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Slow Food Movement Aims To Change How We View Food

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Aired 10/6/09

What is the Slow Food movement, and how is it hoping to change the food system? We speak to Erika Lesser, with Slow Food USA, and organic gardener Loren Nancarrow about the principles of Slow Food.

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Above: Amita Sharma, investigative reporter at KPBS, asks for your help in finding out where San Diego's oranges come from.

Erika Lesser will be discussing "Growing a Social Movement to Change the Food System" tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. When the Slow Food movement started about 10 years ago, it was seen as a sort of European response to fast food. We weren't savoring and appreciating our food, we weren't spending time at the table with family and friends. Food was no longer an experience but a tasteless overindulgence. Most people would admit there was a lot of truth in that, but to some it also seemed a bit out of touch with modern American life. Since that time, the Slow Food movement has evolved to include a much more global concept about food and the environment. And the message of the movement, about the joys of sustainable, seasonal, local food has become more mainstream. Today we'll learn that with just a small change here and there, modern American life and Slow Food can get along very well indeed. I’d like to welcome my guests. Loren Nancarrow is a long-time San Diego television meteorologist. Loren is also an organic gardener and host of the Sustainable Planet lecture series at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Loren, welcome to These Days.

LOREN NANCARROW (Host, Sustainable Planet Lecture Series): Thanks, Maureen. Good to be here.

CAVANAUGH: And Erika Lesser is executive director of Slow Food USA. Erika, welcome to the show.

ERIKA LESSER (Executive Director, Slow Food USA): Hi, Maureen, thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And we’d like to invite our listeners to join the conversation. If you have questions or comments about Slow Food movement or sustainable food in general, give us a call. The number is 1-888-895-5727, 1-888-895-KPBS. Loren, let me start with you, if I may. You’ve been host of the San Diego Natural History Museum’s Sustainable Planet lecture series over the last three years.

NANCARROW: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: So can you tell us a little bit about what this series is about?

NANCARROW: Yeah, the last three years have been mostly climate issues, how we’re going to get our food, where we’re going to get our water from, and what climate change means to the planet’s species. I have been amazed at the attendance. We’re filling the auditorium for each one of these speeches, and they’re absolutely worth it. I’ve certainly been learning from every single one that I’ve attended. Some of the best speakers in the world, like Erika, have been brought together on these different topics.

CAVANAUGH: And so this topic this year is food, so how does food fit into the sustainable planet concept?

NANCARROW: Basically, our food is using a tremendous amount of fossil fuels to grow it the way we’re doing it now. One of the facts that I think is so fascinating from a Michael Pollan book is that the little bag of baby greens that you buy at the grocery store, one pound of that has 80 food calories. Now if we ship that back to Erika’s neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, it takes 4600 fossil fuel calories to get it there, basically 50-plus, 55 calories for every calorie of food we’re getting it from. We cannot continue to do that and expect the climate to stay the same, and that our use of oil to improve.

CAVANAUGH: So it’s all all of a pattern, the whole idea of climate change and food and all about the sustainable planet.

NANCARROW: Absolutely.

CAVANAUGH: I want to go to Erika. Why did you get involved in the Slow Food movement?

LESSER: Well, I was just saying to Loren earlier, actually my view of the world really starts at the family table, at the dinner table and in the kitchen. And, for me, food was just a great source of pleasure and learning and enjoyment and part of my family experience growing up, and I think, like so many people, you take that for granted. And I think that I realized over time that actually we could not take it for granted, that our food system is changing. Cultural attitudes about food are changing, and we’re losing so much. We also have a great opportunity because sustainability is just – it’s inspiring people to get incredibly creative with the way that they eat, the way that they garden, and the way that they feed their families.

CAVANAUGH: Remind us a little, Erika, where did the Slow Food movement start? What were the goals when it originated?

