Your Local Organic Farmer
Your local organic farmer isn't dousing crops with toxic chemicals, or overdosing the soil on fossil fertilizers. He doesn't process peanuts at a rodent-infested plant crawling with salmonella. Your local farmer doesn't slaughter cattle in such conveyor-belt high volume that E. coli contaminates the beef. She isn't pumping up her dairy cows full of synthetic hormones or cramming so many cows into such small spaces they need antibiotics to stay free of disease. Your local farmer isn't letting "foreign materials" like bits of plastic into processed foods -- because he isn't processing foods at all!
Your local farmer has had a pretty good year, providing fresh healthy vegetables at farmers markets and community supported farms. If you've been eating foods from a local farm, you've had a pretty good year too. The rest of the U.S. agricultural system seems a little off-kilter these days. Let's hear it for the local organic farmers of the world! For providing us nutritious and safe food -- with a smile and a handshake -- they each deserve a Heart of Green award. Read on to see more nominees for a 2009 Heart of Green award, honoring those who make green go mainstream.
The Ground Breaker
Who is the voice for the backyard gardening movement? Who reminds us of the simple pleasures and enduring wisdom of harvesting our own food? Who relentlessly asks the commonsense question: Why does the White House have 18 acres of grass, and no vegetable garden?
Roger Doiron isnt alone, but his voice as the founder of Kitchen Gardeners International and the Eat the View campaign has been loud, clear and influential. The Downeast, Maine, resident has simple aims (inspire and encourage more home gardening) and sophisticated methods. Who else thought to auction off one-square-foot plots of White House lawn on eBay to raise money and awareness for Eat the View, the campaign pressuring President Obama to plant an organic garden within walking distance of the Oval Office? The same guy who grew a 10,000-member-strong organization in the space of just five years.
We love Doirons populist foodie vision. The KGI Website answers the question, "What Is a Kitchen Gardener?" In part: "Unlike mere foodies who flit from one trendy spot to another in search of instant culinary gratification, Kitchen Gardeners set out roots in a place and begin planning their pleasure months in advance." For reminding us all how easy and good it is to grow our own food, Roger Doiron is a 2009 Heart of Green award winner. Watch his acceptance speech!
Environmental Defense Fund
Quick! Which of these headlines is true:
Fish are healthy and essential for a healthy diet!
Fish are so contaminated with mercury they are toxic!
Omega 3 fatty acids are so important for pregnant women that the brains of their children wont develop properly without enough fish in the diet!
Pregnant women should avoid fish because of contamination that will permanently damage their childrens brains!
To eat fish, or not to eat fish? And how much? And which species? These are questions that could have tied a modern Hamlet in knots.
Fact: Many species tend to be highly contaminated with mercury, PCBs and other contaminants that can cause serious harm to children, which is why the Environmental Protection Agency warns against eating many species, or limiting the number of meals eaten, particularly for pregnant women and younger children.
Fact: Fish are an excellent lean source of protein and other nutrients, and the Omega-3 fatty acids in fish are an important brain food -- particularly for pregnant women and younger children.
Fact: The world's oceans are being rapidly depleted by overfishing and a host of other environmental threats.
Thats why the Environmental Defense Fund deserves a Heart of Green award. Its Seafood Selector, available on the Web or in a pocket-sized downloadable document, serves up a simple lists of dos and donts at the fish counter. Just choose fish from its "eco-best" list and you know youre eating the least contaminated, most nutritious and most sustainably harvested fish on the market. Whew!
Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
Names not familiar? How does Skinny Bitch grab ya?
Called "the bait-and-switch diet book of the year" (by Salon) Skinny Bitch quietly clothed a vegan diet in sass, and inspired a movement, not to mention a best-selling franchise.
The former models-turned-dietary truth tellers Rory Freedman (left) and Kim Barnouin did more to promote a humane, vegetable-based (and green!) diet than any in-your-face activist could have. All they did was deliver a healthy weight-loss regimen, from the mouths of the best friend who wont stop telling you how right she is. (Watch out, fellas: Skinny Bastard is due April 27.)
Keep it up, uh, bitches. Your dietary jujitsu is deserving of a Heart of Green award.
Sidwell Friends School
When Sasha and Malia attended their first day of classes at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., the nation got a sudden insight into a simple truth advocates have been trying to hammer home for years: School lunches can be healthy and delicious. They can be sustainable and they can be sourced locally.
