Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving message from spring Go Big Read speaker

Former U.S. Senator George McGovern has agreed to serve as the keynote speaker for the spring Day on Campus: Food Summit program. Read his thoughts related to global hunger and our relationship with farmers in his recent Sacramento Bee opinion piece: http://www.sacbee.com/1190/story/2350851.html

In it, he references "In Defense of Food" as well as the USDA's recently announced "Know Your Farmer" program: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/%21ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2009/09/0440.xml

The Food Summit will be held on Friday, April 23 at Memorial union. For more information on the program visit: http://www.uwalumni.com/home/reunions/alumniweekend/alumniweekend.aspx

Heidi Zoerb
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Maira Kalman's Thanksgiving "op-extra" column

Maira Kalman has long been one of my favorite artists, ever since I was first enchanted by her children's book "Ooh la la, Max in Love." She now writes these amazing pieces for the New York Times online that are illustrated columns; part of a monthly series called "And the Pursuit of Happiness" about American democracy. Her November column is titled "Back to the Land" and includes many of the themes about food explored in Michael Pollan's work.

She visits Alice Waters' home and restaurant, the farms that grow the food served at Chez Panisse, and a school that is part of Waters' program called "The Edible Schoolyard," taking photographs and offering commentary along the way. Michael Pollan makes an appearance (well, a photo of his hand does) and Kalman provides a thoughtful analysis of food issues as they relate to democracy and Thanksgiving.

Here's an excerpt where she muses about the agrarian society envisioned by our forefathers: "Is there some inherent value to that way of life that we have lost? Is there some element of democracy that is diminished? We can't all be farmers. You would NOT want to rely on me for your food. And what about getting the good food? Do the wealthy have access to the really healthy food while the less affluent do not? When you look at it that way it does not feel at all like a democracy. The fabric of our lives is bound in the food that we eat and the way we sit down to eat."

Kalman's illustrated story-telling of the exploration of these issues is both thought-provoking and delightful. I encourage you to visit this column.

-Carrie Kruse
Director, College Library
UW-Madison

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Last Call for Title Suggestions for Next Year!

We've started planning for Go Big Read's sophomore year. We would love to get a wide variety of suggestions from students, faculty, staff, community members, and alums.

To make a suggestion or for more information on the selection criteria, visit the Go Big Read home page.

Sarah McDaniel
Go Big Read

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Food For Thought: Weekly Online Book Discussion

Are you unable to attend one of the scheduled book discussions but want to get involved in the conversation?

Want to connect with people from all over the UW campus and the greater Madison community?

Join us in a virtual book discussion on the Food For Thought Posts in the Go Big Read Blog!

Each week, we will be posting a new topic for discussion on the blog, and followers are encouraged to participate by responding in the comment section below each post. Feel free to use and expand on these questions in your own book discussions. Have a great idea for discussion topic? Let us know! Contact the Go Big Read Program at gobigread@library.wisc.edu.
 
Food For Thought: Topic for Discussion Week of November 23, 2009:
 
Whom does Pollan blame for our dietary landscape?  What is the evidence?  Does he make a good case?

UW-Madison Local Food Event

Panel-Discussion Partnered by the 2009 Go Big Read Initiative

What are the benefits of buying local? Where can one find local foods? What businesses support local growers?

Inspired by the Go Big Read initiative, learn how to become a more conscious consumer in this discussion of local food. Ask questions to local growers, restaurant owners, the Dane County Farmer's Market manager, and other groups committed to supporting local agriculture such as Buy Fresh, Buy Local; Willy Street Co-op; and F.H. King Students of Sustainable Agriculture.

The discussion will be held in the Open Book Café of College Library, Thursday, December 3rd at 5:00pm.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Food For Thought: Weekly Online Book Discussion

Are you unable to attend one of the scheduled book discussions but want to get involved in the conversation?


Want to connect with people from all over the UW campus and the greater Madison community?

Join us in a virtual book discussion on the Food For Thought Posts in the Go Big Read Blog!

Each week, we will be posting a new topic for discussion on the blog, and followers are encouraged to participate by responding in the comment section below each post. Feel free to use and expand on these questions in your own book discussions. Have a great idea for discussion topic? Let us know! Contact the Go Big Read Program at gobigread@library.wisc.edu.



Food For Thought: Topic for Discussion Week of November 16, 2009:
 
Pollan says that after 30 years of nutritional advice from health experts, we're actually sicker than before. Do you agree?
 
What kind of evidence does he use to support that claim?