LESSER: Well, you mentioned earlier that it was a European response to fast food, and that’s true. And, in a way, that’s part of the creation story of Slow Food was in response to the opening of a McDonald’s at the Spanish Steps in Rome. And it’s this beautiful, historic place, a social gathering place for Romans and people from all over the world, and it was being encroached upon by the Golden Arches. And so the Italians were just outraged. They couldn’t believe that this was happening. I think that it was probably sort of a, you know, a personal affront as well as a commercial one, that they felt that their culture was somehow being invaded, and they realized at that moment that their concern was not unique. And that’s why they called it Slow Food; they didn’t call it cibo lento, you know, Slow Food in Italian, they called the organization Slow Food, in English, from the very beginning because they realized that this would be relevant to everyone around the world.

CAVANAUGH: It’s so interesting that we’re talking now that news has just developed that there’s a McDonald’s opening in the Louvre, so it really hasn’t stopped. I wonder, now, however, after ten years of this movement, Erika, there’s a new – renewed or new emphasis on making it so that the food, the good food that people eat, is also good for the people who grow it. What do you mean by that?

LESSER: Well, what we’re really concerned about is not just what’s on the table. I said my world view starts there in a way, but there is a food chain out there. We are part of it. We just happen to be at the top of it. But there are so many elements that go into what we put in our mouths and our bodies every day, and one of those elements is that agriculture, fundamentally, is driven by people. It’s also driven by machines, and that’s why less than one percent of the U.S. population is in farming now. Farmers are actually an endangered species themselves and so there’s a huge movement afoot of young people who are interested in becoming farmers and trying to reverse that trend. But food is not just the sum of its parts, whether it’s organic, whether it’s seasonal, whether it’s local; it is also about the farm workers and the farmers involved. And I think that’s a particularly thorny issue here in the United States because we depend so much on immigrant and undocumented labor to pick and process our food, especially here in California.

CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with Erika Lesser. She’s executive director of Slow Food USA, and Loren Nancarrow, a San Diego television personality and host of The Sustainable Planet lecture series at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Now, Loren, anybody who has watched you on TV over the years knows that you’re fascinated by growing your own food.

NANCARROW: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: And I wonder how that fascination developed. Why? Why is it so intriguing to you to do that?

NANCARROW: It’s funny. As a kid, I was one of the original—maybe not one of the original—but an early latchkey kid to where I spent a lot of time getting in trouble. But I also found the Galloping Gourmet on TV and was fascinated by this guy, both by his whole schtick and the fact that he was cooking things that I thought might be kind of interesting to try for my family. And then he, at one point, mentioned growing it, too. And living in Connecticut, we had plenty of deep, rich, dark soil so I went out and started growing things. And that’s what I’ve tried to do over the years is demystify it as much as possible. If you get people to start with the absolute easiest things to grow – go out and buy a bulb of garlic and then break it up into individual cloves and stick those cloves into the ground and you’ll have that many bulbs at the end of the season with really no work involved. And once you’ve eaten something that you’ve grown, it is so empowering that you’ll want to try something perhaps a little bit more difficult next time.

CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Let’s talk to Dan in Rancho Bernardo. And good morning, Dan, welcome to These Days.

DAN (Caller, Rancho Bernardo): Hi, good morning. Thanks for having me.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, thank you for calling.

DAN: Well, great, hey, I’ve been listening and actually, you know, I have a business called Hometown Farms here in San Diego and it’s basically commercial vertical organic urban farming, and it really addresses a lot of the issues that you’re talking about on the show, bringing the farm back into the city and then also saving natural resources while you’re doing it.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for calling, Dan. That’s great. I know a lot of people are not only getting into growing their own food in their own little plot in their home but they’re also expanding and more and more organic gardens are turning up and people are starting their own businesses doing this. And I’m wondering, Loren, you know, still the idea persists that this is difficult to do, that it’s going to take a lot of time that we don’t have and, as you say, you’ve been spending a lot of years trying to dispel those ideas.

NANCARROW: Yeah, it’s really not that difficult. Compost is base – is the key to it all. If you take what nature provides, that is organic matter, and let it rot, it will turn into rich, deep dark compost, black gold. Stick anything into that compost, it will grow. We’ve been taught that we need to add all these different potions and it’s just not true. Compost alone is a pesticide, it is a fertilizer, it is everything you need and it’s the medium for the roots to set down.

CAVANAUGH: Tell us a little bit of the things that you grow and how you use them.

