Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp: Help Us Stop The DARK Act

Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp: Help Us Stop The DARK Act

Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young, who serve as board members of Farm Aid, have spoken out against the controversial Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599), also known as the Deny Americans the Right to Know, or DARK Act. “Giant food, chemical and biotech corporations have spent millions of dollars to block our right to know what’s in our food.”

Farm Aid concerts raise money to support small farmers and farming families.

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Steve Ells - Chipotle Founder and Co-CEO

Steve Ells - Chipotle Founder and Co-CEO

Steve Ells opened his first Chipotle in 1993. It was a success from the start, growing into a nationwide restaurant chain that today has 1,900 locations, 45,000 employees and generates annual revenue of well over $4 billion. It was innovative, creating what has become known as ‘fast casual’ dining, and with its commitment to organic food ingredients. Steve’s Chipotle website states, “We care deeply about where our ingredients come from. While industrial farming practices have evolved to maximize profits and production, we make an extra effort to partner with farmers, ranchers, and other suppliers whose practices emphasize quality and responsibility.”

Regarding the animals Chipotle sources for its food, “We think that animals raised outdoors or in deeply-bedded pens are happier and healthier than those raised in confinement. With our suppliers, we take a firm stand on two things.”  First, that pasture-raised animals must be provided the living space to be animals. Second, that farmers and ranchers must raise their animals without using antibiotics or synthetic hormones.

Moreover, regarding the produce Chipotle purchases, its mandate is to source locally grown wherever possible and to buy from farms “that plant a variety of crops and rotate the fields where they’re planted keep(ing) the soil nutrient-rich and the land healthier year after year.”

This mandate enables hundreds of family owned sustainable small farms to survive and to thrive, and pumps millions of dollars back into rural economies. Farm Animal Compassionate Engagement believes that this movement, the return of small farms, of a modern day Grange, of food-to-table, will create 500,000+ new farming jobs over the next decade, the rebirth of rural towns, and will constitute one of the essential American social movements in our country’s evolution into a more compassionate nation.

What we most want to commend Steve Ells and Chipotle on, is their strength of character, their adherence to their values. Given the factory-farmed dominance of the pork industry, when pork suppliers violated Chipotle’s animal care standards, it proved impossible to source humanely raised pork. Rather than compromise, Chipotle removed pork from its menus – and for a prolonged period of time.

Steve Ells risked that his customers who would head down the street to order their carnitas at Taco Bell or numerous other food chains where it was always on the menu – chains operating without concern at their executive level regarding the humane treatment of the animals they source for food. But Chipotle customers tend to be loyal. And aware, informed and issue-oriented. And they remained Chipotle customers.

Now some factory farms are getting the message. It is no coincidence that DuBreton, North America’s largest pork producer has agreed to raise 300,000 more crate-free pigs. Nor, most probably, is it a sudden surge of compassion on their part either. They are changing to supply customers’ demand for healthier, humanely raised pork - demand rising hand-in-hand with a company like Chipotle who gets it, whose mandate, whose DNA insists on it.

This is not just a reflection of the compassion and the caring of Steve Ells. This is also a demonstration of his courage.

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Watch “Farm Aid 30: A Song For America”

Watch “Farm Aid 30: A Song For America”

“Farm Aid supports a food system that is democratic, independent, competitive and locally based. This isn’t an exercise in nostalgia, it’s a commitment to a way of life. These are values worth fighting for.” - Eric Schlosser

"Farm Aid works with local, regional and national organizations to promote fair farm policies and grassroots organizing campaigns designed to defend and bolster family farm-centered agriculture. We’ve worked side-by-side with farmers to protest factory farms and inform farmers and eaters about issues like genetically modified food and growth hormones. By strengthening the voices of family farmers, Farm Aid stands up for the most resourceful, heroic Americans—the family farmers who work the land. Farm Aid’s Action Center allows concerned citizens to become advocates for farm policy change.

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Chipotle Proves Sustainable Food Sourcing Is Profitable

Chipotle Proves Sustainable Food Sourcing Is Profitable

STEPHEN COMMENT:  By any measure, the Chipotle Mexican Grill chain of fast casual restaurants has been a huge success. Founded in 1993 with one restaurant in Denver, it now has nearly 1,800 outlets across the U.S., Canada and Europe, opening 192 new locations in 2014 alone. Its stock has been trending steadily upwards for the last decade, while more traditional fast food chains like McDonald’s, a former investor in Chipotle which divested in 2006, have been experiencing sales drops.

At the same time, it has been more conspicuous than virtually any other major food chain in touting its sustainability efforts. It released a mission statement in 2001 called Food With Integrity (FWI), which launched its journey to using more organic produce, pasture-raised dairy, and hormone- and antibiotic-free meat raised humanely as well as sourcing more of its food from family farmers in the area where each restaurant is located.

