Archive for the ‘FRESH gets personal’ Category


Posted on February 17, 2011 - by

Diversity Demons: The Struggle to Eat Local

The discontent arrived in fits and starts. Mere days after arriving in Italy, I stood crestfallen at the market, valiantly searching for a bunch of cilantro. Piles of parsley surrounded me, a taunting, isomorphic reminder that I was far from home. The bulk bins were swollen with cannellini beans and lentils, but there was nary a sign of black beans. In the baking aisle, I combed the shelves for baking powder. Instead, thin packages with florid photos of cakes touted the ammonia-based leavening agent inside. Skeptical, I stifled my frustration and went home to yet another meal with pasta.

In June, I fell in love with an avocado. The supple, emerald skin beckoned from across the supermarket aisle and I could not tear my eyes away. According to the label, the avocado had been imported from Israel. In lecture that morning, we had discussed the concept of food miles and the merits of buying local goods. I ignored a nagging feeling of guilt and bought the avocado anyway.

But wait, I moved abroad to learn about classic Italian cooking, did I not? Why on earth was I longing for corn tortillas? With freshly made focaccia and grissini in every corner bakery, how was it that I could not shake my yearning for one good bagel?

Italy is renowned for the depth and sophistication of its native cuisine, but the strength of this staunchly traditional food culture comes at a price. Despite the persistent forces of globalization, there have been few inroads made in the availability of international food products, particularly in Italy’s smaller towns. This poses a conundrum for an international student body, accustomed to cooking and eating in a more cosmopolitan fashion. In a land blessed with over 25 officially recognized types of cured meats and 400 cheeses, what happens when all you can do is fixate on finding a jar of peanut butter?

As I reluctantly settled into a more provincial lifestyle, whispers began trickling through the grapevine, hinting that there was more to the town’s food offerings than meets the eye. Check out the Ortobra grocery on Corso Novembre IV, they murmured, you just might find what you are looking for. One banal Tuesday afternoon, I strolled into the Ortobra and proceeded to the back corner. There it was, a shimmering oasis of foreign and ethnic goods, shelves lined with everything from cardamom to tapioca balls. Quaker oatmeal! Coconut milk! Best of all, stacked above the cans of condensed milk, there were jars of German-made peanut butter. Suddenly, it felt as though a hole of my life had been plugged with a dollop of gooey, finger-licking paste.

Upon hearing my ecstatic news, friends at home gently chastised me with bemused grins. “I’d love to be eating locally where you are now!” they exclaimed.

The principle of food sovereignty advocates access to “safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate” food for all. What does it mean to have access to culturally appropriate foods as an American? At the risk of sounding petulant and demanding, it means I want everything. It means that without leaving my hometown, I can explore and taste cuisines from all over the world. It means I can appreciate a fine glass of Barolo wine, followed by a bowl of macaroni and cheese, and end with a fish taco in hand. It means that the world is rapidly growing too small for any society to close itself off and sustain an entirely indigenous food culture.

The simple truth is that before “locavore” entered our lexicon, there was another word for people who confined themselves to eating foods produced near their homes: peasants. As the quintessential omnivores, we crave diversity in our diets and the pace of globalization means we are exposed to new and exciting foods at an unprecedented rate. I am certainly not alone. Already, consumers in developing countries have begun seeking a greater selection of international novelties. Italian wines in Brazil. Prosciutto in China. As palates grow more sophisticated, the demand will rise for the world’s finest truffles, authentic maple syrup, and fresh mangosteen. And why not? Maybe this cultural exchange will help bring us all closer together.

Is my kitchen filled with exotic condiments and imported cans? Yes. Do I encourage friends and family to shop locally? All the time. Am I a hypocrite? Perhaps. But in my opinion, traditional food culture is dead. Or maybe it never really existed, a romantic fairy tale valorized in modernity. Even in ancient times, wild game from Africa and spices from India traveled to the far reaches of the Roman Empire.

Think about that the next time you reach for the soy sauce.

Drop me a line at crystal@freshthemovie.com.

