Tuesday, March 6, 2012

after the White House

Yesterday I traveled to Washington DC, right to Pennsylvania Avenue. Drove to the train, transferred to the subway and then walked a couple of blocks. As I approached the White House tons of Secret Service officers stopped all vehicle and foot traffic, as a motorcade approached. We all waited as many vehicles drove past, until finally several limousines with the flag of Israel drive past. Looks like the president might be busy with someone else today.

Then round to the check point..after a slight delay into another security checkpoint and then into the meeting.

Lots of friends there. I'm surprised by how many people I know who are part of the food network and are part of the expanding world of how food gets to people.

Through twitter I met Orren Fox, a high school freshman who has started all kinds of farm clubs at his not traditionally an ag school. While waiting to get through security I met Michael Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College, a school in Dallas. When he arrived there it was a food desert.no where close to get any fresh food..so the school tore up their football field and replaced it with a vegetable garden. Holly Freishtat, Baltimore City food czar was there. Dena Leibman from SARE and Stephanie Ritchie, the USDA librarian for alternative farming. I met the president of FFA and a number of other folks who work for the USDA.

The time there was to bring focus to the USDA Know Your Farmer Know Your Food website. This website uses an interactive map to highlight all the work that the USDA is doing to support farmers who grow food that is eaten..the funding of hoophouses, of food hubs (to help aggregate food from farmers into packaging that groceries and food service systems can handle), the funding of card readers at farmers markets so SNAP cards can be used there, the funding of small, portable meat processing plants (including recognition that many small facilities will help with food safety issues)..after Kathleen Merrigan reviewed each of the areas the USDA is working and pushing to help food get grown and stay local I had no questions for her. And then Sam Kass had joined in the conversation, speaking with love and reverence for..vegetables..grown in the White House garden, and used in meal preparation for the first family. He also spoke of keeping honeybees, and just how easy both of these things are to have anywhere. I had the chance to speak with Colleen Rossier, who does research on the science of farming. Our farm philosophy, dedicated to the idea that others can replicate what we do here, employ a couple of people, support a number of other farms, use little to no fossil fuel and still produce quite a bit of food did not seem at all odd to the assembled crowd.

It was interesting and enlightening. I was happy to participate, to tweet my thoughts and impressions..and then get back to picking up vegetable pulp from local juice bars to feed to the pigs. Such is the farmers life.

When Undersecretary Merrigan asked me about meat and processing where we are..I just had to tell her I had driven 2 pigs to the butcher on my way to DC that morning..

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