Rotten Truths – Lawyers, Guns, and Honey

honey-bees-326337_1920Attached is our class presentation on the Netflix original episode: Lawyers Guns and Honey – Rotten Truths

Lawyers, Guns & Honey


“Kernza and the promise of perennial agriculture”

Early research suggests long-rooted perennial grain crops sequester far more carbon than their annual equivalents and retain it in the soil year over year. Currently, The Land Institute, a non-profit organization in Salina, Kas., is studying the benefits that a particular long-rooted perennial crop, Kernza, could bring if introduced to the global marketplace.

So what is it???

Kernza is an intermediate wheatgrass that was once considered a weed. But thanks to decades of research and selective breeding, Kernza has been developed to produce a sweet nutty grain that can be used as a substitute for less eco-friendly cereal grains. General Mills Inc. is cited by the article as one major food producer that has invested in collaboration with The Land Institute to continue to explore the matter.

“They utilize water and nutrients more efficiently and prevent leaching of nitrogen into the water table. They build soil organic matter while defending themselves against drought and disease…in short, the ecological promises of perennial grains are robust. This new technology, perenniality, represents the closest grain agriculture can come to functioning like natural ecosystems and our best shot, in my opinion, at sustaining human life on this planet for generations to come.”


“Sustainable diets will remain a minefield until we change the way we approach food”

Contemporary sustainable eating can be a challenge! As global supply chains grow and become ever more complex it can be really tough to know where your food comes from. In the hope for change, there is a desperate need for is a consumer’s to use their purchasing power wisely and to be as educated as possible to make choices that are truly sustainable.

“Often, the food labels and ingredients lists that consumers rely on to make purchasing decisions are wholly inadequate. Take meat production, where many of the true costs of production are hidden. We’ve been conditioned by the industry to look out for the “Red Tractor” or “organically certified” symbols as a sign of quality. But where, for example, is the label indicating what the animal was fed on?”


I thought this article did a good job at giving a brief overview of the sustainable food system crisis – pointing to degradation of soil health and conflict between access to information surrounding our foods source as key problems to overcome. The author elaborates by explaining that because of this, we cannot depend on food retailers alone to promote genuinely sustainable consumption. They are, after all, just the visible endpoint of a food system with problems at every stage of the chain. Instead, we should be looking to push for  large scale legislative initiatives as well as take it upon ourselves as individuals to shop responsibly. While I agree with all of the opinions presented in this article, I did feel as if it lacked a convincing road map for how we might improve upon these methods moving forward.



“Greener AND more nutritious: Tomatoes grown with half the water have the same quality plus higher concentration of carotenoids”

Farmers growing cherry tomatoes have found that using half the normal amount of water not only conserves limited resources, but it also yields crops with a higher concentration of carotenoids.

“The reduction in water and energy use is significant, resulting in a green method and cost savings for farmers. Meanwhile, consumers get an environmentally sustainable product that is actually more nutritious than its predecessors.”

I find this fascinating and important because carotenoids are very good for the human body. They help prevent degenerative diseases as well as protect people from cardiovascular disease and cancer. At the same time, these tomatoes can prove to be a sustainable way to produce cherry tomatoes that are good for the environment and for the consumer.


“Menu of the Future: Insects, Weeds, and Bleeding Veggie Burgers”

The United Nations predicts by 2050, our global population will exceed 9 billion. In order to feed the projected population, we will need to change our current unsustainable food practices. Recently, National Geographic Magazine published an article featuring five of the most anticipated ingredients food scientists believe will be eaten in the future.

  1. The nutrient-dense cricket has more protein than red meat and can be raised in small, dark crowded areas.
  2. Kernza, a grain found in the Great Plains, was first considered a weed. Recently, food scientists altered the seed to be more disease-resistant and produce a larger yield. A major advantage of Kernza is that it is a perennial crop. As a perennial crop, Kernza keeps the deposited carbon in the soil. This benefits the soil’s health and reduces our current greenhouse gas problem.
  3. Protein from plants will be used to transition Americans from a meat-based diet to a sustainable plant-based diet. One example of this is the Impossible Burger, which was able to imitate the bloody juiciness of a beef patty.
  4. Algae, used as oil and butter, needs less land and water to grow than olive oil and dairy-produced butter. Other attributes of this plant are its high boiling point and the fact that it is a monounsaturated (healthy) fat.
  5. Lab-cultured Chicken – The production of chicken cells to meat in a lab, which will eliminate the demands of raising chickens.