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Posted on February 2, 2011 - by

Nonna on Loan: Pasta in a Flash

The room was attentive and hushed, save for the rhythmic squeak, squeak whine of the table. Before us, a silver-haired woman dressed in a fruit-patterned apron pressed and kneaded her dough with intensity. The folding table strained to keep up with her exertions.

I was standing in a cozy recreational room, decorated with yellowing posters of the Pope and an old foosball table, inside of a church in the little town of Guastalla. A local cook, Marisa, had offered to demonstrate the art of making sfoglia, a traditional egg pasta from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. For one night, we would adopt Marisa as our very own Italian grandmother.

To make egg pasta, you simply need flour and eggs. No water, no salt, nothing else. Marisa used a 50/50 mix of durum wheat flour and soft wheat flour, building a basin of flour in the center of a large wooden board. Without any measuring devices or scales, she added an egg for every 100 grams of flour, then whisked the eggs together into a limpid golden pool.

It was time to knead the pasta dough. Without hesitation, Marisa gathered the flour and eggs into a ball, adding flour as needed to obtain the right consistency. She pushed, pressed and scraped in fluid movements, her motions instinctive after so many years of daily repetition. Her hips rotated with her body, like the graceful shimmy of a Middle-Eastern dancer. We were wholly mesmerized.

With the precise expertise that comes from a lifetime of practice, Marisa squeezed the now-smooth dough and announced that it was ready. It was time to roll it into sheets.

In the past, Italian women would be tested on their pasta-making skill before a potential marriage. She would make pasta and the sheet would be held up to a window to check its thinness. If light could be seen through the pasta, the woman was worth marrying. Luckily, this custom is no longer in vogue, otherwise there would be very few young Italian women who could pass the test!

Back in the rec room, Marisa had expertly rolled out a paper-thin sheet of uniform thickness in a matter of minutes. With a teaspoon, she added dollops of filling, a mixture of pumpkin, parmesan cheese, amaretti almond cookies, mostarda fruit and mustard chutney, nutmeg and grated lemon peel. She folded the pasta sheet over and cut it into rectangles with a crimped pasta roller. Each piece was folded into a bite-sized tortellini.

My thoughts wandered back to my own grandmother, living in Louisville, KY. Though I have eaten her dumplings and pickles and cakes since childhood, I have never made the effort to systematically observe and take notes on the way she cooks. The pressures of time and distance were always too difficult to overcome. But here, I was struck by the life and dynamism embodied by Marisa in this dying tradition.

Maybe it was time for me to go home.

_______________________________

What have you learned in the kitchen from your mother or grandmother? What do you want to learn? What can you teach and share with others?

Feel free to drop a line at crystal@freshthemovie.com.

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Posted on September 22, 2010 - by

We Are The Ones

“Women Nourish Us” is FRESH’s femme-focused blog series. For the past twelve weeks, we’ve turned to a leading woman in the good food movement for ideas and inspiration. Today is the last post of this series, and it asks for action. Send out the charge!

Carrie Oliver is the founder of The Artisan Beef Institute™ and owner of The Oliver Ranch Company™. Her mission is to transform beef and other meats from commodities to a more deeply appreciated food by leveraging a little known secret: the very best meat is like wine, it presents a wide array of flavors and textures depending on the land and the artisans who craft it. Beef has terroir. Often referred to as “The Robert Parker of Beef,” “The Meat Sommelier,” or more simply, “The Beef Geek,” Carrie asks a simple question: If Rutherford is famous for Cabernet Sauvignon and Carneros for Pinot Noir, why not similar appellations for beef? She hosts exciting educational Artisan Beef, Pork, Lamb, Poultry, and Goat tastings across North America and offers home tasting kits through her online marketplace, The Oliver Ranch Company.

What would you do if you walked into a grocery store and saw only one flavor of ice cream, a single variety of lettuce, or one kind of bread: Wonder Bread. My guess is that you would first be mystified and then promptly take your business to a different store.

