01/29/2011 11:20 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

LiveBlogging From Edible Institute 2011 (Highlights from DAY 1)

Hello from sunny Santa Barbara, CA and the 2011 edition of Edible Institute at the Hotel Mar Monte. Today and tomorrow I'll be liveblogging the goings on here for those of you who couldn't make it and for those who did but mighta missed something. Since it's live please forgive typos and so on - I'll put on my editors hat at the end of the day.

Follow the goings on on the Twitter machine via the hashtag #EI2011

We've a heckuva lineup today, including a keynote from no less than Dr. Joan Dye Gussow, who is a serious food producer, a writer, and officially a retiree from Teachers College, Columbia University where she is Mary Swartz Rose Professor Emerita, former chair of the Nutrition Education Program, and where she still teaches her course on nutritional ecology every fall. Her latest book is called (I adore this title) "Growing, Older."

Things are scheduled to start rolling here in about 20 minutes, so the first update from here will happen in about an hour or so. Take a look at the schedule of events, and please check back throughout the day (and again tomorrow).

But first, a word from our sponsors - a quick shoutout to the folks that helped make this thing happen:

OK, we're getting underway here with a welcome from Edible Communities co-founder Tracey Ryder. Shoutouts to the above sponsors, staff, and the instigator of all of this, Edible San Francisco publisher Bruce Cole.

Dr. Gussow has taken the stage, and is saying a few nice things about our humble publications, and says she's going to start with her "Cassandra role." Says she's "spent several years depressing college students."

"I feel the need to confess that I don't feel as if I belong here," Gussow says, on account of feeling not as up-to-date on all the foodie-goings-on these days. She then reveals that she's an Iowa girl, originally - she grew up in Orange City - way up in the northwest corner of the state, and named not for the fruits - somewhat obviously - but for William of Orange.

Dr. Gussow is concerned about what she calls the "Frivolity of the US food supply."

"Whenever you don't understand something I'm saying, simply assume I'm trying to be funny."

She's touching now on her first book, The Feeding Web, which came out in 1978 - a true harbinger of the coming food movement which told of the absurdity of the food supply. "People need to ask where all those marshmallow-enriched purple cereals in their technicolor food supply were coming from."

Rodale Press, she tells us, did the first study of how much of our food might possibly be produced locally in light of the first energy crisis in the late 70s. At the time she had a student at the time who did an independent project on her native Haiti about how the only US aid going on there was that we had taken their hogs, sent them Iowa hogs, which they were to raise and send to the US. This while Haitians were starving under Papa Doc.

her first attempts to get people to eat seasonally and locally "sank like a stone" because people thought that for example people who live in the northeast would starve and "what would the people of Iowa do for vitamin C?" Check in on my own Edible Iowa for some answers to that question.

She's not trying to urge everyone to grow their own food and recognizes that that's not realistic, but says its vital to link their life to nature - and food's a great way to do that. "If we win our war with nature, we lose."

"We have just elected - or the corporations have, or whoever's in charge now - a strange group of people who don't believe in climate change to add to the people who don't intend to do anything about it."

"Business as usual is no longer an option, but we're doing business as usual."

She highly recommends (as do I) Bill McKibben's brlliant book Eaarth.

She's optimistic about the growing availability of local foods. "People who used to admit embarassingly that they lived in Brooklyn now brag about it."

But, "Those with an investment in the status quo will not give up without a fight."

Fear is an obstacle, she says. But it's being addressed by films like Food, Inc, and Foer's book "Eating Animals."

Those that say organic can't feed the world fail to realize that they had their chance and haven't succeeded, so maybe we should try it. GMO's have failed thus far to broadly increase yields, says Gussow.

"We have an sustainble food supply, and Michael Pollan said that what unsustainable means is that it will end." And that, she says, gives her hope.

Ooo, a nice shoutout too to the Slow Money Movement.

"I believe the local food movement is building a model for supporting us when the end of the current scene comes, and it will come" She urges us to take a stand too for economic and social justice.

"Living as if our food is infinite on a finite planet."

"We know that we are all a guilty party," she tells us, "including those who grow their own food in New York and then FLY to California to talk about it"

Quoted Jim Hightower quoting his father "Everybody does better when everybody does better."