I feel that in order to change diets, the greatest obstacle to overcome will be changing the perception of the eater. The next step will need to be marketing the food as palatable. It will be difficult to convince Americans that an insect is a better option than conventional beef. Meat-heavy diets have become part of American’s identity. In fact, McDonald’s still has not sold vegetable burgers in America despite its success in Europe. Although the thought of eating lab-produced chicken frightens me, I feel in the interest of the world, I am open to anything.


The Little Farm

I visited the Little Farm which is a family-owned farm that has a handful of animals, including horses, mules, ponies, chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, goats, pigs, and one cow. These animals did not seem to be used for meat except for a few chickens that looked purposely fatted up for sale. We (the farm is open to visitors from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM on Sundays) were allowed to venture into the butterfly garden which housed different plants and frogs.
Due to the nature of the surrounding farms, I infer that this farm is a nursery rather than a farm that produces large amounts of products meant for consumption. Visitors were only allowed to see the animals as well as go to the petting zoo. However, I can state that the animals were kept in far more humane conditions than animals in a factory farm. Some of the animals were kept in pens to keep them from escaping since the farm is pretty vast, and there were small children present.
One of my favorite parts during my time at the Little Farm was seeing the cow. After having read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and learning how today’s cows are now fed corn instead of being allowed to feed on grass, it was comforting to see a cow grazing like nature meant for it to do. My second favorite part was when one of the staff members explained a sustainable way to get products from a sheep without killing it – shave its wool, take its milk, or gather the lanolin oil that comes from its skin. She also gave some fun facts on pigs – they don’t like being off the ground so holding their feet while they are in your arms can help calm them down; pigs are shaved as adults and their hair is used as bristles for brushes.
By allowing visitors to get up close and personal with the animals and plant life on the farm, the members of the Little Farm subconsciously helped the visitors understand where their food comes from and that food starts out as a living organism, not just a piece of meat in a package.

Urban Oasis Project

Urban Oasis Project is a non-profit organization in Miami, Florida that is centralized around fresh, local food. The group’s mission revolves around supporting small farms and promoting accessibility of quality food for all. Volunteers with Urban Oasis Project bring local farmers’ produce to farmer’s markets multiple times a week to assist them in selling their products. This organization is at three different farmer’s markets weekly: two on Saturdays (Legion Park & Tropical Park) and one of Mondays (Arsht Center). They have also recently joined a forth market on Sundays in Kendall and curate a mini farmer’s market at The Wynwood Yard on various weekday evenings. At each of these markets, low-income shoppers can double their SNAP benefits when purchasing local fruits and vegetables (up to $20). Since the devastation from Hurricane Irma, the group has launched a new campaign to help local farms recover from their losses. Through fundraising efforts, Urban Oasis Project has been able to assist three farms already: Bee Heaven Farm (which our class visited), Sunfresh Farm, and the Urban Vegetable Project. They are currently continuing these efforts – some of the funds that I helped to raise over the weekend during which I missed the Bee Heaven Farm visit will go towards these farm grants).

Another main aspect of Urban Oasis Project, aside from the farmer’s markets, are their G.I.V.E. Gardens (Gardens Inspiring Volunteerism and Education). This initiative started in 2009 and aims to help families living in food deserts build and sustain home gardens. Each of these gardens requires only $300 and provides the family with fresh vegetables and herbs. The process of creating these gardens is a learning experience for the recipients and encourages fresh air and gardening exercise. The project encourages these families to teach their gardening skills to neighbors in order to further assist the community.

Urban Oasis Project is run by a charismatic and passionate man by the name of Art Friedrich who strongly believes that fresh and healthy food is a human right. He has run sustainable farms in the past and helped to start the popcorn company Shawnee’s Greenthumb Popcorn. Art sends out a weekly newsletter advertising farmer’s markets, dinners, community events, volunteer opportunities, and articles with informative material on farming, composting, and other relevant issues. Each email also announces what produce will be at the markets that week. Attached is an example of one such email:

Let the games begin Brackets for Good Miami launches tonight