Environment

In Heated. More on Medium.

An educational working ranch shows an example of a system that’s better for employees, animals, and the earth

A person walking behind a large cluster of sheep with woods in the background.
A person walking behind a large cluster of sheep with woods in the background.
Over the past few years, the focus of Heifer Ranch, which has long worked to lift people out of poverty, has shifted to creating a better meat industry. Photos: Heifer Ranch

Not far from Little Rock, Arkansas, lies a stunningly beautiful 1,200-acre ranch. Surrounded by water on three sides and filled with native grasses, the farm is home to thousands of chickens and turkeys, hundreds of sheep, cows and pigs, and six dogs. Overseeing it all is a group of women.

“We get asked all the time: Where are all the men?” said Donna Kilpatrick, who manages the property with her colleagues, Christine Hernandez and Kristen Crawley. To be fair, there is one man who works on Heifer Ranch, and, according to Kilpatrick, the intention has never been for the ranch…


It’s about balance

Watercolor illustration of a platter with a dish and three bowls of food, and chopsticks.

It’s not that I don’t want to go vegan — thinking about the environmental impact of meat consumption and the health benefits of eating plant-based, it seems like an ideal lifestyle choice that would fall in line with my values.

But it can also be hard for multiple reasons.

Meat alternatives aren’t necessarily healthier

Although the meat-alternative industry is booming, these products still fall short on nutritional factors. They contain a lot of processed fats such as sunflower oil and canola oil, chemically altered fats that have been shown to lead to heart disease and other chronic inflammatory diseases. …


An EU plan aims to cut back on pesticides and antibiotics — and make organic food cheaper. Imagine if the U.S. followed suit

Shoppers in an indoor open-air market with a glass roof and stained-glass windows.
Shoppers in an indoor open-air market with a glass roof and stained-glass windows.
Photo: Mertxe Iturrioz via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

On a recent morning at Malaga’s Mercado de Atarazanas, shoppers passing through the hall’s 19th-century glass-and-iron lanes wore masks and stalls bore signs in English and Spanish: “Don’t touch the food.”

It was hard not to. Southern Spain is Europe’s fruit and vegetable basket, sending produce around the European Union. But the best of this bounty — much of it grown by small farms receiving EU subsidy money — tends to stay in Spain for local consumption.

A Malaga-grown tomato, gnarly in yellow and red hues, burst with such succulence that I ate it in one go. Then there were…


Q&A

Cooking more doesn’t have to mean wasting more

A head of cauliflower next to small piles of cauliflower stems, florets, leaves, stalks, and ribs, respectively.
A head of cauliflower next to small piles of cauliflower stems, florets, leaves, stalks, and ribs, respectively.
Photos courtesy of Belmond Mount Nelson

With pretty much everyone forced into the kitchen, food waste is on all of our minds, especially because many are trying to limit trips to the grocery store. We talked to Rudi Liebenberg, the executive chef of Belmond Mount Nelson in Capetown, South Africa, who focuses on limiting waste as much as feasible.

Heated: Since home cooks aren’t cooking on the scale of restaurants, I think a lot of us might be daunted over whether we should be saving the stems of our cilantro or putting our fish carcasses in the freezer until we have time to make stock later…


The romance of neoliberal peasant farming blinds us to our collective power

Photo: Texas Co-Op Power

Let’s get this out of the way, first:

  • I am a small farmer, operating on 40-ish acres in Virginia’s Northern Neck.
  • I am not paid by, in hock to, in league with, or particularly happy with Big Agriculture. I’m just a guy who’s been in the small-sustainable farming business long enough to understand that the model is fatally flawed, and mature enough to say it out loud.
  • To my friends who run and staff farmers markets: This essay is hard on farmers markets. …


Agriculture

Here’s why it matters

Aerial view of five farmers harvesting Chinese cabbage in Thailand.
Aerial view of five farmers harvesting Chinese cabbage in Thailand.
Photo: Anucha Sirivisansuwan/Moment/Getty Images

By Dr. Lewis Ziska

Balance is, without question, important in plant biology: Too much or too little sun, the right amount of rainfall, the right temperature range, and the necessary soil nutrients are critical to maintaining a healthy and diverse plant community.

But that stability is being threatened by climate change; in part because of peripatetic changes in climate, but even more by what is happening with carbon dioxide, the primary global warming gas. For the recent geological past (a couple million years, perhaps longer), there hasn’t been enough carbon dioxide in the air to maximize photosynthesis, growth, and yield…


Criticism is founded upon ignorance of how colonial systems have evolved into our current global trade

Photos: Yewande Komolafe

As a Nigerian living in the U.S., I keep red palm oil in my pantry — it is a central ingredient in making the food that transports me home. Nigerian cuisine is known for the complexity of its components: the toe-curling umami of our stockfish, the lingering burn of our scotch bonnets, the bitterness of our leafy green ewuro. Red palm oil is sometimes the glue that holds these ingredients together. Though it’s mildly floral at first taste, it blossoms slowly as it coats your tongue, revealing an almost smokelike presence. Its bright orange smear coating an empty bowl is…


The Wendell Berry quote that frames Michael Pollan’s environmental writing

Photo: Eddie Kopp via Unsplash

Eating is an agricultural act.
— Wendell Berry

I’m not a farmer. Or a gardener. And I wouldn’t even call myself a decent potted-planter. I like the idea of becoming a gardener, though. The same way I liked the idea of becoming a baker: because fresh bread is delicious.

Flashback

When I was a high school exchange student in France years ago, I recall a few late nights after skateboarding, drinking at outdoor cafés, and muddling through drunken French discussions. Discussions about the weekly student grèves (strikes), French hip-hop, or Bush’s America (this was the early aughts).

When the evening wound…


Kat Taylor and her former-presidential-candidate husband are using their vast resources to address sustainable agriculture

Inspecting soil. Photo: TomKat Ranch via Facebook

Kat Taylor is excited to talk about carbon sequestration and perennial grasses, but one of her favorite topics is the “full assemblage of predators” that now calls TomKat Ranch home. “It’s an indicator of [ecosystem] health all the way down the food chain, because you can’t support mountain lions and bobcats…unless the rest of the world is pretty healthy, too,” she explains.

Taylor knows this because while voters across America watched her husband — billionaire Tom Steyer — run for president on televisions across the country, researchers at the ranch had been tuning into a very different broadcast for some…


It’s already happening across the globe

Photo: Groundswell International

By Anna Lappé with Daniel Moss

As COVID-19 spreads worldwide, we’ve become attuned to those on the front lines: Doctors and healthcare workers, yes, but also those who feed us. If we didn’t get it already, this global crisis is a wake-up call for how our collective fate is tied to the way we relate to nature, use the land, and treat farmers and workers who grow, process, and distribute our food.

Unfortunately, in the last half-century, both public and private investments in industrial food systems that exploit people and undermine the natural systems on which food security depends have…

Heated

Food from every angle: From Medium x Mark Bittman

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