Would you consider doing the same if your store offers just one variety of beef?

When it comes to processed goods and some produce, grocers almost invariably present us with a huge variety from which to choose. On one visit to a small supermarket I counted 76 different tomato-based spaghetti sauces, 7 varieties of apple, and a selection of wines that would fit any budget, flavor preference, or occasion.

Now think for a moment how meat is merchandised. We see a lot of different cuts of beef, pork, or chicken. Beef is sometimes further sorted by the amount of fat in it, e.g. USDA Select, Choice, or Prime. You may occasionally see a brand name or label claiming that the cattle were raised without certain drugs.

Five years ago this would have seemed like a lot of variety to me. After careful study and countless beef tastings, I know that it is not. For fans of FRESH, The Movie, and readers of this blog, this has important implications.

Let’s debunk one myth.
Marbling – the primary metric considered in the USDA grading system – plays a less important role in predicting the flavor and tenderness of beef than is generally perceived. One 1994 study concluded that fat marbling explains “only 5% of the variation in tenderness… and palatability…”




































I’d like to let you in on a little secret: beef is like wine. There are some 800,000 ranches in North America raising hundreds of  different breeds and crossbreeds of cattle. As with wine, flavor and texture can vary widely by farm, breed, specific diet, the age of the cattle, husbandry practices, low stress handling, marbling and – importantly – by the relative talents of the farmer, trucker, slaughterhouse worker, and butcher.

If one looks at the farm level, there are likely far more actual or potential varieties of beef as there are types of spaghetti sauce,  apples, and even wine.

The retail industry has, perhaps understandably, looked upon this as a negative. Perhaps it’s because it would arguably be difficult to clearly label multiple different cuts of beef from different farms on the shelf. As well, since there is insufficient labeling and consumer awareness, from a consumer’s perspective it can be frustrating to have flavor change from one week to the next. Hence, the industry has been striving over the past several decades to create uniformity, relying on the USDA grading system to provide differentiation to support premium versus budget price options.

Unfortunately, this has led beef to become a commodity product focused on yield and throughput, not flavor. When I asked one rancher whether his beef (Blonde d’Aquitaine) would taste different than another rancher’s beef (Shorthorn), his response was “You know, no one has ever asked me that question. The only thing we get paid for is how much marbling is in the beef and how much beef comes off the bone.”

Now why does this matter and what does it have to do with women?

16% of we women go grocery shopping on any single day and on average, we dedicate more than two times the amount of time to grocery shopping than men. We are the ones in charge of what is offered on supermarket shelves because our dollars are what make a product or store succeed or fail.

If we want to take the widget out of beef, here are two things we can do.

There are artisan producers who raise and process beef not just to make a particular label claim, such as Choice, grass-fed, or naturally raised, but also to make fabulous tasting steaks, burgers, and roasts. They carefully choose cattle to fit their growing region and a diet, slaughter date, and aging technique, along with low-stress handling, because they make for better meat. We need these people to be wildly successful!

I provide tasting notes and reviews of meats from these producers on my Artisan Beef Institute Web site. If you have a favorite  producer, help them sell their products by telling me who they are so I can meet them, too. I also invite you to write a guest review of your favorite beef, pork, lamb, or poultry for my site.

Second, retailers have catered to our different needs, desires, and values by offering variety in just about every category one can think of other than meat. It is up to us to let them know that we want.

I invite you to download a list of questions to ask your butcher (or even your farmer). Share this with friends and ask the meat  counter team the questions. If they can’t answer to your satisfaction, ask whether they can find out for you and, if you can, don’t buy the meat until they are able to answer these questions to your satisfaction. Build a relationship with your butchers based on mutual respect and we’ll see changes with time.

Finally, I will leave you something to ponder. Think about where wine was in the 1970s (white wine, red wine, fine wine, jug wine) and where it is today. We are the ones who can make a difference. By rewarding and recognizing the best, we will help support humane animal husbandry, keep good people on the land, and have better tasting, more personalized meats on our plates. It’s a win – win – win – win for all. What could be better than that?

