All posts by Chris Casey

plant cells

45: How Plants Use Water

In this episode we dive into the weird world of plant biology and answer the question of how plants use water. We learn about the xylem, the phloem, and how photosynthesis converts H2O into oxygen. Also, plants have hairs and cuticles!?

Jay Hosler’s photosynthesis comic (Gimme Some Sugar)

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About us
One to Grow On is a podcast that digs into the questions you have about agriculture and tries to understand the impacts of food production on us and our world. We explore fascinating topics including food, gardening, and plant sciences. One to Grow On is hosted by Hallie Casey and Chris Casey, and is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey. Show art is by Ashe Walker. Music is “Something Elated” by Broke For Free licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.
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44: Bananas

This week we talk about bananas! The banana has quite a turbulent history. And while there are multiple varieties, the one we most commonly eat are all clones! Also, how far would YOU run in a banana costume?

Read the transcript for this episode.

Join our discord our facebook group!

Connect with us!
twitter.com/onetogrowonpod
instagram.com/onetogrowonpod
facebook.com/onetogrowonpod
[email protected]

Tweet with #AskOnetoGrowOn

Support us on Patreon!
patreon.com/onetogrowonpod

About us
One to Grow On is a podcast that digs into the questions you have about agriculture and tries to understand the impacts of food production on us and our world. We explore fascinating topics including food, gardening, and plant sciences. One to Grow On is hosted by Hallie Casey and Chris Casey, and is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey. Show art is by Ashe Walker. Music is “Something Elated” by Broke For Free licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.
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42: COVID-19 and the Food Supply Transcript

Article Hallie wrote about this topic: COVID-19 and the US Food Supply Chain: What Happened?

Listen to the full episode.

Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris: I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad. This episode we’re focusing on how COVID-19 has affected the food supply chains and it’s a mess.

[Background music].

Hallie: This episode is going to be a little bit different. I wrote an article for work and I found it really interesting. It was about this same topic and I just had so much more that I wasn’t able to fit into the article that I wanted to say and talk about and cover and I just wanted to go a little bit more in-depth and I wanted to talk about it with you dad. If you want to see the article I wrote on this topic, we’re going to link it in the description of this episode. But it covers a lot of the same material. The episode is going to go a little bit more in-depth and cover some of the stuff that I wasn’t able to include in the actual article itself. But that’s where the inspiration for this episode came from.

Chris: Yeah, I’m looking over some of this stuff. It seems to really underscore the idea that we’ve touched on before. This disconnect between the agriculture world and the non-agriculture world and people just really having no idea where their food comes from.


Hallie: I think that because of the pandemic and because of a lot of the headlines that we saw in the news and images that came out of supply chains really breaking down in March through until about June. I think a lot of people are really thinking about supply chains in a way that they haven’t really before and what it means to have a food system and a food supply. I wanted to talk through three different case studies and really look at what went wrong, where the weak points are, and then talk through what some of the changes might be that we see in the future and how we can build from this point seeing the ways that the failures of the system have been laid bare by this pandemic.

Chris: Okay. Where do we start?

Hallie: I wanted to start with swine. Swine is by far the most intense of the three case studies that we’re going to be talking about, so I wanted to go ahead and jump right in.

Chris: Just to be sure, we’re talking about pigs, not unruly people.

Hallie: Yes, pork. The key weak points in both pork as well as poultry, we’re a meat processing plants. Meat processing in general is very consolidated. Within the pork industry, it’s dominated by three huge corporations, which is Tyson, Smithfield and JBS. These three corporations own almost all of the meat processing in the entire country. Within one of the facilities of these three companies, daily, you can have up to a thousand employees come through to work on this meat and to process it and pack it. In the last 30 years, the US agriculture industry and US food has undergone massive corporate consolidation across the board. Pork is not an exception to this. This happened during the Reagan administration when the executive branch rewrote the rules of antitrust enforcement that put the first focus on consumers and not hurting the consumer. This originally was not part of any antitrust regulation. Antitrust laws are to regulate the concentration of economic power and then the Reagan administration, these regulations were rewritten to say, okay, you can concentrate economic power as long as prices don’t go up, so the consumer’s not being hurt. That’s how we saw this huge corporate consolidation in the agriculture industry, but also in other industries.

Chris: It sounds like one of those things that’s supposed to be pragmatic, but has unintended consequences or maybe they were intended and it was just all a smokescreen for some lobbying groups. I don’t know.

Hallie: Yeah, maybe it was intended for the wealthy elite to take advantage of small businesses and monopolize industries, maybe. Who can say? Probably though.

Chris: Probably.

Hallie: Pork is extremely consolidated. It’s mostly owned by these three companies. Often these days, farmers don’t actually own their swine that they raise. Their incident is called vertically integrated. A lot of farms are in this vertically integrated model. That basically means that they own the farm, but they don’t own the actual product that they’re raising, whether it’s grain or swine. The corporation actually owns the swine and can dictate to the farmer what pigs they raise, how they raise them and then when, and how much they’re sold for.

Chris: This is bonkers to me. Basically, I guess a farm is like a contractor almost.

Hallie: Yeah, basically the farm is the contractor, so they are actually doing the work to raise the pigs. But because it’s so consolidated and these systems are so rigid. It really is like down to the day of how long you graze a pig for and then it goes to slaughter and then it goes out for sale in order to maximize profit. When that system breaks, then it becomes really, really difficult for it to function. It basically makes it impossible for it to continue to function. In March and April, processing facilities began to close as infections of employees spread, which left farmers with pigs that were not able to be sold and grocery stores had much less pork on the shelves because these processing plants were no longer able to process the pigs.

Chris: All right.

Hallie: What ended up happening was hundreds of thousands of hogs were depopulated.

Chris: That sounds like the worst euphemism I’ve ever heard.

Hallie: [Laughs]. Yeah, basically these farms had no more space, right?

Chris: Oh, man.

Hallie: Because they had piglets that they had to raise up as the next generation.

These full grown hogs were supposed to go off to processing, but the processing plants were closed because workers were getting infected and so the hogs were basically just slaughtered and then buried basically in a mass grave. On April 26th, Tyson Foods, which is one of these three mega giants actually took out a full page advertisement. I’ve never heard of anything like this. They took out a full page advertisement in the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and stated explicitly that the American food supply chain is breaking.

Chris: Are they trying to, as it were, save their own bacon or are they just sort of aware of? I don’t understand why they’re doing that since they’re the ones in control of the supply chain and it sounds like missing, hey guys, it’s broken.

Hallie: Right.

Chris: Aren’t they the ones who broke it kind of?

Hallie: They’re the ones who built it in a way that it was extremely fragile.

Chris: Okay.

Hallie: State governments were forcing these processing plants to shut down because of COVID-19 as a risk for employees and a risk to spread.

Then in late April, the president with very significant input from the meat processing executives signed an executive order that basically removed liability from meat processors when they forced employees to continue working despite the risk of infection.

Chris: The food system is breaking, but our solution is just to have people come in and work anyway, regardless of the health conditions.

Hallie: Right. The solution is to ensure that corporations can still turn a profit regardless of whether or not that puts people’s lives at risk.

Chris: I’m shocked I say.

Hallie: Yeah, the pork supply system and the processing system was so consolidated into a few massive plants that when those facilities closed, it shut down the entire supply chain and it basically acted as a kink in a hose where it was just building up pressure on one end. But it is making it impossible for any of these resources to flow through and actually get to groceries, so you ended up with no pork at the grocery stores and you ended up with people having to put their lives at risk to alleviate this pressure of hogs being slaughtered and of corporations losing profits.

Chris: Okay.

Hallie: That’s swine. That’s what happened with swine.

Chris: It sounds like capitalism is doing its job.

Hallie: What do you mean?

Chris: Capitalism is doing it’s job in keeping the corporation going.

Hallie: But part of the key thing with this is that it’s not about capitalism solely. It’s about the policies and the political interference that allow this system to manipulate its workers and take advantage of farmers.

Chris: Got it. Okay.

Hallie: Do you want to move on to milk?

Chris: Oh boy. Do I ever?

Hallie: One of the biggest images related to agriculture and supply chains failing that happened after the pandemic was this image of farmers dumping milk. Did you see any of these?

Chris: No, are there actual pictures of this? This isn’t actually something that I heard about.

Hallie: Yeah, there were pictures.

Actually, in a lot of newspapers that were just showing basically pipes of fresh milk that were just going out onto a field or into a ditch from a dairy facility.

Chris: Now I have all sorts of questions. Is this good for the soil? I don’t know.

Hallie: [Laughs]. It’s probably not great for the soil.

Chris: Probably not great for the soil, but it’s benefiting someone. I don’t know. I don’t understand. This is like the swine being depopulated, I assume.

Hallie: Yeah, the difference with milk is that the constricting force was markets, not the processing ability.

Chris: It’s just people not buying milk.

Hallie: People don’t buy milk anymore. People don’t buy dairy milk anymore. The largest consumer of fluid milk in the US is school cafeterias and when schools shut down, they weren’t able to buy milk. Also, we as Americans eat a lot more dairy, including like yogurt, milkshakes, cheese, whatever while we’re eating out versus when we’re eating at home.

Chris: I do like to get milkshake.

Hallie: Right. But it’s not like you’re going to make a milkshake at home.

Dairy cows usually have to be milked about twice a day and if they’re not milked that often, then they can get sick. We had this market that was based on leaving the house and leaving the home. If you can’t sell this milk, then you just have to dump it because otherwise your cows are going to get sick. The real question around dairy is who is going to be able to continue to dump milk and who will be able to stick around next year and what is the dairy landscape going to look like after this?

Chris: Wait, if cows don’t get milked, they get sick?

Hallie: Yeah, I mean, the same thing is true with people, with all mammals. If you have milk building up and it’s not coming out then it can lead to an infection. It can be painful. It’s not comfortable.

Chris: I mean, now I wonder what they did before milking machines.

Hallie: The cows were milked much less frequently.

[Laughter].

Hallie: Dairy cows these days are bread and conditioned to produce as much milk as possible. They’re fed a lot more. They drink a lot more water and you really have to strictly control the hormones of the cow in order to continue it making milk. If you stop milking a cow then it’s going to think that it doesn’t need to produce more milk and it can dry up, right?

Because cows, as well as all mammals produce milk for their offspring. You get a cow pregnant, it starts producing milk, and then you have to just continue milking it. Otherwise, those systems within the cow are going to dry up. It’s not going to want to produce milk anymore.

