At the intersection of marine conservation and social, economic, environmental and food justice

Monday, December 5, 2016

South County Hospital Wins the Local Food Challenge

As a member of Food Solutions New England (FSNE) we're excited to share this post from the FSNE blog. This post comes from John Stoddard, Healthy Food in Health Care Coordinator for the global non-profit organization, Health Care Without Harm. John works throughout New England on facilitating local and sustainable food procurement for health care institutions, with a specific focus on Connecticut and Rhode Island. We collaborated with Health Care Without Harm on a Seafood Throwdown in Rhode Island in September.

Health Care Without Harm congratulates South County Hospital for winning the Rhode Island Health Care Local Food Challenge.  South County outperformed their competitors in local food purchasing, education, and employee engagement, and has won $1000 in honor of their great efforts. “At South County we make every effort to provide a comfortable and healing environment for our patient, staff, and visitors, and the food we serve is a big part of that”, said Meghan Keenan, Director of Food and Nutrition.  “We also recognize our role in the community to support our local economy and our local food producers, and that a strong local food economy means a healthier community overall”.
RI Food Challenge Roger Williams demo

Five Rhode Island hospitals competed in the Local Food Challenge in addition to South County, including Bradley Hospital, The Miriam Hospital, Newport Hospital, Our Lady of Fatima Hospital, and Roger Williams Medical Center. “All of the hospitals in the Challenge deserve congratulations”, said John Stoddard, Healthy Food in Health Care Coordinator for Health Care Without Harm. “Each participant went the extra mile to purchase local foods and educate about local foods in their facilities.” 
The Local Food Challenge began in May 2015 and concluded in September 2016 with a Seafood Throwdown at the Rhode Island Seafood Festival in Providence.  Participants competed throughout the year in the areas of purchasing, education, and employee engagement around local foods.  Through the Challenge, participants collectively spent over $314,000 on local foods, held 17 educational events, and 251 employees were given access to local foods through Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Veggie Box program.  Congratulations to South County and all the participants for their work.  Our farmers, fishers, and the whole community thanks you! 
Health Care Without Harm administered the Challenge through a LASA grant, while utilizing the support of our partners, Farm Fresh Rhode IslandNorthern Rhode Island Area Health Education Center and The Hospital Association of Rhode Island (HARI).

Thursday, November 17, 2016

"We Don't Need the Rest" A Lesson in Not Taking More Than the Ocean Can Give

“Bonito!” Ernie calls out with excitement. As we move the boat across the purse net we gather the rope, cinching it closed, herding the fish together. A larger striped silvery fish swims in and out of sight between lots of pogies and a few small squid and butterfish. The first bonito gets stuck on the net right below Mo who grabs it, wriggles it loose from the net, and tosses it into the boat. Yes! Bonito!

Owen Nichols holding our first bonito
Owen Nichols holding our first bonito
Shannon takes a minute to stitch up a hole in the net that’s big enough for a bonito to escape through. Water splashes my arms and I just keep giggling - feeling so happy to be with friends learning about their way of fishing. I pause to take a breath of fresh salty air when a pogie flops out of Owen’s dip net and onto my back and I burst out laughing again. The sun is shining on calm water all around us and it’s a perfect temperature with just t-shirts under our oil skins on a morning in late June. Owen, Russell, and Ernie, fill dip nets with pogies, scooping them out of the trap’s purse and into bins Shannon is stacking. Mo and I splash around in the bottom of the boat retrieving escaped pogies off the floor and back into the bins and tossing butterfish outside of the trap.

Almost all the pogies are in the bins when Shannon says, “We don’t need the rest.” What? After all this we’re going to release the rest? We’re not taking everything? As Owen, Shannon and Ernie lift up the net and fling the rest back out to sea I notice my instinct to take everything we could. That instinct to hoard fish, permits and quota is driving our fisheries and fishing communities to the brink. Instead of saying “we don’t need the rest” industrial fishing operations, corporate ownership and privatization policies reward those who take more than the ocean can give. Shannon’s generational connection to the ocean goes beyond immediate financial gain and values the next generation’s ability to feed people.
Mo, Shannon and Ernie release the extra fish
On the way back to shore Russell gestures to the vast ocean horizon, “however many fish are coming through, we’ll always only catch the very very small fraction of whatever happens to pass into our nets. If there’s a lot of fish swimming around we’ll probably catch more and if there aren’t as many, we’ll catch less.” The traps  naturally catch a healthy amount of fish relative to what’s swimming any day or year or decade or century. Weir traps have been used in North America for thousands of years. 65,000 stakes of ancient weirs were discovered by workers digging Boston’s Back Bay subway in 1913. Archaeologists say that between 3,700 and 4,700 years ago, native peoples captured tomcod, flounder, eels and herring in an ancient bay. Now weir fishing is extremely rare. SlowFish 2016 gathered community based fishermen from across North America in New Orleans, LA for three days of sharing stories, their catch, and strategizing about policy. Shannon and Russell attended along with Erica Porter who fishes her family’s weir in Nova Scotia, Canada. They run a low tide fishing weir, one of the last weirs in Nova Scotia. Erica’s been fishing the weir with her dad since she was 17.
Russell Kingman and I talk on the way back to the trap dock
Ernie Eldredge has been fishing the weirs full time since he graduated high school. Ernie’s father fished the weirs before him and now Ernie fishes with his daughter Shannon Eldredge, NAMA Board President, and her partner Russell Kingman. Back at the dock, Ernie hauls up the bins of pogies and takes a look at the three bonito in the bucket. Ernie thought it would be the last day of fishing but now that there were a few bonito in there, he might have to test his luck. Maybe the bonito will start showing up in greater numbers.
Ernie hauling the bins up to the Stage Harbor trap dock

Monday, September 19, 2016

Top 10 Reasons Why We Keep Going to Farm Aid

This post comes from NAMA's Coordinating Director, Niaz Dorry.