"Hope is the lesson nature keeps teaching me"

"We need to pay more for local food from local farmers and that's going to have to be OK."

And with that, a big standing O for Dr. Gussow.

Question time: and the first asks what DOES she eat in January? Answer briefly is that she does a lot of puttin' up (need to know more about how? Check out Sherri Vinton's book Put'em Up).

Another asks her to comment on state and federal budget cuts resulting in universities funding and being funded by big ag and chemical companies, etc. She blames some of it on California passing Prop 13. Reminds me of the famous Oliver Wendall Holmes quotation "Taxes are the fee I pay to live in a civilized society."

Break time, and then our first panel on "Will Urban Ag Change the Way we Eat", with:

Annie Novak: Founder and director of Growing Chefs, field-to-fork food
education program; the children gardening program coordinator for
the New York Botanical Gardens, and co-founder and farmer of Eagle
Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint. Annie has worked with the CENYC
Greenmarket, Slow Food, and Just Food advocating and growing urban
agriculture throughout NYC. Her work in agriculture has been featured
in New York Magazine, Edible Brooklyn and the Martha Stewart Show
among other press.

David Cleveland: Professor, Environmental Studies Program University
of California Santa Barbara. Recent work: Trade offs between 
Agriculture, Open Space, and Urbanization. The 
value of land: Agriculture, food and urbanization in the Goleta
Valley, California.

Ashley Atkinson: Director of Project Development and Urban Agriculture
- Greening of Detroit Ashley gardens with passion and is
growing a new economy in her community that could change the way
 Detroit uses its open spaces. As the Director of Project Development
and Urban Agriculture for the Greening of Detroit, Atkinson is
developing Detroit's premier market farm from a 30-acre city park
filled with sewer pipes; all on a budget of $40 per week.

And moderated by:

Kerry Trueman is the co-founder of, a netroots website & organization that advocates sustainable agriculture, progressive politics and a less-consumption driven way of life. She blogs regularly at Eating Liberally, right here on Huffington Post, and Civil Eats.

OK, a few Pixie tangerines and we're back with the aforementioned panel

Deborah Kane of Edible Portland (among a lot of other fantastic exploits, like FoodHub) is handling introductions.

Annie's talking about all the benefits of green roofs (rooves?) and showing some pictures of her work in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Novak: "Beekeeping seemed like a great idea because it was illegal at the time and that was stupid."

And a shout out from Novak to the great work of Growing Power

David Cleveland is talking about "What does localizing mean? - changing the way we eat or greenwashing?"

The question is, is localization the answer to the problems in our dominant agrifood system?

Part of the problem is we don't truly know if localizing is helping because there are no solid statistics on it. So he set out to get some.

It doesn't help on greenhouse gasses because of transportation, because a farmer's pickup is less efficient than 18 wheelers. But most of the fossil fuels in industrial ag are used in things like nitrogen fixing and pesticides.

Pushback coming from the likes of Walmart because local food is starting to eat into their bottom line "The L word is beginning to replace the O word"

Cleveland urges us to keep labor in mind - is the local food raised by local hands? California relies on noncompetitive labor for producing it's 50% share of the fruit, vegetables and nuts America eats.

He points out that the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt began in no small measure because of food prices.

Ashley Atkinson is now talking about her work in Detroit. mentions she doesn't like the term "food desert." Thinks it's inaccurate

"There are 50K vacant lots in Detroit that are ready to be farmed."

The growers with Grown in Detroit have agreed not to sell their food outside Detroit until their food access problems inside Detroit are lessened.

Everything she has shown - gardening, beekeeping, chickens, etc. is illegal in Detroit but "we do it anyway" - big applause.

And a shoutout to the fine work of Brother Nature

Question about dealing with municipalities and all the illegal stuff they just mentioned. Ashley says Just Do It - ask for forgiveness rather than permission. "If we'd asked for permission we'd have never done what we did"

Gary Nabhan asks if the food miles issue is dead. David Cleveland says yes and we should recast the issues around local and sustainable food.

Another break, and then we return with panel #2:

Activists and Advocacy: SOLE Food's Message for Change.

Tom Philpott moderator. Grist food editor, Tom Philpott farms and cooks at Maverick Farms, a sustainable-agriculture nonprofit and small farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.