Chris: Dairy industry is so weird.

Hallie: Yeah, it’s intense.

Chris: Okay. It’s funny because since the cow isn’t killed to produce a gallon of milk where as it is to produce a hamburger maybe most people don’t think of milk production as some sort of exploitation and that’s a whole different conversation, I guess. Is it even exploitation? I don’t know. But the process just sounds like you said, intense.

Hallie: Yeah, it’s extremely intensive. I personally don’t know a lot about dairy. I studied horticulture which does not include dairies, but what’s clear between poultry, swine and dairy is that the systems are so rigid that when there is any force put upon them, then they break. There is no resilience. There’s no redundancy. There is nowhere that we can store milk or send milk if it’s not being purchased and there’s no safety net to ensure that farms can continue to operate and we’ll talk about this, hopefully in a future episode, other than federal interference, basically federal subsidies.

Chris: There’s no way to get gallons upon gallons of surplus milk to people who could probably use it.

Hallie: Right. Again, I think we’ll talk about this in the next episode, but the USDA did try a program that did that, but we just have a system that is so rigid. Our food system is so rigid. It is so difficult to move supply from one place to another. That program was really, really hard to implement and this actually happened in swine. There was a really large amount of swine in storage and frozen and prepared to go to restaurants that was basically impossible to actually get to grocery markets. We saw grocery stores with a swine shortage when we knew that we had this surplus of swine meat, but because it was prepared for restaurants and it was in the restaurant supply chain, not the grocery supply chain, it was not able to get moved over to the retail chain.

Chris: Yeah, that’s just so weird.

Hallie: It’s very weird. It’s kind of contradictory. It feels wrong that this is how it’s set up, but it’s set up this way to maximize corporate efficiency.

Chris: Next up is potatoes. Why you got to go hate down on little old potatoes?

Hallie: I wanted to include something that was related to horticulture that was a fruit or a vegetable. The LA Times had a really great article talking about potatoes and so that was my jumping off point and then I went and I did a lot more research based on that article. There’s no good time to have a global pandemic. Don’t get me wrong. But when the pandemic hit the US, the timing was really, really difficult because it was right after spring harvest, so harvesting the fall crops and right before spring planting, so planting summer crops.

That’s a really, really difficult time to have any kind of disruption or constriction in the economic market. Here’s how potatoes work. Usually, potatoes are planted in early spring and then they’re harvested in fall, but they are very starchy so they can be stored for months. Farmers or middlemen aggregators store huge amounts of potatoes in post-harvest storage facilities and they basically fill them up in the fall and sell them throughout the years. Potatoes last a super long time. This usually isn’t an issue and they basically just sell them throughout the year, so you don’t ever really have like a glut of potatoes and you’re able to stabilize the price which is great.

Chris: Can we do a whole episode on potatoes one day?

Hallie: Absolutely, we can.

Chris: Love it.

Hallie: With potatoes, you did not have a kink in processing. It wasn’t an issue with processing. You didn’t need to dump unsold product immediately.

Chris: All right.

Hallie: But what we saw in potatoes was a hugely deflated market. Prices plummeted and millions of pounds of potatoes weren’t sold when they were expected and they continue to go unsold. Where they’re currently in storage, they can’t stay there forever. We’re not going to see a potato shortage this year like we did with swine, but farmers are losing money every day.

They have unsold potatoes in a storage facility. The real question is who is going to be able to plant potatoes next year? According to industry journals, 2020 is going to be the second lowest planted acreage of potatoes in the last 20 years. This is not just unique to potatoes. We’re seeing this with many horticultural crops because the pandemic came at this really difficult time where people didn’t want to start planting because there was all this economic uncertainty. We’re going to see lower supply and higher prices next year as well.

Chris: The potatoes that we have in storage right now can’t necessarily last until next year.

Hallie: Right. Exactly. They can’t last until next year. Similar to what we were talking about with swine, most of these potatoes were destined for McDonald’s or other restaurants.

Chris: Why?

Hallie: They were going to be French fries. They were going to be baked potatoes. They were going to be waffle fries. We can’t just divert these into grocery markets the same way. Not just because people don’t eat potatoes at home the same way, but also because these supply chains, these funnels, these hoses can’t be moved easily. It’s really hard to get food that was supposed to go to a restaurant into a retail market.

Chris: That boggles my mind. You know what I do when my mind is boggled.

Hallie: What do you do?

Chris: I take a break.

Hallie: Here we go.

[Background music].

Hallie: I am so excited to welcome Stephen and Paul new patrons to our wonderful patron family.

Chris: Hey, you all. Thank you so much for joining and thank you to our starfruit patrons, Vikram, Lindsay, Mama Casey, Patrick, and Shianne.

Hallie: You guys are so fantastic and we couldn’t do without you. Thank you so much for your support.

Chris: Thank you all. Thank you Stephen and Paul.

Hallie: Listener, the other thing I wanted to tell you about today is a fundraiser that we are currently running as One to Grow On. We actually announced it over Instagram and then almost immediately met our goal. It was crazy fast. I’m so excited. But it’s a really, really good cause and even though we met our goal feel free to continue to donate. I want to encourage anyone who can to donate. I know it’s a crazy time, but it’s a good cause.

We are currently raising money for the Gullah Geechee Land & Legacy Trust. The Gullah Geechee are people. They descended from West African slaves and live over on the Eastern part of the US punted from the Carolinas down South towards Georgia and Florida. This land in legacy trust is really focused on black land ownership and preserving traditional knowledge ways from enslaved Africans on how to care for land and tending land and farming. It’s an amazing, amazing project. This trust is not only going to be going towards black land ownership efforts, but it’s working to ensure that the Gullah Geechee can continue to manage their land with sovereignty and to protect their own cultural heritage. If you want, please at least learn more about this amazing cause and the amazing work that these folks are doing to preserve this really, really important heritage and culture that is a huge part of what makes the South so special and so important to hold onto these cultural ties and this amazing work being done by black farmers and black folks in the South.

Chris: Thank you so much to everyone who already donated. It’s very much appreciated.

Hallie: Yes, we were able to match as a podcast up to a hundred dollars and we got $240 donated so far. I’m so, so eternally grateful to everyone who contributed. Please go learn more about the cause and what they’re working for and what they’re fighting for and if you can, donate. They are currently about $2,000 short of their final goal for this upcoming week I believe. Yeah, that’s all we wanted to talk to you about. Back to the episode.

[Background music].

Hallie: Dad, do you have a nature fact for us?

Chris: Yeah, it’s actually pretty sort of straightforward and boring this week, but I thought it was really interesting, was it? The average cow produces an average of 6.3 gallons of milk per day.

Hallie: That’s a lot of milk.

Chris: It is a lot of milk and you think about all the people we have. It’s hard to imagine that that much actually gets consumed, but obviously there’s more uses for it than just drinking it. But also, do you ever wonder who the first human was that sort of sat and watched a calf nursing and just kind of went, hey, I want to do that?

Hallie: I could get in there.

[Laughter].

Chris: Maybe that’ll be good for me and my baby.

Hallie: No, I have not thought about that and now I am only thinking about that.

Chris: Sorry. I mean, harvesting breast milk from cows is one of humanity’s quirky or innovations in my opinion.

Hallie: It’s a weird thing we do.

Chris: It is. Although I have enjoyed it with cookies. I don’t feel I can comment too much on it, but you think about it and like, huh, that’s kind of weird.

Hallie: Those are the three supply chains that I wanted to talk about. I wanted to spend the last half of the episode to talk about the idea of fragility versus resiliency in food systems and in supply chains. It’s important to remember that with a changing climate and undoubtedly more global public health crises on the horizon, this is not going to be the last thing that puts stress on our food system. This pandemic COVID-19 has really laid bare the cracks of this food system and it’s also really shown what the stakes are. It’s important to discuss that. It’s important to talk about equity and justice in this context, because who is at risk now, who is greater at risk? It’s people who have already been marginalized. These poor black and brown folks are putting their lives on the line to bring us food. People’s lives have been lost because of these decisions and because of the system. Folks who have already been marginalized are put at risk by fragile systems including food insecurity. The World Bank estimated that 265 million people could face acute food insecurity by the end of 2020. The original prediction was 135 million before the crisis, so that’s a difference of 130 million folks that are being put at risk specifically because of this food system and because of this crisis. It’s not like there’s not going to be another crisis to push on this food system again if we don’t make changes.

Chris: Regardless of the difference. That’s a lot of people.

Hallie: Yeah, it’s a lot of people and it’s really clear to see what this pandemic has really laid bare is that it’s folks who are marginalized, who are put greater at risk when you have a system that is so fragile like this.

Chris: I feel like that’s another recurring theme is we’re always talking about marginalized people and how they are the most vulnerable.

Hallie: Yeah, you know why? Because it’s true and important and we need to continue to talk about it. What is the alternative? What does it look like to have a resilient supply chain? Within my sphere of agriculture, we talk about this idea a lot of resiliency, a resilient food system. This idea of resiliency actually comes from ecological theory and it’s been adapted for use in industries because the lack of resiliency can be really expensive, which we have seen both in the spring when the pandemic hit. Also, it has been proven by science that if you have a fragile system then it is more expensive in the long run. The ecological definition of resiliency is defined as one, the ability to resist disruption and two, the ability to recover from disruption. This definition has been kind of tweaked to apply specifically to food systems by the UK Global Food Security Program, where they had a three pronged approach instead of two. One, the robustness of the system, the ability of the food system to resist disruptions, to desired outcomes. Two, recovery of the food system, the ability of the food system to return to desired outcomes, following the disruption, and then three reorientation, the ability of food system actors to accept alternative outcomes following a disruption. The ability to innovate and change.

Chris: That sounds like a lot.

Hallie: It is a lot when you think about it abstractly. But when you think about it specifically, what does it really specifically mean to be able to resist disruptions of a system, then you start to get into really specific answers. One of the answers is shorter supply chains. The shorter your supply chain, the easier it is to resist a disruption and that’s because if you have a person coming to a person and delivering food, if there is something that happens, then there are many fewer people that are at risk, there are many fewer chains that are at risk of breaking. Does that make sense?

Chris: It does. I mean, it’s probably not impervious to every possible disaster, but I can see how it would be like you’re saying more resilient where if you have one link in the chain that breaks, then you don’t have anything that can fix it. Whereas if you have a lot of little links, then one of them breaks, you’ve got all of these other links that can sort of make up the difference.

