COUNTERING THE TORRENT OF MISINFORMATION AND HYSTERIA ABOUT FOOD AND FARMING
THE PROBLEM: The world is awash in misinformation and misguided opinions about nearly everything connected to food and farming. Lazy nutrition reporting and unscientific dieting trends. GMO hysteria driven by pseudoscience advocates and reactionary environmental groups. A widespread belief that alternative farming systems are being held back by dark commercial interests rather than their own shortcomings.
For those of us laboring in the trenches in these discussions, we often feel like we’ve shown up to battle a cavalry brigade with a street gang armed with bricks and bats. But if you step back a bit we’ve made a lot of progress the last few years. We have more people on our side, we have gotten better at making our case. We have better tools than we did five years ago.
THE SOLUTION: Food and Farm Discussion Lab has been a critical resource for hundred of members and thousands of readers.
It’s time to go from hobby to a professional educational non-profit so that we can redouble our efforts to grow our community and provide them with more and better tools.
FOOD AND FARM DISCUSSION LAB
Over the last few years, the FAFDL website has provided valuable essays and explainer journalism for farmers, skeptics, and anyone interested in a progressive, evidence based exploration of sustainable agriculture, public health nutrition, and food security issues.
In that time the FADFL Facebook group has grown from humble beginnings to a vibrant community of farmers, nutrition researchers and dieticians, ag academics, over a dozen working food policy journalists, and lots of smart auto-didact eaters and gardeners; over 4000 strong all dedicated to respectful, evidence based dialogue on the most engaging and contentious food system issues we face. I don’t think there is any rolling conversation about food and farming anywhere on the World Wide Web that can match it.
Help Us Go Pro
My name is Marc Brazeau and I’m the founder of Food and Farm Discussion Lab. I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done, but up to now I’ve been doing it as a hobby and I’d like to take the whole enterprise to the next level and then another level beyond that. But I can’t do that working the odds jobs that I’ve been putting together to make ends meet while I do this stuff. Running the forum and keeping it really firing on all cylinders takes time and energy – even with the amazing team of volunteer moderators and admins we’ve assembled. But producing well researched, thoughtful writing on these issues requires even more time and energy, especially to do it right.
I’ve recruited Brian Rustle to do project management for the operation and Barry Devenny to add a professional touch to video projects and any podcasting we might do in the future. We have lots of people who would volunteer to do more, if we had the time and resources to manage them.
A Food Systems Think Tank for the People
Most think tanks produce white papers and long reports that are meant to help policy makers, academics and journalists make sense of complex issues. Too much of what they produce ends up in PDF’s that run over a hundred pages and that almost nobody reads, gathering digital dust on a server somewhere.
The kind of think tank that we envision creates useful educational tools on food system issues: sustainable agriculture, public health nutrition, community food security, labor and economic issues related to food and farming. We want to get them out to everyday people to increase their literacy and understanding on these issues. We want to give them tools to help them to educate their friends, their peers, and that one guy in the comment section that is spouting nonsense that somebody, probably you, needs to address.
The forces of pseudoscience and reactionary farm and nutrition policy always seem to have the upper hand with the general public. You need better tools. We want to give them to you.
The Food and Farm Discussion Lab Facebook forum
Our forum is our central tool in that fight. Raising money to have more resources means the forum can get more attention, especially in terms of building the archive, more dedicated threads, more Ask A Farmer Fridays, more Q&As with food systems experts.
The forum will always be the heart beat of FAFDL, but there are a lot more tools we’d like to create for the community.
These Are Some of the Projects We’ll Be Taking On
1. Explainer Essays
The goal here is to create ‘long tail’, ‘evergreen’ pieces that aren’t in reaction to the latest news, but rather on the issues and questions those of us trying to have a grounded, rational, evidence based conversation about agriculture, nutrition and food policy come up against over and over again.
We want to create more of the pieces that you have bookmarked and come back to over and over to share with friends and in forums and comment sections.
Here are some examples of past work that we know people keep coming back to:
GMOs: An Introduction
About Those Industry Funded GMO Studies . . .
On So-Called “Superweeds”
Focus on Pesticides is a Distraction from Major Eco Impacts
Let’s Be Honest. It’s an Acre.
On Getting Near The Center of the Bullseye On The First Try
2. Making Academic Research Accessible to the People
When I was doing community organizing on food desert issues for a small non-profit and I wanted to use an evidence based approach to strategy I went looking for evidence of what the problems were and what strategies really worked. Everything I found was in the peer-reviewed research literature. I was left having to sift through a stack of technical papers and try to come to my own conclusions about what it all added up to. This despite the fact that that most of the relevant research had been carried out by just a handful of researchers, they had never summarized their findings and the findings of others for the general public – or even for non-profits working on those issues.
I’ve seen this pattern repeat on one issue after another. That’s why I’d like to solicit essays from academics and researchers on the boilerplate issues we are all trying to figure out – issues like:
- What is the role of saturated fat and red meat in cardiovascular disease?
- What impacts are neonicotinoids having on bee health?
- What crops have the biggest environmental impacts, which have the lowest?
3. The Food and Farm Discussion Lab Research ArchiveWouldn’t it be nice to have the relevant research on a topic of common debate gathered together in one place and at your finger tips? Well, on the subject of glyphosate safety, you do have that, you just didn’t know. Please check out the page “Glyphosate Literature Reviews” on our WIKI. You’ll find every major systemic academic literature review relating to glyphosate across a number of topics. These are the kinds of tools we want to provide everyday people who are trying to educate their friends and peers on contentious subjects in the food system.