To get in touch with Carrie or learn more about her work, visit the Oliver Ranch Company website.

*If you believe in the power of women’s words and our growing sustainable food movement, please spread the word about our Women Nourish Us blog series via email, Facebook & Twitter (http://bit.ly/bDJGtX). If you would like to host a screening of FRESH for your friends or organization, please – be in touch!

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Posted on September 15, 2010 - by

Interview with Lia Huber of Nourish Network

“Women Nourish Us” is FRESH’s femme-focused blog series. Every week, we turn to a leading woman in the good food movement for ideas and inspiration. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lia Huber about her new and impressive endeavor, The Nourish Network.

Lia  Huber is the founder and CEO of the rich-content website, Nourish Network, and its companion small group coaching program, My Nourish Mentor. Lia is also a widely published food writer and recipe developer, for magazines like Cooking Light, Prevention and Health, and a rising presence both on-screen and in-person. In any format she tackles, Lia brings passion—and fun—to her message of nourishing body, soul and planet with every bite.

I was reading that you lived in Greece for a while. Is there a Greek dish you make at home now – from memory?

I used to work in my ex-fiance’s family restaurant. I started out as a salad girl. I still make a mean Greek salad – which is helpful – especially now at this time of year when there are so many tomatoes and cucumbers. I also make souvlaki. I just made souvlaki the other night with tzatziki – with that yogurt cucumber dip. And this potato dip – skordalia – that’s an awesome, awesome dish. They serve it traditionally with salt cod fritters. Dip it in or spoon it on top…

You have a greeting on your website’s front page that says, “If you’re looking to enjoy a healthy body, a comfortable weight, and an eco clean conscience, while getting more pleasure from your food, you’ve come to the right place,” which I found really intriguing. I’m wondering what eco clean conscience means to you, since it’s potentially a kind of intimating phrase that people might not know how to decipher…

I define that as a way of eating that matches your values. There’s a whole sector of people now who are very well versed in the sustainability realm, but there’s an even bigger chunk of people who are really confused by it. It’s disheartening that people have to go to the fish counter and feel uneasy about buying fish, or walk through the produce aisle and be like, “should I buy organic, should I buy – what should I buy?” Or eggs! Let’s take eggs. There’s a recall and people are all of a sudden terrified to buy eggs. Food shopping now is a really stressful experience.

There’s the health aspect, but now I think there’s also this value aspect, where more than ever people are now going, “Wait a second – I want food that’s safe for me and my family. I want food where the animal hasn’t been completely mistreated. I want food where I know people haven’t been mistreated.” I feel like there’s a deep-seated, bubbling up in people, where they don’t even know exactly what they are looking for, or what they’re questioning, but they want to eat in a way that gives them a clean conscience.

The other thing that I noticed in my research and that I thought was a pretty deep intention on your part – personally – was that you talk about wanting to help people find fulfillment. I’m wondering what being fulfilled means to you personally, and how you think your work helps people find fulfillment for themselves.

As a teenager, I used to really eschew the word contentment. I used to think it meant you were sitting around, twiddling your thumbs. But, as I’ve gotten older (and wiser!), I’ve discovered this richness around contentment, this richness around digging deeper in every moment… I find this a lot with my daughter, where you’re in that moment, I have this choice of being like, “hang on, honey, I gotta check my email,” (which I do sometimes), or to sit down and look her in the eye and meet her where she is. And that applies to food.  We have to feed ourselves three times a day – roughly – in our world, in our society, we eat three times a day. And that’s three opportunities we get each day to to either be nourished by that experience and have it be something deeper than just what we put in our bodies, or just a to-do to get past. You know, “I have to make dinner!” rush. It enables us to connect to where that food is coming from…it’s a sensual experience to be grateful for the food that’s coming to my plate. And then in preparing it, becoming present in preparing your food.

If you’ve ever gotten heirloom tomatoes – my husband once cried when he cut open an heirloom tomato because it was so beautiful. They are just so lovely.

