“On top of being a pro-farmer, ecologically-minded chef, Dan Barber is a masterful storyteller. The cool thing about the stories Dan tells is that…” Read Linley’s appeal to join our next book club discussing Third Plate by Dan in this week’s letter below:
“What we need now is a radically new conception of agriculture, one in which the food actually tastes good.
But for a lot people, that’s a bit too radical. We’re not realists, us foodies; we’re lovers. We love farmers’ markets, we love small family farms, we talk about local food, we eat organic.
And when you suggest these are the things that will ensure the future of good food, someone, somewhere stands up and says, ‘Hey guy, I love pink flamingos, but how are you going to feed the world?’
Can I be honest? I don’t love that question. No, not because we already produce enough calories to more than feed the world. One billion people will go hungry today. One billion — that’s more than ever before — because of gross inequalities in distribution, not tonnage. Now, I don’t love this question because it’s determined the logic of our food system for the last 50 years.
Want to feed the world? Let’s start by asking: How are we going to feed ourselves? Or better: How can we create conditions that enable every community to feed itself?”
– Dan Barber
We are beyond excited for our next Third Plate book club session with renowned chef Dan Barber.
Dan has embraced his unexpected fame as a chef to raise awareness about a failing food system. In our first podcast interview with him, he marvels about the fact that people list chef’s among the most trusted professions. He acknowledges that there is a great responsibility that comes with people’s confidence for the white coats (as he calls chefs). And in that sense, Dan Barber is a true leader.
Chefs like Dan are adored by farmers.
It is rare to find a chef who really plans their menu around the food in season and purchases in bulk from local farms. This is because he believes whole-heartedly that his purpose as a chef is to create food centered around whatever farmers need to sell so that we can be, well…better farmers.
Not sure what I mean by this? Dan is loaded with examples. Take Veal.
There is a humane way to raise it and every ecological dairy should be selling it for an additional income stream because dairies have no use for half the calves that are born (those that are male).
Every dairy should also be raising pigs who love to eat the leftover whey from cheesemaking.
Who says small diverse farms aren’t efficient?
Or, how about buckwheat?
Buckwheat is an important, quick-to-mature, warm season cover crop that farmers use to suppress weeds, attract beneficial insects, and help hold fertility for future crops.
It is especially useful on low fertility soils.
Enter the Soba Noodle (made out of buckwheat).
Looking at the crops that make up traditional diets, these are examples of how crops are always part of a puzzle that fits together to produce soil, animal, and human health.
We interviewed Dan Barber at Stone Barnes with Eliot Coleman. Watch Here.
Our first interview with Dan Barber discussed ideas from his book, The Third Plate. Watch here or above.
On top of being a pro-farmer, ecologically-minded chef, Dan Barber is a masterful storyteller.
The cool thing about the stories Dan tells is that so many of them are based on information that humanity used to know, but that we have since lost in our mad, single-minded, rush for greater yields (at the expense of human and planetary health).
His two Ted Talks have both received hundreds of thousands of views:
I highly recommend you watch both of them. He is funny and inspiring.
His book, the Third Plate tells stories of how culture and healthy, ethical food (that happens to also taste good) are intimately connected.
When we celebrate diverse cultures we preserve the good food that comes with them. You actually can’t have one without the other. It’s why, in his mind, the future of food is neither McDonalds nor environmental veganism. It is honoring the wisdom of our collective past.
We’ll see all our sustaining “Real Friend” members on Monday, Oct 17th at 6 Eastern with chef and author Dan Barber!
Yours in the dirt,
Join us for our next book club with Dan Barber by becoming a real friend below with a monthly or annual recurring donation:
“The title of this film, Soul of the Soil, combines these two phrases. They are not bits of marketing fluff. They are the lived truth of the Lazors and Butterworks Farm.”Read on below for Dave’s take on the documentary streaming now on Vermont Public Television and links to watch the 30 minute film that shouldn’t be missed.
Real Organic dairy farmer Jack Lazor of Butterworks Farm in Vermont is celebrated in this short PBS documentary produced by Real Organic Project’s Jenny Prince. Watch it here.
This week a beautiful film was shown on VT PBS called Soul of the Soil.
It is a short glimpse into the lives of Jack and Anne Lazor, two organic dairy pioneers in Vermont. Jack died in 2020 after a ten-year relationship with cancer. Anne recently suffered a stroke, and is now back home at Butterworks Farm. Their daughter Christine and son-in-law Collin now run the farm.