We’d like to create a library of 50 more pages like that, but they are time consuming, so we need your support to make that happen.
4. Farm Visits and Short Farm Documentaries
The short farm visit video genre is dominated by urban foodies visiting small, organic farms (or large gardens) and conventional farmers trying to tell their own stories and not always being successful at connecting with an urban audience.
What if there was a film crew of urban consumers that was visiting farms with a critical, but not antagonistic viewpoint and looking at things from an urban consumers point of view. We have a lot of pieces of that puzzle in place and we’d like to get out there and visit the most innovative farms producing at scale that we can find – we want to tell those stories to an urban audience. But, we need a little more equipment and money for travel. That’s why we need your support.
5. Cooking and Kitchen Management Education for Low Income Cooks.
We have a more practical approach to cooking and kitchen management than you’ll find on the Food Network or most blogs where the authors are working to show off their Martha Stewart-like skills.
We want to show people how to make nutritious, delicious food from sustainable ingredients that’s easy and doesn’t take up a lot of time. The core of our philosophy is to take simple, cheap, nutritious ingredients – dried beans, frozen vegetables, canned tomatoes – and turn them into hearty, delicious meals. Our method centers around Homemade Convenience Foods. That means cooking in batches, often one pot meals and casseroles, that can be reheated to put a meal on the table in minutes. It means having a kitchen equipped with the right tools and systems to make your kitchen much more efficient, so cooking and cleaning is a smaller chore and a greater pleasure.
We’d like to produce a series of videos showing people how to eat well on a barebones – even a SNAP – budget. That’s why we need your support.
Here are some examples of our no-nonsense style:
Those are five of the projects that we’d like to get going on. There’s plenty more, but there’s no sense getting ahead of ourselves.
We are shooting for $25,000 to cover expenses through the end of the year. That will give us some time to get some of these things done and create a track record we can use for grant writing and future crowd-sourced fundraising. Of course we’d like to raise more than that. The more we raise, the more cool stuff we can do and the better the tools we can provide to our community.
Here is what we want to get done between now and the end of the year:
1. One substantial explainer essay every two weeks.
2. One GMO Building Block essay every week.
3. One new Reseach Archive topic added to the WIKI every week.
4. One expert QA on the forum each week.
5. One Ask a Farmer discussion on the forum each week.
If we hit our full goal of $25,000 we can start doing cooking and kitchen videos each week.
If we surpass our goal and raise $40,000 we can start doing farm visits as a regular monthly or bi-weekly feature.
We appreciate your support and we want to show it. We also want to do it in ways that dovetail with our mission, so most of our perks for donating are the kinds of tools that we want to provide people to be more literate on food systems issues and to be become better citizen educators.
These are the perks we are offering. Note that books will not be available for sale to the general public until March of 2016.
$10 (or one referral) – A pack of 25 Food and Farm charts and graphs in a zip file
$25 (or three referrals) Choose one
* One year subscription to Daily Essentials – a four times a week email of the most engaging food and farm articles from around the web.
* A Food and Farm Discussion Lab logo reusable shopping bag.
* A Food and Farm Discussion Lab logo bumper sticker (perfect for old Volvo station wagons and brand new GPS piloted combines)
$50 (or five referrals) Choose one
* An ebook copy of Notes of a Discontented Foodie: Collected Writings 2013-2016 by Marc Brazeau
* An FAFDL logo t-shirt
$100 (or ten referrals) Choose one
* An ebook copy of The Culinary Modernist Reader: Eco-Modernism in the Food System
* An ebook copy of The Food and Farm Discussion Lab Anthology – favorite essay and blog posts from our community
* An ebook copy of The FAFDL Best Food and Farm Writing of 2016
$150 Choose one
* An ebook copy of the Food and Farm Discussion Lab Community Cookbook
* FAFDL: ASK ME WHY I heart GMOs T-Shirt
* “I argued about organic food for an hour on FOOD AND FARM DISCUSSION LAB and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” T-Shirt
$200 Choose one
* One years subscription to The Hot Sheet, a 2-4 times a week rolling hot take essay on the news of the day, the latest food and farm research, live conversation threads in the forum, recipes, random musings on the economics of food, science communication and advocacy, skepticism, nutrition, etc. Like Twitter and the blog, but more raw, sharper – more pointed commentary.
* An FAFDL Hoodie pullover
$250 Choose one
* All five ebooks – Notes of a Discontented Foodie, The Culinary Modernist Reader, The Food and Farm Discussion Lab Anthology, Best Food and Farm Writing of 2016, Food and Farm Discussion Lab Community Cookbook
* A hard copy of any of any one of the books: Notes of a Discontented Foodie, The Culinary Modernist Reader, The Food and Farm Discussion Lab Anthology, Best Food and Farm Writing of 2016, Food and Farm Discussion Lab Community Cookbook
$500 Choose one
* A hard copies of any of all five of the books: Notes of a Discontented Foodie, The Culinary Modernist Reader, The Food and Farm Discussion Lab Anthology, Best Food and Farm Writing of 2016, Food and Farm Discussion Lab Community Cookbook
* Sponsor an essay – with a list of topics to choose from – you get a brass plate acknowledgement at the top and bottom of said essay.
$1000 – Sponsor a farm visit and the resulting video.
$5000 – A dinner party for up to twenty five – prepared by chef Marc Brazeau – anywhere in the continental United States or Canada. Groups of friends might think about bundling their donations.
If you can’t contribute, you can still help by getting the word out – and you can earn referral perks if your efforts turn into contributions.