And then the two-fold experience of eating, where you’re connecting with your body, and also those you are sharing it with others. It’s a huge spectrum of being filled – ful/filled at very deep levels. I guess that’s what I mean by being fulfilled.

I was hoping you could explain what “grow food” is and what you think adults could pack into lunch boxes in mid-September.

Well, one of the issues with kids is that no matter how healthy a lunch you pack, they’re gonna go for the chips or for the cookie, first. And so, my daughter’s teacher came up with this term of “grow food,” where the kids have to eat their “grow food” first. And the cool thing is, Noemi has gotten excited about it. So when I’m making her lunch or we’re getting dinner together, we have a conversation about “which of these are ‘grow food’?” She understands that these are the foods that are helping her grow. When she has the cheddar bunnies, yeah they taste good, but she knows that they aren’t ‘grow food.” It’s fun, because it’s giving this healthy food this caché, this specialness to it.

So, in terms of what to pack. I think that quesadillas and omelets are two awesome, sort-of overlooked items for the lunch box. Because quesadillas, just a simple bean or cheese quesadilla with a whole grain corn tortilla, are good and healthy with whole grains and protein, and it’s great finger food. Or I’ll make like a little mini omelet with whatever we have on hand. I’ll just chop up greens and sauté them and then put a scrabbled egg in it. It gets nice and firm at room temp, and you can cut it up into triangles or whatever, which is how a lot of cultures eat a frittatas or omelet sort of things.

Bottom line is you want food that tastes really good.

Nourish Network, I imagine, was an incredible endeavor to create. What in the past or now has been hugely challenging for you personally? Was there something frustrating or disappointing in the process of making it come together?

{Laughs} Everything’s been a challenge! Actually….Nourish Network….I’d been a writer and recipe developer for twelve years for major magazines, so I had “chops.” But, I did not want to write a recipe, I did not want to do a cookbook for a long time, because I wanted to really find my calling before I did that – before I stepped out and did a book. And about two years ago, I did find my calling after lots and lots of soul searching. I’ve also been a branding consultant for many years, so I thought, I’m going to work on my own brand. “What is the message that I’m supposed to bring to the world?” Big question. It really got distilled down to, “I want to nourish people. I want to teach people how to nourish themselves.” That bubbled up and it turned into a book proposal.

Well, that book proposal went out to the world the week the market crashed. And the whole idea was that I was going to have this book proposal go out and use the advance from the book to pay for Nourish Network, for the website development. But the publishing industry just went “craultpltz!” and imploded on itself and nothing ever happened with the book. But I decided I still wanted to move forward with the development of Nourish Network. So, then I started having big conversations with my husband, “OK, are we ready to dip into savings and max out credit lines?”…to do all this stuff to build this? Bless his heart, man, he’s been an amazing support through all of this. But, it’s been all on our own resources, through a very, very difficult time, to do anything, let alone something that is not easily package-able. So, it’s been a challenge to simply do this, to rally the resources to do it.

There were sometimes during our beta launch {the website} where I’d just lie there at night and think, “This isn’t going to work. What are we going to do?” because there were a lot of technological problems then. There’s definitely those nights of not sleeping, thinking “What if all of this is for naught?” But, it always comes back to, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. There’s kind of no choice for me, because this is my calling.

What is really exciting right now – or a new initiative – with Nourish Network?

My Nourish Mentor is so exciting to me. Being somebody who would write an article…and then a year later it would go to print…it’s incredible to be so much closer to the impact. Nourish Network got a little closer, with people’s comments and the member area, so there’s a closer aspect to it. But, My Nourish Mentor takes it even closer, where literally for six months I’m walking with people through this transformation process. It’s been unreal to hear people’s stories, how people are changing their whole relationship with food. It’s just amazing.

We’re doing this with individuals, but we are also doing this with corporations. So companies are starting to offer Nourish Mentor to their employees.

Interview by Jamie Yuenger

To get in touch with Lia or learn more about her work, visit the The Nourish Network website.