I am sharing the film as an inspiration to all of us.
Some of the letters we send out are not easy to read. Some things are discouraging. It is good to remember that we are part of a powerful positive movement. We are not alone.
40 years ago Jack and Anne were city kids going back to the land, as so many of us did. Many of us homesteaded, and some became farmers making our living by growing food. To those and many who followed, the Lazors were guides, always generously sharing what they learned, often creating competitors in the marketplace through their teachings.
The magic and lived truth of Jack and Anne Lazor.
I have always been inspired by Jack and Anne. I have been a dedicated customer of their yogurt since the beginning. They have literally sustained me. But their impact has gone far beyond their customers in ways that few will ever see.
A marketing maven for a huge so-called “Organic” hydroponic company testified at an NOSB meeting that when people talk about “the magic of soil” and the “soul of organic,” these are “just bits of marketing fluff.” He would see it that way. This is how his world works.
The title of this film, Soul of the Soil, combines these two words. They are not bits of marketing fluff. They are the lived truth of the Lazors.
The vast chasm between the world of that marketing guy and Butterworks Farm reveals the deep gulf between the USDA National Organic Program and Real Organic Project.
Soul of the Soil is a celebration of their lives and Butterworks farm but not all the struggle.
It leaves out some of the struggle, anger, and political organizing that was a part of their lives, but it shows the beautiful farm that they created and it describes their evolution from pasture-based farmers growing grain to 100% grass-fed farmers.
Like Bob Dylan’s evolution from acoustic to electric, their evolution from growing their own grain to rejecting the plow shows their constant questioning and shifting, despite the real economic costs that such ceaseless innovation can bring.
I watched their frustration as the “certified organic” market that they helped to create sometimes turned away from the high-quality yogurt that they offered, favoring national corporate brands that are very far from the real organic practices that they followed. The marketplace became very crowded, and in many stores that the Lazors previously sold to, just getting space on the shelves has become impossible.
Jack and Anne and The Real Organic Project
They were a pilot farm for the Real Organic Project.
And early members of the Vermont Organic Farmers.
Anne has just finished her term on the Real Organic Standards Board. She helped us recreate organic standards that reflect the beliefs that she and Jack have held for the last 40 years.
A final word: Watch the film
I bow to their achievements. These are lives lived. I will let the words of some of the farmers who have learned so much from them be the rest of this letter. To hear their own words, watch the short 30-minute film. You won’t regret it!
Quotes from our Community About Jack Lazor & Butterworks Farm
Gary Hirshberg 2022 Symposium Excerpt
“As we tried to make the transition from non-profit advocacy to actual commerce (at Stoneyfield) and sort of pay the bills, we outgrew quickly our 19 cows… We realized we couldn’t do both (farm and process). We look at people like Jack and Anne Lazor at Butterworks who farmed AND processed with UTTER astonishment. Jack, who has unfortunately left us, Jack heard me say a thousand times that I just worship him because he did things we couldn’t do.”
Guy Choiniere Interview Excerpt:
Dave:“Where did you get the information when you were starting in organic? You weren’t getting it from extension at that point.”
Guy:“No. Luckily enough, (we made) connections with some pioneers in the organic field like Jack Lazor and Lyle Edwards. These guys came to see me, because I was going to Horizon meetings, because Horizon was the first processor to reach out to me. After you reach out to the organic market, you sort of get pinpointed by the Co-ops. And Horizon did approach me first, so that’s all I knew. I was going to their meetings and expecting I was going to be a Horizon farmer. But Jack Lazor and Lyle Edwards caught wind of that, and they said, “No. You are not a Horizon farmer. You’re an Organic Valley farmer. You need to come to our meetings and make sure that, before you make a choice, you’re exposed to Organic Valley as well. You are definitely an Organic Valley farmer.”
Dave:“So what was the difference, in their mind, between being an Organic Valley farmer and a Horizon farmer?”
Guy:“It was something about the atmosphere in the meetings. These farmers were working so collectively, and working together. I could just tell that they were building off of each other. And really trying to reach the next level, but together.”
Paul Lacinski and Amy Klippinstein Podcast Excerpt
Dave:“You told me earlier that Jack and Anne Lazor at Butterworks were a great help to you.”
