June 19, 2016 – Big Crickets; Traveling Soilmobile; At the Fork Chicago Premiere

Crickets don’t taste like chicken…necessarily

It is estimated that insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people. More than 1900 species have reportedly been used as food. Big Cricket FarmsInsects deliver a host of ecological services that are fundamental to the survival of humankind. They also play an important role as pollinators in plant reproduction, in improving soil fertility through waste bioconversion, and in natural biocontrol for harmful pest species, and they provide a variety of valuable products for humans such as honey and silk and medical applications such as maggot therapy.

I think you can see where this is going. With the world population now topping 7 billion, providing enough food to go around is only going to get more difficult. Unfortunately, in many western countries, entomophagy–or the practice of eating insects–has long been taboo…or just icky, which is kind of the same thing.

Apparently, though, that is changing. A year after the U.N. study came out, an enterprising man named Kevin Bachhuber, who had already tasted insects during a trip to Thailand, decided to give the business model a try. He and a group of friends set up Big Cricket Farms in Youngstown, Ohio, which became first state and federally approved edible insect farm in the country.

Since then, they’ve gotten a ridiculous amount of attention (for instance, here, here, here and here.) If you’re wondering, among the 1900 species of insects, why they chose crickets, which is sometimes called “the gateway bug,” I’ll let Big Cricket Farms answer in their own words:

Crickets offer marvelous advantages over traditional protein sources like beef. Crickets need only about two pounds of feed per pound of usable meat; for beef, it takes 25 pounds of feed for the same pound of meat. Likewise, it only takes about 1 gallon of water to raise one pound of crickets, compared to 51 gallons of water for a pound of cow. And crickets produce 100 times fewer greenhouse gasses than cows.

Nutritionally, crickets offer advantages, too: they have half the fat and a third more protein than beef.

Finally, crickets just taste good!

Jason Schuster, who has worked on the farm, visits The Mike Nowak Show this week to talk about one possible future of food on our planet.

The Soilmobile comes to Kilbourn Park

I’ve known Sandy Syburg (pronounced “SEE-burg,” by the way) from Purple Cow Organics for a number of years.  And I love their organic, soil enhancing products, because this is a company that understands what I mean when I say, “It’s the biology, stupid.”

Soil Mobile at Kilbourn ParkSandy and the folks at Purple Cow know that soil organisms–whether micro or macro–play a huge role in helping your plants grow vigorously.

Which is why Sandy is on a mission–a bus driving mission–to get the word out about healthy soils and healthy plants. As you can see in the photo, he’s behind the wheel of something that his company calls the Soilmobile.

He driving it all around the Midwest, stopping to speak to kids and grown-ups and anybody who will listen to his story about organic growing methods.  Even the repurposed school bus runs is part of the message. It runs on alternative fuels–including vegetable oil–and who can resist a bus with a purple cow on the back?

I caught up with Sandy a few weeks ago at the Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse, where we chatted about a few things near and dear to our hearts. I play that interview on today’s show.

At the Fork premieres in Chicago on July 13

In the past couple of weeks, you’ve heard me talk to my terrific co-host Peggy Malecki from Natural Awakenings Chicago about a documentary that makes its Chicago premiere on Wednesday, July 13. It’s called At the Fork, and I urge you to take a look at the film trailer here.  By the way, the premiere is Wednesday, July 13 at at AMC River East 21, 322 East Illinois Street , Chicago, IL, US, 60611, and the ticket is only $13.00, which you can purchase here.

At the ForkI’m thrilled to have the film’s director, John Papola, on the program this morning. He is just your average  meat-eating filmmaker who is married to a vegetarian wife. Happens every day, right?

Anyway, after ten years of wedded but not necessarily food bliss, she finally gets him to think about where the meat that he and his family love so much actually comes from. So they set off on a film adventure to witness the good, the bad and the ugly of raising animals for consumption in the U.S.

I will tell you right here that the film is not an advertisement for veganism. On their journey, they learn that most farmers and ranchers care deeply about their animals. One of those farmers, Kevin Fulton, a Nebraskan who is also on today’s show, puts it in perspective in a High Country News article:

“If we can provide an environment where our animals only have one bad day in their lives, we’ve done our job,” he said. “That’s in contrast to the animals in factory farms who only have one good day in their lives — the day the misery ends for them. That’s a big difference.”

Unfortunately, there are too many facilities–CAFO’s, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations–where pigs or chicken or cattle spend their lives simply surviving intolerable conditions. In a country where so-called Ag-Gag Laws are keeping more and more people from knowing the truth about how their food is produced, it is surprising to see the heartbreaking images that Papola manages to produce.

John Papola is on location for a new film today, so our chat will be brief. After that, Kevin Fulton and Chris Petersen will be joining me on the show to talk about the financial, health and moral issues surrounding the raising of animals for our consumption.

Kevin Fulton operates Fulton Farms, a holistically managed organic grazing operation near Litchfield, Nebraska.  This diversified livestock farm includes cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, pigs, and horses along with grain and hay enterprises.  Around 2001, the farm started making the transition away from conventional farming practices in an effort to increase sustainability and improve the environment.

Temple Grandin and KathleenTemple Grandin, who is interviewed in At the Fork, with my partner
Kathleen Thompson. I posted this just because it’s cool that we ran into her at Women and Children First bookstore a couple of years ago.

Fulton is no stranger to controversy, having raised eyebrows and hackles in the Nebraska community by not only joining HSUS but daring to get farmers to create a Humane Society Agricultural Advisory Council. He now serves as the chairperson on the national version of that organization. He is famous for having stated, “I am HSUS; I am Nebraska”  in response to Governor Dave Heineman’s comment that he would “kick [HSUS’s] ass” out of Nebraska. Yow.

Chris Petersen is a board member and past president of the Iowa Farmers Union. He is also a bit of a muckraker, having appeared in 2000 on 60 Minutes (part 1; part 2)  to question the motives and efficacy of the very powerful Farm Bureau. He has been an independent family farmer his whole life, raising row crops, livestock and local foods. He writes,

I am concerned 94% of independent pig farmers are gone but [we] have the same number of pigs in Iowa– along with massive problems in Iowa we now have caused by industrial agriculture.

Traditional independent family farmers take better care of the animals, land, environment,make better neighbors,and provide consumers with a safer, higher quality product. We as farm family have always practiced true animal husbandry with all of our livestock. We as a nation are at a threshold- the question is- family farms in our future or industrial modeled agriculture? – its your choice being the public, being all consumers.

If you’re getting chills, it’s because you recognize the words of people who can’t be bought or bossed, which is, unfortunately, very rare. I hope you tune in on Sunday or catch the podcast at www.mikenowak.net/podcasts.