My first day back from Farm Aid 2016, I see top 10 lists from Billboard and Rolling Stone magazines. Not to be outdone, I thought it’s time for my own list. So here it is: Top 10 Reasons Why We Keep Going to Farm Aid.

10. The #Road2FarmAid is paved with deep collaboration and camaraderie between old and new friends. This year, we once again teamed up with an old friend, the National Family Farm Coalition, and a new friend Fair Farms, whose staff went to town creating the “Wheel of Farming and Fishing” game for the HOMEGrown Village showing how what happens on land affects the water. The game made the Washington Post’s coverage. Watch their live Facebook video.

From L to R: Mitchelle Stephenson of Fair Farms, NAMA' Niaz Dorry, Betsy Garrold of Food for Maine's Future, Anna Hankins of National Family Farm Coalition, Siena Chrisman, Lisa Griffith of NFFC, and Savi Horne of Land Loss Prevention Project ready to rock the Homegrown Village!
9. This year’s Farm Advocate gathering was focused on the corporate control of food system with stories about contract chicken farmers’ fight against Tyson and other corporations who have the farmers and chickens under their thumbs. The stories are stunningly similar to the story of the privatization, consolidation, and corporate takeover of the ocean and fishing rights. It’s good to be there to bring home these parallels because we can’t fight them alone.

8. Every year we have an adventure getting seafood to Farm Aid so we can share the story of community based fishermen far and wide. This year was no exception. Thanks to Sharon Peele Kennedy of Buxton, NC, we were able to get 100 lbs of Pamlico Sound shrimp from F/V Miss Wanda and 100 pounds of Spanish Mackerel to feed the crew and artists. With limited transportation for the small-scale fishermen’s catch, we relied on the Island Hopper that typically transports medical supplies to get the seafood there!

F/V Miss Wanda Photo by Amy Huggins Gaw 
7. We had seafood for the concertgoers again this year. Basnight Lone Cedar Cafe once again brought shrimp and grits to the arena, and this year added yellowfin tuna bites all caught by small scale fishermen of the Outer Banks. Hidden Jules’ Rambler Food Truck brought wild salmon to the menu!

Hanging with the Basnight Lone Cedar Cafe - the calm before the storm!

6. This year we got to introduce Farm Aid fans to one of our new friends: Big Island Aquaculture. The father and son team of Bruce and Daniel Vogt came with 600 of their Big Island Pearls to the delight of the VIP tent guests. Farm Aid wrote a “Farmer Hero” blog about Daniel’s love toward his oysters, and even gave us a shout out stating “NAMA is a partner to us because we recognize that farmers and fishers are at the root of a healthy food system and they face many of the same hurdles and opportunities.”

5. We once again were able to supply the VIP tent with wild shrimp caught by F/V Miss Wanda. Yours truly got to play host and serve the shrimp all afternoon to delighted eaters. And I got to say “this shrimp was caught on Tuesday by a boat named Wanda!”
Doing my best to represent and do the shrimp justice in the VIP tent!
4. All this seafood was made possible because of our friendship and collaboration with Farm Aid since 2008, the same year we became a member of the National Family Farm Coalition who was instrumental in introducing our work to Farm Aid. For the past five years, Farm Aid’s Homegrown Concessions has opened up to seafood that matches their values. Thanks to Sonya Dagovitz and Glenda Yoder of Farm Aid for welcoming us with open arms.

3. Farm Aid gives us a platform to connect those who care about who grows and raises their landfood with those who catch and grow their seafood. It’s this kind of cross collaboration that will ultimately allows us to be able to win the battle for food that matches our collective values and stop the policies that are undermining our land and sea food.

Farm Aid food service volunteers included culinary students from Virginia, and here are three of them as they start to clean 100 pounds of shrimp from F/V Miss Wanda.
2. The music is amazing, even if I have yet to watch the show! Luckily, we are usually there before the actual concert and get to hear the sound check and rehearsals as we set up for various things. Getting to meet a few of these inspirational artists that are selflessly giving of their time and talent is priceless. This year I got to spend some time with Dave Amram, who someone appropriately called the “Magic Man!” He went on to tell me wistfully of his admiration for family farmers and fishermen, and his connections to Gloucester.

Listening in on the sound check with Wisconsin farmer Joel Greeno and Betsy Gerrold of Food for Maine's Future. 
1. I always come home exhausted! It’s the kind of exhaustion that makes you realize fighting the corporate agenda is tiring, but it’s possible. And you know that because you just came back from hanging out with a few thousand people who are committed to standing up for values across our food system, starting with those who catch, raise, and grow both our land and sea food.