Paul:“Yeah. Tremendously so. Well, one of the places that I first got to decide that I kind of liked being around cows was going up there to visit the Lazor’s. We had a mutual friend who said, ‘You’ve just got to go visit those guys.’
So we did, and we went back a bunch of times over the years. They treat their animals really well. Being in the barn in the winter (we always went in the winter) with those really calm, happy cows… Cows that are unhappy are completely infuriating because they’re LARGE. Cows that have everything that they need are very calm…”
Join the RealOrganic community of eaters and activists, farmers and authors, chefs and students, scientists and adventurers, engineers and artists. Sign up as a Real Friend, click here.
“How can this kind of soilless farming be called organic? Only by a lawyer or a lobbyist.”
“What this week’s legal decision will mean to the good certifiers who refuse to certify hydroponic production as organic is unknown. Certainly, all of us will need to come together to protect them. If we lose these respected certifiers, who knows how long the USDA Organic seal will have ANY relevance to the world?” Read on below for Dave’s take on the Center for Food Safety and organic farming’s lawsuit loss.
I heard the news.
We lost (again) in our lawsuit against the USDA on the certification of hydroponic crops as soilless organic.
This lawsuit was organized by the Center For Food Safety to stop hydro production from being certified organic. Long Wind is one of six farms that were co-plaintiffs in the case, along with the certifiers OneCert and MOFGA.
When I say “we” lost, I mean that ALL of us in the organic movement lost something today. We lost a bit more trust in our government, in our courts.
How the USDA sees organic farming
The USDA never wanted to run a National Organic Program. They never believed organic was a better way of farming.
As former Ag Secretary Dan Glickman said, “The Organic label is a marketing tool.”
It was not seen by the USDA as superior in any way to chemical farming, despite the obvious problems with chemical farming.
They saw its role only as protecting the integrity of the organic label, not as promoting organic farming. Their mission was to protect both the farmers and the eaters from fraud.
It seems to me that the USDA has failed to protect organic.
They have embraced hydroponic and CAFO production.
Hydroponic production is so far from actually being organic that the two biggest hydro producers that have forced their way into the organic market both proclaim that they do not HAVE any hydroponic production.
The producers know that hydro is very unappetizing to their customers.
The world knows what soilless farming & hydroponic means.
Hydroponics is when the nutrition of a plant is supplied as a liquid feed.
That is it. The nutrition is not coming from the complex dance of minerals and microbes that terrestrial plants have relied on in the soil for the last 500 MILLION years. That is a long time. Something got figured out with all that co-evolution.
There are many kinds of hydroponic systems, from aeroponics with their roots hanging in the air to hydro berries and tomatoes with their roots stuck in a plastic pot filled with shredded coconut husks.
So, apparently, the marketing whizzes at these huge hydro companies can’t read. Or never wondered. Or never tried to understand. Or tried hard to forget.
The sad thing is that we let them. “We” being our government in this case. Not just Tom Vilsack, not just the USDA, but now also the courts.
The rest of the world watches the National Organic Program with dismay. Disbelief, even.
How can this kind of soilless farming be called organic? Only by a lawyer or a lobbyist.
Beyond just governmental reform…
By and large, I have moved on from the dedicated attempt at governmental reform. It is still important work. I still try to help, and I tip my hat to the brave souls who are still in the trenches, but for me, it is time to try something else.
I haven’t seen any real progress in the last 12 years of lobbying the USDA’s National Organic Program.
There has been great growth in organic sales, but also great erosion of the integrity of the NOP. The recent Origin of Livestock might be a step forward. We will just have to wait and see.
Earlier “victories” like the Pasture Rule and the Arthur Harvey lawsuit have been easily side-stepped by industry.
What this week’s legal decision will mean to the good certifiers who refuse to certify hydroponic production as organic is unknown. Certainly, all of us will need to come together to protect them. If we lose these respected certifiers, who knows how long the USDA Organic seal will have ANY relevance to the world?
My own response to the failures of the USDA was to start the Real Organic Project with a group of like-minded farmers.
Is it possible for a plucky band of farmers to create a meeting place for the real organic movement?
Is it possible that millions of eaters actually want food grown in the soil and clean of pesticides? Food coming from animals living outside, participating in the endless cycles of water, carbon, and nitrogen?
We think it IS possible.
So let us gnash our teeth for a moment at the failures of our government. Let us cry over the staggering greed and power of the multinational corporations.