Hallie: Right. Exactly. It’s kind of the idea of having one really, really long chain versus having 40 small chains. What’s going to be stronger? Also, what’s going to be more resilient? What’s going to be able to resist change better?

Chris: I almost feel another internet typology analogy coming on.

Hallie: [Laughs]. Within that point of shorter supply chains is the idea of localizing food systems. Being able to really build systems that are specific to a locality and that rely on the resources of a specific region.

Chris: Okay.

Hallie: This is really important in understanding how to shorten supply chains because as you get more and more local, you’re able to shrink those amount of links in the chain.

Chris: All right. I don’t know if we’re there yet or not, but when I hear things like shorter supply chains and localizing food systems, I also hear, oh, my food could get more expensive.

Hallie: No, that’s super important to talk about because it’s true. The reason that food is so inexpensive now is because the deciding factor for how our system is built is price. How can corporations make the most money? The answer to that is being able to have the lowest price on the market. Yes, food is going to become more expensive if we choose to make these changes. However, having a disaster within our food system is more expensive than paying a few more dollars every time you go grocery shopping, right? When we think about the millions of dollars, almost till the billions of dollars at this point that have been going to fix the food system in the ways that it broke to bail out farmers and to bail out corporations and to provide emergency food assistance, that’s where we have to really think about what the actual price is.

Hallie: When we talk about having more expensive groceries, we need to talk more holistically about what it is to be food insecure and how to provide food assistance to ensure that it is a human right and that everyone has access to it. But we also have to think about if you have the means to, how can you build a more resilient system?

How can you get to that point where it doesn’t break again and we don’t have to put people at risk?

Chris: Okay.

Hallie: That’s the first one. It’s shorter supply chains. Another one is less consolidation. There are a lot of ways that people are working towards this. One that’s currently happening. If you want to call your senator about this. It’s the PRIME Act which is basically making it easier to have small meat processing companies. Right now it’s really, really hard to operate a small meat processing facility and so this act basically makes that easier. If you want call your senator, call your representative, because this is at the federal level currently about to be voted on.

Chris: Well, I’ll call my senators, see what happens. I doubt they’ll do anything about it, but yeah.

Hallie: Give him a ring.

Chris: It’s always worth calling. What is it? Do you know what it does specifically to make it easier?

Hallie: I do. Yeah, currently how meat processing works is you have to have a USDA inspector on the premises at all times for every meat processing facility.

Chris: That sounds expensive.

Hallie: I mean, it’s also hard. It’s also just very difficult to get logistically someone who works for the federal government to be on your premises at all times. It’s just really logistically hard. I’ve been to a meat processing facility that was smaller than my apartment and they had three rooms and one of them was the office for the USDA guy.

Chris: Wow.

Hallie: He basically just sat in his office all day because there’s nothing that happens there, but that’s how the current regulations are and it’s just really, really hard to operate. It’s like how important is it to have this? You’re not really doing inspections every day. Do we need you to do inspections every day? If you’re moving 40 chickens in a week can you do inspection like once every other week or something like that instead of officing there on the premises? That’s basically what the act does.

Chris: Okay. To be sure I want these inspections to be done, but like you’re saying maybe they don’t have to live there at the plant.

Hallie: Right. No, this is not taking away food safety guidelines. This is not saying that you can just put food safety out the window. This is just trying to make it easier to have more meat processing facilities.

Chris: All righty.

Hallie: Another tick under less consolidation. We had shorter supply chains. We had less consolidation which included things like more meat processing facilities that also includes having more diversified supply lines. We talked about in our last COVID-19 episode that grocery stores have two or three suppliers for produce. Having more supply lines, working with more vendors, working with more folks makes that more resilient. Another point. Point number three is ecologically based practices. This doesn’t really tie in specifically with COVID, but it does tie in when we’re thinking more broadly about the crises that are looming that could put pressure on the food system. Specifically when we talk about climate change, we have to think about ecologically based practices in order to be resilient against climate disaster.

Chris: That makes sense.

Hallie: Then the last point is innovation. Shorter supply chains, less consolidation, ecologically based practices and then we have to have the ability to innovate, the ability to grow and move forward and really adapt. We really saw during COVID huge innovation from farmers in the terms of sanitation practices for workers in terms of e-commerce. Labor continues to get scarcer and scarcer, so we need innovation in terms of technology, in terms of our ability to do more work with fewer folks, with fewer people, greater breeding, better tools. This ability to innovate is going to be really, really crucial in the food system’s ability to continue to function during and after crises.

Chris: To sum up, I mean, we basically have an economy that encourages companies to sort of get as big and efficient as possible and having a food system that’s resilient and can survive these kinds of crises is just sort of more or less incompatible with that model it sounds like.

Hallie: It doesn’t have to be incompatible, but what we have to see is policymakers prioritizing resiliency and being able to continue without massive losses of companies, of jobs, of people’s lives before profit. It’s not like profit has to go out the window and I’m not the biggest fan of capitalism, but I understand that it functions for commodity products like agriculture, but we have to let profit take the second seat ahead of really policy decision making to create a more resilient system. Because if we don’t, then we’re going to see again what we saw this spring and what we’re going to continue to see as this crisis goes on, which is massive loss of life, massive economic loss, massive job loss etc.

Chris: You know what my prediction is?

Hallie: What?

Chris: Nothing’s going to change and we’re going to see it again.

Hallie: Oh my gosh. Dad, you’re such a pessimist and I don’t appreciate it. We are working very hard. I think that we’re going to get there. We all just have to show up and do the work and get educated and talk to our elected representatives and elect new representatives. Everyone registered to vote. We’re going to get there.

Chris: Call your senators.

Hallie: Please call your senators. PRIME Act.

[Background music].

Chris: Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On.

Hallie: This hosted is made by me, Hallie Casey and Chris Casey.

Chris: It is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey.

Hallie: Our music is Something Elated by Broke for Free.

Chris: Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at One to Grow On Pod.

Hallie: You can find all of our episodes as well as more information about the show and the team on our website, onetogrowonpod.com.

Chris: Join our community and learn more about each episode at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There you can get access to audio extras, fascinating follow-ups, and even custom art created just for you.

Hallie: If you liked the show, please share it with your friends. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris: Be sure to check out the next episode in two weeks.

Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.

Chris: Bye everybody.

[Background music].


42: COVID-19 and the Food Supply

Chris and Hallie discuss how COVID-19 has caused disruptions to the US food supply. We learn about swine, milk, and potato supply chains and how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted them. Also, who originally decided that it was a good idea to drink cow’s milk, anyway?

Article Hallie wrote about this topic: COVID-19 and the US Food Supply Chain: What Happened?

Read the transcript.

Join our discord our facebook group!

Connect with us!
twitter.com/onetogrowonpod
instagram.com/onetogrowonpod
facebook.com/onetogrowonpod
[email protected]

Tweet with #AskOnetoGrowOn

Support us on Patreon!
patreon.com/onetogrowonpod

About us
One to Grow On is a podcast that digs into the questions you have about agriculture and tries to understand the impacts of food production on us and our world. We explore fascinating topics including food, gardening, and plant sciences. One to Grow On is hosted by Hallie Casey and Chris Casey, and is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey. Show art is by Ashe Walker. Music is “Something Elated” by Broke For Free licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.
onetogrowonpod.com

A silver dollar plant in a pot

40: Houseplants

In this episode, Hallie and Chris discuss houseplants. They discuss a brief history of houseplants, as well as some of Hallie’s favorite varieties and tips for keeping them! Also, Hallie clearly knows much more about Girls Scout cookies than Chris does.

Read the full episode transcript.

Join our discord our facebook group!

Connect with us!
twitter.com/onetogrowonpod
instagram.com/onetogrowonpod
facebook.com/onetogrowonpod
[email protected]

Tweet with #AskOnetoGrowOn

Support us on Patreon!
patreon.com/onetogrowonpod

About us
One to Grow On is a podcast that digs into the questions you have about agriculture and tries to understand the impacts of food production on us and our world. We explore fascinating topics including food, gardening, and plant sciences. One to Grow On is hosted by Hallie Casey and Chris Casey, and is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey. Show art is by Ashe Walker. Music is “Something Elated” by Broke For Free licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.
onetogrowonpod.com

Crates of produce at a local market.

39: Good Food and Supply Chains Transcript with FamilyFarmed

Listen to the full episode.

Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. I’m Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris: My name is Chris Casey. I’m Hallie’s dad. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production to discuss. This week we are talking about, I don’t know, what are we talking about?

Hallie: [Laughs].

Chris: Local food and supply chains. Something that I don’t understand.

[Background music].

Hallie: Today on the show, we have two awesome folks from the Chicago Good Food non-profit FamilyFarmed. We have Anna Crofts who is a program manager and Bob Benenson the communications manager.

Anna: Hi. Great to be here.

Hallie: Welcome.

Anna: Thanks for having us.

Bob: Yes, thanks a lot. It’s good to be here.

Hallie: Anna, you and I have chatted before, but Bob, you and I actually have never met. Neither of you guys have met dad. I was wondering if you guys could give a little introduction about you and what you do for FamilyFarmed and maybe a little background on FamilyFarmed as an organization.

Chris: Okay. Just for the record, we met 10 minutes ago.

Hallie: [Laughs].

Chris: I don’t know where you were or what you were doing, but we were chatting it up.

[Laughter].

Hallie: Well, then just for the listeners at home.

Bob: We are old friends by now.

Chris: That’s right.

[Laughter].

Anna: Well, I can start and then I can let Bob give the history of FamilyFarmed since he’s been around for quite a while. My name’s Anna. I work on our farmer training and market development programs mainly with the farmer training working with our farmer trainer Atina Diffley to carry out trainings all across the country. We’ve done trainings that are about 48 of the 50 states by now. A lot of those focus heavily on farm food safety and trying to make sure that we’re preparing beginner farmers or even farmers who just want to revamp their operations so that they can practice proper food safety, understand things like the Food Modernization Act and get them prepared for the GAP certification, which is good agricultural practices in case they want to become certified. Our trainings are a mixture of that. Then we also focus on helping them to get into new markets, whether that’s direct marketing, things like CSAs and farmers markets, or wholesale marketing if they want to sell to restaurants or to bigger distributors. On the market development side of things, what we do is we try and partner to get farmers products into stores whether it’s wholesale distributors or smaller retailers. It works across the organization with our other programs, like the Good Food Accelerator, which is a program that focuses on local beginning food entrepreneurs. What a lot of our market development does is it helps them to get opportunities with retailers so we get their products onto the shelf. My job is to just coordinate those programs, to make connections, to help with grant deliverables, make sure that we’re staying on track. That’s majority of my work.

