Real Time Farms speaks at TEDx

When Cara was invited to speak at TEDx Manhattan, we decided this was a chance for us all to explore the City together - and explore we did! Wednesday night: One of our first restaurants to join us in New York City was Northern Spy. A brisk walk through the deepening dusk along Broadway and a lesson on NYC geography brought us to the bustling warmth of deliciousness. Beautifully presented, perfectly cooked - old favorites like the kale salad joisted for space with pear salad, roasted cauliflower, meatballs, and duck sausage. Bravissima!

Thursday: Lindsay P and Corinna were interviewed on Heritage Radio’s the Farm Report by Erin Fairbanks(a former Ann Arborite herself). Check it out to learn what comestibles means and hear Lindsay wax eloquent about the Food Warriors (third group started yesterday!)

Then we all went to meet Amanda Hesser and Alex Lutz of Food 52 to learn more about what they are doing and whether we can help each other out! You can use their Hotline to ask questions of cooking experts all over the country (Have a favorite recipe you want to use and your vegan cousin is visiting, they can help you!)

Friday: Cara practiced the speech. Interviews were given - three interviews posted to date (more to come)! Read about us in the Vail Daily, With Respect for Food, and Grist. The team reveled in the view of the Hudson at Print (another great RTF restaurant) for the TEDx preparty. Finally, as rosy fingered dawn began to think about stretching forth, we launched a whole new front page of the website! Bravo Karl and Gaurav!

Saturday: The talks for this years TEDx Manhattan (hopefully which will be posted online in less than a month) ran the full gambit. Dr. David Wallinga from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) shared with us that, “80% of the antibiotics in this country go into animal feed as a preventative.” Urvashi Rangan, Director of the Consumer Safety and Sustainability Group for Consumer Reports, beautifully explained the toothlessness and obfuscation endemic in labels and labeling. Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Societyof the United States (HSUS), went directly to the contradiction in our society: “We have federal laws against dog fighting...but do we care about farm animals?”

Just when the heart, bludgeoned with pictures of concentrated feeding operations/chickens with combs the color of sandpaper (they should be dark red) and pierced with visions of antibiotic resistant superbugs, felt unable to pump on - stories of food angels bounced forth.

Howard Hinterthuer, Communications Coordinator at the Center for Veterans Issues - Wisconsin’s largest community-based veteran’s service organization and peer-to-peer mentor in CVI’s Organic Therapy Program, shared what they are doing. There was not a dry eye in the house as his talk concluded with a Vietnam Vet sharing, “this program has saved my life.” The Green Bronx Machine’s Stephen Ritz launched the room to a standing ovation with his energy and enthusiasm - his students have grown over 25,000 pounds of vegetables and learned to install indoor edible walls. Gary Oppenheimer, founder/executive director of the AmpleHarvest.orgCampaign, has created an online platform for home gardeners to donate their harvest to local food pantries.

The first person to speak in the innovation category was Cara - and we think (in our own unbiased opinion) she was perfect. The Cyberworld has two favorite quotes. One from our friend Brandon Johns of the Grange, “We spend so much time researching a tv, but we’ll go and buy a chicken anywhere”. The other from our Fall 2011 Food Warrior, Callie Heron, “without transparency, we have no choice.”

Thank you New York for a wonderful few days!

Here is the post on Real Time Farms blog.

Reflections on the TEDxManhattan: 'Changing the Way we Eat' conference

TEDx Manhattan 2011

Photo courtesy of TEDxManhattan Flickr

Organized by The Glynwood Institute for Sustainable Food and Farming, the brochure described TEDxManhattan: “Changing the Way we Eat” as “an awe-inspiring, all day TEDx event focused on sustainable food and farming.” I was in awe to be able to attend the event in NYC on Feb. 12.

As we settled down into our seats from the flurry of business card exchanges and 30-second elevator pitches, I took out my notebook and started taking notes. Before the speakers began, I was nervous they would preach to the choir – reiterating those facts that pulled me into the food world to begin with: “It takes 10 calories of fossil fuels to produce one calorie of food” or “1.5 billion people are overweight and 1 billion people are starving,” or “Americans throw away more than 40 percent of the food they produce.” (Thank you PBS, WHO and the EPA for verifying those facts.)

