For the last two weeks, my botany students have been exploring the local foods movement. We began with a discussion of what “local” means, and some history of the movement. They have been growing plants since the course began in January, and they’re all looking forward to picking tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and watermelon from their gardens this summer. To learn more from the people who produce foods locally, I decided to have speakers come in and share their stories.
Dr. Abbie Maynard, a scientist from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station who specializes in organic and sustainable practices came in and spoke about her research. She was also recently featured in the New York Times. She does years and years of field tests, finding which varieties are the best to grow in our soils and climate. Dr. Maynard offers tips for home gardeners and farmers alike, and loves to test out new vegetables, too. Some of her current projects include heirloom tomatoes and beach plums. She mentioned an heirloom tomato called “pineapple” that I think I’m going to have to try!
Up next, Al Rose from Rose Orchards (also my dad) came in to talk about running and living on a small family farm in Connecticut. He shared some of the history of our farm, how it progressed from a self-sustaining family farm, to a dairy farm, to an apple orchard. He spoke about the types of crops grown, and ways to bring in customers including hayrides, ice cream, a maze, and animals to visit. Finally, he talked about some of the difficulties facing small family farms and how farmers in Connecticut have had to specialize and adapt to survive.
We rounded out the speakers with chef Claire Criscuolo, RN, owner of Claire’s Corner Copia in New Haven, a vegetarian, sustainable, organic, kosher restaurant. She spoke about her role in the local foods movement, the difficulties finding locally grown, organic, and kosher foods, and about all of her wonderful, diverse customers. She also gave out recipes, and she spoke about her goal to bring people together over food and do what’s best for the planet.
Finally, I showed an episode of PBS’s e2 transport (that’s “e squared”) series, called “Food Miles.” This episode discussed the environmental consequences of shipping food around the world, and interviewed people who are working to promote food that is produced locally. Segments included interviews with chefs, farmers, economists, and writers, including Michael Pollan. You can watch a clip here. If you’re interested in eating sustainably, I think you’ll really like this documentary and would highly recommend it.
Speaking of Michael Pollan, did you hear that his book Omnivore’s Dilemma was removed from the required reading list for incoming freshman at Washington State University, under pressure from the agriculture industry? Personally, I think this maneuver will backfire and more folks will read the book thanks to the publicity. UPDATE: WSU has decided to reverse their decision, thanks to a private donor. I guess the students will all read it, now!
Have you got some great resources for learning more about the local foods movement? Please share!