Hallie: Awesome. That is so interesting. Bob, do you want to tell us a little bit about your piece and the rest of FamilyFarmed?

Bob: Okay, sure. I came to this as a second career. I’m a career journalist. I spent 30 years in Washington, DC covering politics, covering elections. My wife grew up in a farm about 45 miles South of Chicago. So I kind of literally inherited the farm after her dad passed away in 2008.

Hallie: Oof.

Bob: I’ve always had a passion for food. When I moved out here in 2011 we just loved Chicago, I decided that I really wanted to work with people who were working at the grassroots community level to affect positive change, and it could have gone a lot of different directions. Unfortunately, I met Jim Slama, our CEO about eight years ago and I was able to build a career in good food advocacy. FamilyFarmed evolved out of an organization. It started earlier in 1996 called Sustain, which was an environmental advocacy and marketing company. They would run up media campaigns and supportive environmental issues. He started working on some campaigns like in 1998 to enforce strong organic standards. This was when they were first creating the USDA organic standards and there were some ridiculous things that agribusiness was trying to push through like you could grow in sewage sludge and still get certified as organic. They played a big role of blocking that. Over the next few years, Jim recognized that there were a lot of major organizations doing environmental advocacy, but practically nobody was doing good food and nobody was working to connect local farmers with buyers. This was before anybody ever heard of the Good Food Movement. Really, it was very embryonic. Then in 2004, they launched the Good Food EXPO, which remained the flagship of FamilyFarmed until last year. Then we discontinued it because we were doing other programming. It was actually called the Local Organic Trade Show. That was its purpose.

It was to connect farmers with buyers. The name was changed to FamilyFarmed officially in 2006. Again, very farmer oriented. The farmer training program that Anna was describing became a reality in 2008. It has been based on a series of manuals that Anna will get into more detail. The first was Wholesale Success, which was aimed at helping farmers who are a little bit more advanced and mature to get into wholesale markets. Then Direct Market Success, which we published in 2016. I was already on board and I played a role in that. That was aimed at early stage farmers get their feet wet and build market by direct marketing, farmers markets and CSAs and direct restaurant, things like that. Then food safety has always been a premier issue and so the On-Farm Food Safety manual and website was created. FamilyFarmed has changed a little bit over the years because the market has changed. Now, there is the Good Food Movement. There’s a massive population that is concerned about health and wellness environmental sustainability. There are a lot of producers and investors involved in it. Other programs like our Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference, Good Food Accelerator, Naturally Chicago, which we started last year. I really engaged a lot in that. But I’ll turn it back over to Anna to tell you what we’re still doing for farmers.

Hallie: Bob, you mentioned the farmer success manuals. I got to say, I’ve used these manuals. They’re good manuals. The other day, like two days ago, I was talking to a farmer and he’s like, “Have you seen this manual? I saw it once. It looked like really good content and I just can’t seem to find it.” I was like, “Oh, do you mean this manual? It’s a great manual.” [Laughs].

Bob: Yeah, so many of the farmers who have used it have told us that it’s dog eared. [Laughs].

Anna: Yeah.

Bob: It’s in their workspace. They use it every day. It’s been a real mainstay.

Chris: I was going to say you talking about the Good Food Movement, I had never heard of the Good Food Movement. I think you described it pretty well, but I had never heard it called that.

Hallie: I was wondering if either of you guys could maybe give a more expanded definition of Good Food, because we’ve never actually talked about it on the show and I know it goes beyond just organic and local and those more commonly heard labels. I was wondering if either of you guys were able to give a more expanded definition of that.

Bob: I’ll jump in because I’ve actually done a lot of work on our mission and vision. We define it as accessible and delicious food that is produced as locally as possible using sustainable humane and fair practices. It covers a lot of ground, it covers environmental issues, it covers labor issues, it covers health and wellness issues and it covers food accessibility. The vision statement that FamilyFarmed has had for a long time is good food on every table. I would underline it all caps every because that’s the intention. Too many people are excluded from this. We’re expanding our programming to reach people in under resourced communities, lower income people to make sure that they have equitable access to the same good, healthy food, sustainable food for everybody and that people get a lot of financial means already have accessible to them. Anna.

Anna: Oh yeah. I agree with all of that.

I think that’s a pretty succinct definition of the Good Food Movement. It’s definitely like an intersectional approach to just providing from the environment to labor, to people, making sure everyone has access to good food and so I think you described it perfectly, Bob.

Bob: Thanks. [Laughs].

Hallie: This interview is going to be part of a larger series. We’re talking about local food. As a part of that, we talked to an urban farmer and we talked to a farmer’s market manager and I wanted to bring you guys on to get that more broader view of what it really looks like to incorporate local food into the food system and into the supply chain. I was wondering, Anna, if you could talk a little bit about your work, but also your views on what drew you to this work. One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed in these interviews is learning how people got to the Good Food Movement and the local food movement because I feel like people just often take the really interesting paths I guess to get here because it’s something that really draws you in.

Anna: After I graduated college, I went to school in New York and then I graduated and I moved down to Buenos Aires, Argentina and I was working for a software company. One thing that really struck me was one of my first grocery shopping experiences in the city. I went and my partner at the time wanted me to pick up some chicken and I went to the store and I realized they had run out of chicken. I asked them at the store. I was like, “Oh, do you have any more chicken left?” They were like, “No, you got to get in early for that.” It was like a big chain grocery store and I was just like, “How do you run out of chicken?” Coming from the United States, this is the land of abundance. There’s restocking the shelves all the time. It was really shocking to me.

After that realization, I met a woman who became a good friend of mine down there. She was really focused on intersectional veganism, and a lot of that had a huge food justice focus and so I just started to learn about all of this. It’s happening in Argentina, but it was definitely happening in the US just like food disparity, “food deserts.” These are things that I never had to think about growing up because I grew up in a privileged background and so we never had to struggle to find food. We had a grocery store less than a mile away from our house. I just started to think like, wow, food is such a fundamental human right. The fact that there are structures in place to prevent people from having access to something that is just so basic, and so really easy or should be easy to provide. It became something I care deeply about. I left the software marketing world and I moved back to the US and became an AmeriCorps VISTA for an organization called the Regional Environmental Council. The name is a bit misleading. They had more of a focus on urban farming and food justice practices. Working with them, I was able to learn a lot about the importance of local food. We did a lot of work around supplemental nutrition benefits, like SNAP, making sure that farmers markets are getting grants that would allow the local farmers markets to accept SNAP. Then doing a lot of advocacy for information outreach. People knew that if they shop at this farmers market their benefits would be doubled. You’re essentially getting $20 extra dollars in free produce. When we think about the importance of local food, it’s important for so many reasons. I think one thing that’s been really illuminating about COVID in this age that we’re living in is that it has really laid bare all of the structural flaws that big ag has caused, like having to ship to all these big grocery stores across the country. Not only is there like a lot of environmental degradation, but it’s just not sustainable. I think that’s what we’re really seeing right now.

There’s the environmental issue, but also like with what Bob said when thinking of labor, when you shop locally, if you go to a farmers market, you’re able to meet the farmer. Usually, the farmer or the people working on the farm are also the ones, I know this because I worked on a farm as well, and they’re the ones at the market selling you the products that they grow. There’s a transparency there. I think that where you spend your money it’s a lot of power and so you can make the choice like I’m going to give my money to this farm and to this farmer, because I know, or I can figure out if they’re using good labor practices whereas with big agriculture, you don’t know. A lot of the time it’s very predatory on migrant farmers and they’re making really low wages in very poor working conditions and our government allows that. There’s the human aspect. But then I think when we shop locally, we also realize like tomatoes aren’t in season in December. I think that seasonality and education around seasonality becomes really important because it can help people. It has all these residual benefits too. It’s like, okay, what’s in season? Like I have to learn how to cook it. I think it can help people to just really deepen their relationship with food. It’s all of these beautiful things coming together that makes shopping locally, so powerful and so important. I do want to add that it’s not always easy, right? I think that sometimes dropping at a farmers market you’re privileged enough if you live near one and sometimes prices are really high. That’s why I think it’s really important for benefits like SNAP and a lot of different farmers markets have double food boxes being able to get these grants so that people who are on supplemental nutrition benefits can get more bang for their buck because local food is great, but it can be expensive for a lot of people. I just think we all need to be mindful about never stopping to push for that fight for access. Sorry, that’s a tangent.

[Laughter].

Hallie: No, it’s so true though. I feel like accesses can be left out of the Good Food discussions. Edwin Marty, actually, I remember one time told me he’s the sustainability manager for the city of Austin. One time he told me, “Yeah, you can buy something organic, but technically something organic could be certified organic and it could still have been grown with slave labor.” That’s true, right? Having this more holistic view of what does it really mean for us as consumers to have these poor labor standards on the food that we’re consuming and how is it considered ethical to basically force poorer folks to have to buy food that can be grown with forced labor or slave labor or other manipulative or other terrible labor practices? How is that ethical? We need to be talking more holistically about how we can all vote with our dollars and eat food ethically and conscionably. Obviously, it’s a human need. Everyone has to eat, but also why do we think it’s okay that if you can’t go to the farmers market, then you just have to buy this food that is unethically produced?

Anna: Right. I think that obviously organic is super important and organic practices are fantastic, but certification is something that can be really complicated and the paperwork is hard. It takes a pretty long time, especially if you bought land that you then have to convert. That can take like three years. A lot of farms, especially if you’re just starting out and you don’t have a ton of capital or you don’t have a lot of money to put into it, the USDA organic certification process can be lengthy and costly and time consuming. What a lot of farms do is, in the farm that I worked on in Massachusetts did this, we followed organic practices. We did not use any pesticides. It was like totally old school, like organic farming, but we would go to the farmers market and people would come up to our table and be is this organic?

We would explain we don’t have the certification, but it’s organic. A lot of people would walk away because they wanted us to have that stamp. It was unfortunate. I’m empathetic because I understand you want to make sure that your food is coming from a place that is using organic pesticides. But I think that more people are becoming aware that USDA organic doesn’t necessarily mean all of these great, wonderful things. I think things like certified naturally grown, which is an alternative to certified organic is really great. It’s a lot less costly. It’s a lot less time consuming and it’s basically like a peer review. Like farmers in your area coming to your farm to ensure that you are in fact using organic practices and I think it’s a great alternative for a lot of farming folks.

