This past weekend, our owner, Rick Hood and his wife, Molly, took a trip to Pocantico Hills, New York to visit the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. From the owner:
“It was an inspiring experience to spend the weekend at Stone’s Barns Center for Food and Agriculture and dine at their award winning Blue Hill restaurant. Blue Hill, owned by Dan and David Barber, is built around a local, seasonal food reputation (a shared philosophy with their original restaurant, located in Manhattan). All courses were grown and/or raised on the farm. A large portion of the experience was educating the diner about the farm to fork food concept. The unique presentation of individual, seasonal vegetables (such as asparagus spears, young carrots and radishes) served to increase our appetite for the upcoming dishes.”
Saturday morning we were given an insider’s tour by the livestock manager that was very educational. The chickens, sheep, pigs and beef cattle were all raised sustainably, often moved from field to maintain the health of the pastures and happiness of the animals. The 5 acres of vegetables was grown without chemicals and pesticides, to “beyond organic” standard. A 20,000 square foot greenhouse had been constructed using soil (often created from their on site composting operation) as the nutrient base and with automatic roof panels that adjust to allow the correct amount of rain.
The highlight of the weekend was a presentation, with question and answer session, by Michael Pollan, author of several books including “Omnivores Dilemma”. The interviewer was Dan Barber, owner of Blue Hill restaurants. Some of the takeaways for me included the following:
- Food information and labeling will become more important to educated customers, in order to feed their demand for transparency.
- The “powerful influence” that has the most potential to drive acceptance of the sustainable food movement, will be health care companies that recognize the need for their subscribers to be pro-active and prevent diabetes and heart disease by changing their diets. These changes could reflect a potential savings of $400,000 per person (over a lifetime) for these health care organizations.
- Industrial food companies who claim the world must buy their subsidized, GMO products to “feed the world” and “avoid starvation” are wrong in the following ways:
1) By subsidizing food in the United States, these companies’ lower prices end up making other countries unable to produce or sell food because they can’t compete. Countries end up buying our low cost grains and food. Then, often due to distribution problems, people who need the food the most don’t get it.
2) One half of food grown today goes to feed animals. This dynamic is increasingly diverting food away from those who need it.
3) Subsidies for ethanol divert more crops in the production of ethanol.
4) A huge amount of food goes to waste in developed countries.
5) There is not any conclusive proof of increased yield of GMO products. It’s all hype.
If you’re interested in sustainable food and agriculture, I highly recommend visiting Stone Barns in Tarrytown, NY – or check out their website at www.stonebarnscenter.org