Rodale’s Organic Life • July/August 2015
The first time I reconsidered what off-grid meant, I was in Detroit’s North End, trailing the Reverend Joan C. Ross. Red-spectacled and in a second career after selling off her McDonald’s franchises, Reverend Ross was showing me a solar demonstration house, a once-abandoned beauty she had helped bring back to life. There was fine trim in a Victorian parlor, a porch that screamed for a summer afternoon, a toilet that used wastewater to flush, a yard designed to catch runoff and prevent flooding, and a thatch of solar panels on the roof.
“You’re not paying into companies who are burning fossil fuels, or destroying the planet,” she said. “You’re relying on the sun.”
I would have expected this Continue reading “5 Modern Families That Left The Grid Behind + How They Did It”
NPR.org — The Salt • Feb. 13, 2015
If you were to try and list the biggest game-changers for the American food system in the last two decades, you might note the Food Network, or the writing of Michael Pollan, or maybe even the evolution of Walmart.
But you’d probably overlook NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.
And that would be a mistake, according to a lengthy report out early February from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Continue reading “How NAFTA Changed American (And Mexican) Food Forever”
OnEarth • July 8, 2014
A few early-summer visits to the local farmer’s market are usually all it takes to turn us into cheerleaders for the American farm. But if you really want to know about the current state of farming in the U.S.A. (as opposed to merely knowing the current state of this summer’s heirloom tomatoes), you’ll need some real, hard facts. Continue reading “Field Studies”
On Earth • May 19, 2014
Back when Gwen Clements worked at the Perdue chicken plant in Beaver Dam, Kentucky, she stood beside a conveyor belt blanketed in chicken parts for eight hours each day. Usually she packed drumsticks, but whichever part of the bird she happened to be packing on a given shift, the smell was as constant as it was noxious: a combination of raw poultry and chlorine, the latter emanating from the pathogen-killing chemical bath that the carcasses—often contaminated with fecal matter—would receive during processing. Every one-and-a-half seconds or so, Clements would grab a piece of meat with her gloved hands Continue reading “We’ll Have the Fish, Thanks”
Civil Eats • Oct. 7, 2013
In 2004, Seth Holmes, a young American physician and anthropologist, undertook a trip that few take for kicks: He migrated from the rural highlands of Oaxaca in southern Mexico to the deserts of Arizona alongside a band of indigenous migrants bound for American farm fields. Continue reading “Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: The Human Cost of American Agriculture”
I got a nice surprise this morning when a friend forwarded me The American Prospect’s Labor Day email highlighting their most important labor pieces from the last year. More to the point (for my purposes here, anyway) was the way they sold it: Continue reading “I’m blushing: Nice shout-out from The American Prospect”
Here’s what I”m thinking on my way to the James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards tonight, where The American Way of Eating—as well as a feature I wrote on farm labor contracting for The American Prospect—is up for an award:: Continue reading “James Beard Awards: A deep if problematic honor”
A lovely nod this weekend from the New Yorker’s Daniel Fromson, via his recommended readings:
Theft is also a major theme in “As Common As Dirt,” from last September’s American Prospect, a narrative that is worth revisiting in light of its nomination for a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award on Monday. Tracie McMillan, author of the well-received “The American Way of Eating”—a “Nickel and Dimed”-esque account of toiling in a Walmart produce department, an Applebee’s, and the fields of California—returns to the last of these places and introduces readers to the seventy-five-year-old Ignacio Villalobos, who is lovingly sketched down to the plastic bags with which he lines his leaky boots. But it’s McMillan’s willingness to dig into a little-discussed corner of agribusiness, and the straight-talking tone with which she lays out the facts, that makes the piece stand out. The article is about farm-labor contractors, who “give American produce growers what companies like China’s Foxconn offer to Apple: a way to outsource a costly and complicated part of the business”—often at the expense of workers like Mr. Villalobos, who are routinely paid less than what they’ve been promised.
I’m traveling for my fellowship (Istanbul! Pics to come) but wanted to make sure I let everyone know that The American Way of Eating is up for a James Beard Award–as is a feature I wrote on farm labor, “As Common As Dirt,” in The American Prospect In the event that you do not follow the food world, this is a big honor in those parts.
I’ve got enough of a punk in me to still feel conflicted about this; there’s a lot of money and pomp poured into a celebration of the monied and well-connected, and that’s not really my thing.
But here’s what IS cool:
It’s a recognition by somewhat powerful people that there is real value in writing, and thinking, about food as it works in the lives of our poor and working classes. It suggests that maybe, just maybe, there is the inkling of a change in the way we grape with food afoot, And I am all about that.
Many thanks to the endless list of people who’ve supported me in my work. I very literally popular not have done it without you