Hallie: Right. For sure.

[Background music].

Chris: Wow. This is awesome.

Hallie: Wait, what’s awesome?

Chris: This episode that we’re recording right now with Bob and Anna.

Hallie: You know what else is awesome?

Chris: What is awesome?

Hallie: All of our patrons on this episode. [Laughs]. We just wanted to take a minute to go through and we’re going to be thanking all of our patrons by name. In this episode, we’ve really loved doing the series on local food and these patrons made it possible and they made all of our series possible and they make it possible for us to continue making the show. We wanted to go through and thank them all. If you’re interested in joining our Patreon family and supporting the show, you can find it at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod.

Chris: So thank you to.

Hallie: Lindsay.

Chris: LD.

Hallie: Andrew.

Chris: Vikram.

Hallie: Christopher.

Chris: Shianne.

Hallie: Leah, Nicole.

Chris: Dan.

Hallie: Megan.

Chris: Maggie.

Hallie: Carrie.

Chris: Kate.

Hallie: RC.

Chris: Hope.

Hallie: Tim.

Chris: Pat.

Hallie: Lux

Chris: And Andrew.

Hallie: You guys totally rock our worlds. You make all of this possible and we are so, so, so grateful for you every day and especially today.

Chris: Thank you so much. Back to the episode.

[Background music].

Hallie: I guess it’s a pretty linear line to knowing where your food comes from and shopping at the farmers market. But I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what that looks like when you start to scale up and try to get into retail or institutional purchasing.

Anna: With wholesale, I think the reason that our farmer training program focuses so heavily on food safety is because when you start selling to institutions or selling into wholesale market streams, you need to be able to track everything you’re doing and have a record for everything you’re doing, because if say something like an outbreak happens that can shut your farm down forever. A lot of things that farmers aren’t thinking about when they’re just doing like direct to consumer marketing really becomes a liability and something they have to think about in a very serious way. I think another thing that we talk about when it comes to breaking into wholesale markets is your farm may not be in terms of like the produce that you’re growing or the products that you’re growing, it may not be as diversified as if you were doing direct to consumer marketing, because you might want to figure out what grows really well in your soil and focus on those crops. Because the thing about wholesale markets is that you need to be able to give them the product they want.

It needs to look really great because grocery stores don’t like to have what we call ugly produce. A lot of the focus is about food safety. It’s about figuring out what you grow really well, and then maybe growing more of that, and less of something else. I think the reason in the beginning that they’re resistant towards breaking into the wholesale market is because they have to lower their prices. If you’re selling a bundle of Swiss chard at the farmers market for $4 to $5 a bundle, at wholesale you’re not going to be able to sell it that high because you’re selling it at larger quantities, so you will get the return you want. But I think if you’ve been doing direct marketing for so long and you see those prices cut in half, or sometimes even sliced further, I think it scares a lot of farmers away from moving into wholesale streams because it’s like, oh, well, I’m not going to make any money on this. But the great thing about wholesale is that it usually is a bit more secure. That’s what we try and tell farmers in the long-term, if you can build these relationships and that’s sort of what these workshops will try and help them do and that’s definitely what the manual does. I think that’s why a lot of farmers refer back to it so often. We help them with figuring out a pricing structure. I don’t know if that answers your question.

Chris: My head has gone down a little bit of a path of doom because I’ve heard you all mention food safety several times. The first time you mentioned it I’m like, oh yeah, people need to wash their vegetables. But then you said outbreak and I’m like, oh, it sounds much more complicated and in depth than that.

Anna: Your farm, the operation needs to be laid out in a certain way, and you need to even be washing your vegetables in a certain way.

So that when someone from the health department shows up, because there is an E coli outbreak in romaine and you’re in California and you sell romaine, you need to be able to show them day by day how you were harvesting, how you were washing, they need to come see where your washing stations are, where your compost pile is. All of that matters so much because you want to make sure you want to have a very detailed log that ensures that the outbreak was not from your farm. That’s what these food safety logs really help you do is to avoid any liability. It’s like, look, here’s my log. Our farm is good for this. We are following all of these practices. It’s really, really important especially for folks who want to go and get further certifications.

Hallie: Food safety is an issue for all farms, not just farms that are local and starting to sell into wholesale, but it’s one of those carrying costs that like the bigger you are, the less percentage of the money you’re spending it’s going to cost. It’s just one of those overhead costs. If you’re switching from direct marketing out to a farmers market into something like a wholesale market to a grocery store, then it’s going to be a much larger part of your costs because you’re one, starting all of these practices from scratch. They don’t exist and so you’re having all of this startup labor and then two also, because you’re often coming in with smaller production. It’s a lot of work and it just can freak out farmers sometimes. But because food grows in the world, there is always a risk that there will be some kind of bacteria or something that will start to grow on food at some point.

Chris: Men, farming’s complicated.

[Laughter].

Bob: One of the interesting thing is that the [inaudible] series of studies over the year and they actually say that most food borne illnesses do not happen at the farm. It happens sometimes, and we’ve got all these regulations with our farmers have a really significant burden in making sure that the best practices are followed, but most of the problems that occur are because of food handling after it leaves the farm. The supply chain world, wholesalers, retailers, people at home not washing their vegetables correctly or not storing them correctly. It’s a conundrum that the farmers really face the heaviest regulatory load here and they may not be the people who are really very responsible for a lot of the food borne illnesses [inaudible] that occur.

Chris: What are some of the big challenges that you all face in your line of work?

Bob: Well, one is public awareness. Food has been so readily available and cheap in our society that a lot of people haven’t really given a second thought, especially people who are aware that food insecurity is never an issue. Getting people to understand the health and wellness consequences of what they eat, why they should eat better. The huge rise of food related illness in our society, it’s costing lives. It’s costing a lot of human suffering, it’s raising our healthcare costs enormously and getting that message through the people though is really hard. The high cost of cheap food. If your food is grown with pesticides that will poison the soil, and then the waters maybe get ingested into your system, or it’s grown by cheap labor practices that victimize lower income workers. Most people don’t realize that. They don’t realize that the long-term consequences what they are because they’re in separate buckets. You’ve got the healthcare bucket, you’ve got the labor bucket, you’ve got the equity bucket and all these things.

All they see is the price tag. This bag of apples is $0.99 and that one is $3. People still mostly buy food because they’re price conscious, so this is an educational effort that’s really challenging. The only thing is we’ve always seen a gradual rise in consumer awareness and then caveat it. I think this may be an inflection point. I hope I’m not being over-optimistic when I say that, but people are so much more focused on health and wellness because of the outbreaks, the hotspots that occurred in the factory production of meat, especially they’re are now more aware of factory farming and factory production practices. A lot of people are becoming uneasy about that. That’s a good thing because of the higher level of awareness that not everything is right about our food system and the seemingly infallible supply chain that gets you food to your table like that. There’s never been an issue before. Now, it’s got weaknesses. It’s got flaws. People may be are starting to recognize that buy from local farmers, know your farmer, know your food as the old Anthem is important. Then when you add in the multiplier effect for local anything, buy local. If your dollars stay at home, they actually have a bigger impact on economic health and economic by telling instead of sending your money away to Arkansas or someplace like that. Communication is a big challenge on this aspect, but I think we’re making progress.

Anna: For the farmer’s trainings, the thing that has always been difficult is sometimes just being able to get farmers to come to our trainings. Farmers are really busy. They don’t have vacations, they don’t take breaks, their farm is their life. So we try and structure the trainings in the off season, like in the winter time. January is a pretty good month, but it can be really hard to get folks to get them to come out and that’s just because they have like a ton of work on their plate. I think one thing that I’m excited about and have been talking to Atina Diffley, our farmer trainer is this new opportunity of doing virtual sessions.

Hopefully, a lot of our trainings are grant funded and so we would have to go to specific regions, but I think now this opportunity to host a training and then just have a more national audience attend virtually, I think it’s going to be a really major opportunity. I’m excited about that because I do think the outreach has been a difficult aspect in the past.

Chris: I would just like to take a moment to say thank you, because I have found nothing positive about this COVID-19 outbreak and finding some bright spots is great. Let me tell you.

Bob: Definitely, if we learn from the experience and move in the direction of a [inaudible] society, because one of the things about COVID-19 it’s establishing those people. We’ve said that people with underlying health conditions who are the most likely to contract the disease and most likely suffer severe or fatal consequences. If we can get people to eat better and provide better food for all people, then we’re going to reduce the rise, or maybe even reduce the rate of diarrhea related disease and reduce this degree of vulnerability. There’s one positive takeaway.

Hallie: I just wanted to thank you guys so much for coming on. It’s been such a joy talking with you guys. Do you guys have anything else that you want to leave our listeners with or any calls to action, anywhere to connect with FamilyFarmed or anything like that?

Anna: I think that I just want to make a plug for Illinois, but also it’s a national coalition, but Buy Fresh Buy Local is a really great resource. It’s definitely not in all 50 states, but you can look it up and you can see if your state is participating.

It’s basically an online resource where you can find farmers in your area, farmers markets in your area, retailers that stock their shelves with products from local farms. We are a part of the steering committee for Buy Fresh Buy Local Illinois, and then a lot of amazing folks and organizations have put a lot of work into it. If you’re someone who has moved to a new area, or you’re just not even sure where your local farmers market is and especially if you’re in Illinois, definitely look up, Buy Fresh Buy Local, because that will point you in the right direction to whatever you need in terms of local farms and food.

Bob: If any of your listeners want to reach out to Anna and connect with her on farmer training and market development, just send an email to [email protected] and put farmer training or market development in the subject line. If anybody just needs general information about FamilyFarmed, they can reach out to me on [email protected]

Chris: If you were to say one thing, people should eat local because?

[Laughter].

Bob: One word? Are you kidding me? [Inaudible].

[Laughter].

Chris: Not one word. Sort of the most important reason why you should really eat local because.

Anna: I would say, because it really strengthens your community. I think that building a really strong regional food system, it’s supporting your farmers. That will just provide access to better food and more farmers will be able to flourish. I just think, like getting to know your farmer, going to the farmers markets, it’s these moments that when you’re alone in the aisle at a grocery store, you’re not able to have that exchange and so I think it really does build community. There are a ton of other reasons that we talked about, but I feel like the community building aspect is a really great part of buying and eating local food.