NANCARROW: It depends on the time of the year. During the summer, we grow all the summer crops from corn and chilis and, I’m going to have to think of all the different things, pumpkins and watermelons. And during the winter, this is when it really gets interesting in San Diego because we can grow food all winter long and these are when some of the real healthy foods come out of the garden: broccoli and cabbage and all the lettuces that you want, beets and potatoes. And every one of them, once you’ve grown them one year, you see how easy it is.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm. Erika.

LESSER: Well, I love hearing about the demystification of gardening because it really is, as Loren says, it is a simple, elemental act and yet so few people know how to do it. And it’s one of the things we’ve been really excited about with some of Slow Foods national programs is starting gardens in schools because when kids get involved in growing their own food, they’re more likely to eat it. They’re actually more likely to eat fruits and vegetables if they’ve been involved in making them, and this is a great way to teach good food habits and it’s a great way to debunk this idea out there that kids just like fast food better, they like junk food better. I mean, many kids, that’s all they’ve ever been given and so they don’t even know what the choices is. And if food is a part, and gardening is a part of their education from the earliest age, and I’m talking about kindergarten, first grade, I mean, any time is not too early to start to get a kid excited about growing something from nothing, from just seed and compost into something they can eat at the end of the day. I mean, you’ve got them hooked for life at that point.

CAVANAUGH: Excellent idea. Let me take another call. Mike is calling from Bonsall. Good morning, Mike, and welcome to These Days.

MIKE (Caller, Bonsall): Good morning. Great subject. I’m glad you guys finally got around to this. We live on a small farm in Bonsall. We’re blessed to have one of the most incredible climate and soil types in the United States. I threw a rotten papaya out my back door one time and every single seed in that thing sprouted and grew for three years until we finally had a killer frost a couple years ago. But we have hundreds of banana trees, we have a pretty huge family garden. Everything Loren Nancarrow talked about that he grows, we grow, particularly the things that we like to eat that – every day: onions, potatoes, lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, all those things. They’re really easy to grow. I’m a – You know, I build things and when I leave my shop to go somewhere for two weeks camping or something, I come back, the only thing that happened, the dust settled. But my garden, ah, my garden for that two weeks, it produced for me and I did nothing except maybe had my water automated for that time. The flipside of gardening in San Diego right now, though, and I encourage everyone listening who lives in a tract home, 7,000 square foot lot, you’ve got plenty of room in your backyard for a huge salad garden. You get an unbelievable amount of potatoes out of a space the size of a door. I mean, it’s incredible. People have room to have a garden. The flip side of home gardening in San Diego is the 600 acre strawberry operation next to our farm. They use methyl bromide every year, a known carcinogen, it completely sterilizes the soil. They then apply huge, copious amounts of artificial fertilizer then, weekly, they spray herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. And the people applying those chemicals are dressed in space suits. Why? Because guess what? They’ll get sick and die if they’re not protected from the things that they’re putting onto, hello, strawberries?

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

MIKE: Yeah. So try growing your own strawberries in your backyard. You’ll be absolutely amazed. Walk out there and pick one and you will find, for the first time in your life if you’ve never eaten a fresh picked strawberry, what they actually taste like.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that. Thank you so much for your call, Mike. And, yet, you know, agriculture is a huge industry in San Diego County. And, you know, it’s part of our life here, so how can we address that in some way that, you know, we start growing our own food but at the same time, we, you know, support people who are making their living in San Diego County.

NANCARROW: If I may, part of it is to start realizing the real cost of food, the real cost of water. All of these things have been subsidized for us and they’ve been subsidized on the back of the environment and on the back of the farm labor. That needs to stop. There’s – You need an advanced degree these days to walk into a grocery store and really read the labels. Organic is the only one that really has the weight of law behind it but one of the most meaningful terms, if it’s used appropriately, is sustainably farmed. You look at a chicken that’s been sustainably farmed, it’s going to cost you nearly $25.00 because the farm labor has been paid a fair wage, the land has been kept as good as it was or – and made better through the farming practice, and the chicken was raised in such a way that it wasn’t tortured from the time it hatched from an egg. Those things count. And if we pay the real cost of food, it’s going to be more expensive.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, but, Erika, not everybody can pay $25.00 for a chicken.