*If you believe in the power of women’s words and our growing sustainable food movement, please spread the word about our Women Nourish Us blog series via email, Facebook & Twitter (http://bit.ly/bDJGtX). If you would like to host a screening of FRESH for your friends or organization, please – be in touch!

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Posted on September 8, 2010 - by

Women Farmers: An Irresistible Force

“Women Nourish Us” is FRESH’s femme-focused blog series. Every week, we turn to a leading woman in the good food movement for ideas and inspiration. Be sure to check us out every Wednesday for a new write-in. Then pass the post!

Mary Peabody is the Director of the Women’s Agricultural Network as well as a Community & Economic Development Specialist with University of Vermont Extension and most recently as Associate Director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. She has worked in agriculture since 1988 working on business development; feasibility studies; diversification and small farm profitability. She has developed many workshops and courses for small-scale farmers and offers several classes online each year. Her research interests include the sustainability of rural communities, sustainable development and issues pertaining to social and economic justice for women.

Every five years the federal government takes a census of the farmers in the U.S.A. As the findings make their way into the media stream there are inevitably inquiries about the stories these numbers tell. The story I’m most involved with has to do with the rise in the number of women farmers.  As of the last count in 2007, women make up just over 30% of the farmers in this country. This is a 19% increase from the previous 2002 Census of Agriculture.

As these numbers are released I receive calls from journalists around the country interested in the phenomena of women farmers. The most consistent question is “Do you expect this trend to continue?” The short answer is “YES!” Explaining why is a bit more involved. While women are increasingly visible in agriculture, there are multiple factors driving the increase.

The first contributor is the aging of the farm population. Since women have a longer life expectancy it follows that more women will inherit farms as widows. This seems to be a significant trend primarily in the mid-western states but will continue to grow across the country.

The second contributor involves who gets counted.  Women have always been farm partners but given that the Ag Census traditionally counted only one farmer per farm, women were frequently left uncounted. The 2002 Agricultural Census was the first to allow more than one farmer per farm to be identified.

Third, women who have been a consistent part of the workforce are now able to retire with the resources, both personal and financial, to invest in a business startup. Many new women farmers are career-changers who are leaving positions in education, healthcare, banking, and government to pursue their passion for farming.

Finally, increasing numbers of women are graduating college with agricultural degrees and entrepreneurial spirit. These women have the skills, knowledge and passion to pursue farming as a livelihood.

The second most common question I field about women farmers and the Women’s Agricultural Network is, “Why do women need their own program—isn’t it all the same information?” [All the feminists reading this can do a collective eye-roll now.]

We are well into the planning of our second Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference being  held November 1-3 in Fairlee, VT. As marketing for the conference unfolds we will get a fresh round of these questions. So, for the record, the single biggest reason to offer programs targeting women farmers is that women farmers want them. Women feel empowered by being in the company of other women. They approach business development and planning from a wholistic perspective so while the content might look familiar the delivery is often quite different.

Other reasons to target women farmers include the fact that they are still an under-served population in most agricultural programs. Their farms tend to be smaller and under capitalized. Women tend not to have the same types of networks in place making it more difficult for them to find the right resource at the right time. Women farmers are still more likely than their male counterparts to be juggling family and household management while trying to start a business.

If you are lucky enough to have a woman farmer in your life I hope you will pass along the information about the conference.

To get in touch with Mary or learn more about her work, visit the Women’s Agricultural Network website.

*If you believe in the power of women’s words and our growing sustainable food movement, please spread the word about our Women Nourish Us blog series via email, Facebook & Twitter (http://bit.ly/bDJGtX). If you would like to host a screening of FRESH for your friends or organization, please – be in touch!

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Posted on September 2, 2010 - by

FRESH Is Going Global

FRESH has a number of international screenings coming up. It is really exciting to see the FRESH movement spreading around the globe. Check out this video blog to learn more!