Bob: It’s better in so many ways. That’s the reason we’ve all been discussing, but let’s face it. You’re not going to definitely eat anything if it doesn’t taste good. I’ve often described food for farmers markets or local food as the starter drug for the Good Food Movement.

Chris: [Laughs].

Bob: If all you’ve eaten at a supermarket through your whole life, it’s food that’s been shipped in, unless you’re living in the Southwest or the deep South it’s been shipped for thousands of miles. It’s probably been sitting in a warehouse for many years or even a couple of three weeks, it’s lost its freshness. It’s lost its vitality. When you go to a farmers market, you’re often eating food that was picked yesterday. When you taste that, you’re tasting that food the way it’s supposed to taste, maybe for the first time in your life and it’s a game changer. It really isn’t epiphany.

Chris: That’s awesome. Thank you so much.

Hallie: Thank you guys so much.

Anna: Yeah, of course.

Bob: Thanks. [Inaudible].

Anna: [Inaudible].

[Laughter].

[Background music].

Chris: Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On.

Hallie: This show is made by me, Hallie Casey and Chris Casey. Our music is Something Elated by Broke for Free.

Chris: If you’d like to connect with us, follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at One to Grow On Pod or join our Discord and Facebook communities and leaf us your thoughts on this episode.

Hallie: You can find all of our episodes and transcripts as well as information about the team and the show on our website, onetogrowonpod.com.

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Hallie: If you liked the show, please share it with a friend. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris: Be sure to see what’s sprouting in two weeks.

Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.

[Background music].

Black Lives Matter Transcript

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Chris: Hi, listener. Chris here. No, this isn’t a bonus episode, but we did want to take some time to talk about some really important issues. Two weeks ago, George Floyd was murdered by a member of the Minneapolis Police Department and since then, protest and demonstrations have taken place across the country and internationally. We want to make it clear. We stand with the protestors. Black lives matter and white silence is violence. One to Grow On is going to continue making regular episodes that might not explicitly discuss current events, but this is something that none of us can turn away from right now. To our non-black listeners, please learn about what’s happening, donate to bail funds and use your voice to speak to your friends and family about white supremacy, police brutality, and systemic racism. We’ve included a link to act blue in the description of this episode, which splits your donation among bail funds around the country. To our black listeners, we are listening, learning, and figuring out how we can best be of service. Justice for George Floyd, justice for Breonna Taylor, justice for Mike Ramos and all the others who came before. Stay safe.

A small local farm

37: Urban Farming with Sophia Buggs Transcript

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Chris: Hey listener. Editing Chris here. We interviewed the wonderful Sophia Buggs of Lady Buggs Farm over a Zoom call and the Zoom audio is just all the audio that we had available. It sounds like a Zoom call, but it’s a really good interview, so sit back, relax, stick with it and enjoy.

Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris: I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production to discuss and this week we’re focusing on urban farming.

[Background music].

Hallie: This week we have Miss Sophia Buggs.

Sophia: Hello everybody. Thank you for having me.

Hallie: Do you want to introduce yourself and tell the folks a little bit about what you do?

Sophia: My name is Sophia Buggs.

I’m the owner and operator of Lady Buggs Farm that’s located on the South side of Youngstown, Ohio.

Chris: Hang on. Can I just say that is an amazing name for your farm? I love that.

Sophia: [Laughs] thank you. It’s one of the nicknames that people called me in my past, Lady Buggs, because my last name is Buggs and so I figured that would be an awesome time for me to fully admit that this is my purpose and this is what I’m doing as far as how my name is connected to nature and how much I love nature. Currently, I’m revamping my urban ag program to something more around plant medicine and something more specific on healing and helping people to regenerate their lives. I’m really basing it all on my own personal experiences of how I use urban agriculture to help me through a lot of challenging moments and times, but the positive piece to that is there’s more green space to expand in Youngstown and I love the fact that my farm is really located in a really big park. So not only am I working with really amazing soil, I’m also working with high dense nutrient soil that I can pretty much grow, whatever I want. I’m probably considered a specialty crop farmer because I grow a variety of flowers and herbs and produce from a myriad of different ways. Specialty crop is also a way for us in Ohio to describe smaller growers and I used to go to market, but there are many challenges to go on a market beyond just your achy knees and hips. There are some social context that goes into when you want to be at a market that is specifically in your area and other people come and they have the ideas of what they feel markets are.

I’m absolutely a farmer who has the capacity of going to a farmer’s market and selling a lot of produce, but I’m choosing to scale back, figure out my own purpose more so the whole reason why I actually got started and to focus more on the medicinals and the perennials.

Hallie: Amazing. Can you tell me a little bit more about how you became a farmer? I don’t know that story.

Sophia: My story in short is that I basically was laid off of both of my amazing jobs in Orlando, Florida. Teaching and one was also as a breastfeeding peer counselor working for Wicked Nutrition. When I was laid off of both of those jobs, I returned back to the town which I was born, which is Youngstown, Ohio, and discovered along the process that I had heard at my grandma’s home, the house that I was raised in, and this was after I lost my grandmother. I talk about this in my TED talk about my threes. My threes, where I lost my grandmother and I lost two of my amazing jobs. Those were all the things that spiraled me into my higher purpose, where I had to finally decide, am I going to give my own intellect, my own skill sets to chance? I’ve done a lot of different types of jobs. I’ve always gotten a gold sticker. I felt like I’ve always been a great worker in other places, but I never put that kind of effort in my own stuff. I thought, while you have an opportunity let’s work on what you love. I worked on my master’s and discovered that I really want to go deeper into natural medicine. I know if people know me and they’re watching this, I know they’re like I’ve always loved plants and I’ve always loved nature. That has been a known fact throughout my life. I don’t know why I didn’t get it, but I absolutely believe that I actually manifested a farm right behind my grandmother’s home that I inherited. One Katie pool at a time.

I just got adventurous and invested in myself a little bit more and learned some more about agriculture and decided to just jump in there and be a grower. I didn’t know urban agriculture was a thing. I didn’t know about victory gardens. I just knew that I garden because my grandmother gardened, I love plants because nature experiences were supported in my family and nature was always a place to restore me no matter what. Even if it was a flower on a magazine, it always restored me. I just wanted more of it because I felt like I was in a space where that was the only thing that understood me and I completely fell in love with it and moved forward, had a chance to talk with some folk from the city who worked with the land. At the time it was Learning Forward Ohio, who is now our current County land bank and struck up a partnership to start growing on 9 to 10 lots that literally sit directly behind my home. I’m fortunate that it just all happened. Kind of happening spiraled me into growing. Of course, when I decided to do that, taking a specialty crop apprenticing through OSU, which was the first introduction of my experience in what urban agriculture was. For me, it wasn’t a social context in the beginning. It may have been because it was helping myself, but then when I realized like, oh, this is profitable, I really dug in, like I wanted to do it.

Hallie: Yeah, what would you say to someone who asked you, who didn’t know, what is urban agriculture?

Sophia: Well, interesting that you bring that up. I didn’t mention too, that I’m also a partner on a couple of different organizations here. One is Healthy Community Partnership. I’m also the food access coordinator here in Mahoney.

Urban agriculture is described in a myriad of ways for a lot of places and I know I can’t speak globally, but for some, market gardening is just a side a lot. For some is urban ag where there’s profit community gardening. Urban ag has a myriad of things, not just community gardens or pocket parks or green space where people are doing projects, but these are also spaces where people are making an income off of farming. I’m so grateful now that the USDA has an urban ag program where they can assist. I wanted to say real growers, but real growers. When I say that, I guess what I’m talking about is people in spite of what’s going on in the world, still wake up and grow to feed themselves because we don’t understand how food has been used as a weapon in the past to cut through all the red tape of what that looks like. Still today, it’s a bit daunting and challenging. Pushing forward to me explaining what urban agriculture and what it means like now for me, it is absolutely saving my whole life. Urban ag is saving lives right now, because was there a place where you’re not judged and it’s always fair and you’re only utilized for exactly what you’re good for is nature. I live amongst city dwellers who have maybe forgotten the connection, the deeper interweaving with nature. Therefore, nature can be used as a weapon against people in city dwellings because they’re interested in paying bills, not necessarily restoring their bodies to having high quality lives, high quality foods. There’s a distraction happening in the world and specifically with people who are already over pleased, people who are already at a disadvantage. I see now people are like, okay, now I see why you got involved I think I want to too, but it’s so much happening that you have to be very careful and very patient and very loving with people who choose something that they assume that is so easy. Then they get out there and it’s like, wow, I’ve cried in my soil. I thought for sure this was the thing that broke me.

Chris: Wow.

Sophia: Who wants to say a rock broke you? Who wants to say your compact soil made you cry all day?

Hallie: Yeah.

Chris: [Laughs].

Sophia: For a woman who is not open about showing her vulnerability and who’s open about their tears, that is a real challenge because not only are you trying to grow to feed yourself, you’re realizing that all the soil is the same. Urban agriculture is a myriad of green things, green space, community gardens, side luck projects, urban farms, market gardens, pocket park in city dwellings.

Chris: That sounds amazing. In your particular case, how urban is it? Are you just outside the city limits or are you in a suburban neighborhood or next to an office building?

Sophia: Good question. I’m in a neighborhood and I am also just a street over from a major park, Mill Creek Park where there are tons of glaciers and it’s a beautiful park.

Chris: Okay. Oh, wow. I didn’t know Ohio had glaciers.

Sophia: Really? [Laughs].

Chris: I had no idea.

Sophia: Yeah, we got some glaciers.

Chris: Oh, that’s awesome.

Sophia: Most of our natural parks do have them because over a period of time that’s pretty much how our parks are parks. Because of the glaciers, I have high pH too, but I’d also get deer and rabbit. I’m not really worried about those. It’s the two legged creatures that I’m always concerned that might walk away with something.

[Laughter].

Hallie: This episode is going to be the first in a series that we’re doing, talking about local food. One of the things I’m really trying to discuss in this series is the way that local food can be used as a tool of community development. You mentioned earlier that concept of food being used as a weapon and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about how you’ve seen those two concepts throughout your career in specifically urban farming?

Sophia: Well, I will be honest to say that I haven’t read all of it, but I’ve read a little bit on Michelle Obama’s, Becoming, her book.