During the course of the presentations from the diverse group of food advocates, farmers, food policy experts, and food lovers, I was reminded of those facts. But I also learned new information – the new information thus giving this member of the food choir new songs to sing.

You can see the entire webcast of the full three sessions until Feb. 26, so I will not summarize the entire event, but I will share what I found of interest. (Here is the first session, the second and the third.)

For those of you who watched the livestream at home, or at one of the viewing parties (perhaps hosted by Slow Food Huron Valley) the beginning of each of the three sessions started with a speaker from a TED conference delivered elsewhere. For those of us in the NYC audience we were watching a TED video on the screen along with people at home.

Carolyn Steel was the first to these TED talks and hers was entitled "How food shapes our cities." I was enamored the moment she noted Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent as the beginning of agriculture 10,000 years ago (I used to teach this fact to sixth graders in Washington, D.C.). Interspersed between her maps of Rome and London, she made several comments that have struck with me: “One-third of the annual global grain crop is fed to animals rather than us human animals” and “it takes ten times more grain to feed us via an animal than just to feed us from the grain” and “80 percent of food transport is controlled by five companies.”

Here is her talk if you are curious.

Cheryl Rogowski, a second generation farmer, told us, “Because I share my own seed I could be an outlaw. How can we let that go on?”

Karen Hudson, an outspoken advocate against CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in her home state of Illinois, illustrated the power of grassroots organization with her aerial photographs showing an 83-acre 47 million-gallon lagoon (aka lake) of animal waste outside the CAFO buildings. Hudson founded F.A.R.M. (Families Against Rural Messes) and their motto is, “Illinois – Land of Stinkin.”

Ken Cook, of the Environmental Working Group, gave a rallying cry for citizen activism with his Farm Bill breakdown. “The Farm Bill is a food bill,” and “Twenty-two Congressional districts receive half of all food subsidies,” and “40 percent of our corn crop is going to produce 4 percent of our fuel.” The next Farm Bill is slated for 2012; now is the time to call your Congressman.

Every nine minutes, a new perspective came to the podium: “Vote with your fork” (Josh Veirtel, Slow Food USA President), “if we are going to solve the health care problem we are going to have to solve the food problem” (Michael Conard, Columbia University), and “when we hand over these problems to specialists that is when we get into trouble” (Britta Riley,

Every nine minutes a new story came to the podium: Elizabeth U on social finance, Dr. Melony Samuels on her anti-hunger project in Brooklyn, Dr. William Li on the role of nutrition and angiogenesis and Professor Frederick Kaufman’s report of the coalition striving to come up with a sustainability index for the 150,000 items at Walmart.

Curt Ellis, co-creator of the movie King Corn, pitched his program FoodCorps – an AmeriCorps program to build Farm to School programs. He also shared startling statistics I had not heard before: “We have more people living in prisons in America today than we have left to make a living as farmers” and “Military leaders call [our obesity epidemic] a crisis of national security; already 27 percent of young men and women in America wouldn’t qualify for military service because they are too fat to fight.” Michigan is one of the inaugural states where you can apply for the FoodCorps program, courtesy of their partnership with C.S. Mott at MSU. Click here if you are interested in applying.

We learned about vegetables growing in the Bronx, rural food deserts in Iowa, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns Chef Dan Barber’s love affair with a Spanish fish (see below).

Being there in person was exhilarating, from Friday night drinks to the end of the conference on Saturday. The attendees ranged in age (voice cracking to silver hair), geography (Italy to Berkeley), and vocation (farmers (both of the meat and veggie variety), food centric filmmakers, doctors, farm-to-school experts, bakers, academics, chefs, restaurateurs, social justice advocates, horticulturists, writers, etc).

My choice to (mostly) eat with the seasons has spilled over to a greater appreciation to living with the seasons. Wintertime is a time of education, of reflection, of recharging, of planning before the abundance of spring bursts forth and hands dive into dirt. The TEDxManhattan was more than I could have hoped for – in all of those categories.

Here is the article on