Ralph Loglisci: Project Director for the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday 
Project. Before joining the Center for a Livable Future, Ralph served
as the Communications Director for the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute
of Bioethics. However, it was his work as the Communications Director
for the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production that Ralph
became aware of the intricate connections between food systems, the
environment and public health.

Debra Eschmeyer: Marketing & Media Manager of the National Farm to
 School Network and the Center for Food & Justice. She works from a 
fifth-generation family farm in Ohio, where she continues her passion
for organic farming raising heirloom fruits and vegetables. Prior to 
joining CFJ, Debra was the Project Director at the National Family 
Farm Coalition in Washington, DC where she focused on U.S.
agricultural policy and food sovereignty initiatives among grass roots
 domestic and international rural advocacy and other social justice 

 She also blogs right here at HuffPo.

Dan Imhoff: Co-founder of Watershed Media, a researcher, author, and 
independent publisher who has concentrated for nearly 20 years on
issues related to farming, the environment, and design. He is the 
author of numerous articles, essays, and books including Food Fight:
The Citizen's Guide to a Food and Farm Bill, Paper or Plastic:
 Searching for Solutions to an Overpackaged World; Farming with the
 Wild: Enhancing Biodiversity on Farms and Ranches; and Building with
 Vision: Optimizing and Finding Alternatives to Wood. 


The rise and fall of the American industrial machine has lead to local food systems in these communities like Detroit, need to move beyond the 3-5 percent

Federal policy perpetuates the current dominant food system

Why aren't policy makers learning from detroit and other local food systems? Need to push policy in these directions.

Last two admins were abysmal, then Michele Obama using soft power to effect change, but President Obama is still putting agribiz based people in his administration.


Points out that Republic budget cutters do not have direct subsidies on their hit list, but to have Americorps, NEA, Organic Certification, and ObamaCare.

Urges people to help collect data that support these ideas, for example: $1 spent on local food circulates $3 in the community - that's a low estimate.

Collaborate with people smarter than you. And join the Community Food Security Coalition, among many others.

Highlight your heroes - like Ashley (above)

"Every ingredient has a lobbyist," but Eschmeyer believes Edible Communities could be the "lobbyist" for the good food movement.

Ralph Loglisci:

Is studying the effect of the Meatless Monday thing, seeing if their is science behind how well it works.

Points ou that this is not an elitist thing - we want good healthy food for EVERYONE. Reminds me of Josh Viertel's recent video question to President Obama: "Why do Fruit Loops cost less than fruit?"

Dan Imhoff describes himself as a "reluctant wonk"

A Manure lagoon is now eligible to be part of a farm environment protection plan

Talks about how industrial ag says "you don't understand agriculture"

The Tea Party could actually be an ally to the real food movement - cutting $5billion in subsidies, and how good food can be an economic engine

The map of the disaster relief farms and the non subsidized farms are the same

Says he is rewriting Food Fight:
The Citizen's Guide to a Food and Farm Bill, for the new 2012 Food & Farm Bill

References the issue brought up by Mission Readiness. (See my essay on the subject called Why Johnny Can't March)

New Food & Farm bill should include:

Please let's delink nutrition title from farm bill.
No subsidization without social obligation.
"Getting perennial by the next centennial" - taking a much longer view of agriculture
A Suburban and Urban Ag title
One size doesn't fit all: Regs are currently made only for big ag.

MUST get urban people involved in the Food & Farm bill

Now LUNCH! Back in an hour or so.

New Panel! -- Journalists Talk Strategies for Writing About Industrial Agriculture.

Jane Black is the moderator, a food writer who covers food politics, trends and sustainability issues. Her reporting examines how politics, culture and business affect what ends up on our plates - and how that is dramatically changing. Jane was, until recently, a staff writer at the Washington Post. She now writes for the Post, as well as the New York Times, Food & Wine magazine and others. She also has a regular podcast on Edible Radio, Smart Food. (and as long as I'm plugging: I have a podcast there too, called the Blue Plate Special)


Philip Brasher
: Correspondent for The Des Moines Register, focusing on
agriculture, food, energy and climate issues.

