| October 9, 2014

Amanda’s Farm & Food Roundup

AmandaIn the upcoming election, swing voters could vote with their stomach in mind rather than their wallet. A new poll conducted by Lake Research Partners, a public opinion and political strategy research firm based in Washington DC, shows that voters found issues regarding nutrition assistance, food safety and farm subsidies pivotal. They saw feeding vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and veterans as particularly important when casting their votes. These results could indicate that voters will hold their representatives accountable for their voting record regarding food when they head to the polls this November.

In Europe, activists are fighting to keep chlorinated chicken out of their food system. As talks resume between the US and Europe regarding the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an agreement that would create the largest free-trade zone in the world, many worry about the implications of such a system. Europeans are concerned that US imports could degrade their food system with goods such as hormone-treated beef or GMOs, but they’re especially concerned about chicken from large US companies that is often soaked in chlorine to combat disease. The practice of letting poultry take a dip in the pool has been outlawed in Europe for 20 years. Instead, the EU has chosen to fight disease in live birds before they make their way to processing plants, reducing salmonella rates in birds to 2 percent.

Amid the windy city’s numerous skyscrapers, a record-breaking number of fruits and vegetables could soon start spouting. Gotham Greens, a Brooklyn based company that designs, builds and operates urban agriculture projects, has begun planning what will be the world’s largest rooftop farm. The Chicago project will live on top of an LEED platinum manufacturing plant of home cleaning products – the first of its kind. Gotham Greens predicts that the urban operation will produce 1 million pounds of fresh food each year – five times the current yield of the Brooklyn farm. The manufacturing plant is slated to open early next year with the farm to follow.

Taking his pacifist commitment to a new level, Amish farmer Samuel Zook has decided to stop waging chemical warfare on plants and pests. When fungi and pests attacked Zook’s farm, chemical remedies did little to nothing to salvage his crops. Zook began researching alternatives to alleviate crop loss and came across Advancing Eco Agriculture, a consulting group founded by 18-year-old Amish farmer John Kempf. Determined to save his own crops from a similar fate, he had spent recent years teaching himself biology, chemistry and agronomy with only a middle school education as background. Kempf studied plant immune systems, which naturally produce toxic compounds to ward off intruders without killing the natural predators of pests. Like in humans, a healthy immune system depends on healthy diet. Kempf discovered deficiencies in certain minerals after analyzing the plants and was able to introduce them to the soil, allowing the plants to defend themselves and making chemical treatment unnecessary. These practices are now utilized across North America, South America, Europe and Africa, according to Kempf.

Despite being surrounded by fresh fruits and vegetables, some farmers find themselves often reaching for Doritos and Twinkies rather than apples and oranges. New findings show that this trend stems from long work hours and a lack of time to prepare good food. During stressful planting and harvest seasons, farmers can often work between 12 – 16 hours each day, leaving little time for sleep and even less time for cooking from scratch. Traditionally, men worked in the fields while women prepared food for the family, but as both parties spend more time getting their hands dirty and single individuals take up farming, the classic model has shifted.

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