I had a chance to view a little bit of the video that she has on Netflix. I’m only bringing that up because that’s the first thing that I think of when I relate to another person who is trying to express what it is or how they’re trying to define specifically the work that they are doing. She had mentioned several times how challenging it was to take on a charge that she felt like really important and to be believed to supported as a black woman or as someone doing the work that she was doing and she absolutely did that move campaign, which I thought was so amazing. I loved how in her book, I don’t want to say grown in America. It highlighted how she had to push to have the White House kitchen garden. I mean, really?

[Laughter].

Chris: It’s for her house, right?

Sophia: That’s what I thought, but apparently it’s a national park, the White House grounds I must say on that level, and therefore you have to have certain clearance. She made sense when it was like, listen, there was a time where this house was not here or was torn out or damaged and you had to feed people. There was a garden to feed people. Make sense to lead that charge, but food as being a weapon is very similar to that experience that here we are shaking our finger at the first lady of the United States, who is absolutely saying that we have a hunger issue and it is not going to be solved overnight. We need to incorporate it into our lifestyle. This is how we’ve used food as a weapon is standing in the way of things like land ownership or overpricing produce or using in my opinion, language in areas that clearly deflates people.

I get that a lot of people mean well to say, “I want to teach about organic and permaculture and hipster language,” but many of the people are so far removed with these languages that it comes so overwhelming they don’t do it. As food is absolutely evolving and making people healthier, it is also being used to marginalize people. In doing that, I say, I know that there was a whole campaign where they were returning funds to farmers that weren’t given fair treatment when it came to resources and grants and support. Food as a weapon could simply mean something like you are standing in a way of another person’s best life by using a very essential tool that is needed to nurture them to say, “Oh, you can’t do that, Sophia. However, you’re supposed to know how to grow tomatoes. You should go and buy hydroponic tomatoes at the grocery store all year round.” We have to be careful and there are these, I don’t want to seem petty, but it’s ridiculous now. It’s now infiltrated into a whole system. I’m grateful that there is a food assistance program, but I don’t know if you’ve ever applied for food stamps before. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the conversations that they have with poor people, but they do not make people feel that they are proud to live in a first world country with food assistance. You have to darn there big and be sad and become broke, and scraping through the door for them to give you the maximum that you and your family do, in spite of it only needing to really be according to your household income. We still live in those times and you will be surprised at how even people who are discriminated against how food is a weapon are the same people that do it to you too, because they don’t know. It’s a whole of the process, but basically, how to make better with that is stay out of the way of people who are trying to be self-sufficient and sustainable when it comes to land based activities. I know I went off talking about Michelle, but I wanted to put that there only because I was so grateful, honestly, for another black woman in the world who has stressed that healthy eating and lifestyle is a part, not the total package.

But as a piece and a part of her family lifestyle, which is a challenge and it’s food for crying out loud. For her to share her wisdom to other young brown faces, other children, other people in the world on this is the way it should be done, which is children gardening. So when you grow up, maybe you could keep doing this for yourself. Just standing in a way of people’s opportunities to do it affordably, healthier. It’s sort of like breastfeeding. How do we promote breastfeeding? By doing it. By showing other women that this is safe. This is healthy. This is good. This is a nurturing and it’s free from your body. But if you’re stressed, somebody, something is blocking for your baby to get this nourishment because you’re so stressed out and your milk ducks are dried up early. Then you quit early because there are a lot of challenges. I would also like to see that kind of change in the world. I know we talked about food being a weapon from agricultural base but because I’m absolutely a breastfeeding supporter, I think that’s another way we stand in the way of using food as a weapon. Social service agency spaces who have to ask these thousands of questions to how she’s using her body or how she’s using her breasts. That’s typically short lived in a lot of urban areas because it’s just hard to keep up with the social demands of the world and still offer your baby a healthy supply of breast milk. That’s a whole another subject.

Hallie: No, but it’s still tied in for sure. I’d like to know a little bit more about what the local food ecosystem of Youngstown looks like. You mentioned you don’t go to markets. Are there a lot of other urban farmers? Was that an easy way for you to plug in? Was there a lot of support?

Sophia: Weren’t you going to ask all the great questions?

[Laughter].

Sophia: Yeah, there are other growers. There are not a lot of urban farmers, but I consider it an urban farmers’ because at some point there was at least five growers locally that was growing for profit.

Hallie: Oh, wow.

Sophia: This was not in light of what’s happening with the pandemic. Just over course of time, I’ve been growing for about a decade and I’ve also sold produce on my table for other growers who just didn’t make it to the market. I consider those farmers. There is a lot of synergy around local foods here and Healthy Community Partnership is an organization that I’m the healthy food access coordinator of Mahoney. We’re often meeting about how to dismantle what’s going on when it comes to food insecurity. Our challenges, I think is first, we need to change the language. I am one of a few that sit on the board, that’s a person of color. I know we are trying to diversify that and make it more inclusive, but that’s the truth of where we are. I’ve tried to make a parent to say, “Hey, listen, we need to shift the language in the way we’re having a conversation, not just about poor people, but about people of color and about food access.” Food deserts is one of those things that just makes me cringe for a whole lot of reasons. I will, again, state that, I didn’t know that this was a thing in the world. I was just in my own bubble. I just wanted to grow some food and be healthy. I didn’t know urban ag was this hip movement, but people were pushing against the powers that be in resistance. I didn’t know that. I experienced it and then fell into, why is this happening to me? Then I met people and it was like, oh, it’s a thing.

Being able to sit on the steering committee, in the action team and be the coordinator, I feel like I am capable to giving them the intel of what growers black people prefer to use when it comes to talking about agriculture. Food insecurity or food apartheid is more appropriate than food desert. We don’t need another check mark. That’s a negative word against the people. We just don’t. It doesn’t even make sense, but because that’s a great coin to get funding, it’s used.

Hallie: I have a lot of faith in the desert. I hate that term.

Chris: [Laughs].

Sophia: Thank you.

Chris: For those of you who are just listening right now, Hallie and I are just mostly nodding our heads a whole lot.

[Laughter].

Sophia: Thank you so much. It’s so much fun in the desert. It’s great.

Hallie: It’s another negative connotation about who we are as Americans. I really do feel that and our ignorance of our own geographical landscape.

Sophia: Yes, you’re absolutely right. The issue that I’m having is the language.

Now that in light of the pandemic, we know we need these brands, right? All the hard work that we’ve done to work towards to be more inclusive in our focus, I find that out of all of the Zoom meetings of all kind of organizations that I’m sitting in Mahoney, we’ve gone back to settle to the ways. When you’re stressed, in my opinion, I feel that you should absolutely have a practice. Whatever your practice is, you will always resort to it when you feel fearful. That’s why meditation is important. That’s why spirituality is important. That’s why gardening is important because although you don’t think it’s a spiritual practice, it is a practice and it’s safe. It is gentle and it is loving and it doesn’t harm other people. I’m saying that to say in light of what’s going on, I’m hearing the language now about those people, you people. Food desert, is slowly sneaking in. A language sets the tone for a lot of how movements can be that or for us to actually do what we’re saying we’re going to stop doing. Let’s start with the language shift. We had a shift, but now it’s shifted back and to be on calls and meetings and hear it, I just want to get off the call because I feel like all that I’ve worked so hard to say, don’t do that. It’s not appropriate. There are so many better words and terms that could be used. Oh, by the way, did you know that this is a catchphrase word that really is working against the people? Or working with a partner or organization that has saw the slow crawling process that I’ve had in urban agriculture being on the scene, be a part of the movement, trying to do the work only for it to just not be quick enough for them to just say, “Well, I’ll take the ideas and do it myself.” There’s an article I posted on my Lady Buggs Farm page. It’s a whole blog with this girl who just lets it go. I was like, oh my gosh, she sounds like me, which was, she’s always worked at really good nonprofit organizations. Many of the people are very intentional, but a lot of the work was not the right way of doing it.

So because we have a way with communicating or as they would may think, the token black people are comfortable with us approaching or confronting, like this is how we should do this in dealing with people like this. They don’t have to, but it’ll be done just enough to get the resources then off to the next project. There was a project that actually was needed to build on this project or we needed these resources to actually start up that. My concerns is that I live in this city with all this green space and there are a handful of organizations that are taking up some of the different projects whether it’s grass cutting, supporting gardeners, small farms, pop up markets. There are a handful of us that are really pushing that charge, which is really good, but my concerns is we aren’t moving quick enough. My concerns is that the language puts us in such a vulnerable place that a bigger organization can come and take over the green space this year. I know that blight is a problem for many people, but I wish I could stand on the porches of many of the boomers. What did they call that group of people?

Hallie: Yeah, the boomers.

Sophia: Say to them that it’s okay. That the weeds are Northeastern Ohio’s varieties that are growing into Finland, it’s okay. The air is cleaner. The pollinators are going to come and maybe we can get some ordinances so that you could have some wild flowers, but nature is not working against you. She’s working with you and it’s a blessing that we are in an incredible shrinking cities. I don’t want people to lose jobs, but sort of like COVID and I worked so hard to not say that name. It has forced us to simply go within and figure out who you are and how much more sweat equity did you have to give to somebody else. We have a chance to reboot. The air is cleaner. We’ve discovered new species of animals and plants now.

Hallie: What?

Sophia: We got roadways cleared and stuff fixed. We got a lot of stuff done and this is a blink. This isn’t even a blink in the universe. But my point is, and again, I don’t want to leave somebody without, I’m talking to someone in their own pain body experiences and discover nature the way I did it, which is I reached out to say, I don’t have anywhere else to go. One thing I know for sure is to be somebody that is always looking for a safe place. Nature has always provided that for me and it’s something that I’m hoping that Youngstownians can embrace the fact that we are turning into a greener city, let us be the change. Let us lead the way. With California not having water, we’ve got the Great Lakes. Ohio is the Heartland, but I do feel because certain circles I’m in with OSU and extension and in corporations and nonprofits, I hear that language, which is green space is only for an elite group of people and not you all. If we kick back then like, we don’t appreciate it, then we may lose these beautiful, vacant, green plush, lots of all kind of medicinal plants.

Hallie: I’ve got so many thoughts right now. I’m trying to process that.

[Laughter].

Chris: Right. I’m curious about the languages that you keep referring to. If there’s like one or two things that you just, oh, I just heard that again or if there’s like a tone you hear, or something like that, I would love to hear something that needs to be changed.