Barry Estabrook: Former contributing editor at Gourmet magazine. He
now serves on the advisory board of Gastronomica, The Journal of Food
and Culture
, and writes for the the New York Times, the Washington
Post, The, and Saveur. He also blogs at the must-read

Bryan Walsh: Time magazine energy and climate writer. See a great 2009 article of his called "Getting Real About the High Cost of Cheap Food"

Jane wants to talk about getting the message beyond preaching to the converted. She's been writing a book about Huntington, West Virginia (yes it's the place where Jamie Oliver did his show last year, but no, it's not about the show).

She says that writing about local sustainable ag is fun and enjoyable because the people invite you into their worlds, but with industrial ag, "not so much"

Philip Brasher is up, and is asked to talk about his audience. He emphasizes the importance of agriculture to Iowa, so his readership is well aware of what they call "production agriculture." There is concern about the emptying out of rural communities, and about water quality issues. Jane asks him how you right about both sides of the real food debate without alienating one or the other. He says "mostly by dealing straight." Trying to get the story right, fair, and reliable.

Regarding advocacy journalism, he said Food, Inc may have been factually accurate, however it "gave him problems." For example he thinks it was too hard on Mike Taylor. Also thinks many issues in it were dealt with rather one-sidedly.

Jane is now asking Barry (Twitter @Barry_Estabrook) about his work writing about the CIW and the Florida tomato fields. He said no big growers would even answer his calls and emails, while the CIW was falling over itself. Jane suggests it's simply because they (the big growers) have no interest in helping him.

He points out that advocacy journalism and editorializing are different.

Bryan, Jane says, is still tying to find his audience. How does he bring these issues to TIME's readers? He says its hard but he does try to keep his opinions on his blog, ecocentric

In regard to how he gets access, he does acknowledge that his voicemails that say "Bryan Walsh please call" get returned a lot slower than "Bryan Walsh Time Magazine please call"

Walsh says know your farmer, but also know your journalist.

Philip Brasher says one way he tries to get access to some of the bigger brands and such is to say "If you're proud of what you do, show it to me"

Open Questions now:

"When you cover something like GMOs - it's a real he-said-she-said, how do you do it in a balanced way". Brasher says he tries to stick to the science, tries to build a rapport with sources. And he goes to the competition, like when writing bout Monsanto, go ask Pioneer.

Asking now about words that yo do and don't use - hot buttons like, is it global warming or climate change.

Walsh: Climate denier? climate skeptic?
Estabrok: says he learned one today "production agriculture"

Another asks why does the media seem to insist on both sides of EVERY issue - we don't do it with the "is the world round or flat"

Walsh says it's n the details. If the science is there your all set, but like with climate change, some of it is irrefutable, but there are a lot of unknown unknowns.

Estabrook saw a quote "nobody's ever been hurt by a GMO product" which he says is at best highly debatable.

They're now asked if the agencies they write about as if what they do is above board actually DO do things above board. Brasher talks about the alfalfa, and points out that he doesn't think it' often corruption, but rather "it's democracy" Does it always have a better outcome? That's a different question.

Corporate influence will be more effective where there is less public interest

next panel....

The Future of Food Writing, Recipes and Cookbooks.

Moderator Molly Watson is a writer and recipe developer, teacher and speaker. She is the guide to Local Foods for Her work has appeared in numerous other places, including Sunset magazine (where she was the staff food writer from 2005 to 2008), the New York Times, Edible San Francisco, and the San Francisco Chronicle.


Molly O'Neill: Former food columnist for the New York Times Magazine and the host of the PBS series Great Food. Author of four cookbooks, including One Big Table.

Dianne Jacob is the author of Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More. Previously a newspaper, magazine, and publishing company editor-in-chief, Dianne has been self employed since 1996 as a writing coach, author, and freelance editor.

Terry Walters: Terry Walters first book, Clean Food, caused a
sensation and fueled a nationwide movement about nourishment and clean
food that been embraced all the way to the White House. Clean Food taught us the benefits of eating locally grown, seasonal, and fresh.

Watson: "I really like words" and gives a shoutout to reading on iPads (she likes it)

We usually write about either the delicious or the disghusting, Watson says.