LESSER: Well, it used to be that a chicken in every pot was a special, once a week family treat, Sunday dinner. And that’s just one of so many traditions, in a way, that have gone by the wayside because we’ve become accustomed to how cheap processed food is and just, for a matter of fact, how cheap animal protein is. We’re accustomed to cheap chicken, cheap beef. And the incredible cost is not just to the environment but also to our health. When you look at every time there is a food borne illness outbreak that’s traced to E. coli or salmonella, other diseases that are making their way through a highly industrialized and highly vulnerable food system because of the way that it’s built, one of the ways that you have to change that, not just to make it better for people, healthier, but also make it more affordable is we need to change the game. Right now, the game is rigged against the kind of food that Loren is talking about and we’ve lived for too long with government subsidies making corn syrup and other industrial products cheap when everything else is expensive by comparison. Subsidies are all about public benefit. Well, let’s look now at what the public needs. The public does not need more calories. The public does not need more cheap food. They need more good food, good, clean and fair food. So why not redirect government support? As long as it’s there, give it to the farmers who are doing the right thing so that they can get their sustainably farmed chickens and their fruits and vegetables out to a wider audience, get it into public schools, get it to anyone who wants it so that everyone has access.

CAVANAUGH: I was going to ask you, one of the tenets of the Slow Food movement is that food should be more important. You say food seems to be less important than it used to be. But some people might claim that food is too important to Americans these days. We have an obesity crisis. And how do we turn that around to have food get in its proper place again, as you suggest? You know, not too cheap, not too expensive, not too caloric, you know, and have this good food available to most people, not just the people who can afford the extra money.

LESSER: Well, I think what’s interesting is that we do live a kind of schizophrenic existence when it comes to food. We’re fascinated by celebrity chefs and, you know, culinary trends. Look at food on TV nowadays. It is a kind of – it’s feeding into our pop culture and celebrity culture interests. At the same time, we’re afraid of food. There’s, you know, from one diet fad to the next and fundamentally I think it’s that people don’t know where their food comes from anymore, they don’t – they’re not in touch with how it’s grown because they don’t grow it themselves or they just have never been to a farm. They don’t know anybody who farms. So I think that information and education is the first thing. I also think it’s really important to learn how to cook. Cooking is not wizardry. It’s not just what chefs do in restaurants. It’s what everyone could do on a daily basis quickly, it doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but it is about being more self-sufficient and, quite frankly, homecooked food is more affordable than eating out all the time.

CAVANAUGH: I have to take a short break. When we return, we will continue our conversation about sustainable food and how to make it, how to enjoy it and where to find it. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. And we will return in just a few minutes here on KPBS.

# # #

CAVANAUGH: You’re listening to These Days on KPBS. Welcome back. I’m Maureen Cavanaugh. My guests are Erika Lesser, executive director of Slow Food USA, and Loren Nancarrow. He’s a long time San Diego television meteorologist and an organic gardener, and host of the Sustainable Planet lecture series at the San Diego Natural History Museum. We’re talking about sustainable food, growing your own food, and learning to find good food wherever you go in organic markets, at the supermarket, and also making sure that the food that we eat is also contributing to a sustainable planet. 1-888-895-5727 is the number to call, 1-888-895-KPBS. Lots of people want to join our conversation so let’s take a few phone calls. Ken is calling from North Park. Good morning, Ken. Welcome to These Days.

KEN (Caller, North Park): Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, how can we help you?

KEN: Well, I just wanted to see what your panelists thought. First of all, I’ve been an organic gardener since I was a kid. I grew up Italian-American in Portland, Oregon, and I’ve always, always, always had a vegetable garden so I’m very into that. And I’ll tell you, I’ll cop the plea, I actually own a small restaurant in San Diego now…

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

KEN: …but what my issue is, there’s a whole bunch of restaurants locally now who spend their time touting the fact that they use locally grown meats and all locally grown produces. And they claim that that somehow makes their carbon footprint less. There’s no slaughterhouse in San Diego County. If you’re growing beef or lamb or turkeys or chickens, those things have to be shipped in a truck to San Bernardino or somewhere or out to El Centro and then shipped back. So when I buy lamb from Australia that’s been grown organically and then put on a big ship and shipped directly here, it actually has a lower carbon footprint than any number of places that are here. The other one is, we’re in Southern California and I buy my produce from one company here in town and 99% of it is organic and about 75% is locally grown without making a big deal about it. And I just – it just upsets me that these restaurants get away with claiming, oh, I’ve got this great beef that was raised locally and now you’ve spent $20,000 shipping it up and back.