Sophia: Yeah, what needs to be changed is the way that we continue to build this great nation. We must do it with the acknowledgement of the natives and the people who are here and with food being essential. I hadn’t thought that was a light bulb for people. We’re frontline responders, regardless if there is a pandemic or not. I think we take for granted about food and even in my own house, I see it. I have a teenager who just graduated with a high school diploma and an associates.

Chris: Congratulations.

Sophia: Thank you. She’s pursuing to finish a degree at OSU as well, but I see in our own first world problems where I’m always checking her about making sure she’s not wasting food, making sure that we’re being mindful of the things that we’re putting in our body, in spite of us having a smaller budget than others. But food has always been my bigger stint. I think that’s because I come from a people where food was everything. It was our conversation. It was the comfort, it was the collaboration, it was all of those things. My grandmother’s kitchen provided I can explain. In such a tiny place in the world, she did so much for us. It is not that my grandmother wasn’t magical, she was, but what made it even more magical were the things inside that kitchen, which was food. I know some people fell hippity about calling food medicine, but I think when we do that, it makes us sound more important to people. It gets your attention. Like when I say food is medicine, people are like, “Wow, you know what? That’s nice.” But we would need doctors to also support that. Doctors don’t say food is medicine.

We’re fortunate here we have RX program where the doctors do prescription writing for people who are in challenged areas on certain foods to nourish them. That’s great, but it will really be nice too if those doctors do exactly what the RX prescription program was to.

Chris: [Laughs].

Sophia: It’s just one of those things like, “Oh, we should do this for the people. It’s your work and you do it.” The doctor is like, “What am I prescribing? Here’s the paper, fill this out.” Are these questions really being asked? Does the doctor really feel that food is medicine and that is the missing element from this diabetic woman or it is hypertension then or a personal mental health fog?” The truth of the matter is how I end up farming I didn’t say it, all of that is because I got tired of going to the powers of b and then talking to me like I didn’t know my own body. You really want to know what that feels like to be a mother and be a poor mother and go into an office where they tell you, you don’t know what’s best for your own baby. You don’t know what allergies your daughter has or how they respond to it. Just take these little vouchers and be glad somebody’s giving you food. I knew then, I wouldn’t be that. I did accept I did have WIC when Passion was a baby and I absolutely in my own struggle and my own sacrifice, didn’t do it because don’t tell me what my daughter is supposed to have or not. If you don’t help me here, you’re not going to help me, but that issue I want to say absolutely is one of the reasons why I’m farming because my daughter has so many allergies and I couldn’t afford it then so the whole foods was mine, pharmacy, but I was spending like $25, $30 on a calendula bottle which is little. I thought, man, there has to be an affordable way and there was for me to do it myself.

So that’s why I grow marigolds every year so I could submerge them into oil and let them sit for six weeks in a dark bottle in a cool place for my daughter to have a year round Sal for her eczema breakout.

Chris: I think it was in the last episode, Hallie, occasionally says that growing your own food is a radical act. I think that’s a perfect example of it right there. I’ve got this problem. I need to have my own solution. I don’t need any of these other people involved. I’m just going to do it myself and that’s really cool. I love that. How do you think that growing and eating locally impacts individuals and the people in the communities and the people around the communities?

Sophia: Well, I would like to talk about mental health because I know we want to go to the direct root cause, which is, it is absolutely healthier to do that and it’s healthier because you share the same space with the pollinators and all that other good stuff. You name all of the health factors that happen, that boost when you garden from movement of the body first of all. It’s such an educational experience. Cognitively, you’re always reaching to learn more. On top of that, the food is I feel higher in quality than what you get from the grocery store, because I think those are the other aspects we don’t talk about. Nature, which is the spiritual part of it. It’s something about the mystery that has also in these foods that is akin to where you live, but this is why they tell you to eat local honey, because you and those bees have a relationship. That’s what it is. You’re building your immune system for this relationship, which is bigger than what you assume it to be, but it’s still flowery and clean and protective for us. Eating local not only strengthens the economy, but it also puts competence in the people who live there. It’s food that they’re growing, not t-shirts. It’s food that they’re growing. It puts beautification in spaces.

It gives you confidence. It makes you stronger. It boosts your immune system and it’s always accessible and you have to learn every season, I do not eat all of what I could eat in Northeast Ohio because my taste buds primarily dislike what it likes. However, it also allows you to say, “Well, since I can’t get strawberries, maybe I’ll eat my last little bit of cherry tomatoes in my salad or since we’re all out of Swiss chard, maybe I can figure out what collards are doing since it’s later in the season.” Having a variety of greens to choose from. I love the fact that we’re just strengthening even the relationship with Mother Nature. I feel like it’s almost a checking where nature is like, who’s here? Who’s still with me? Who still supports me? You’re like, how are you? I am a garbage. I am a bucket. How many birds I have honeybees?

Hallie: [Laughs].

Sophia: I feel like it’s our way of saying we’re having a communal relationship that keeps us stronger and healthier as a team, as a globe as opposed to not being connected with her. I absolutely feel that we are the midwives also of what’s happening. She’s heating up for a reason.

Chris: [Laughs].

Sophia: It is not because something’s wrong with her. If we don’t get it together, we aren’t going to make it. She’s going to make it.

Chris: That’s true.

Sophia: She has proven she has survived freezes and heat up and you name it. This is a drop in the bucket for her. She will let us go and create a whole new people. It’s almost like this dance that is, I want to say require. Give her the respect. When I saw people still throwing their stuff out of the windows, in light of the pandemic, I thought people don’t get it. You’re still throwing trash out of the window, still? Don’t you know that that the harms nature? That’s the whole point of what’s going on. It’s not because they did it or you got it or you touched me, it’s because she can’t keep up with so much of the processing, the overproduction that we do for her, she can’t keep up so much because she’s doing what she can. This little rest that we’re getting, this little break is supposed to be her springing forward for us to be better. But I really do feel that those who want to hold onto old systems and old ways, she just doesn’t make room for them. I don’t have to be upset anymore. I have to be concerned if I’m going against. I do feel the love and support that nature has offered me. I’ve been more deeply connected than I’ve ever been before. I spend more outdoor times in my life now than I did before. I asked myself what stopped me before. With all the stresses in the world, all the distractions, I still write hobby farm for magazines. I still will go to Barnes & Noble and just go through all the books and just dream. I wouldn’t doubt that that dream is the manifestation that is happening now, but that’s a different experience with nature from a page as opposed to actually doing the work and even now, it’s the next level. Can I farm enjoy now instead of demanding it? Can I just wake up and go on my fields, plant something and heal some people without needing to dodge bullets, harmful words, ignorance? When this happened, I felt that fear pissed the people who are peppers and who are trying to be sufficient, try to get away from that. We try to just get in our own bubble to just survive. When I went to the grocery stores, I had to just leave. The craziness that people were bringing to the stores and bringing their fears.

It’s just you get your supplies and go, but people have other agendas when they’re doing what they’re doing. I was shocked, but I felt like we had scaled back a couple decades. When I went to the grocery store, the way people were treating me. I’m not saying I’m over that, but I do feel I’m over that. I get treated that way, oh my goodness. I know the masses are. My patience allows me to come home alive and safe and my spiritual practice stops me from wishing harmful things on other people. I always tell people, “You should leave me alone in nature.” Nature protects you from me because if I was here for a real human being, not in love with nature, not being this loving, it would have already been some mess from my life. Nature completely has saved me. I’ve watched to save other people. I hope that this is good medicine for the city dwellers to take in a little bit of greenness in your life, like a little bit here and there. A smoothie here and there. A wild leaf here and there. Maybe a potted plant that can be all year round on your porch and in the house, brought some things. They slowed me down and they stopped me from being so fearful from others and they expanded my vulnerability. Although I said, I don’t like to be vulnerable when I did that TED talk that was absolutely my vulnerability. That was a whole process too, by the way, to do a TED talk.

Hallie: [Laughs].

Sophia: One day, I’m going to do a video on what it’s like to be a TED recipient. To talk exactly about what you know specifically, and then find some pushback, even in the process of doing TED. That’s all I was going to say.

Hallie: Wow, I can imagine.

Chris: I can’t wait to see that.

Hallie: I want to thank you so much for your time and your knowledge. It’s been so awesome to have you on the show. Do you want to plug any social media or anything? Is there anything else you want to leave our listeners with?

Sophia: Sure. I want to absolutely want to thank you for taking the time to allow me to share my story and including me in this process, by the way, it takes a lot. It takes a lot from somebody to say, you know what? I’m going to scale back and allow someone else to take this platform because that doesn’t come easy for you all either. I’m definitely identified as a brown woman and people might not know that that’s where you two are doing, but when people hear that you are possibly supporting something that might not be favorable to them, there is no pushback. I commend you for jumping in there to also allow us to tell the real story about the ups and downs and the challenges and the lifestyle of someone who is in urban agriculture. My plugs are I’m on Instagram as Lady, L-A-D-Y, my last name, Buggs, B as in boy, U-G-G-S, Farm, F-A-R-M. I’m also on there as Mama Sophia’s Wisdom. I’m also with both of those names on Facebook and I’m also on Twitter as Lady Buggs Farm.

Chris: Wow. Awesome. Yeah, thank you so much for being here. This has been wonderful.

Hallie: It has totally been either. You’re amazing. You’re fantastic.

Sophia: Thank you. I’m glad you made the connection. Please stay in touch.

[Background music].

Chris: Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On.

Hallie: This show is hosted by me, Hallie Casey and Chris Casey.

Chris: It is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey.

Hallie: Our music is Something Elated by Broke For Free.

Chris: Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at One to Grow On Pod.

Hallie: You can find all of our episodes as well as more information about the show and the team on our website, onetogrowonpod.com.

Chris: Join our community and learn more about each episode at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There you can get access to audio extras, fascinating follow-ups and even custom art created just for you.

Hallie: If you liked the show, please share it with your friends. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris: Be sure to check out the next episode in two weeks.

Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.

Chris: Bye everybody.

[Background music].

A small local farm

37: Urban Farming with Sophia Buggs

This week we kick off our series on local food and talk about the adventures of urban farming! Find Sophia on instagram, https://www.instagram.com/ladybuggsfarm/, or watch her TEDx talk! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrGSYHl3HfA

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About us
One to Grow On is a podcast that digs into the questions you have about agriculture and tries to understand the impacts of food production on us and our world. We explore fascinating topics including food, gardening, and plant sciences. One to Grow On is hosted by Hallie Casey and Chris Casey, and is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey. Show art is by Ashe Walker. Music is “Something Elated” by Broke For Free licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.
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