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: a Q & A with Lentil Underground author Liz Carlisle; pesticide use near California schools draws civil rights complaint; stop demonizing almonds; urban farming in Wyoming; and a junk food tax splits the Navajo Nation.


1. A young scholar/author has created a compelling narrative about a group of Montana farmers, lentils, and ideas that draw deeply from a rich agrarian tradition…and that are also very forward looking. That project has become a critically acclaimed book, Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America. UC Food Observer sits down for a Q & A with an important voice in the food movement: Liz Carlisle.


2. California grows nearly 90% of the nation’s strawberries. About 30% of the state’s strawberry production takes place in coastal Ventura County, with much of the crop being grown in the community of Oxnard. Strawberry producers rely on chemicals called fumigants to help grow the crop. Now, the use of fumigants has become a civil rights issue.


3. The news has been dominated by the worsening California drought, which impacts the entire nation (and the world). There has been much debate on California’s cropping patterns, including the production of water-thirsty almonds. Alissa Walker of Gizmodo deconstructs some of the arguments against almonds, by finding other ways to value water use. Her take? “Seriously, stop demonizing almonds.”


4. Wyoming is known for its wide open spaces. Beef and a few other crops are produced here, but the state imports much of its food. That’s changing, as urban farming takes root in greenhouses, diversifying the crops produced and providing a small boost to local economies. Meet Nate Storey, urban farmer. His greenhouse is in Laramie. He produces vegetables and raises fish. The waste from the fish tanks is used as fertilizer for vertical gardens. He’s grown bok choy, butter lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, and even watermelons. All in a state with a short growing season.


5. Recently, the Navajo Nation made national news by taxing junk food and soda. The tax is an effort to tackle obesity rates that are nearly triple the national average. Nearly half the tribe is unemployed, and the nation is defined by the USDA as a “food desert.”  While the tax has drawn acclaim from public health proponents, it has split tribal members.


Have a great weekend.