The UC Food Observer chooses a handful of important stories for you to read as you finish your work week. Typically, we provide this on Fridays, but we’ll be off celebrating the Fourth of July by gardening and cooking up delicious food with friends and family. We’ll be back on Monday, July 6.

On the menu, in no particular order: Sales of local food are surging. Why it’s happening … and why it’s a good thing. An agricultural research trial fails … but science wins. New questions emerge about a Listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell ice cream. Norway is building a bee highway…and it’s creating a buzz around the world. Abraham Lincoln: the ability to produce food = freedom. Read an original essay about his 1859 stump speech … and what he says about the importance of knowing how to grow food.


1. Allison Aubrey (@AubreyNPRFood) writes a must-read piece for NPR’s The Salt about the surge in local food sales.

The USDA estimates that sales of “local food” have nearly doubled in the last six years, increasing from about $5B (2008) to $11.7B (2014). And it’s not just farmers markets driving the trend. Think food hubs, farm-to-school and other models and initiatives. A factor in the growth has been federal investment in local and regional food projects. And this is important, for a number of reasons, including this: the growth in this sector may be making it easier for Americans to access healthy, affordable food.


2. In this piece written for Grist, Nathanael Johnson (@SavorTooth) provides a remarkable statement about the value of the scientific research process.

A GM wheat trial fails…but science wins. About five years ago, a team of scientists at Rothamsted Research (located in England) “began breeding wheat that could be grown using fewer pesticides.” In the lab, their experiment worked. In the field? The wheat failed to resist aphids. But in the failure, there was success.


3. Karen Robinson-Jacobs (@krobijake) writes about the Listeria outbreak for The Dallas News.

A multi-state outbreak of Listeria that hospitalized 10 and was linked to the deaths of three people in Kansas led Texas-based Blue Bell Creamery to voluntarily recall all of its products and halt its operations. Now, new questions are being raised after revelations that the company began “withdrawing” its products without posting public notices a month before the product recall was formally issued…and before “any illness had been linked to the tainted ice cream.” The situation raises larger issues about the nation’s complex (and some would say ineffective) food safety mechanisms.


4. Erin Blakemore (@heroinebook) shares the story about the world’s first “bee highway” in this piece, which appears on

Pollinators play a critical role in supporting food production. We can credit pollinators – generally honey bees – with one of every three bites of food we take. For a variety of reasons, including the destruction of habitat, pollinators are in a precipitous decline in the United States and worldwide. In Norway, the city of Oslo has struck on a novel solution: it is creating a “bee highway” that will provide habitat and help protect the increasingly embattled pollinators.


5. Read an essay about history by @victorygrower on Lincoln: The ability to produce food = freedom.  Bonus link to a blog written about Lincoln’s kitchen and a recipe that might have been prepared there, by historian Rae Eighmey.


Have a wonderful Fourth of July.