Here is a listing of the upcoming international film festivals that FRESH will be shown at. Click to find out more:

Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival

CNEX Documentary Film Festival

Kinookus (Cinetaste)

Tutti Nello Stesso Piatto International Food, Film & Video Diversity Festival

24th Leeds International Film Festival

If you are hosting a FRESH screening outside of the United States, we want to hear from you! Email me with your story, angie@freshthemovie.com.

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Posted on September 1, 2010 - by

Farming’s Indispensable Woman

“Women Nourish Us” is FRESH’s femme-focused blog series. Every week, we turn to a leading woman in the good food movement for ideas and inspiration. Be sure to check us out every Wednesday for a new write-in. Then pass the post!

Nicolette Hahn Niman is an attorney and livestock rancher.  Much of her time is spent speaking and writing about the problems resulting from industrialized food production, including the book Righteous Porkchop:  Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms (HarperCollins, 2009, www.righteousporkchop.com ) and four essays for the New York Times. She is regular blogger for The Atlantic online, and has written for Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and CHOW.  Previously, she was the Senior Attorney for the environmental organization Waterkeeper Alliance where she was in charge of the organization’s campaign to reform the concentrated livestock and poultry industry.  She lives in Bolinas, California with her husband, Bill Niman, founder of Niman Ranch, a natural meat company supplied by a network of over 600 traditional farmers and ranchers.  They now market the products of their ranch under the name BN Ranch.

A filmmaker recently asked me why so few women were involved in raising livestock. I paused before answering because the question surprised me a bit.  Over the past ten years, I’ve visited dozens of farms and ranches raising cattle, dairy cows, pigs, goats, sheep, and poultry in every region of the United States.  At every operation women were an absolutely essential part of the team.

At most of these farms, women kept everyone fed, dressed in clean clothes, and ran the household; they often kept the books.  Usually, they were also deeply involved with the stewardship of lands and animals.  These women are agile, nimble “Jills of all trades” who seamlessly flow from one varied task to another throughout their jammed packed days.

In my experience, women bring a unique sensitivity to animal husbandry, ensuring that each animal gets the individual attention it needs.  Our good friends Rob and Michelle Stokes run a cattle, heritage turkey, and goat ranch in eastern Oregon.  Both are skilled in the arts of agriculture and grazing, but during the kidding and calving seasons it’s Michelle who makes sure that every last goat kid and calf gets nursed and bonds to its mother.

And then there are the farms and ranches that are being taken over by women.  The latest Census of Agricultural shows that the number of women farmers is increasing.  One of these is my friend Cory Carman.  She graduated from Stanford with a degree in political science with no intention of ever returning to the cattle ranch she grew up on.  But when family circumstances drew her back to the ranch, she decided to stay.  Now she and her husband have taken over her family’s cattle ranch, which she has converted to a totally grass based operation.  She direct markets her beef on the Internet and sells it to restaurants.  “It’s a totally different beef industry today than the one I grew up in, which was totally dominated by men,” she told me recently.  She had the revelation when she sat down to talk about meat at a business meeting with two other women, both also in their thirties.

Women make up the vast majority of the membership in animal protection organizations.  Moreover, as an article in E Magazine noted, women have an innate environmental ethic.  It quoted Theodore Roszak, director of the Ecopsychology Institute, which studies the relationships between individuals and nature. While men traditionally viewed Mother Nature “as a devious female to be put in her place, to be tamed” by technology (just as they historically viewed marriage in terms of domination and submission), women have shifted the emphasis from using science to subjugate nature to finding ways to accommodate nature.  “Women in the environmental movement have always had sense of being on Earth’s side,” says Roszak.

It naturally follows that the more women are involved in farming and ranching, the better agriculture will be toward natural resources and farmed animals.  I’m proud to be among their ranks.

To get in touch with Nicolette or learn more about her work, visit her website where you can buy her book, Righteous Porkchop:  Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms (HarperCollins, 2009)

If you believe in the power of women’s words and our growing sustainable food movement, please spread the word about our Women Nourish Us blog series via email, Facebook & Twitter (http://fdl.me/d1nqNe). If you would like to host a screening of FRESH for your friends or organization, please – be in touch!

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