CAVANAUGH: Well, Ken, I want to get a response to your comment. Thank you for calling in. Erika, yes.

LESSER: Well, I think it’s a really valid point and I think it’s part of the reality that the food system is really complicated. There are so many inputs. But what we always think about when we’re talking about, well, what is our reality today and what are we aiming for? In terms of Slow Food, we always talk about it in terms of good, clean and fair. And so I think the issue is that carbon footprint is one thing and that is about how the planet is impacted by the food that we grow and how we transport it and how we process it but it’s also about the people who are involved in growing it and picking it, so that means local farmers, local economy. And you’re right that there are too many – too few slaughterhouses, processing facilities, in this country because that whole element of the food system has been wiped out in the last 50 years. There used to be small slaughterhouses not just in every state but practically every county, and we don’t have that anymore. And the third thing is that you need to think about food not just as the sum of its parts, it’s not just nutrients and chemicals and – or lack thereof, but also the flavor and the cultural identity of what you’re eating. So to know that your food is coming from a local source or, better yet, to know that somehow that’s a part of the local economy and the history of the place is a way. And that’s – it’s partially marketing and partially just capitalizing on a trend, that’s true, but this is how you get people in touch with and asking questions about, oh, really, I didn’t know that, you know, this particular product came from my area locally. I want to learn more about that. And that’s part of their identity and part of what the community can be proud of and, ultimately, use as an economic engine.

CAVANAUGH: Loren, Ken sounded like somebody who’s trying to hard to do the right thing…

NANCARROW: Right.

CAVANAUGH: …but there were so many little complications involved in trying to toe the line and really be responsive when it comes to sustainable foods. Sometimes you don’t know where to turn. Well, what’s the right thing to do?

NANCARROW: And that’s part of the beauty of the Sustainable Planet series which, by the way, will be once a month all the way through into spring. But I would also debate with Ken some of the points he made. No, 99% of the produce out there is not organically grown. Oh, that it were. I really wish it were. We wouldn’t hear stories like the one that Mike told us about the strawberry fields in Bonsall. But getting our beef from San Bernardino or even the Valley is not as bad as getting it from Argentina or now all the rage is this Angus grown in Montana. That’s a long way to bring the beef when it can be grown locally. And I agree, it should be processed locally as well. I think it’s partially an economy of scale from the federal government. The USDA inspectors who have to stamp the meat want to do it in as large a place as possible. Once you get these small processing plants up, they have to hire more inspectors and the government doesn’t want to do that. But I would urge them to at least have a traveling team of them to make it happen. The more than we grow locally, the more local farmers will be able to support their families, and that’s a portion of the population, like Erika said, that we need and we want. It’s a part of our fabric of America.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Tom is calling from El Cajon. Good morning, Tom. Welcome to These Days.

TOM (Caller, El Cajon): Hi. Thanks much for having me. I appreciate it. I’ve been landscaping and gardening for decades on my own property. A year ago today, in fact, my wife and I bought a half acre with a home on it in Fletcher Hills in El Cajon because one of my hobbies is gardening. And I’ve grown and cultivated the land there just in this year and have a quite large garden with a good variety. Now the comment on that is, we just received the information from the Helix Water District. The water rates are going up another 22% beginning this month and already I’ve seen on my water bill from the garden I produced this last six months, it’s become prohibitive in the cost for me to grow my own homegrown vegetables and several orders of magnitude greater than what I can buy in the store. Albeit I have a love of gardening and we love to eat their homegrown produce. So just not really a question but a comment, it’s becoming prohibitive in the San Diego, Southern California region, to have any kind of a substantial garden compared with the costs of water, for one, and then of course the cost of fertilizer and what not.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that, Tom. Loren has been sort of shaking his head during your comments so I want to get a reaction from you, Loren.

