Posts Tagged ‘Women Nourish Us’

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 ( If you would like to host a screening of FRESH for your friends or organization, please – be in touch!


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 ( If you would like to host a screening of FRESH for your friends or organization, please – be in touch!


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 ( If you would like to host a screening of FRESH for your friends or organization, please – be in touch!


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, ) 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 ( If you would like to host a screening of FRESH for your friends or organization, please – be in touch!


Posted on August 18, 2010 - by

You’re The One

“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!

Seattle-based Kim O’Donnel is a trained chef, nationally recognized online food personality and longtime journalist.  She is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education and The University of Pennsylvania.  Formerly of The Washington Post, she has also written for Real Simple, Huffington Post, True/Slant, CivilEats and  She is a regular contributor to Culinate, where she hosts a weekly chat.  In her work, she combines reportage and analysis on where and how our food is raised and grown with practical tips and advice on the kitchen life.

Kim recently attended the kick-off event at the White House for Chefs Move to Schools, Michelle Obama’s latest initiative focused on child nutrition and wellness. She is the founder of Canning Across America, a collective dedicated to the revival of preserving food.   Her first book, “The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook,” will be released on September 14.

Dreams come true if you let them.

Two years ago this week, I was driving through Wyoming as part of a cross-country move from DC to Seattle. It would be another month before boxes would be pried open and my home office would be set up – and an idea for a cookbook would be hatched. Brainstorming is like breathing for me, and it’s what friends and family have come to expect as part of the package. Not all ideas stick to the wall, but this one, dreamed up in September 2008, followed me day and night, until I embraced it and said, You’re The One.

My flight of imagination safely landed onto paper and quickly morphed into semi-coherent thoughts that resulted in a book proposal. In less than one year, I had an agent and a book deal. And on the second anniversary of my cross-country sojourn, I have an advance copy of my book, The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook, in hand. I share this little tale not to toot my own horn, but as a reminder:

Dreams come true if you let them.

The book goes something like this: Heeding the call of lowering my cholesterol (and my carbon footprint), I, Miss Meat Lover USA, pledged to take one day off from my beloved roasts, chops and steaks. To keep the meatless momentum going, I developed a collection of 52 meatless menus, one for every week of the year, that works its way through the seasons. But let’s be clear: I am not a meatless missionary on some quest to convert the hamburger lovers of the world. Rather, my mission is to lure people back into the kitchen. I’m not interested in labels (flexitarian, vegetarian and so on), but I am working my darnedest every day to remind Americans that food is not something we watch being prepared on cable television, but dinner made from our hands, with salt, pepper and pots and pans.

In becoming a nation of food-obsessed non-cooks, we have fallen into a collective coma, a legion of unwittingly passive spectators that will eat anything set in front of us, no questions asked. By taking a pass at the stove, we have been elbowed out of the table, headed by genetically modified corn and soy barons with really big appetites for big money and little-to-zero interest in protecting the soil, the animals, the workers and the ever-hungry American consumer.

Of course I’d love for you to put my eat-less-meat idea to the test and buy the book, but more than anything, my dream is to get all of us cooking again. Meatless, meat-filled – it doesn’t matter to me. Let’s open that kitchen door, all together now, and ignite a flame for all to see. The results, I promise you, will be delicious.

Dreams come true if you let them.

To get in touch with Kim or learn more about her work, visit her website or take part in her weekly chat on Culinate. Feeling inspired to go meatless one day a week? You can pre-order her book here.

Photos on this page by Myra Kohn.

*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 ( If you would like to host a screening of FRESH for your friends or organization, please – be in touch!


Posted on August 11, 2010 - by

Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater.

“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!

Jeannie Benally is from Nenahnezad on the Navajo Nation in Fruitland, New Mexico.  She is an extension agent under the USDA for the “Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Program,” based out of the University of Arizona.  Jeannie works exclusively for the Navajo Nation, located in the northeastern portion of the reservation spanning across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Her work projects include agricultural education and research.  She hosts two conferences per year – Shiprock Agriculture Days and Fall Agriculture Seminar.  Recently, she received funding for a research project titled, “Model Farmer Dissemination Project,” of which 120 farmers were recruited and trained in pesticide management.  Last year, Jeannie hosted the 1st annual Native American Women in Agriculture Conference.  Just a few months ago, she hosted the 2nd one.  Jeannie received special funding to implement “Annie’s Project,” targeting 20 native women farmers to receive 6 weeks of intense training in the risk management areas of finances, human resources, legal, marketing and production.  She also works with her region’s 4-H youth, ages 9-19.  Jeannie is single mom with three sons and one granddaughter.

