Victory for Gardens & A Call to Action

The local, organic food movement has won a huge victory in the establishment of a 1,100 square foot culinary garden on the South Lawn of the White House. I actually cried in the airport as I read the New York Times article announcing the White House Garden plan. And you can see pictures here of the hard work involved in actually removing what may be the most well tended sod in the country dug out for gardening. Michelle Obamas words of understanding the importance of chemical free, fresh & whole, heirloom rather than genetically modified mono-cultures of food are immensely gratifying. Even more promising is how genuine her words seem, not just a recently adopted text for regurgitation.

And yet in the midst of jubilation, it seems there may be a very real threat to this growing movement in support of “good, clean, fair food for everyone.” I have received a number of very alarmist emails regarding:

  • H.R. 875: Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009. The stated purpose of the bill is “to establish the Food Safety Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services to protect the public health by preventing food-borne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination, and for other purposes.”
  • S. 425: Food Safety and Tracking Improvement Act. This is a Senate bill “to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to provide for the establishment of a traceability system for food, to amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspections Act, the Egg Products Inspection Act, and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to provide for improved public health and food safety through enhanced enforcement, and for other purposes.”

Please take some time to review these bills, and to contact your representatives:
Senator Richard Lugar
Senator Evan Bayh
Representative Andre Carson

You can go here to find your representative’s contact information if you are not in Carson’s district.

From my initial review, it is not that these bills are intentionally ill-willed toward small family farmers, home gardeners, farmers markets, CSAs or other mainstays of the local and organic food movements, but they do not reflect an understanding of the industrial food chains role in creating our food security problems, and do seem to put what could be an unsurmountable and certainly unnecessary burden on small family farms and processing facilities, etc. The likely outcome would be the loss of more farms efforting to operate sustainably to the bohemoths of industrial agriculture. This would further devisate the viability, security and sustainability with the continued loss of heirloom fruits and vegetables, heritage breeds and traditional methods of farming that work with the natural environment, rather than against it. So, I do encourage you to contact our representatives and ask them to ensure that any legislation for food safety accurately reflects the true problems and true solutions, mainly encouraging more small scale sustainable farming, rather than more Monsanto and the industrial bohemoths who have lead us down the path of disease, allergies, and diet related illnesses.

And then remember to celebrate the White House Garden. If we’ve got a chance for real Slow Food change, it’s the Obamas.

Slow Food Indy Heirloom Seed Sale/Exchange!

Slow Food Indy, the local chapter of Slow Food USA (learn more at www.slowfoodindy.com and www.slowfoodusa.org), will be at the Indy Winter Farmers Market (IWFM) offering heirloom seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, as well as seeds that have been collected and saved by local growers. 

10 a.m. – Guest speakers will be present to share information about the value of heirloom seeds, the fun of including them in your garden, and how to save your own seeds.

Interested individuals are invited to bring their favorite heirloom seeds collected from their own garden, and all are welcome to listen to the speakers and buy heirloom seeds to take home for this year’s garden.

I have been looking forward to this event for months now. Even if you don’t have your own garden, the world of heirloom vegetables is one well worth exploring. The expansive variety of tomatoes, beans, squash, lettuces, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, broccoli, etc. is greater than you can imagine until you start thumbing the pages of heirloom seed catalogues yourself. Certainly no grocery store produce section even begins to hint at the possibilities of what there is grow. 
Hope to see you there!