Posts by:

Christine Grillo

Christine Grillo

Contributing Writer

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Food Systems Advocacy in Rural America: Don’t Say Environment

“We don’t say the word ‘environment,’” says Mark Winne about his food systems work in rural regions. “If we have to bring it up, we talk about ‘clean air’ and ‘clean water.’”

The cultural schisms in the U.S.— rural versus urban, liberal versus conservative—are hardly new. So what’s the best way to make positive, progressive food system change in rural, politically right-leaning communities? The people who have been negotiating this divide through food policy councils (FPCs), task forces or other multi-stakeholder initiatives have advice. Read More >

CLF at the Future Harvest CASA Conference 2017

Photo by Future Harvest.

Sometimes electrical wiring saves the chickens. Radish plants can feed the soil in winter.

These pearls of wisdom and many others were shared earlier this month at the 2017 Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) Conference. Three CLF staffers attended sessions at the conference to broaden their perspectives on how food systems can be improved to become not only more resilient but more profitable. Here are some of the things we learned. Read More >

Maryland Legislators Dodge Questions about Poultry Industry

Monica Brooks (l) and Margaret Barnes.

“I consider myself an environmentalist, but also our job is to provide jobs for people… And unfortunately for your interests, the chicken farming industry provides a lot of jobs on the Eastern Shore.” This was the response from Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D–27) when asked if he would support legislation to halt the expansion of industrialized, “mega” chicken houses on the Eastern Shore. “Whether you like it or not, agriculture is still the Number One business in this state. You can’t cripple the industry,” he said. Read More >

Wendell Berry Wants Us to Get Small and Stay In

Wendell Berry with the CLF communications team, Dec 8 2016.

Wendell Berry humors the CLF communications team with selfies and signings, Dec 8 2016.

When Wendell Berry met with a small group of us for an informal conversation at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, we promised to try not to talk him to death. “Well,” he said, “if you did, that would be the end of my troubles.”

Mr. Berry, age 82, beloved writer, poet and farmer, was in town for a two-day visit during which he talked with Eric Schlosser about what he calls “the world-ending fire.” The next day he read from his new essay, “The Thought of Limits in the Prodigal Age,” in which he discussed his vision for an authentic land economy. Intrigued by some comments he made earlier Read More >

Republican Maryland Favors Regulations for Poultry Industry

Maryland's Eastern Shore counties vote red but want regulations on industry.

Maryland’s Eastern Shore counties vote red but want regulations on industry.

Last month, every county on Maryland’s Eastern Shore voted red, choosing the Republican presidential candidate by safe margins. In Worcester County, votes for the Republican candidate nearly doubled those for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

But do voters in these four counties—Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester—really want, as promised by the Republican candidate, an end to regulations on industry? A recent public opinion poll by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future suggests the opposite.

In fact, according to the poll of 600 registered voters across Maryland, weighted for input from the Eastern Shore, what voters really want is more regulation of the poultry industry. Read More >

A Red State Rejects the Right to Farm

oklahoma-old-map-1917Something interesting happened in Oklahoma. On November 8, this state, typically associated with a rural, farming and ranching way of life, did as expected: the majority of Oklahomans (65 percent) voted for the Republican presidential candidate and all seven of the state’s electoral votes went red. But something a little unusual happened, too. That same day, 60 percent of Oklahoma voters opposed an amendment typically associated with the Republican agenda—the so-called “right to farm.” In essence, Oklahoma elected a right-wing Read More >

Within Reason: Getting the Most from Urban Ag

Boone Street Farm

Boone Street Farm, Baltimore

My teenaged daughter just asked me when our yard was going to look “nice” again. Inch by inch, I’ve been removing grass and replacing it with clover, herbs, milkweeds and some plants that I refer to, mostly ironically, as crops. She dislikes the rows of composting sod, the dying grass, and the soggy trenches that scream “work in progress.” “It’s so ugly,” she said. And then she cried. I had made The Classic Error—I didn’t get community buy-in on my gardening plans. Not only that, I am guilty of Error Number Two: I planted food that I enjoy— tomatillos, cilantro, sunchokes—but that my kids refuse to recognize as edible. Read More >

Ethical Procurement, It Ain’t Easy Being Green

Food service-4-01At the risk of dating myself, I’ll invoke the movie Chinatown, in which detective Jake Gittes uncovers a grand-scale conspiracy involving the control of water in Los Angeles, a city suffering with drought. The corruption is so thick that there’s no hope of cutting through it. The famous line? “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

If Roman Polanski were to make a movie about the grand-scale conspiracy controlling what foods are purchased for hospitals, schools, and prisons … well, he wouldn’t. But if he did, our detective would uncover the near-nefariousness of the forces controlling what students eat for lunch, for example, or what hospital cafeterias serve. The movie—and let’s just give it the working title Aramark, as in “Forget it, Jake. It’s Aramark”—would introduce us to the seamy world in which food service companies like Sodexo, Aramark, and Compass Group use a byzantine system Read More >

In Annapolis Policymakers Claim to Protect Farmers, Protect Bay

Environmental Integrity Project“Farmers are the best preservationists,” said Maryland Senate President Thomas V. (Mike) Miller. “They’re God-fearing, law-abiding, loyal, hardworking people. And agriculture is the Number One business in Maryland.”

Yesterday morning the Maryland State Assembly began its session, and kicking it off was a summit convened in Annapolis by Baltimore radio show host Marc Steiner at WEAA (88.9 FM) and cosponsored by the CLF. The issues that seemed to burn the brightest were those around education, felons’ voting rights, and the opioid epidemic, as well as a short discussion about police brutality—although questions of conservation and agriculture Read More >

Dietary Guidelines Confusing on Red Meat

USDA MyPlate, 2010

USDA MyPlate, 2010

Last week the USDA and HHS released the new 2015 Dietary Guidelines. And while there are some evidence-based recommendations that make a lot of sense, there are some recommendations that leave us scratching our heads. There is also a disturbing omission of environmental concerns.

Perhaps the biggest piece of good news is that the Guidelines clearly call for a reduction in the consumption of “added sugars”—the new recommendation calls for a maximum 10 percent of daily calories. Could the agencies have gone a step further and specified that sodas and sugary drinks make up a big part of “added sugars?” Why, yes, they could have done that. Marion Nestle writes that “added sugars is a euphemism” Read More >