We’re developing our list of Meals We Hope To Eat and want to share it with you!
- Matt and Kristin Reese — Kristin was at The Breakfast with us. They are small livestock farmers, large farm advocates, and Matt edits Ohio’s Country Journal. Though they have safety concerns — they are not the only farmers to tell us in all honesty that radical activists threaten farmers and destroy property — they seem to trust our intentions and have invited us for a meal soon! We’ll continue our conversation with them about antibiotic use in livestock, how we decide who is a trustworthy research source, and explore the dichotomy between their farm’s small size and their large farm activism.
- Spence Farm — A small Illinois farm growing heirloom crops and raising heritage animals, Marty and Kris Travis are so passionate about what they do that they’ve started the Spence Farm Foundation to teach others the “… art, history and practice of small, sustainable farming.” We’ll grill the Travis’ on their techniques — how do you fight pests and disease? What is your yield? Does your model scale up? Does it need to scale up? Can we feed our population this way?
- Haley Farms — Mike Haley is an Ohio farmer who produces hay, soybeans, wheat, corn, and cattle. He jumped into the Blog Post Comment Frenzy with a thoughtful, measured tone that impressed us and we look forward to visiting his farm. He makes a compelling argument for some use of GMO seed in his case to combat the corn borer … an outbreak he fears this year because we didn’t have winter. We’re eager to learn more about that over a meal! Mike may end up being a “two meal” guy with us — he is interested to see urban rooftop farming in action, so we hope to give him the Chicago urban ag tour one day! Sounds like this one ends with dinner at Uncommon Ground!
- We’d love to have Hormel sandwiches (or whatever!) with commodity meat traders at the Mercantile Exchange in Chicago.
- There’s a fisherman in the Gulf we know of who is struggling financially because he says the conservation recommendations are out of date. A trip to New Orleans may be in the more distant future, but we definitely need to hear about this! Po’ boy!
- Ray-Lin Dairy — Ray Prock is a dairy farmer in California, milking 500 cows on 240 acres. We also met Ray in the comments section of Ellen’s first post and when we can manage a west coast trip, he is on our list! We want to know from him why the dairy industry so vehemently opposes raw milk.
- Carrie Mess — We met “Dairy Carrie” on Twitter. Her thoughtful blog post about dehorning caught our attention and we’re excited she’s close to us in Wisconsin. She sells her milk to Dean’s and we’re looking forward to, um, milk and cookies with her!
- Kerri McClimen — Kerri is a PR consultant for the Pew Antibiotics Awareness Campaign. We’ll sit down with her in May to get the scoop on Pew’s funding, research methods and hear about her farm visits.
- Outstanding In The Field — This may be an internal dueling blog post – Ellen isn’t a fan of the “fancypants” farm dinner and I’ve been to a few, although not one put on by Outstanding In The Field. She demands they’re “ridiculous” and I disagree. Clearly, we need to sit down with each other on this one and see where it goes! Or we might ask, “Why don’t these kinds of dinners happen on large factory farms?”
- John Huduc — Cooking/chef, culinary educator/now owner of USDA meat processing facility, John is our man on the topic of all things hypocrisy! Our meal with John will explore the shortcomings in our own lives that weaken our sustainable food arguments.
- Find Our Common Ground — This is a group of volunteer farm women who work to dispel farming myths and break down barriers to consumers. As their website says, “Brought to you by America’s soybean and corn farmers and their checkoffs.” Just as with our USFRA experience, one question we have for someone from this group will be trust and transparency – how do we weigh their thoughts in light of their funding?
- Psychologist – As we dig deeper into trusting and vetting food safety research, it seems like it would be interesting to talk with someone who studies the psychology of trust in humans. Why do we trust people? What does our brain require to deem studies or research trustworthy? Why do folks on one side of the “agricultural divide” believe something so different from those on the other side?
- Land-grant university professor (or dean!) — Speaking of research, it seems a lot of our agricultural research comes from land-grant universities. What is the research funding like at these schools? Is their research “unbiased”? How do they decide what to research? If you are such a professor and would like to have a meal with us, let us know!
- Kim Snyder of Faith’s Farm – Kim Snyder is a small livestock farmer near Chicago who raises without feed-level antibiotics, GMO-free and on pasture. She recently posted on Facebook about the trials of living among pesticide spray from nearby farms, fretting as she kept her bees under lock-down for days to ride out the toxic storm. We want to hear more from Kim about how a small farmer lives among his/her neighbors and what challenges she faces eschewing chemicals on her farm.
- Alan Shannon – Allan works for the USDA in Chicago and we have questions for him! How does the USDA balance its seemingly opposite missions, supporting and promoting agriculture interests and ensuring consumer safety. Surely those two goals do not always line up!
- Paul Kahan – Paul is one of the world’s premier chefs and especially tied to pork (when Paul calls Ellen, a picture of a pig shows up on her phone). We want to do a conventional/pastured/heritage pork taste test with Paul to learn more about these animals from a chef’s perspective. What are the flavor, fat content and cost issues that chefs consider when buying meats?
- Gunthorp Farms — Gunthorp is a pastured livestock farmer in Indiana. We hope to butcher Thanksgiving turkeys with Greg Gunthorp and then do the “staffsgiving” meal with chef Jared Van Camp’s team at Old Town Social.
- Urban Foraging with Nancy Klehm — Nancy is Chicago’s most enigmatic forager and spent some time teaching homeless Chicago folks how to forage in the city so they would get some greens in their diet.
- Hog Butcherin’ with the Butcher & Larder — Rob Levitt owns Chicago’s only whole animal butcher shop and his team is planning a traditional hog butcherin’ day at a local farm. They’ll kill and process the pig, making blood sausage and other tasties for a big meal to celebrate the day onsite.