Did you Know? “Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.” This statement is so true on the Navajo Nation reservation where our native women are the backbone to the family structure.  It is a matrilineal kinship structure within the family where the mother is in charge – wow!    I remember during my childhood years how my mother stayed home and kept the family together.  Every time we came home from school, she would have something cooking on the stove.  It wasn’t anything like fast foods, but native traditional foods.  It was a welcome sight, and to smell the food was even better.

On the Navajo Nation today, a majority of women are in the workforce.  The children and youth are left to fend for themselves.  The farmlands are idle and the range lands lack vegetation as well as livestock.  What went wrong?  My analysis of the situation is that there is an “imbalance of nature.”   The Navajo term, hozho meaning harmony, went out the window. Who’s to blame?  Who knows?  Many factors may have caused this turn of events in the family structure:  unemployment, indebtedness, poverty and alcoholism or more have ravished the Dine Bikeyah, our Navajolands.

Despite all of this, as an extension agent with University of Arizona, I feel it is partly my responsibility to keep the tradition of farming and ranching alive.  How?  By implementing projects to help women farm and ranch again and taking their rightful places in the home. Decades ago, our ancestors lived off the land and livestock.  Today, it is called sustainable agriculture.

The movement has begun:  a call to nurture women in agriculture is developing through projects such as the annual Native American Women in Agriculture conferences:  a place where agricultural education outreach can be sought as a resource for many women.  Workshops in topics relating to food safety issues, drip irrigation methods, and the like are conducted.  Another project, the Shiprock Annie’s Project: six weeks of intense training in the risk management areas of finances, human resources, legal, marketing and production targeting 20 native women farmers was completed.  We have taken action to revitalize and improve the farming operations along the San Juan River.  According to the 2007 agriculture census statistics, the number of women who were principal operators of a farm or ranch increased by almost 30% from 2002.  Principal operators meaning are the ones farming and making daily decisions pertaining to for the farm/ranch operations.

Navajo women will once again bear the brunt of preserving and conserving the traditions of the Navajo Nation.  Native traditional foods preparation will be taught to the younger generation; seed cleaning/saving will be emphasized for future food supply; and a cherished legacy will be left behind for generations to come.

The equilibrium will be normal again.

To get in touch with Jeannie or learn more about her projects, visit her Shiprock Agency site here.

*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 ( If you would like to host a screening of FRESH for your friends or organization, please – be in touch!


Posted on August 4, 2010 - by

With a Little Determination and A Lot of Caffeine…

“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!

Jacqueline Church is an independent food, wine & spirits writer whose work often focuses on “sensible sustainability” issues. She delights in helping people make practical choices to improve their lives and reduce their impact on the planet.

Her work appears in national and regional print media, including Culture: the World on Cheese and Edible Santa Barbara. She is a contributing writer to Nourish Network, writes the gourmet food column for Suite101, and publishes two blogs, The Leather District Gourmet and Pig Tales & Fish Friends.

She came to writing from a career covering diverse fields including the practice of law, high tech and management consulting. Her commitment to conservation issues precedes it all and began with a love of Jacques Cousteau and National Geographic. Since discovering Julia Child as an adolescent, she’s been devoted to good food and today combines all of these in the examination of global food issues and the nature of being a responsible gourmet.

She’s the founder of Teach a Man to Fish and Teach a Chef to Fish sustainable seafood events that engage people in the work of making more sustainable seafood choices for their families and restaurants.

I was the kid who always wanted to know “why” and often asked “why not?” I was always sure something better was just behind that closed door. I was always certain more fun was going to happen the minute I fell asleep.

I was the wrong kid to try to keep entertained during a childhood on a sterile, redundant, stifling military base. Three things diverted me from a life of crime: the National Geographic Society magazines on the coffee table, Jacques Cousteau specials on the television, and later, the discovery of Julia Child and cooking. If not for these, I’m quite sure I’d be asking you to bake me a cake with a file in it by now.