She asks "What excites you about food writing right now?" Parsons points out that food writing is exciting, but so is skydiving, and there are different meanings of "exciting"

He points out that the bar to become a food writer has been lowered (witness the fact that I'm still typing this liveblog). And that there has been something called "new media triumphalism."

Says the interent has 3 channels - print, radio and television. Expects them to combine within 5 years.

O'Neill: Food writing is the ultimate Liberal Arts exercise, and "An intimate fast track into the human condition"

"Artists change things, hacks perpetuate"

Bloggers have to not only be writers, but also editors, publishers, computer programmer.

Walters "If you have passion there's no way that it won't come across"

Food writing has been about entertainment and it needs to be about conscious choice and making people healthy, says Walters.

O'Neill says she hates recipes and doesn't use them, which is not a good qualification for a cookbook writer. So she gets a lot of help, and recipes have to be something that stick with her.

Parsons (I love this) "Stories that aren't original are suspect, recipes that are original are suspect."

An audience member asks the panel what the future of the restaurant critic. Russ Parsons of course has been answering that question a lot since the LA Times critic got outed.

He says he uses the Yelp app, but there are times he wants to talk to a grown up.

O'Neill talks about how its changed since she started in it, from creating public taste to reflecting public taste. There's a role for the populist opinion and there's a role for the expert opinion.

Parsons says blogging reminds him of the Punk Rock movement of the 70s - it's a reaction to the polished, experienced, educated, formal voice.

Is the role between writers and editors changing? Molly O'Neill says yes. Many editors today are mechanics rather than visionaries. However good editors are valuable and everyone needs one.

Next Panel:

Mighty Wines: Small Family Producers Using Traditional Winemaking Methods (A Focus on Santa Barbara County).

Tracey Ryder moderator. Tracey Ryder is the President and CEO of Edible Communities, Inc., publishers of over 65 regional food magazines in the US and Canada. But you probably know that or it's VERY unlikely that you'd have read this far.

Adam Tolmach Ojai Vineyards; Karen Steinwachs Buttonwood Winery; Richard Sanford Alma Rosa Winery and of course Sanford (though he's since sold that); Doug Margerum, Margerum Wine Company; Chris Whitcraft, Whitcraft Winery.

Whitcraft: Still does almost everything by hand but now has an electric bottle corking machine because "When you cork 400 cases by hand you have weird dreams at night" And he now produces 2000.

Margerum: Lining up a bunch of wines and then tasting them and giving them a number score is idiotic at best. Judging wine takes time and experience, just like making wine. He says he makes wine for himself - if start making them for a certain critic or segment then you lose out - it's chasing the holy grail. And he likes to make wines that are good at the table.

Steinwachs: "Wine is food to be consumed with food." She says wine should be different every year. "Crush grapes, put it in the barrel, let it speak to itself"

Tolmach: What excites me about every vintage today is that it's all about craft.

Sanford (Yes his was the winery from the movie Sideways, but he's since sold it and now runs): Points out the difference in geography here in Santa Barbara because the coast faces south and the Transverse Mountains run east-west, as does the valley just north of it.

He found building his vineyard, particularly without electricity as he did for its first 8 years, very therapeutic after returning from 3 years in Vietnam

Sanford is proud of his part in establishing Santa Barbara as the wine country of southern California just as Napa and Sonoma are for Northern California.

Steinwachs pointed out that the problem with sustainable certification is that many can't afford it in no small part because they are farming sustainably - and that's expensive.

Closing remarks now from my dear friend and Chasing Chiles co-author Gary Paul Nabhan

"All my life I have loved more than one thing" he said, quoting poet Mary Oliver

It's a problem sometimes that "If we're for fishermen then we're for people who ant to kill fish, but if we're for fish we're trying to displace fishermen." Here Gary s talking about the duality of these food issues and how all the many sides have valid points of view. We can achieve a balance that we can find in "the radical center."

Says Joan Gussow can be that curmudgeon that keeps us honest.

He's sketical that we're going to make progress through policy efforts at the federal level, but is encouraged about the prospects for doing so at the local level.

"Why don't we have subsidies that are enabling rather than disabling?"

He wants us to remember that food is sacred. And he closes with his wonderful benediction, A Terroir-ist's Manifesto for Eating in Place.