Category Archives: Food Production

In Praise of Michael Pollan

PBS special on food and the food biz worth watching.

PBS-logoMichael Pollan is one smart man — and he writes well too.  His keen observations about American health, diet fads and the  dreadful food industry ring very true. I like fine dining, exquisite baking and the occasional chip-and-dip snack, but by and large, I believe in eating well and responsibly both for the health of myself and my family and for the environment. I buy organic and local whenever I can, and I am a from-scratch cook.  I avoid chains, especially fast fooderies.

When I read or watch Pollan, I’m part of the choir that he is preaching to, and yet I learned something each time. I read his eloquent In Defense of Food some years ago and watched the PBS version last night. If you missed it, pour yourself a glass of wine (red) or whip up a wholesome smoothie and watch:


Sustainable, Local Farming Focus of Aspen Lecture

Noted ag author coming to Aspen to give free lecture.

Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin

I am a great admirer of author Michael Pollan, who brilliantly deciphers what is wrong and what is right on the American food scene. Joel Salatin and his Polyface,  Farm (Swoope, Virginia) were featured in Pollan’s New York Times bestseller and in the award-winning documentary, “Food, Inc.” The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, the City of Aspen Parks and Recreation, and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails are bringing Salatin to Aspen to give a talk, “Local Food to the Rescue.”

Joel himself has authored nine books on the topic of farming and sustainability where he passionately defends small farms, local food systems, and the right to opt out of the conventional food paradigm.  As ACES distills this critical issue, “For local food to be a credible part of the global food system it must develop six integrated components: production, processing, marketing, accounting, distribution and patrons. In this lecture Joel will educate our community on how to build a functional local food system, including economies of scale, collaborative food shed distribution, and meaningful volume.V

The talk takes place on Friday, August 7 at 7 p.m. in the  Paepcke Auditorium (1000 North 3rd Street). Click here to RSVP.

‘The Shed’ Launches Website to Support Boulder Food Resources

DiscoverTheShedLocal foodshed becomes reality & gains momentum with online presence.

A bit over a year ago, I wrote a post called “Foodshift to Foodsheds” — a foodshed being defined as a small geographic area that includes the boundaries of where food is produced, transported and consumed. I then thought that the local foodshed comprised the Front Range, but Boulder now has an even more localized one. The Shed, as it has been named, is a new public-private coalition with a website as its first initiative to educate and build awareness about Boulder County’s local foodshed.

A good group of local officials, community leaders and food influencers were present at the Boulder Public Library's new Seed Café for the introduction of The Shed.
A good group of local officials, community leaders and food influencers were present at the Boulder Public Library’s new Seed Café for the introduction of The Shed.

Boulder City Council members Tim Plass and Suzanne Jones shepherded the initiation through the local legislative process. The Shed has emerged as a coalition of nine private and public entities that aims to increase awareness, consumption and production of local foods.  The founding entities are the City of Boulder, Boulder County, Boulder County Farmers’ Markets (Boulder and Longmont), Boulder Valley School District, Chef Ann Foundation, Local Food Shift Group, Naturally Boulder, University of Colorado and 350 Boulder County. While the City of Boulder (again) took the lead, it is a county-wide initiative with room for other communities and organizations to join.

Plass listed benefits from the local foodshed: economic (i.e., keeping more grocery dollars in the community), environmental (reducing the carbon footprint of food consumed here) and social (building community through food).  Continue reading ‘The Shed’ Launches Website to Support Boulder Food Resources

World’s Fair Focuses on Food

Milan’s Expo 2015 theme is feeding the world.

Expo2015-logoExpo Milano 2015 is the Universal Exhibition that Milan, Italy, hosts from May 1 to October 31. Over this six-month period, Milan will become a global showcase where more than 140 participating countries will show the best of their technology that offers a concrete answer to a vital need: being able to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the planet and its equilibrium.

In addition to the exhibitor nations, the Expo also involves international organizations. It expects to welcome more than 20 million visitors to its 1.1 million square meters of exhibition area.

As the organizers put it, ” A platform for the exchange of ideas and shared solutions on the theme of food, stimulating each country’s creativity and promoting innovation for a sustainable future, Expo 2015 will give everyone the opportunity to find out about, and taste, the world’s best dishes, while discovering the best of the agri-food and gastronomic traditions of each of the exhibitor countries.”

A tall order, but a necessary world conversation. Wish I could be there.

Botantic Gardens Hosts Important Food Films

Documentaries focus on America’s foods, food crisis and hunger in this supposed land of plenty.

FilmReelDenver Botanic Gardens and  Denver-born Chipotle Mexican Grill present the fourth-annual Sustainable Food Film Series, which aims to raise awareness of healthy and sustainable approaches to the way we grow, produce and consume food. Four documentary films covering organics, sustainable farming, local foods and the seafood crisis are on the 2104 screening schedule, with a post-film panel discussion and food courtesy of Chipotle. The series takes place at the Gardens’ Mitchell Hall. Each screening and dinner from Chipotle is just $5. Dinner begins at 6 p.m. with the screening  6:30 p.m.

Thursday, September 11. “A Place at the Table” (84 min) examines the American hunger issue through the lens of three people: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader depends on friends and neighbors to feed her, and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford. These are just three of the estimated 50 million people in the U.S. (and one in four children) who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush.

Tuesday, September 23. “GMO OMG” (90 min) asks questions about how GMOs affect our children, the planet’s health and our freedom of choice. Director and concerned father Jeremy Seifert tests the most serious question himself: is it even possible to reject the food system currently in place, or have we lost something we can’t get back? Seifert goes on a journey from his family’s table to Haiti, Paris, Norway and the lobby of a mega agricultural company, from which he is unceremoniously ejected.