Monday, November 16, 2009

UW-Madison Local Food Event

Panel-Discussion Partnered by the 2009 “Go Big Read” Initiative

What are the benefits of buying local? Where can one find local foods? What businesses support local growers?

Inspired by the ‘Go Big Read’ initiative, learn how to become a more conscious consumer in this discussion of local food. Ask questions to local growers, restaurant owners, the Dane County Farmer’s Market manager, and other groups committed to supporting local agriculture such as Buy Fresh, Buy Local; Willy Street Co-op; and F.H. King Students of Sustainable Agriculture.

The discussion will be held in the Open Book Café of College Library, Thursday, December 3rd at 5:00pm.

A Wisconsin Farmer's Response to Michael Pollan, Part V

Jambo, Bwana! (Hello, Mr.)

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya, East Africa, I was able to live in a food culture similar to that which Mr. Pollan would have us aspire. Vegetables and variations of ground corn were the staples of the diet, when enough was available. While most people had adequate quantities of food, quality was sometimes an issue. There were from time to time, inadequate amounts of locally produced food to feed people, usually due to drought. It is not pleasant to watch fellow humans go hungry.

Among the things that impressed me was how much parents were willing to sacrifice so their children could have milk to drink. Another was how much everyone craved to have meat added to their daily intake of food. In fact, one of the ultimate expressions of friendship in our part of Africa was to treat your friends to a 'quick kilo' (one kilogram) of meat grilled to taste, if the local butcher had a side of beef hanging from a tree limb. Does this tell us something?

Pay More, Eat Less?

Among the suggestions Mr. Pollan gives in his book is that of farmers producing less food in an approved manner (organically) and consistency (leaves). He also suggests that we should be willing to pay more for this food and then eat less of it. Whatever dietary merits these 'improvements' bring to us as people in America, his suggestions will probably remain in the domain of the economically elite and intellectually effete’. With all due respect the rest of us live in a world where this menu is less than palatable.
The discussion generated by Mr. Pollan's book has certainly been an opportunity to explore some issues pertaining to food and food production. The opinions I have ventured here are my own, but are probably shared by others in production agriculture. Here is my own variation on the Pollan Theme:

Eat responsibly. Eat together. Be grateful for abundance. Thank a farmer.

On, Wisconsin!
George H. Roemer
UW-CALS Class of '70

Moderator's Note: This is page 5 of 5. Read the rest: A Wisconsin Farmer 2010-25-09.pdf

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Seeking Book Nominations for Sophomore Year of Go Big Read

Planning is under way for Go Big Read's sophomore year, and nominations are now being accepted for next year's book selection. Nominated books should do one or more of the following: promote enjoyment of reading by being readable, relevant and engaging; incorporate sufficient depth and scope to promote sustained discussion of different points of view; appeal to individuals from a variety of backgrounds; and have cross-disciplinary appeal and lend itself to tie-ins in a variety of activities and programming on campus. Read the full press release

Nominations will be accepted for two weeks via the online suggestions form.

Sarah McDaniel
Go Big Read

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Wisconsin Farmer's Response to Michael Pollan, Part IV

Laced or Unlaced?

Mr. Pollan repeats the misleading anti-animal litany about dairy and meat products being “laced” with hormones and antibiotics. This is an insulting and inaccurate portrayal of today’s farmers who use modern technology responsibly for the benefit of their animal’s health and productive capacities.

Hormones occur naturally in all animal species. The hormone used to increase milk production in dairy cattle (recombinant bovine somatotropin, rBST) is a virtual copy of the naturally occurring dairy cow hormone (pituitary bovine somatotropin, pBST). Both are composed of the same amino acids (building blocks of homones) found in cattle. There is a difference of two pBST amino acids substituted by two different but naturally occurring amino acids in rBST. Furthermore, rBST has been researched and declared safe by government regulatory agencies; it also breaks down into its component parts during the process of pasteurization. (Note: it is illegal to sell unpasturized milk in Wisconsin).

The hormone used to stimulate beef cattle growth is typically implanted in an animal’s ear at a designated time, dissolves, and has no discernable presence when that animal is marketed. These relatively recent technologies enable those of us in production agriculture to enhance the efficiency of our operations while supplying an abundant and therefore low cost food supply to consumers.

It should be noted, not all farmers use these technologies; they are usually evaluated on a cost effective basis for each individual operation.

Anti-What (Or Whom?)

Antibiotics have saved countless human lives plus reduced suffering and misery worldwide. Why then, is there such a gap in logic, Mr. Pollan, that antibiotics cannot do the same for animals in production agriculture? Is it because we farmers are often dirty and sweaty while working? Are we all demonstrably incompetent? It is frustrating to be considered the least common denominator in the food equation.

