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Michael Pollan

February 26, 2010

Eat Food.  Not Too Much.  Mostly Plants.

I don’t think I have to explain to any of you who Michael Pollan is.  He’s kind of a celebrity in the healthy eating/lifestyle world I think.  Some people would go crazy about seeing rock stars, I go crazy about Michael Pollan (that’s not to say I don’t go crazy for rock stars too.  Thinking about the fact that I saw The Police and Sting in all of his manly sexiness still makes my heart skip a beat).

So, the man himself spoke at Allegheny last night, and I was beyond determined to get there, despite the snow and the fact that Solomon didn’t want to be on the roads.  Priorities, right?

We made it just in the nick of time, since parking was a disaster.  I was really a little overly excited.  As soon as he came out on stage, I clapped like a crazy lady, then leaned forward in my chair (we were sitting in the balcony of an auditorium) so I could get as close as humanly possible.  It wasn’t enough.

Truth be told, he didn’t talk about anything I didn’t already know.  I’ve read his books, so I know the drill.  He kept talking about the McDonald’s double quarter pounder (is that what it’s called?) and using it as a point of reference.

He was explaining how much oil goes into making one burger, and poured out chocolate sauce (looked like oil) to demonstrate.  Did you know it takes 26 oz. of oil to make ONE double pounder?  That’s more ounces than go into a Camelbak water bottle (mine holds 24).

I just have to say…that’s crazy!  Think about it…eating that burger is using a ton of oil, emitting tons of gas and other dangerous things into the earth and atmosphere, and really…do you know where it’s coming from?  When you stop and think about where you food comes from, it really makes you reconsider what goes into your mouth (TWSS).

Another part of his talk that stood out to me was when he was talking about 2 farmers who are doing everything they can to reduce their impact on the earth.  First was Polyface Farms, which moves their animals around to different parts of their earth, to each perform a natural function.  He lets the cows graze for a few days, then lets the chickens on for a few days to eat the manure, peck away at the grass, and fertilize with their waste.  Basically, they shun industrial standards for farming, and have had great success going about it their own way.  I kind of want to take a day trip there!  I really like the principles they operate under:

  • TRANSPARENCY: Anyone is welcome to visit the farm anytime.  No trade secrets, no locked doors, every corner is camera-accessible.
  • GRASS-BASED: Pastured livestock and poultry, moved frequently to new “salad bars,” offer landscape healing and nutritional superiority.
  • INDIVIDUALITY: Plants and animals should be provided a habitat that allows them to express their physiological distinctiveness.  Respecting and honoring the pigness of the pig is a foundation for societal health.
  • COMMUNITY: We do not ship food.  We should all seek food closer to home, in our foodshed, our own bioregion.  This means enjoying seasonality and reacquainting ourselves with our home kitchens.
  • NATURE’S TEMPLATE: Mimicking natural patterns on a commercial domestic scale insures moral and ethical boundaries to human cleverness.  Cows are herbivores, not omnivores; that is why we’ve never fed them dead cows like the United States Department of Agriculture encouraged (the alleged cause of mad cows).
  • EARTHWORMS: We’re really in the earthworm enhancement business.  Stimulating soil biota is our first priority.  Soil health creates healthy food.

He also told us about Growing Power which provides safe and affordable food to people in urban environments, by way of…wait for it…city farms.  Their CEO has said

“If people can grow safe, healthy, affordable food, if they have access to land and clean water, this is transformative on every level in a community.  I believe we cannot have healthy communities without a healthy food system.”

Growing Power has projects focusing on 3 main areas:

  • Grow Projects and Growing Methods – Growing Power demonstrates our easy to replicate growing methods through on-site workshops and hands-on demonstrations.  We have farms in Milwaukee and Merton, Wisconsin, and in Chicago, Illinois.  Growing Power has also established satellite-training sites in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Mississippi.
  • Bloom Education and Technical Assistance – Growing Power’s educates folks through local, national, and international outreach for farmers and communities.  We also run multiple youth programs, have an active volunteer base, and actively work on policy initiatives regarding agriculture.
  • Thrive Food Production and Distribution – Food production occurs in the organization’s demonstration greenhouses, rural farm site in Merton, and urban farms in Milwaukee and Chicago.  We also distribute produce, grass-based meats, and value-added products through the activities of over 300 small family farmers in the Rainbow Farmers Cooperative, and the organization’s year-round food security program the Farm-to-City Market Basket Program.

Check out the floor plan of the urban Milwaukee farm:

GPsitemap Cool, huh?

I didn’t get a chance to meet him because the line was long and I was too hungry to wait for an autograph.  Maybe I didn’t learn a ton, but I am so glad I got to hear him speak and share his important message.

Have you read any of Michael Pollan’s books?  Have you visited these farms or any like them?

I’ll be picking a winner for the Brothers All Natural giveaway tomorrow, so this is your last chance to enter!

14 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2010 10:13 am

    I was there last night too! I have not finished “In Defense of Food” yet ,but I think I am going to get the “Omnivores Dilemma” today and read that first. I didn’t get to meet him but I did get my book signed. I’m so excited that I got to see his presentation.

  2. February 26, 2010 10:44 am

    Ugh. gross.

    I haven’t read anything by Pollan yet, but I intend to!

  3. February 26, 2010 11:06 am

    havent read his books but i did go to his guest lecture when he was here last month. i guess he had the same talking points as your lecture.

  4. February 26, 2010 11:28 am

    I am so jealous- I would love to hear him talk. He did a “food blog” for a few days in the NY Times and it was REALLY interesting- he has his principles, but he’s also really down-to-earth and can be flexible when he needs to be.

    That is seriously insane about the burger- where does the oil go? There isn’t 26oz worth of fat in the nutritional info…bizarre.

  5. February 26, 2010 11:34 am

    I feel like I’ve learned so much just in this post! I can’t imagine what it must have been like being there. Awesomeness!

  6. February 26, 2010 11:46 am

    I’d love to hear Michael Pollan talk! I haven’t read Food Rules, but I liked the Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food changed my life.

    Those farms sound so cool 🙂

  7. February 26, 2010 11:52 am

    wow cool experience!! i love everything michael pollan has to say! there are a couple of farms like these around me, and my local whole foods always has the farmers come in a share their tips/ideas/produce…it’s a lot of fun and I love the promotion of AWARENESS! a lot of people don’t know and might never know how nasty and chemical-filled fast foods are..icky! great post! I hope youre having a great friday, even though your snowed in 😦 xoxo!

  8. February 26, 2010 12:40 pm

    watch it – this dudes getting his own tv show this season – its about making america less fat

  9. February 26, 2010 1:06 pm

    Interesting farm. Reminds me of the dude with the farm near us here. This whole island is super into farming. Lots of darn cows. Very much a dairy island.

  10. eaternotarunner permalink
    February 26, 2010 1:22 pm

    I’ve read In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s dilemma. They definitely impacted how I view my food and where it comes from!

  11. February 26, 2010 2:54 pm

    I talked about M Pollan’s books in a post a week or so ago…i got some great comments and love that you brought it up too!

    Love the farm tour and info…soooo cool!!! I am all about local, sustainable, seasonal, food!

  12. February 26, 2010 7:52 pm

    that’s so cool that you got to see him! i’ve read his stuff…

  13. February 26, 2010 8:24 pm

    that mcdonalds stat makes me sick to my stomach! GROSS!

  14. Lynn permalink
    March 3, 2010 10:25 am

    I really enjoyed “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food” and anyone who liked those books should read “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer. He references Pollan several times, but the book just has a different feel to it than Pollan’s books. Great reading!

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