Sweet Crusade: Jim Cochran’s Strawberry Secrets

Saveur • June 21, 2011

On a clear September morning, I set out for the source of California’s most delicious strawberries—quite a trip if you take the scenic route. South of San Francisco, you trace the cliffs of Devil’s Slide until the two-lane highway—and your grip on the steering wheel—relaxes. A couple of hours later, just north of Davenport, you see a 1950s pickup truck on the side of the road with hand-painted signs declaring HERE LIES SWANTON BERRY FARM. It’s a storybook scene: a view of the Pacific, a farm stand stocked with fresh baked pies. But read through the news clips on the wall, and a weightier tale emerges. When Jim Cochran founded Swanton, in 1983, he was just another hippie farmer. But he became the man who unlocked the secrets of growing strawberries without pesticides and paying workers a fair wage to do it.

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The Saveur 100: Item 3. Garden Cities

Saveur • February 2009

The distance from farm to table in American cities is getting shorter. In parks, in vacant lots and even on the grounds of abandoned factories, urban gardens and farms are growing better food than their commercial counterparts and bringing fresh produce to lower-income neighborhoods where markets are often scarce. In Milwaukee, for instance, an organization called Growing Power, established in 1993 but the former pro basketball player Will Allen created a two-acre urban farm whose organic produce is as popular with the community as it is with the city’s chefs. (Allen was awarded a MacArthur “genius grant” for his efforts in 2008.) In Detroit, the Garden Resource Program has turned vacant lots into over 100 gardens, where local residents grow spinach, garlic and more. Farms are also popping up in cities where cheap real estate is scarce. In Brooklyn, New York, the Red Hook Community Farm supplies a Community Supported Agriculture club from its three acres, and in Boston, the Food Project has encouraged official to incorporate food gardens into community development plans. The dividend for these urban communities? Better access to fresh food, and a sure path to delicious meals.

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Review: Up From the Roots

Saveur • June/July 2007

The novelist Barbara Kingsolver, whose latest book is a memoir-cum-treatise that documents a year during which she and her family grew almost all their own food or purchased it from farms nearby, is not the first writer to note that Americans tend to approach eating more as distracted consumers than as participants in a natural process. Indeed, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle joins a growing canon of food-based personal chronicles and social critiques, and it will inevitably yield comparisons with Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Penguin Press, 2006), which chronicles his own DIY quest.

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