Sunday, May 3, 2009

Brooklyn Food Conference

I went to the BFC yesterday, and was totally overwhelmed (in a good way), and came home buzzing with Brooklyn love.

First we saw the chickens which were on display at PS 321, and i talked to Declan of the Red Hook Poultry Association.

My kids had to leave to go to a birthday party, so I went on alone to my friend Sarah's milk panel. She had Anne Mendelson (who wrote the fabulous and James Beard-award-winning book Milk), Sally Fallon (of Weston Price Foundation), Dante Hesse from Milk Thistle Organic Dairy, and Sam Simon, another dairy farmer, who started Hudson Valley Fresh, a dairy cooperative.

The milk panel was fascinating. All the panelists agreed that whole milk was best, and all of them (Anne Mendelsohn a little less enthusiastically) agreed that dairy products were essential to good health. Sally Fallon said that even in Asian cultures, where dairy products are not regularly consumed, that bone broths are an essential daily food.

The most interesting thing I learned was this about organic milk: Dante Hesse, the organic farmer, said that a major pitfall in his opinion in the organic statutes is that cows on an organic dairy farm can never ever be given antibiotics. Once they're given antibiotics, they have to leave the farm. This creates a problem for the organic farmer whose cow needs antibiotics. Do they sell the cow right away? Or do they wait and see if she heals on her own or with homeopathic/alternative remedies. He said very candidly and bluntly, "Or do you wait and wait and finally give the cow antibiotics, and then she dies anyway because you waited too long?"

Of the huge dairy conglomerates, Dante recommended Organic Valley, which he said was a real cooperative made up mostly of small farms.

Another interesting thing: Sam Simon said that milk is a global commodity, and its price is set in Chicago, somewhat mysteriously. Large dairy farmers are heavily subsidized; small dairy farmers are not, which is one reason small dairy operations have expensive milk.

Anyway after the milk panel I went to the Chicken Farming workshop. Owen Taylor and Declan Iforgethislastname were showing slides, passing out bagged samples of chicken shit and generally psyching everyone up for the idea of backyard chickens in NYC.

On my way out I passed through the Exhibition Hall, which was packed with tables on holistic parenting, bio diesel, jewelry, veganism, parent activism, composting, and just about everything else. It was vibrant and amazing. I love Brooklyn.

Here's some coverage from the Times.

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