Mr. Smith goes to the supermarket

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The other day, a friend posted an article on Facebook praising a celebrity chef who went to Capitol Hill to discuss the merits of a national GMO labeling law with a politician. And I rolled my eyes.

I posted that the user comments on the article were more interesting than the celebrity PR fluffy story. And that regular citizens are the ones who have – and will – bring about change.

Actually, I have asserted more than once that waiting for politicians to fix our food system is like waiting for monkeys to fly outta our arses. It’s kind of far-fetched.

The mess our food system is in has been largely driven by the almighty dollar. The marketing value of something faster, cheaper – easier. But, what is easy really? And who defines what is easiest for us?

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The price of popular?

Does popular have a price? This is a question I’ve been mulling today as I tinker around my homestead thinking about the upcoming first issue of my newsletter.

As people started signing up last week, I would look at the names and email addresses, some I know and some I don’t. Some are veterans in the local food movement, some are not and just wanna be a part of helping heal things. And I wondered how to appeal to them all.

I started thinking about that and realized just how success can ruin projects and people that started out with the best of intentions. I understood why national magazines dilute their messages and publish stories without a lot of meat so as not to offend anyone.

And I could trace this ideology, this policy of bland, drab information. I could map it to all those who are trying to create brands and be popular amongst the people they want following them.

To appeal to the largest number of people – a.k.a be popular.

But that’s never been who I am. There is a string of people in my history who have disagreed with me. Or felt I was going about things in the wrong manner. And I likely offended more than a handful of them.

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The nutritional value of road salt

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Ever wonder what happens to that road salt you see being sprayed on town streets and your driveway?

Well, I have.

No surprise, turns out it impacts our drinking water and food supply in a deleterious manner – as well as our safety on roads.

A few years ago, I did a series of newspaper stories in Fairfield County, Connecticut about trees – which had fallen in droves (or, rather, stands) during storms. One of the people I interviewed was a scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

According to him, road salt alters the structure of the soil, depleting nutrients and contributing to weakening trees. This is most relevant for trees living in that soil alongside roads and lining your driveways, where the salt tends to be used. And, coincidentally, where power lines tend to reside.

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Welcoming wheat back into my world

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Hello, beautiful bagels – my how I have missed you. That slightly rugged outside of yours belies the succulent tenderness inside of you. And pizza, you are the perfect food and I am so glad to have you back. During our nearly two years apart I found no adequate substitute for either of you.

Can you tell I was born and raised in New York City?

You really cannot imagine, when I gave up gluten in the fall of 2012, how hard it was for me to say goodbye to these two New Yorker staples – even though I was living in Connecticut, which could not compete, only import from its neighbor to the SW.

But I did part ways, because I was determined to heal myself and I was convinced that gluten was wrecking havoc on me. Whenever I mentioned (out loud) thinking about giving up gluten, I got all sorts of applause. People telling me that I would automatically lose weight and all my ills would be gone.

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Good morning 2015… Should auld career choices be forgot

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This morning, when I woke up for the first time in 2015, my mind wandered to thoughts of my work. And I felt really positive, inspired, excited. Compared with 12 months ago, I would say that is progress. (And not quite as workaholic as it might sound.)

See, last year at this time, I felt trapped and desperate for change. I felt that what I was putting my time and energy into was benefiting others way more than it was useful for me.

But like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I had the power all along.

Not that it was as simple as tapping my ruby slippers (if I had them) together three times. Although, once I let go of what was holding me back, it wasn’t hard at all.

And what was holding me back? Conditioning really. Not wanting to let people down. Guilt. Not recognizing that my needs matter – or even that I have valid needs.

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Has the public been disenfranchised from the local food movement?

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The other day, someone asked me if I am alienating the market for my work with what I have been writing recently about faux foodies. I scratched my head at that.

The people who would be upset with my message are not really those who will help heal our food system, in my opinion.

The people who are giving me positive feedback – the ones who like the work I am doing these days – are original recipe foodies (those who are still true to the origins of the local food movement) and the general public.

Yes, the public. I know you are out there!

You are not just dollar signs for the celebrity chefs and corporations hoping to capitalize on the local food movement’s success. YOU… and I hope you are listening…. are the stars of our food system. You hold the power to reform and renew.

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What exactly are faux foodies accomplishing?

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The days of original recipe foodies thinking helpful anyone who spreads the word about our food system are over. The faux foodies, at best, have shown themselves to be nothing but conformists who say the same thing over and over. Just varying the packages slightly.

At their worst, they are harming the local food movement by encouraging ignorance about important issues and getting information out there that dilutes and obfuscates.

Faux foodies know how to make their message most palatable for the masses. It’s why they are successful. What that means is they process their work until it is the least likely to offend anyone or make people think for themselves.

Similar to the way food is processed in our country, so people’s bodies don’t have to work to digest raw nutrients. Hmm, interesting.

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The ultimate powerlessness of Mean Girls in the local food movement

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When I first became part of the local food movement one of the things I liked best was how super supportive people were of one another. And that still exists, just not among the nouveau fashionista “foodies” who are team players of a different ilk.

The type where some people might not want to cross them (i.e. think for themselves – the bane of the mean girls.)

One run-in with them

I wrote a story for a newspaper which local fashionista foodies did not like, because the person involved thought it hurt their image. That person rallied their friends (because that’s what bullies do).

And, really, there was seriously nothing bad in the story – just someone’s ego.

Enter a foodie mean girl hit squad.

They were vicious, choosing cowardly emails so they could hide behind computer screens, and basically assailed my freedom of the press. Which I did not take lightly. I told them point-blank what I thought of their tactics.

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Trust me, I’m a farmer

When the local food movement became trendy it must have been like a revelation, a hallelujah, to some small family farmers. Here they were – being lauded, being made into heroes and romanticized.

The reality, though, is that farmers are people just like you and me and the guy next door. And sometimes we all make mistakes or take wrong turns.

So, when the message became, we like farmers – let’s give them a break, some took advantage. They grew their businesses quickly and exponentially. Cut corners and became less concerned with sustainability and more interested in cashing in on the trend before it went away.

Other farmers stayed small – or at least manageable – and continued to take great pains to nurture their soil. They use cover crops to restore nutrients to the ground. They might make their own compost, rotate crops and let portions of their land lay fallow.

Composting and cover crops feed the soil while synthetic fertilizer feeds the plants. I want my fruits and vegetables to be fed by the soil, which is, after all, the most important part of farming.

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Jaded, snow-weary journalist once again likes the white stuff

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For a long time, Laura Modlin liked snow, then she didn’t and then… As the first snow of the 2014-15 season began to emerge through the rain that started the day, she asked herself a question – how come I stopped liking snow?

She shuddered, though, as she recalled the incessant snow-blown 2010-11 season when it just never stopped. The fortuitous thing that year was that the newspaper and magazine journalist had become an owner of the best all-wheel-drive vehicle EVER. But, she rarely hit the roads because not everyone had such a great car and there was lots of slip sliding. Besides, the snow was piled so high it was scary to not be able to see when you exited a parking lot.

It took late into the spring that year for it all to melt.

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