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After the failures of big aquaculture, it’s time we listen to our oceans

A wire basket full of mussels with a stream of water pouring down on it.
A wire basket full of mussels with a stream of water pouring down on it.
Cleaning oysters. Photo: Matthew Novak

Fish farming has a bad reputation, for good reason. It’s built on systems that cheat nature by raising fish in unsafe conditions — often harming entire ecosystems and consumers’ health.

The farming of bivalves and sea greens is quite literally doing the opposite: Bivalves, such as mussels, oysters, clams, and scallops, along with seaweed, require zero feed, fertilizer, or antibiotics. That they generally stay put is better for ecosystems.

“Farming bivalves and seaweed is possibly the most sustainable harvest we have from the sea,” said Ryan Bigelow, seafood watch senior program manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Both bivalves and…

A handful of U.S.-based spice companies are sourcing from domestic growers

A Jamaican man harvesting ramps for Burlap & Barrel
A Jamaican man harvesting ramps for Burlap & Barrel
This Jamaica resident along with his colleagues spend each year tapping maple trees in the Adirondacks; this year, their return home was delayed because of the pandemic. Omar, pictured, ended up helping Burlap & Barrel harvest ramps before returning to Jamaica when the season was over. Photo: Burlap & Barrel via Instagram

Earlier this year, Burlap & Barrel pulled off a culinary magic trick: They extended ramp season. The New York City-based spice company has made a name for itself among chefs and home cooks by selling direct-sourced, single-origin — and wildly delicious spices — from across the globe. But this past May, instead of flying to India for turmeric, Egypt for caraway seeds, or Guatemala for cardamom (thanks to Covid-19 travel restrictions), co-founders Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar drove due north to the Adirondack Mountains to forage ramp leaves during the wild plant’s famously fleeting season.

Frisch, a chef and humanitarian…

‘You may not have gotten the exact cut of meat that you were looking for, but the meat was there’

Empty meat shelves at the grocery store.
Empty meat shelves at the grocery store.
Photo: Carbonero Stock/Moment/Getty Images

In March and April, workers at a Tyson pork plant in Logansport, Indiana, filed 11 complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), reporting packed areas with no social distancing, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), and workers who had tested positive continuing to work.

“There are so many positive Covid-19 cases,” one complaint read. “An employee was tested positive, and there are three people that ride with the employee and are now showing symptoms. The employer refused to tell the employees that the employee was tested positive.” On April 25, the plant shut down temporarily. …

But more optimistic about the future of the country

The Wright family at the farm.
The Wright family at the farm.
Photos: Marc Deliz

Six years ago, Yvonna Kopacz-Wright, Brett Wright, and their two daughters left their home in Harlem, setting up shop in Palisades, New York, on a 6-acre farm. Without much of an idea of what they wanted to do in the beginning, today the pair are full-fledged beekeepers at what’s now called Lomar Farms, with 10 hives (plus a bunch of chickens) and a thriving business that is evolving in a beautifully surprising way.

Demand for their products — homemade candles, bath and body products, and, of course, honey––is way up, and even their kids’ friends help out. “Each bee has…

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…

Amber Tamm Canty is the up-and-coming farmer-activist who’s determined to make it happen

Photos courtesy of Amber Tamm Canty

Amber Tamm Canty is a farmer of sorts. The better part of her work experience has been in agriculture; she wrote on her site that in the last four years, she “has come to possess knowledge in cannabis, farm education, permaculture, tropical agriculture, agroforestry, urban farming, floral arrangements and lastly the healing powers of the Earth.”

With local agriculture comes activism: Amber wants to connect New Yorkers with the Native American heritage and reclaim land for Black and Brown people. Her goal is rooted in her young self, growing up in Coney Island projects, where she did not have access…

Unless we demand a change from the current system

Photo: Guido Dingemans/De Eindredactie/Getty Images

By Raj Patel and Jim Goodman

The food system in the U.S. is holding together in the early weeks of the COVID crisis — aside from the price spikes that come with panic buying, the supply chain of commodity crops looks fairly solid. But an overabundance of commodity crops doesn’t solve our country’s hunger problems. And doubling down on this flawed system won’t just fail to fix hunger — it’ll spawn new disease.

America’s robust production of corn, wheat, soy, and meat comes at a financial, social, and ecological cost. Much of that cost was shouldered by farmers themselves. Before…

Tasmanian farm lets ‘happy’ industrial chickens frolic in the sun and eat insects, giving them a taste like French heritage birds

Photos: Michael Scaturro

SASSAFRAS, TASMANIA — Call it a country club for chickens.

At Nichol’s Poultry farm, located in a lush Tasmanian valley surrounded by rolling green hills, fluffy white birds with tanned red wattles roam into and out of sheds about the size of a New York studio apartment. Some seek respite from the hot Australian sun in shady patches of grass next to their coops. Others hop playfully onto raised canvas walkways designed to encourage their movement between sheds.

“We designed a system that allows our chickens to go outside whenever they want,” said Jane Bennett, CEO of TasFoods, the company…

80 percent of the suppliers to companies like Lancaster Farm Fresh are Amish and Mennonite

An Amish farmer plows his field behind six draft horses in New Wilmington, southwestern Pennsylvania. Photo: Jeff Swensen via Getty Images

Harold Weaver is a Mennonite farmer who lives with his wife and six children in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania. The children help feed the goats and cows, as well as the horses that pull the buggies the family uses for transportation. Weaver used to sell calves for veal, but when the market disappeared, he signed a contract with Handsome Brook Farm and started caring for a flock of 5,500 egg-laying hens. Three years later, the children also pitch in to feed the chickens and gather eggs.

Started in 2007 on a small farm in upstate New York, Handsome Brook set out on…

And they’re growing underground

Bethany Thurston photos

Dozens of feet below ground might not seem like the best place to cultivate plants, considering the lack of sunlight, but a small yet growing number of entrepreneurs are exploring subterranean sites for potential farms.

Columbia University professor Dickson Despommier kickstarted scientific, agricultural, technological, architectural, and even political interest in futuristic growing techniques with his 2010 book “The Vertical Farm.” In the years since, vertical farming, which increases growing efficiency by stacking rows of plants in greenhouses under LED lights, has flourished as an industry.

Many of the world’s major cities have their own iterations of vertical farms, and companies…


Food from every angle: From Medium x Mark Bittman

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