Milk Thistle Farm Calls It Quits, Dairy Lovers Bummed Out

Some sad news on the dairy front this morning. Milk Thistle Farm, a local family-run dairy farm beloved by New York City chefs and Greenmarket shoppers alike, has shuttered after less than a decade in the business, The New York Times reports. The problem stemmed from rising costs — particularly difficult for a small operation in a market dominated by dairy conglomerates.

Milk Thistle Farm’s rich, flavorful milk was used at Momofuku Milk Bar in its cereal milk and soft-serve ice cream, and the Darby chef Alex Guarnaschelli once said of their product, “Their milk is so good you have to drink it privately. Say good night to everyone, go home, shut the blinds and enjoy.”

It’s always a treat to find a high-quality, locally made foodstuff that tastes delicious. There’s no denying that Milk Thistle Farm put out a superior product. Yet their collapse demonstrates that producing a great product just isn’t enough for a small-scale agricultural business. Unfortunately, the industry is effectively run by big corporations that leave little room for independent businesses to thrive. This is one instance where it’s OK to cry over spilled milk.


Robots Take Over Japanese Farmland

Well, either the future or the robopocalypse is upon us: Japanese officials have just announced that they plan on opening a robot-run farm in the tsunami disaster zone, The Telegraph reports.

The Ministry of Agriculture’s experimental project involves unmanned tractors, which will be programmed to work a 600-acre tract of cropland in a tsunami-ravaged area of the country. The crops will include rice, beans, fruits, and veggies.

Farmer robots will box this produce — and then they will probably rebel against their human creators and enslave them, as those pesky cyborgs are wont to do (see: Terminator; I, Robot; The Matrix).

The robots will also recycle all of the carbon dioxide they and other farm machines produce, according to the paper. These emissions, in fact, will be used to fertilize the crops.

So, if the robots do carryout a bloody and brutal world takeover, at least it will be carbon neutral.


Marcus Samuelsson Talks Urban Farming

Marcus Samuelsson has recently penned an op-ed for The Huffington Post, in which he implores readers to think deeply about food policy during the upcoming elections.

He says that hot topics such as organic and non-GMO eats are great talking points, but that bigger problems should not get ignored.

While we as citizens can be tempted to debate specific issues like whether or not genetically modified foods should be outlawed or not, we can’t forget that a large portion of the country is addressing more pressing issues like hunger, food accessibility, and food safety. Other more nuanced matters like the pros and cons of GMOs or sustainable farming are far from their minds.

In his essay, Samuelsson also cautions against cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The author and Red Rooster chef wants to expand urban farming, but points out that affordability remains a big issue for the country’s poor.

The next step is finding ways — whether it’s increased government subsidies or community-supported programs — to make food from farmers markets more affordable to low income communities. Food stamps are redeemable at farmers markets, but the high cost of food means that food stamp recipients ironically get more bang for their buck shopping at supermarkets than at farmers markets.

Samuelsson is cautiously PC — he doesn’t publicly back any party or candidate in this particular article.

Still, he urges conscientious foodies to think hard at the ballot box, and pick pols whose food-policy track record makes them likely to enact pragmatic programs.


Farmers Still Struggling With Low Harvests Post-Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene hit over two months ago, but New York’s farmers and Greenmarkets are still feeling the aftereffects of devastation, DNAinfo reports. The severe storm not only flooded fields of crops, but August and September were the second-wettest on record, further damaging farmers’ outputs.

Tropical Storm Lee, which hit the Northeast about two weeks after Irene, struck further blows before many farmers had a chance to harvest their crops already in the ground. Many farmers were then unable to recuperate their losses with another planting. But a collective spirit has taken over the Union Square Greenmarket, where farmers are filling the void of lost crops by purchasing those products from farms that were less severely impacted. Governor Andrew Cuomo has also has created a $15 million Agriculture and Community Recovery Fund, but projected losses are about $45 million. For more info on how to help out the farms, visit Greenmarket’s Hurricane Irene Relief Fund.


Food Curated Shows Us the Effects of Tropical Storm Irene, In Heartbreaking Detail

You may have seen photos and read stories about the effects Tropical Storm Irene had on farms upstate. But few people have been able to capture the devastation and personal loss like Liza de Guia in her latest Food Curated mini doc.

Hurricane Irene Aftermath: One Farmer’s Story from SkeeterNYC on Vimeo.

For more dining news, head to Fork in the Road, or follow us @ForkintheRoadVV.


Farmers Forced to Fundraise After the Flood; Tainted Cantaloupes Kill 13

After the government turned down Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to test a ban on food-stamp use for soda, experts are now urging that the government conduct its own study of such a ban.
[NY Times]

There is now such thing as a foodie magician. His biggest trick? Guessing what your favorite restaurant is. Ta-da!
[NY Times]

Two vets have reignited the vendor wars in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art by returning to the contested spot to compete with the food carts already there.
[NY Times]

Farmers upstate are raising money to help subsidize major losses attributed to Tropical Storm Irene with barbecue dinners and chicken-shit bingo fundraisers.
[NY Times]

A licensing company has secured a deal to pay $1.3 million to use the name Tavern on the Green for restaurants outside the New York area.
[Diner’s Journal]

In the deadliest food-poisoning outbreak in a decade, at least 13 people are dead and 72 sickened by listeria-tainted cantaloupes.

The American Egg Board, National Milk Producers Federation, and National Pork Board have banded together for an $11 million PR campaign to fight the label “Big Ag.”
[NY Times]


As Irene’s Devastation Continues to Play Out, Consider Helping a Farmer

As we reported earlier this week, Hurricane Irene wreaked devastation upon numerous upstate farms, causing massive destruction to cropland and in many cases irreversible damage.

Serious Eats checked in with a number of farmers at yesterday’s Union Square Greeenmarket and reported that only two of the regular vendors were absent due to flooding from the hurricane.

But, as they pointed out, the bumper crop at the Greenmarket may prove to be an anomaly as the full extent of the damage manifests itself over the coming weeks. All of which is to say that this is a good time to help a farmer, and thanks to Grow NYC, it’s easy to do. They’ve set up a donations page on their website for Greenmarket farmers directly impacted by the hurricane, and anyone who donates $50 or more between now and September 30 will get a free Greenmarket poster illustrated by Claudia Pearson. Of course, you can also show your support by shopping at the market — although you won’t get a poster, you will get some delectable reminders of why we’re so lucky to have so many great farmers’ markets, and why we can’t take any of them for granted.


The Hot Summer Internship? Getting Dirty on the Farm

Seems just like yesterday that kids were content with internships at Morgan Stanley and Condé Nast. Hell, once kids were happy with spending the summer slinging burgers at the local drive-through. Well, not anymore. Given our country’s love of locavore life, the hot new summer job is farming.

According to the Daily News, Brooklyn Grange has 15 interns this summer, up from last summer’s two. Most of the farming interns interviewed in the story had chosen farm life because, unsurprisingly, they thought office life sucked and they were still full of ideals, believing that they could change the world. And maybe they can. But it might be somewhat of a challenge when you only have two acres of usable land.