farm. The Times reports that 1,400 farms sought interns this year, almost triple the number two years ago. The number of small farms, which attract the new agrarians and can use the cheap, enthusiastic help, has grown sharply since 2003 (this according to Katherine L. Adam, who runs the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, financed by the Department of Agriculture). This is terrific news. Sure, it’s partly a result of the economic recession we are in, but in my mind, it signifies something else—that young people are seeing the impacts they can have when they get local and get their hands in the dirt.

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It’s Good For Digestion

I’d like to add some heft to the old adage that farmers and ranchers are some of the most conscientious and right-minded conservationists we have (due respect to the myriad conservationist groups out there). A little more than a year ago, the Huls dairy farm in the Bitterroot Valley installed a methane digester, the first such machine in Montana (these were developed at Utah State University and installed by Andigen, of Logan, UT. According to the Ravalli Republic, the dairy, owned by four Huls brothers - Bruce, Tim, Jeff and Dan—was accustomed to loading up a truck equipped with a 63,000-gallon tank for manure slurry about 400 times a year. The smelly concoction was spread out across his pastures and hayfields.

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It’s On You to Know What’s In You

Commercial Food Producers Shift Food Safety to Consumers—Good News For Local Growers

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The Buck Stays Here, Chapter 2

If each household in Montana spent just $10 a week on Montana-grown food products, we would re-direct $186 million dollars each year to local farmers and ranchers.

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Quick–Where Does Your Food Come From?!

Global Grocer: An instant quiz on the origins of what we eat. A frightful—if edifying—site I’ve just stumbled upon is the Global Grocer site, from Food and Water Watch (FAWW has long been sounding the alarms about our food and water systems; for instance, leading a charge against bottled water). Global Grocer lets you shop the virtual aisles of a store, filling your cart with the food you want, and tons of information about where that food comes from.

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Where in the World Are the Organic Farms?

On Saturday, May 2, The New York Times published a map showing the density of organic farms in the United States. The map reveals that most organic farms are clustered into a few geographic centers. The largest organic markets by far are for vegetables, fruit and dairy products, according to Catherine Greene, an economist at the Agriculture Department. Organic vegetables now account for 5% of all vegetable sales; organic dairies, which are the fastest-growing sector, now produce 1 percent of the nation's milk.

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The Buck Stays Here

It may seem as though we are saving money when we go to chain stores, but think about what we save when we go to local stores. During these tough, recessionary times, we take more care about the dollars we spend. So it makes sense that we take a moment to think about where we spend those dollars—just as we think about what we spend them on. It’s true that Wal-Mart and other discount chains SEEM to have low-low prices, but that’s not always the case; they often raise prices when there is no direct competition, drop prices and rely on corporate funds to run local stores out of business and Wal-Mart particularly has begun drastic changes to its inventory. But, I’m not here to bash Wal-Mart, fun though that may be. I’m here to talk about the positive story of what your dollars do when you spend them at local stores, including local groceries.

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