NANCARROW: Yeah, I don’t think the water’s become too expensive for vegetable gardening. Perhaps for lawn it’s become too expensive. But I would urge him to use soaker hoses, which deliver the water about as efficiently as you possibly can, and they’re very easy to use, too. You just hook them up to a garden hose and wind it around your plants. And the cost of fertilizers is really not an issue if you’re using compost, which is really all you need. And you can go to the Miramar Landfill and get a pickup truck literally loaded with two yards of it, which is a lot of compost, big enough for most vegetable gardens, for $20.00, okay?

CAVANAUGH: What about the larger issue of the water restrictions here in San Diego County because we’re in a drought. We may continue to be in one as we enter the spring and summer of next year. We may face higher water rates and more water restrictions. What does that do to the idea of people starting their own organic gardens?

NANCARROW: Hopefully, it will do to them that they will become more innovative.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

NANCARROW: We have to harvest rain. It’s – It makes sense. We put in an 1100 gallon tank. It cost about $600.00 to do that. Every time it rains, that 1100 gallon tank fills up remarkably quick from water that comes off of our roof and then goes through a pipe into the tank. That water can be used for your vegetables. Also the State of California just made it easier to use gray water. This summer, they passed, I don’t know whether you want to call it a ‘laundry to lawn’ or ‘shower to flower’ law, whatever. You can now use the gray water, especially from your laundry room without much environmental or personal risk, and use that to water your plants.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Kathy is calling from San Diego. Good morning, Kathy. Welcome to These Days.

KATHY (Caller, San Diego): Oh, thank you. I’m so appreciative of this show. I just started – I just joined the CSA, Community Supported Agricultural program, and I wanted to say that for those who are fortunate enough, I guess, as I am, to get to work 48 hours a week but have little time for their own home garden, it’s a great alternative. I just joined it. You pay a fee and you get all organic and locally grown fruits and vegetables. And the fun thing about it is you don’t know what you’re going to get. So tomorrow I will go pick up my CSA supplies from a local – a home near my house. I go to her front porch and I pick it up, and I open it up to see what my surprises are. Last time I picked it up, I got peaches and oranges and apples and lettuce and radishes and bok choy and all sorts of surprising fruits and vegetables that perhaps I wouldn’t purchase but – on my own, but I find it exciting to go and find out what I’m going to get and what menus I’m going to cook and – from these – from the supplies I get.

CAVANAUGH: Kathy, let me ask you, if you don’t mind, how much does it cost to be a member of one of these organizations?

KATHY: Well, I wasn’t sure how I was going to do. I just found out about this from a book I read by Barbara Kingsolver, that “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” book that talks about a family who lives off of their farm for a year. And so I check it out and I thought I’d go with the lightest package possible and it’s – I pick up a small box. You can pick a small or a large box, and you can go weekly or every other week. And so I have a small box every other week because it’s just my husband and I. And it seems to be totally sufficient for our fruits and vegetable needs.

CAVANAUGH: Well, that…

KATHY: And cost, it costs $120.00 a quarter.

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

KATHY: So I think it’s about twenty bucks a box.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. All right. Well, thanks for calling in on that. And can I get your reaction, Erika, to that?

LESSER: Sure. Well, I think it’s a great example of how at a community level, people are reinventing the food system. And whether it’s CSAs or I was talking to someone yesterday about a local gardening swap that people are doing these things on their own because, you know, no supermarket is going to do it for you. And the way that our federal policy is designed around food, it’s not really making it easier, and yet with ingenuity people are creating these local food systems for themselves and it’s really exciting for me because Slow Food is a volunteer run organization. We have over 225 chapters across the country and every single chapter is doing something like a CSAs. A lot of them start CSAs or start farmers markets or they start gardening programs in their schools, whatever it is that’s missing in their community that can help people get access to better food and have more fun doing it. So I think it’s a great example. It’s something that’s exploding all across the country. I don’t have a garden. I love the idea of a CSA. There are tons of them where I live in New York City and tons of farmers markets as well. So there’s so many options out there but we need to get it everywhere, not just in the big cities, the places where people have an appreciation for good food and have critical mass. We need to have CSAs, farmers markets in every county across the country.

CAVANAUGH: And you were talking, Loren, about the rather unusual idea of finding someone who wants to plant with someone who actually has the land.

NANCARROW: Yeah, I have a friend who had a website who put together people who have land with people who have the desire to garden and then it works like the old sharecropper where you can grow on this person’s land and give them a certain percentage of your crop. And it seems to work pretty well. The other beauty of CSAs, too, of basically you’ve got a small farmer who’s going to survive more likely because of them and you’re eating seasonally. And while I can’t cite any statistics or medical evidence that says eating seasonally is going to help you be healthier, it makes sense to me that if you’re eating in tune with nature, you’re probably going to do better.

CAVANAUGH: I think we have time for one last call. Good morning, Ed. Welcome to These Days.

ED (Caller): Oh, yes. Congratulations to KPBS. This program should be – These comments of all your guests are so great, it should be rebroadcast during the evening hours, cut out some of the classical music, because this should hit even the people who are working. My facet of topic is that in yesterday’s Union-Tribune there was a very important article called “Painted Burgers Past Shows Flaws In Our Food Safety.” It’s the food safety issue. And my main comment is there’s a book “Fast Food Nation,” for comparison…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

ED: …by Eric Schlosser and it’s no lightweight book but it brings out the importance, which – some of which has already been referred to, that is the food safety situation. It’s much better when things are grown locally like at the farmers markets that are sprouting out…

CAVANAUGH: Ed, we have to end it there. I’m so sorry. Thank you. “Fast Food Nation,” I think we’ve even had the author on this show. But thank you so much for your comments. You know, we’re all out of time. We’ve had so many people wanting to join the conversation. I want to let everybody know that you can post your comments online about this segment at KPBS.org/TheseDays. I want to thank Erika Lesser and Loren Nancarrow. Let everyone know Erika will be discussing "Growing a Social Movement to Change the Food System." That’s tonight as part of the Sustainable Planet lecture series. It’s at 6:30 at the San Diego Natural History Museum. For more information, you can go to These Days page on KPBS.org. And this segment is part of KPBS’ Envision Project Focusing on Food. For the next two months, we’ll be focusing on where our food comes from and how our view of food has changed over the years. This project will culminate in an Envision San Diego Food documentary airing the week of November 16th. I want to thank everyone for listening. You’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS.

Comments

Avatar for user 'bbmiller2000'

bbmiller2000 | October 6, 2009 at 10:57 a.m. ― 5 years ago

My partner and I live in mid-city on a standard city lot. There we grow much of our own fruit and nuts. Additionally, we are slow food vegetarians enjoying cooking and eating; and, our average weekly grocery bill is $25. It is not expensive to enjoy an abundant and healthy diet!
Beverly M.

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Avatar for user 'DanGibbs'

DanGibbs | October 6, 2009 at 11:08 a.m. ― 5 years ago

I believe that besides traditional urban farming there needs to be commercial vertical organic urban farming. This would provide affordable organic food for all the people that can not garden them selves, plus save 85% of the water that traditional farmers use. Home Town Farms, www.hometownfarms.com, is trying to start such a business here in San Diego

Water Savings
Carbon Reduction
Fuel Reduction
Food Safety
Eliminate herbicides and harmful pesticides
Higher food nutrient content
Affordable organic food
Reduces fertilizer consumption
Food Security

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Avatar for user 'JonBoy'

JonBoy | October 6, 2009 at 11:29 a.m. ― 5 years ago

I'm one of those guys who has a nice plot of land but not much time to work it. It's in great shape now waiting to be planted. I liked how it was mentioned about share-cropping so if you are interested let me know at HeyJB@sbcGlobal.net I live in National City.

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Avatar for user 'AllEars'

AllEars | October 6, 2009 at 1:03 p.m. ― 5 years ago

I had such a good laugh this morning. Loren Nancarrow gave an example of how thousands of calories are used to transport a bag of greens with only 88 calories in them. He should know that what's called calories on the nutritional information is actually kilocalories. Otherwise you could eat ice cream to lose weight; the energy required to melt the ice cream would be higher than the calories you got from it....

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