How many local school districts include tomato basil soup, organic spinach salad, roasted local veggie melts, organic baked French fries and organic pears on a typical menu? The occasion of the Obama girls' first school lunch sparked a media frenzy, and inspired the cottage industry in foodie fan blogs tracking anything that passes an Obamas lips. And a good thing! If every school in America followed the Sidwell Friends lunch model, it would go a long way toward boosting local agriculture, reducing obesity and no doubt improving test scores. (President Obama himself seems to be encouraging public schools to follow the lead of Sidwell, a private school.)
Sidwell Friends School focuses on regional vendors and uses organic and fair trade ingredients whenever possible. It uses recycleable, biodegradeable and compostable products. (How about adding those words to the next spelling test!) It composts food waste and uses the compost to fertilize school gardens and grounds. It even uses vegetables that students bring in from home, and serves them up as soup for for the homeless.
For perhaps the best side benefit of Obamamania, Sidwell Friends School deserves a Heart of Green award for inspiring an overdue school lunch revolution.
Alice Waters and Slow Food: What a perfect culinary pairing!
Alice Waters has been a driving force in the U.S. Slow Food movement for decades, advocating a diet delicious, nutritious, sustainable and -- not insignificantly -- fully enjoyable. She has translated the success of her massively influential Chez Panisse restaurant, with its fresh-before-all-else menu, into a number of successful campaigns, including the Edible Schoolyard, a middle school garden and teaching kitchen -- and, of course, Slow Food Nation.
In 2008, the first-ever Slow Food Nation event drew a small citys worth of people to San Francisco to enjoy food that is "good for them, good for the people who grow it and good for the planet."
If Alice Waters is successful, all people will see the unassailable value in that mantra, and well all be better for it.
Organic Trade Association
Do you want to know if the milk youre buying came from cows treated with synthetic hormones? Do you think the cows producing the milk you drink should adhere to the same drug-free standards as Major League Baseball players?
If the answer is yes, then you have the Organic Trade Association to thank for keeping truth-in-labeling alive.
Monsanto, until recently the maker of recombinant bovine growth hormone (Eli Lilly bought that arm of the business in April 2008), waged a state-by-state campaign to outlaw the use of phrases like "rBGH-free" on milk. The Organic Trade Association quietly spoke out in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana and Kansas, urging state agriculture departments to continue allowing dairies that avoid synthetic hormones -- including certified organic dairies, which cannot by law inject their cows -- to label their milk accordingly.
When most customers walk into the refrigerated aisle of their local grocery store, they dont realize how behind-the-scenes battles like these have their effect. Because of the Organic Trade Association, consumers can still look for milk that fits their ethics. For that, the OTA deserves a Heart of Green award.
Mark Bittman is known to many as the New York Times columnist (The Minimalist) and blogger (and author of the kitchen staples How to Cook Everything and, even better for the green audience, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. He's an everyman foodie: He advocates using quality ingredients for the right reasons -- the health of the consumers, the Earth and local communities -- but without any of the pretension that sometimes accompanies the same message delivered by someone else.
With Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating With More Than 75 Recipes, Bittman put his popular appeal to good use, showing us how to act on what 2008 Heart of Green winner Michael Pollan taught us -- "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
For showing us how to make the Pollan mantra a lifestyle, and enjoy it, Bittman deserves a Heart of Green.
Sure, eating locally grown foods is great
but it's so hard. What day is that farmers market, again? And where is that local farm stand? Is that CSA still accepting members?
Local Harvest has the answers. The group's mission is revolutionary only because our food system has come so far from its roots: "Awakening the U.S. to the importance of community, variety, humane treatment of farm animals, and social and environmental responsibility in regards to our food economy." And Local Harvest has a bright future, with yearly search traffic up by one-third in 2008, and millions of Americans taking advantage of its huge updated database of farms, farmers markets, community supported farms and other sources of locally grown foods. (Proud Conflict of Interest Alert: Local Harvest and The Daily Green are partners, and you can start your Local Harvest search right on our homepage.)
Local Harvest is the Google of local eating. In other words: This group has a Heart of Green.
Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis
King Corn was released a dogs age ago, in movie terms: 2007. Yet the documentarys simple, smart premise -- grow an acre of Iowa corn and watch how it passes through the U.S. food system has such enduring value that its influence hasnt waned. It doesnt hurt that Curt Ellis (right) and Ian Cheney, the buddies who set off to understand how their bodies could be so heavily made up of Midwestern corn, are so likable and earnest. In the hands of others, this film might easily have felt overly didactic and confrontational.
For showing America how strange industrial corn and its many uses are, and for doing it in a style that matched a Michael Moore subversiveness with a Michael J. Fox affability, these two deserve a (somewhat belated) Heart of Green award.