Used responsibly, antibiotics reduce suffering and maintain productive health in farm animals. Strict state, federal and industry rules dictate their use. Veterinarians are routinely consulted and give careful guidance to farmers when dispensing certain drugs.

Milk marketed in the U.S. is regulated by Pasturized Milk Ordinance 40 (PMO 40). Under this rule, the tolerance for antibiotic residue in milk sold to the public is zero. Most dairies in the U.S. test every load of milk daily for antibiotics. Producers or processors who knowingly market milk, tainted with antibiotics, are subject to fines and even jail time. This system catches mistakes that may occur from human error while virtually ensuring an antibiotic free milk supply for the American public.

Meat marketed in the U.S. has a similar set of laws and regulations; 21 CFR 1589.2000-Drug Residue In Animal Tissue. As with PMO 40, the tolerance for antibiotic residue in meat sold to the public is zero.The safety net for American’s food supply is sadly misunderstood and unappreciated by those it protects. It is easy to make inciteful rhetoric about those of us who toil in production agriculture and take pride in producing a quality product.

Moderator's Note: This is page 4 of 5. Read the rest: A Wisconsin Farmer 2010-25-09.pdf


The discussion generated by Mr. Pollan's book has certainly been an opportunity to explore some issues pertaining to food and food production. The opinions I have ventured here are my own, but are probably shared by others in production agriculture. Here is my own variation on the Pollan Theme:

Eat responsibly. Eat together. Be grateful for abundance. Thank a farmer.

On, Wisconsin!
George H. Roemer
UW-CALS Class of '70

Monday, November 2, 2009

Food For Thought: Weekly Online Book Discussion

Are you unable to attend one of the scheduled book discussions but want to get involved in the conversation?

Want to connect with people from all over the UW campus and the greater Madison community?

Join us in a virtual book discussion on the Food For Thought Posts in the Go Big Read Blog!

Each week, we will be posting a new topic for discussion on the blog, and followers are encouraged to participate by responding in the comment section below each post. Feel free to use and expand on these questions in your own book discussions. Have a great idea for discussion topic? Let us know! Contact the Go Big Read Program at gobigread@library.wisc.edu.

Food For Thought: Topic for Discussion Week of November 2, 2009:

Why did our food choices change?

What social, economic and political forces triggered this change?

A Wisconsin Farmer's Response to Michael Pollan, Part III

Monocultural Monopoly


Mr. Pollan decries the “rise of industrial agriculture, which yields a vast monoculture of a tiny group of plants.” The realities of modern American agriculture are thus: In the 1950’s, about 25% of America’s population lived and earned their income on farms engaged in production agriculture. Since then, three trends have emerged and continue to evolve: fewer farms, larger farms, and greater production per farm. This has resulted in efficiencies and economies of scale that currently enable less than 2% of this country’s population to feed the rest of us and then some. Would Mr. Pollan have 1 in 4 Americans now living quit their day jobs and return to production agriculture to earn an income capable of supporting themselves and a family? Would he?

‘Monoculture’ need not be misconstrued as a negative concept. Mr. Pollan’s vegetable garden is, after all, a monoculture of vegetables. Drive through any municipality in America and you will observe a vast monoculture of clipped, fertilized, weeded and watered lawns, medians and parks. Are all these urban monocultures soil tested, scouted for pests, and subject to environmental regulation similar to production agriculture?

Specialization in non-agricultural businesses are accepted. Why not in production agriculture also? Would Mr. Pollan be as successful a writer in his chosen genre’ if he were simultaneously working to produce biographies, cook books, or fiction?

It was interesting to read of Mr. Pollan’s enthusiasm for lambsquarters as a food ingredient representing a desireable form of nutrition. I would challenge him to develop a lucrative commercial market for this plant. I guarantee that American farmers would rise to the occasion and produce lambsquarters in abundance! (Probably in a monoculture).

How Now Contented Cow

Another of Mr. Pollan’s assertions is that only cattle who graze get “leaves” instead of “seeds” in their diets. Some clarification is needed here. Rations fed to ruminant animals, such as cattle, need to be primarily composed of forages. Forages are leafy plants such as alfalfa or grass hay, and corn silage, which is the entire corn plant chopped into pieces. These animals have a marvelous and complex digestive system (four compartments; reticulum, rumen, omasum, abomasum) that allow them to eat and digest feedstuffs humans cannot.

