Should dogs prance around produce?

 While America’s farmers of fresh produce try to figure out what is a good agricultural practice (GAP) and how best to limit animal incursions, the first dog gets a portrait in the midst of the presidential garden.

Retailers expect farmers to have some control over deer crapping on strawberries or apples and killing people, so maybe it’s not a bright idea to promote pooches in the garden.

I look forward to a full discussion of microbial food safety risks and fresh produce in Michelle Obama’s upcoming book, Grown: How the White House Kitchen Garden Inspires Families, Schools, and Communities, announced today by the Crown Publishing Group. Beleaguered cantaloupe farmers may also appreciate some First guidance on allowable animal incursions.

Microbiologically safe food – regardless of farm size

Daughter Courtlynn spent her spring break with daughter Sorenne in Manhattan (Kansas).

Which is the only lede I got into foodborne illness, conspiracies and shameless exploitation of children.

The conclusion is this: Michelle Obama should use the White House garden to endorse microbiologically safe food, from around the corner or around the globe.

Phillip Brasher wrote in The Des Moines Register yesterday,

“In recent years, the federal government and the food industry have taken some significant steps to improve the safety of fresh produce. Those measures include stringent inspection standards for farms that supply schools and supermarket chains. The standards sometime restrict the use of compost and manure to fertilize crops and restrict how close cattle can be to fields.”

Stringent standards is not the descriptor to be used in the wake of the Peanut Corporation of America-AIB auditing fiasco. Worse, associations representing small-scale farmers have taken to the Intertubes to whine and conspiratorize about the end of family farming; that somehow standards for producing safe produce shouldn’t apply to small farms, or my garden.

The group that keeps getting cited for its threatening analysis of proposed food safety legislation is the ponderous Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which is run by the folks pushing raw milk. And some of those folks have, uh, interpretations of food safety that are not only wrong but dangerous to public health. Epidemiology does work, but not everyone likes the results.

Back to my kids. Or Mason Jones, the five-year-old who died in the 2005 E. coli O157 outbreak in Wales. Or Barack’s kids, since he cited them in a food safety chat. The food safety goal, for me, is to have fewer people barfing and dying. There is some microbiology and food science available to help achieve that goal. There is a lot of speculation, fairytales and unknowns about the providence of nature and immunology which can get in the way of that goal.

Michelle Obama, you are embracing local and fresh and natural foods and whatever that means. As I asked March 11, 2009, use the White House bully garden to embrace microbiologically safe food.

Obama’s special garden

Michelle Obama wants to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables.

“My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

That is so retarded.

Oh, I thought that was OK after Barack told Jay Leno last night that his 129 in bowling was Special Olympics-like.

I compost. I garden. I know that berries (left) don’t magically come in the first year.

“Bill Yosses, the pastry chef, is looking forward to berry season.”

Growing food requires skill; farmers are professionals, not hobbyists. There is room for both. And I’d like to see some genetically-engineered Bt sweet corn grown in that garden. It’s more sustainable.

Below, our polar scarebear protects seedlings in the Kansas sunshine.


A nation fed on local food?

The political power of the U.S. president just sets the stage for the presidential family to influence American culture.

I think one of the most interesting galleries at the Eisenhower Museum–dedicated to our 34th president who hailed from Abilene, Kansas (about an hour from where I write)–is the gallery filled with outfits worn by his wife Mamie. Plaques near the outfits describe the impact the former First Lady had on women’s fashion during her husband’s presidency–like many First Ladies before and after her.

Purpose-minded people everywhere hope that their cause will be picked up by a member of the presidential family and instantly regarded as fashionable.

This, of course, includes proponents of local food.

As reported by the New York Times,

“The nonprofit group Kitchen Gardeners International wants to inspire people to grow their own food in home gardens. More recently, its “Eat the View!” campaign has targeted the ultimate home garden — the White House lawn.”

According to the group’s website,

Kitchen Gardeners “are self-reliant seekers of "the Good Life" who have understood the central role that home-grown and home-cooked food plays in one’s well-being.”

Across the pond, the Japan Times reports that, “public trust in food, packaging and labeling [is] crumbling across the nation,” and it’s leading consumers to “tak[e] a healthy interest in vegetables and other locally made produce.”

The article asserts,

“The vegetables and fruits are not necessarily cheap compared with supermarket prices, but people are apparently buying them because they feel safer eating products made by farmers who aren’t afraid to be identified.”

It can’t hurt to know who supplies your food. However, without microbiological evidence of the safety of products and processes, there’s really no guarantee that food produced nearby—or even in your own yard—will be safer to eat than food that’s been in transit for a while.

Sick people just get the comfort of knowing who it was that let the poop get on their food.