Lucky for me, my parents piqued my curiosity with legal but intoxicating ideas about the world. I vowed young that I would learn to dive so I could see that “undersea world.” I was probably still in jammies with feet when I promised myself that one day, I’d see Machu Picchu and visit the Terra Cotta Warriors. I knew in my travels I would eat exotic things, meet interesting people, and see wonderful ruins. I also knew I’d have to be a careful steward of the world out there that looked so very different from the one I lived in – the one that hardly seemed worth noticing at all.

Life happened. I got big girl PJs, big girl jobs and moved on to work that fed me in some ways and left me hungry in others. A couple of mixed blessings (AKA pink slips) left me wondering when I’d work at something that fed me more completely than law, than consulting, than hi tech bus dev gigs I’d enjoyed.

Eventually, I found writing and am learning to scratch out a living at it. More importantly, I discovered I could combine the things that are most important to me with writing. I could help people learn about these things through writing.

A few years ago, I hit upon the idea of sustainable seafood. Back then, it was still something not many folks in the mainstream were talking about. Many of us were still eating bluefin tuna and wondering if we really should. I’d been following the work of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and decided to use my blog to host an event called “Teach a Man to Fish.” During a limited period in the late Summer-Early Fall, I invite chefs, food writers, cookbook authors, home cooks, bloggers, everyone with an interest in sustainable seafood, to share recipes, resources, tips and questions.

Each participant sends me a recipe, a photo and a short blurb about how they chose that seafood or what they learned about sustainable seafood they prepared. I tidy up all the disparate emails, re-size the photos and add resource information about the seafood used, the challenge presented, to each entry. Then I post one mammoth round up of them all. The recipes are there for everyone to enjoy. I’ve built a resource guide that includes guides for purchasing sustainable seafood, sites with more information, scientific reports, fun clips and related news. Bloggers share their URLS and everyone gains new knowledge about more sustainable choices for their table.

In the 3+ years that I’ve hosted this event I’ve been invited to the Sustainability Institute and Cooking for Solutions, met some hard-working advocates for ocean conservation and sustainable food issues. I’ve met some wonderful chefs including some “Top Chefs” and my blog has been graced with some terrific stories by people around the globe. I’ve been to Cordova, AK to learn about salmon fisheries management and to meet actual fishermen.

I’ve seen the growth of sustainable sushi restaurants and helped to introduce chefs to new tools and resources for restaurant professionals through workshops for chefs I added last year. “Teach a Chef to Fish” will likely take a different shape this year, and I have been thrilled to introduce some new tools to chefs who were starting their inquiry or looking to deepen or broaden their reach.

When I was asked to contribute to this Women Who Nourish Us series, I was humbled. What could I have done or said to catapult me into this amazing cadre of women? Then I realized that the line I toss off when describing Teach a Man to Fish is at the core of this series’ intentions.

I often say my blog event is “simply an example of what one woman — armed with a little determination and a lot of caffeine — can do.” This is exactly the point, I think. I am not a marine biologist or a conservation expert with a degree. I’m simply someone who cares about these issues and is determined to help others build their own confidence and competence with them.

Each of us can pull up a big cup o’ Joe and get down to the business of whatever we think it is that needs to be done. All it takes is the willingness to ignore the odds, to disregard whether it’s been done before, the patience to explain a vision that may not at first make sense to anyone else. And when someone says it can’t be done, the willingness to ask — “why not?”

• Teach a Man to Fish began as a small blog event in 2007 with about 2 dozen recipes.
• In 2009, I designed and presented chefs’ workshops and delivered them in Boston &
Chicago. I delivered a shorter version at the International Boston Seafood Show with
chefs Andy Husbands and Barton Seaver.
• I speak regularly on the topic and recent engagements include a Slow Food Panel,
screening of The End of the Line and presenting at Tufts Friedman School on a panel
“Farm, Fish and Fowl: Exploring Sustainability.”
• TAMTF has been cited in Utne Reader’s Sustainable Seafood Report, noted by the
Sustainable Ocean Project and nominated for a Seafood Champions Award by the
Time Magazine 2009 Environmental Hero himself, Casson Trenor.
• Join in this year’s Teach a Man to Fish event on

*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 ( If you would like to host a screening of FRESH for your friends or organization, please – be in touch!