Most of us enjoy the idyllic scene of cattle grazing outdoors in a green field. The reality is that this practice is limited to certain times of the year, especially in Wisconsin and similar climates. Good grazing areas (pastures) require intensive management not unlike fields producing alfalfa. Feeding cattle during times of limited or non-existent pastures (like winter) means farmers need to store feed. While pasturing works for some farmers, the majority continue to harvest feed mechanically, store it in a variety of structures, and then bring it to the cattle.

Dairy and livestock farmers routinely test forages to determine if their animals are getting all the nutrition they need for optimal growth, reproduction, and production. It is not unusual to supplement forages with concentrates (these are the “seeds” like corn or oat kernels, soybeans, linseed, etc., sometimes mixed with minerals). This supplementation is fed only as necessary to ‘balance’ the animal’s rations, enabling a level of production to give farmers a return on their investment while keeping animals healthy. Even grazing animals may require supplementation due to geographic location or soil conditions.

When ‘finishing’ for market, meat producing animals such as beef cattle, the ration is adjusted to include more concentrate as this produces a product in demand by consumers. These rations are seldom, if ever, totally devoid of some forage. Grandpa frequently lectured how the cows needed a ‘scratch’ (fiber) factor in their ration to stay healthy.

Another reality of modern agriculture is that the animals we keep are production units, not pets. I would also argue that the majority of animals kept for production agriculture probably eat more correctly for their species than the majority of people in America.


Moderator's Note: This is page 3 of 5. Read the rest: A Wisconsin Farmer 2010-25-09.pdf

The discussion generated by Mr. Pollan's book has certainly been an opportunity to explore some issues pertaining to food and food production. The opinions I have ventured here are my own, but are probably shared by others in production agriculture. Here is my own variation on the Pollan Theme:

Eat responsibly. Eat together. Be grateful for abundance. Thank a farmer.
On, Wisconsin!
George H. Roemer
UW-CALS Class of '70

Free Environmental Film Festival : November 6-8, 2009: Madison, WI

Tales From Planet Earth (TfPE) showcases environmental films from around the world in a three-day festival and several other community engagement events across Wisconsin. The festival -- November 6-8, 2009 -- thematically journeys across the globe to explore how stories told through film shape our understanding of nature and inspire action on behalf of environmental justice and the diversity of life.

A few of these films are related to food and sustainability and may be of interest to our blog followers:

Papapapá (1995)
Alex Rivera (28 min., color, DVD, US)
Saturday, November 7, Noon
Fredric March Play Circle
In yet another innovative work by Alex Rivera, Papapapá humorously explores immigration issues by comparing the assimilation of immigrant peoples and immigrant foods. In this case, Rivera parallels the migration of a form of potato from Incan Peru north to become part of diets throughout North America with an immensely personal journey following the journeys of his Peruvian father as he migrated from Lima to the United States. Part of a three-film retrospective of Rivera's work, along with Sleep Dealer and The Sixth Section. Filmmaker scheduled to be in attendance. (Showing with The Sixth Section)

Harvest of Shame (1960)
Fred W. Friendly (60 min., b/w, 16mm, US)
Sunday, November 8, 4:15 pm
UW Cinematheque
Airing just after Thanksgiving in 1960, Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly's Harvest of Shame revealed the plight of migrant agricultural workers in Florida who helped to produce the bountiful harvests Americans had just finished celebrating. Murrow closed the film by noting: "Migrants have no lobby. Only an enlightened, aroused and perhaps angered public opinion can do anything about the migrants." Watching the film almost 50 years later, one doesn't know whether to admire the film's forward thinking about this issue or to be depressed that migrants continue to be disenfranchised and at the mercy of public opinion, even as they provide an ever-growing and vital link between the land and our dinner tables.

What's on Your Plate? (2009)
Catherine Gund (73 min., color, DVD, US)
Saturday, November 7, 10:00 am
MMoCA
From books - such as Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma - to films - such as Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me and Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney's King Corn - the American public has received numerous warnings in the last 10 years about the changing global food system and its consequences for public health and the environment. But Catherine Gund raises the question of whether these messages are reaching our most vulnerable food consumers - America's children. In this rollicking film, Gund follows two New York City pre-teens, Sadie and Safiyah, as they take their own journey across the systems that provide them with food and take charge of their health against the onslaught of unhealthy food choices bombarding them. An official selection of the 2009 Berlin Film Festival, What's On Your Plate? is a film your whole family should experience together. Filmmakers scheduled to be in attendance.