- Rob also asked us to do a meal featuring off-cuts of beef, usually destined to become lean finely textured beef (aka pink slime) but in the mind of a whole food butcher, the opportunity to cook a delicious meal.
- Will Allen. Founder of Growing Power, started his organization as a way to work with inner-city teens and has turned it into a model for urban sustainability.
- Gabriel Taylor — Just 9, Gabriel’s a big fan of Michael Pollen — and McDonald’s. Its the kind of dichotomy we see in our own lives and the lives of those around us — believing one thing about food and doing another. Rather than try to get to some answers with adults, who have a lifetime of justifications that support their misunderstandings, we thought we would ask someone who is still innocent enough to tell us the truth.
- Mari Gallagher — Chicago-based food policy researcher, Galllagher coined the term “food desert” and wrote a seminal work: Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Chicago (2006).
- James McWilliams — a history professor at Texas State University, McWilliams wrote the book Just Food: How Locavores are Endangering the Future of Food and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. After writing that book, he turned into a vegan and we’d like to talk to him about why.
- Can anyone hook us up with Marion Nestle? Anyone?
This list is designed to show you where we hope to go. We’re going to have 100 meals, or at least try, so if you are inspired with ideas of whom we should eat with or topics we should cover, speak up below!
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Love this, and very honored to be #1. What a great project.
April 24, 2012 at 2:42 pm
I might be able to help you out with the land grant university slots! I am an animal science student at Colorado State University. Feel free to email me to gather more info! firstname.lastname@example.org
June 5, 2012 at 4:05 pm
Somehow just came across this! Would love to have a meal with you and let you meet my “girls”. My email is on my about me page. Let’s do it!
July 8, 2012 at 1:17 am
Thanks Carrie! We remember you from Twitter and have you on our radar. Have not forgotten about you and would love to come visit. Juggling “real” lives and these meals, but we’ll reach out to you soon, thanks!
July 8, 2012 at 2:08 pm
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We’re little but welcome an honest visit and conversation – growing from the ground up. If you’re driving to New Orleans we’re a few hours east of I55. Heritage/heirloom focus starting small, celebrating food choices. We’re not real fancy but passionate about food choices. In the beginning of a SlowMoneyFarm 8 week challenge on our food blog, exploring food choices.
July 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm
Thanks for writing! I added your farm to my e-reader! Congrats on your great work.
July 14, 2012 at 8:23 am
Thank you! We try
July 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm
Come on out to Eastern Oregon and we’ll hook you up with all sorts of farmers/ranchers! Snake River Produce is a packer/shipper of fresh onions in Eastern Oregon and we are 80% grower owned. We also have connections to orchards, potato farmers, sugar beets, cattle, dairies and more!
July 12, 2012 at 9:35 am
I keep thinking we need to do a Kickstarter campaign to get us out to places like Oregon. We’re stuck here in Chicago for now, with the cash we can dig out of the couch cushions to pay for gas to get to southern Illinois. Thanks for the invite. Hopefully! I did play the lottery this week! Who knows!
July 14, 2012 at 8:22 am
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Might I suggest that you plan a visit with a farm operation that is really large and get their perspective? By really large, I mean one of the titan farmers–15,000 to 30,000 acres or more. Some of these family-owned and -operated businesses even manage enterprises in places like Brazil. It is a piece of the picture I don’t see in your list.
Also, one piece of the food system puzzle is how the farm program over the decades has influenced cropping decisions and the economics of agriculture. I suggest that you read “Merchants of Grain” by Dan Brown as a start and go from there. “Merchants of Grain” is a history of the multi-national grain trading companies and was triggered by the Great Grain Robbery of the 1970s.
We have such a distinct monoculture system partly because of the incentives created by the farm program. There is a rhyme and reason for the crops that are part of the program, and it has nothing, really, to do with “saving the family farm” and everything to do with storability, food security and strategic value. Consider the products that are targeted, especially early on: cereal grains, cotton, wool.
Just some thoughts for you.
November 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm
Jennifer, that is a great example! The list we have was just something we put together at the beginning of the project and clearly, it needs to be updated to reflect more ideas and opportunities. But yes, a FANTASTIC EXAMPLE! and we will definitely seek that out.
Thanks for the book rec. A lot of this is stuff we have started to learn but there is always a great deal more to understand! Thanks! One of our farmer friends, Mike Haley, has talked with us a lot about how the current farm programs came together and he says the same thing — food security. It is so strange that what started out as a way to keep use fed has come to support a system that is basically killing us with overcalorieification!
Thanks for these ideas! KEEP ‘EM COMING!
November 6, 2012 at 2:23 pm
Hi we are a smaller commercial vegetable grower in central Minnesota. We grow around 500 acres of Sweet Corn, winter squash, and pumpkins. We supply area grocery stores and wholesale houses. We would love to do a meal with you. Feel free to contact me. Thanks
March 3, 2013 at 9:35 am
I can answer #11: the funding of CommonGround of which I am a volunteer comes from check off dollars to the National Corn Growers and United Soybean Board. What that means is for every bushel of corn or soybeans I sell at the grain elevator 1/2 of 1% of MY OWN income goes to these organizations which are made up of volunteer farmers who administer the funds in their own states. Check off dollars go to research, education, promotion, and outreach. I serve on my state grain producers board (corn, wheat, barley, sorghum and oats), my husband is on our state soybean board. So the check off dollars are pooled farmer funds to research and improve the commodities we grow. There is no industry funds nor is there any government funding. Its straight up farmers pooling their funds together for the benefit of all. If farmers do not want to participate, they can opt out and request refunds of the portion they contributed. Simple as that.
March 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm
Thanks FarmGirlJen! Good info, especially the opt-out option, which is news to me.
March 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm