Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Four Seasons will be in hiatus mode for the next week or so while we devote our lives to searching Google Scholar. So many journal articles, so little time. But we'll try to spread the joy with some links sifted from our e-mail and web procrastination...

Agricultural empowerment and food security in impoverished areas of Kenya. It's part of Jeffrey Sachs' ambitious plans at the UN Millennium Project discussed in yesterday's NY Times. There was also a great write-up on the project in last November's NY Times Magazine.

With oil prices climbing, is local ag the hot stock to own? James Kunstler gives the A to Z on our coming energy conundrum and places some bets in an adaptation from his new book, The Long Emergency.

The energy cost issue is given a look in yesterday's notes from Farm Policy. Keith also delineates the latest talk about increased farm subsidies for enviro stewardship, though it seems there may be more politicking to it than follow-through. Show me the money.

It's finally that time of year. Time for the Feast of the First Asparagus. But even if you don't appreciate the after-smell of asparagus, there's some really nifty stuff going on at Gettin' the Right Eats.

'Tis also the season for rhubarb. And a hotel in Scotland sure knows how to celebrate the occasion. The plant is gorgeous.

In a followup to a post on Kraft's family of "organic" brands, there's a great article out there by Phil Howard from 2003. "Consolidation in Food and Agriculture: Implications for Farmers and Consumers" has a nifty web of the major corporate mamas and papas of organic brands. Jen of life begins @ thirty also noted that Green Digit has its own little black book.

It's not noted in those articles, but I find it very twisted that Dean owns Horizon, Silk, and most of the "regional" milk brands in the country.

If you haven't discovered Google Maps' satellite photos, it's the time waster you've been waiting for. There are probably some pretty impressive farmland views-from-above waiting to be discussed. Don't know how often they'll be updating the photos, but it would be neat to see seasonal change. (via kottke)

And there are some great local food /sustainable agriculture events going on in the Northeast over the next month...

Saturday, April 02, 2005

All together now: mapping local foodsheds

The Neighborhood Project is using data from craigslist housing postings to generate neighborhood lines in San Francisco. A script builds a map that color-codes the street address of the house in a listing with the neighborhood as defined by the poster. The results are here and pretty nifty. Neighborhood dynamics are notoriously social constructed. Areas often shift in identity in response to demographics changes (i.e. et voila, presenting Greenwich Village's long lost cousin, the East Village) and real estate marketing strategies (i.e. whatever Columbia touches magically becomes Morningside Heights instead of Harlem). Anyway, the map offers an interesting glimpse of how SFers self-identify. (via fab via craigblog)

Sure, it's great to look at how community is performed in our post-modern world, you say, but how does it relate to food? Outside of the Neighborhood Project's neighborhood focus, it's a really great example of leveraging distributed computing to better organize the otherwise overwhelmingly information of the web. The map depends of the collective work of thousands of people who each put up a housing listing, though they contributed without any extra effort (or intention, for that matter).

Now think of a website like Local Harvest that has listings from hundreds of small farmers across the US, or even the world. If those farmers posted what they were growing and when it was in season on the site, local foodsheds could be easily mapped. A local foodshed is marked by by the flow of a food item from where it is grown to its point of consumption and varies by the season. Sure, the information is out there as text across many different webpages, but the visuals of a map that makes it more compelling. From the Wisconsin Foodshed Research Project:
How might alternatives to our existing food system be organized at the local and community levels? How much food can a given region provide? Can local food systems meet nutritional needs and provide food security for everyone?
People living in the same foodshed can become a community for change that can collectively support and sustain the producers most local to it, as well as cultivate new producers to match demand. Bostonian to Providencian: "Wow, look! We're in the same foodshed for organic carrots in March. Let's work with a regional farm to start a buying co-op or winter CSA!" There are oodles of possibilities.