UC Food Observer chooses a handful of important stories for you to read as you finish your work week. On the menu, in no particular order: California’s bullet train; Freight Farms; changing demographics and political power; the gluten enigma unraveled; and a piece on added sugars – we may have reached a tipping point.


Bonus: A link to an open-mic interview with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota (@amyklobuchar). She talks with Agri-Pulse about the legislative effort to end the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba. She has introduced the ‘Freedom to Export to Cuba’ bill, which would eliminate the trade embargo in place for more than 50 years.  Sen. Klobuchar explains why policy changes in Cuba and the construction of a new port facility make the time right to change U.S. trade policy toward the communist island nation.


1. California’s bullet train: will it save farms or herald sprawl? via the Los Angeles Times (@latimes). California’s Central Valley is home to some of the world’s most productive agricultural land…and it’s poised for growth. The state projects a whopping 85% jump in population by 2060 in the southern end of the valley. And that’s without the construction of a new $68-billion California High-Speed rail system. Governor Brown argues that the “bullet train” will concentrate growth in the Central Valley’s existing population centers, preserving agricultural land. Many disagree with that assessment, including farmers, land-use experts, and elected officials in the Central Valley.


2. “Freight Farms” are used to grow fruits and vegetables in Boston, year round. via NPR’s “Here and Now” show (@NPR), out of WBUR. Boston has been slammed with record snowfall this year, and the city is still struggling to dig out. Meanwhile, despite the deep freeze, fruits and vegetables are being grown in refurbished, insulated shipping containers using hydroponic technology. The shipping containers are called “Freight Farms,”and all the systems (including growing lights) can be digitally controlled and are also Wi-Fi hot spots.


3. Changing demographics: Will fewer farmers be able to deliver political punch? Sara Wyant from Agri-Pulse (@agripulse) has put together a fascinating piece on the politics for power. As America’s demographics change, can farmers still influence national politics?


4. The gluten enigma, unraveled. Samuel Fromartz (@fromartz) of @FERNnews tackles gluten. Humans have a long history with wheat…going back around 10,000 years. Wheat makes up one-fifth of all the food eaten worldwide, and is an important source of protein in developing nations. Increasingly, however, wheat (and its main protein, gluten) are suspected of contributing to myriad health issues. And consumers are paying attention, according to Fromartz.


5. Added sugars in processed foods: have we reached a tipping point? With General Mills’ recent announcement that it was cutting the amount of added sugar in its Yoplait Original yogurt by more than 25%, one has to wonder if America is reaching a tipping point on sugar. Emily Kaiser (@ekaiser) of Minnesota Public Radio (@MPRnews) explores the issue with some interesting guests, including Michael Moss (@M_MossC), a New York Times investigative reporter, and the author of “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.


Have a great weekend.