Our Daily Bread (2005)
Nikolaus Geyrhalter (92 min., color, 35mm, Germany)
Saturday, November 7, 9:30 pm
UW Cinematheque
At the 2007 Tales from Planet Earth, the screening of Edward Burtynsky and Jennifer Baichwal's Manufactured Landscapes filled up the theater in only a few minutes. At Tales from Planet Earth in 2009, Nikolaus Geyrhalter's Our Daily Bread is likely destined for the same fate. Training a similar artistic lens on the global food system, Geyrhalter wordlessly captures extraordinary tableaus and landscapes of astonishing power. From the treatment of livestock to the application of pesticides and the working conditions of laborers, Our Daily Bread lays open for questioning each link of the complex processing chain that connects us to our landscapes via the food on our plates. Winner of 10 film festival awards and official selection of over 50 festivals.

The Hunger Season (2008)
Beadie Finzi (60 min., color, DV, UK and US)
Sunday, November 8, 1:00 pm
First United Methodist Church
When watching news about famines and starving people in foreign countries, we often feel removed from the problem, even as we express pity and regret. Beadie Finzi's The Hunger Season shatters our illusions of distance, however, revealing the complex interconnections between global economic systems, the hunger for new biofuel sources of energy, global climate change, political unrest, and resulting devastation of drought and famine for millions of people around the world. Tracing the journey of food aid from the fields of Wisconsin farmers to USAID and finally to Swaziland, where Justice, a village leader, struggles to feed his neighbors, Finzi brings home our role in hunger crises and also our ability to help avert such problems. A moving experience, The Hunger Season had its sneak peek world premiere at a Tales from Planet Earth event in October 2008 and is back for the 2009 festival by popular demand. After the film there will be a special meal that will help profile a new national engagement project being built around the film, called "Meal & A Movie in a Box," which was designed through Tales from Planet Earth's pilot screening of the film in October 2008.

Keynote: The Economy for the Next Seven Generations
Winona LaDuke (45 min.)
Sunday, November 8, 1:00 pm
Wisconsin Union Theater
Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe) is an internationally renowned activist working on issues of sustainable development, renewable energy and food systems. She lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota, and is a two time vice presidential candidate with Ralph Nader for the Green Party. As Program Director of the Honor the Earth, she works nationally and internationally on issues of climate change, renewable energy, and environmental justice with Indigenous communities. In her own community, she is the founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, one of the largest reservation based non-profit organizations in the country, and a leader in the issues of culturally based sustainable development strategies, renewable energy and food systems. (Her keynote will be followed by a screening of Lighting the Seventh Fire and a panel on native peoples' resource issues)

Second Chance: Sea (1976)
Faith Hubley (10.5 min., color, 35mm, US)
The history of the ocean culminates with the present abuse of our most important resource. Do we have a second chance? Part of a retrospective of the award-winning animation of John and Faith Hubley. (Showing with Whither Weather and Children of the Sun)

Whither Weather (1977)
Faith Hubley (10 min., color, 35mm, US)
Whither Weather explores the interplay between Earth life and Earth climate. We see how weather affects food; how food, or lack of it, affects people, and how people, in turn, affect weather. We experience the current eco-catastrophe and wonder whether our tampering will result in a new ice age or in an equally dangerous global heating. Part of a retrospective of the award-winning animation of John and Faith Hubley. (Showing with Second Chance: Sea and Children of the Sun)

Children of the Sun (1960)
John Hubley (10 min., color, 35mm, US)
The story of a healthy child who has enough to eat is juxtaposed with the story of an undernourished child representing three-fourths of the world's children. The film ends with the United Nations’ commitment to all the children of our planet. Part of a retrospective of the award-winning animation of John and Faith Hubley. (Showing with Second Chance: Sea and Whither Weather)

Tales from Planet Earth announces the Wisconsin Union Directorate Film Committee's midnight movies during the festival weekend are both on environmental themes . . . from a slightly more playful perspective! They think of it as "Tales After Dark!":

Soylent Green (1973)
Richard Fleischer (97 min., color, DVD, US)
Saturday, November 7, Midnight
Fredric March Play Circle
The year is 2022. New York City has become overpopulated with 40 million people and pollution has caused the temperature to be risen and all natural resources have been destroyed, leaving 40 million people starving. The Soylent Company has create a new food product, Soylent Green. In the overpopulated and polluted New York City, police detective Thorn is assigned to investigate the brutal murder of an corporate official of the Soylent company, William R. Simonson. Thorn's investigation into Simonson's murder leads him to uncover a conspiracy in the Soylent company and the Soylent Green food product itself, where Thorn uncovers the horrible truth about Soylent Green. (from IMDb)