Wednesday, October 15. Food Patriots” (72 min) was inspired by a teenager’s battle with a foodborne superbug. Jeff and Jennifer Spitz are both the filmmakers and the parents of the boy. They document their family’s struggle to raise backyard chickens, grow food and transform themselves into food patriots. The documentary features people from all walks of life who are trying to change the way Americans eat and buy food and educate the next generation of consumers.

Friday, November 7. “Fed Up” (92 min) from Katie Couric, Laurie David (Oscar-winning producer of “An Inconvenient Truth”) and director Stephanie Soechtig, this film claims everything we have been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is wrong. The U.S. government’s first dietary guidelines overlooked the role of dietary sugar in increasing risks of obesity, diabetes and other health issues, especially in children. The film examines how sugar consumption has greatly increased, obesity has skyrocketed and generations of children have grown up far fatter than their parents.

Marczyk’s Fundraiser for Family Farmers

Family-owned, upmarket Denver grocer supports scholarship fund.

Marczyk-logoMarczyk Fine Foods and Niman Ranch are teaming up for their second annual fundraiser to support the Next Generation Scholarship Fund. All week, through Marczyk’s next Burger Night, both locations are accepting donations at the register, and also the proceeds from each burger purchased at Burger Night on Friday, August 22 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. go directly to the scholarship fund.

The Next Generation Scholarship Fund supports young people from rural communities who wish to attend college to study environmental and sustainable practices so that they can bring their knowledge back to the family farm. At a time when the average age of a US farmer is just over 58 years old, American agriculture desperately needs a new generation of young, passionate and educated farmers. 

Burger Night features Niman Ranch burgers from meat freshly ground at Marczyk’s and served on fresh brioche buns with all the fixin’s for $8.99. The evening includes a visit from the Brown Family from New Providence, Iowa. They raises happy, healthy pigs for Niman Ranch, and their son was a previous recipient of the Next Generation Scholarship

GrowHaus Brings Fresh Food & Hope to Underserved ‘Hood

Inspired and inspiring indoor farm & more in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea.

005 Urban food deserts don’t get much drier than Elyria-Swansea, a northeast Denver neighborhood whose lyrical name belies an impoverished, industrialized area. It is chopped up by railroad tracks and freeways with much marginal housing occupied primarily by Latinos with language, education and poverty hurdles that seem insurmountable. The most recent neighborhood improvement plan seems to date back to 1983. The GrowHaus is attempting to balance those inequities through fresh, nutritious food.

This rundown trailer park is The GrowHaus's next-door neighbor, underscoring the need for fresh food, opportunity and hope in this underserved part of Denver that in many ways resembles a third-world country.
This rundown trailer park is The GrowHaus’s next-door neighbor, underscoring the need for fresh food, opportunity and hope in this underserved part of Denver that in many ways resembles a third-world country.

Did I mention that the nearest supermarket is 2 miles from 47th and York, where The GrowHaus is located? I’ve been intending to visit  ever since I read about it back in 2009 when a couple of food activists and idealists came up with the concept for an indoor urban farm, community center and education venue in this sadly underserved neighborhood. Built on the premise that everyone deserves a healthy meal, this non-profit urban farm and education center has taken root in an abandoned 20,000-square-foot greenhouse for a community-driven, neighborhood-based food system including food production, food access, urban agriculture, education and even job training.

Aquaculture and other efficiencies explained during Doors Open Denver. The GrowHaus also welcomes visitors, especially during the weekly public tour at 10 a.m. every Friday.
Aquaculture and other efficiencies explained during Doors Open Denver. The GrowHaus also welcomes visitors, especially during the weekly public tour at 10 a.m. every Friday and Saturday.

The Hydrofarm is a model of urban agricultural efficiency, using a hydroponic technique that employs a recirculating nutrient solution instead of soil  to achieve fast, reliable yields of 5,000 plants at a time with harvests every one to two weeks — plus fish grown in a tank that is part of the recirculating hydroponic system.  Some of the crops grown are distributed at an affordable price to Elyria-Swansea residents through corner stores and The GrowHaus’s own farmstand, while the remainder are high-value crops grown for top restaurants and such specialty markets as Marczyk Fine Foods.

Hydroponic growing methods yield fresh greens that are harvested every week or two.
Hydroponic growing methods yield fresh greens that are harvested every week or two.

Bit by bit, they are continuing to renovate more of their space to accommodate increased food production, educational facilities and a local food distribution network. The GrowHaus houses a commercial indoor hydrofarm that supplies fresh greens and herbs to some of Denver’s best restaurants. The small fresh food market is called Mercado de al Lado. GrowHaus also holds classes, offers food boxes priced on a sliding scale (low for neighbors, higher for those outside the ‘hood who can afford it), operates an annual seed exchange and hosts annual Harvest Week pop-up dinners. I wrote a post about the 2011 event. The 2014 dates are not yet available, but previous Harvest Weeks have been in late September.

The GrowHaus has a new partnership with the Urban Farm Company of Colorado, which designs and builds vegetable gardens for metro Denver residents, and also provides guidance throughout the season on how to maintain it for maximum yield.  If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember my post about it), and if you sign on with the Urban Farm Company mention The GrowHaus, they’ll donate 10 percent of the sales towards building gardens for low-income families in the Elyria-Swansea and Globeville neighborhoods.

Westword‘s Lori Midson delved into the complexity during an interview with co-founder Adam Brock.