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#FarmerFriday: Celebrating Farmers Who Raise Animals Without Antibiotic Overuse

#FarmerFriday: Celebrating Farmers Who Raise Animals Without Antibiotic Overuse

STEPHEN COMMENT:  Here are over a dozen examples of family farmers who run viable sustainable farms raising healthy livestock without the routine use of antibiotics. Mary Kay Buckner’s opinion is representative, “Antibiotics simply do not exist to be used in animals every day – for any reason other than life-threatening illnesses. Period.”

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Preston Vineyards

Preston Vineyards

STEPHEN COMMENT:  The Preston Farm, Vineyards and Winery are located at the confluence of Dry Creek and its tributary Pena Creek, approximately 10 miles northwest of Healdsburg in the Russian River watershed in California. We enjoy visiting this farm and must confess – we love their wines and are wine club subscribers having six bottles delivered to us quarterly.

In researching sustainable farms, which will be the subject of an upcoming Issue, I am discovering that in terms of business models, successful sustainable family farms are almost as unique as the personalities of the farmers who run them.

There is a lot to learn from Lou Preston and the way he does things at Preston Farm but when you ask him, “How do you make it all work?” his answer is, “Heck, I don’t know, we just do it. And while we are just doing it we always eat well.” 

Preston Farm, Vineyards and Winery is a beautiful place to visit, to wine-taste. While their grape harvests and wines are exceptional, they experiment with many crops. Lou wrote last year, “Farmer Rebecca is especially proud of our new berriness, baskets of strawberries, rasp, logan and ollalies…”  Regarding grains, “We got this notion that bread is like wine, that both are an expression of terroir – the land, the people, the biome – and that what we sell should be uniquely ours. So we plant grain to feed the mills to build the dough that Lindsay caresses into wild-fermented loaves. … Out there where just a couple of years ago we had grapes, we are now anxiously awaiting the harvest of barley, Emmer, Sonora and BlueBeard wheats.” Regarding livestock, “Sheep aren’t the only livestock here, but they are the most present. Four years ago we began our commitment to natural nurturing of the land with the use of grazing animals and the practice of rotational pasturing. For background you can look up Alan Savory who developed the discipline of Holistic Management by which knowing stockmen and wildland managers use mob grazing to build up the nutrition, tilth, carbon and permeability of their soils. For many on this earth, it is the best defense against desertification and the best resort against global warming.”

Lou encourages and develops local farmers markets. “The most important forum that we inhabit is the farmers market. … Food unites people.” They do brisk business there as well as in supplying the local restaurants listing local products on their menus. “People are amazed that we can bring to town meat, vegetables, fruit, bread, olive oil and wine all from one farm. I hope we can overcome that amazement someday by making it more normal, more common.”

To that end, Lou generously shares his knowledge and expertise with local groups like Sonoma Farmtrails and the American Society of Environmental Historians.

Discover Preston Farm at their website: https://www.prestonvineyards.com Visit them the next time you travel through California wine country. This is one example of a successful sustainable family farm.

BTW, their wine club is highly recommended if you enjoy wine!

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Cowspiracy by Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn

Cowspiracy by Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn

STEPHEN COMMENT:  Filmmakers Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn have made a very important feature-length documentary, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret which identifies and examines THE most destructive industry on the planet – large-scale factory farming. They back up their facts with one insightful interview after another with industry experts and watchdogs. Kip proves an engaging guide, taking us with him on his path of discovery. We arrive at the clear realization that: “Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean ‘dead zones,’ and virtually every other environmental ill. Yet it goes on, almost entirely unchallenged.”

At this point, this documentary is only just beginning.

As we observed regarding author Jonathan Safran Foer and his book, Eating Animals, sometimes being part of the solution is being able to frame, articulate and ask the right questions.  Kip takes this realization, turns around and directs it back at the spokespersons and leaders of the Sierra Club and other preeminent environmental organizations – the ones that are supposed to be the watchdogs for the environmental movement.

He and we are dumbfounded witnessing their seeming ignorance of, their reluctance or hesitation to acknowledge, and when confronted with the facts, their failure to admit to, let alone address this, the paramount worldwide cause of environmental and species degradation: animal agriculture. Cowspiracy is a jaw-dropping revelation in this regard.

Since the environmental ‘leaders’ have no solutions to the problem they seem unwilling or unable to adequately address, Kip and Keegan take that upon themselves, suggesting a new path to global sustainability.

Watch this film. Buy it, share it. Attend a Tugg screening in your area or organize one of your own. 

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Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat

STEPHEN COMMENT:  Beyond Meat makes wonderful healthy foods. They are a remedy. Theirs’ is a beautiful vision healing our world. Support them - try their tasty foods. Learn about Beyond Meat by visiting their site: http://beyondmeat.com/

Beyond Meat’s mission statement reads,

‘We believe there is a better way to feed the planet. Our mission is to create mass-market solutions that perfectly replace animal protein with plant protein. We are dedicated to improving human health, positively impacting climate change, conserving natural resources and respecting animal welfare. At Beyond Meat, we want to make the world a better place and we’re starting one delicious meal at a time.’ 

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