A Food Activist’s Journey Through Unlikely Food Towns
By Alex Robinson
Youngstown, Ohio probably doesn't strike most people as a destination for foodies. But Mark Winne begs to differ.
Over the last decade, the food activist and writer has witnessed an explosion of farm-to-table restaurants, brewpubs and independent coffee shops in America. Many might think this food renaissance is only happening in large coastal cities. But through his travels, Winne has found something much more expansive is going on.
Winne's new book, Food Town, USA, follows his journey through seven unlikely food towns to show the presence of good food is becoming a new normal across the country.
"Good food was available increasingly around the country in all kinds of places, and people were paying much more attention to locally produced food," Winne said.
He met with farmers, local politicians and brew masters in places like Sitka, Alaska and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. What these places had in common was an unexpectedly thriving food scene. Many of these places didn't have farmers' markets a decade ago, let alone farm-to-table restaurants and brewpubs. But the shifting population and demographics of these areas during that ten years created a greater demand for good food.
"They didn't want to eat at Denny's. They wanted to have the real thing," Winne said.
In addition to caring more about where their food came from, Winne said, people were also starting to care about tackling problems like food insecurity. One of the overarching concerns he heard everywhere was whether there would be enough new farmers to meet the emerging demand for good food.
In many of the places he went, Winne found new establishments had been started by young people who had grown up in these towns, left to learn their craft in big cities and then returned home to start their own businesses. Winne said some of these people knew their hometowns didn't necessarily have the same opportunities as the larger cities, but they felt a draw or homing instinct.
Chefs from Portland, Oregon were also moving to places like Boise, Idaho, because the culinary scene in the former was oversaturated and crowded. It also didn't hurt that real estate was cheaper.
One of the big questions Winne has wrestled with is whether economic development has brought good restaurants to these places, or if food was playing a part in bringing new businesses to town.
"It's a little bit of the chicken and egg deal. I saw a little bit of both," he said. In some places, Winne said, food has been seen as an economic engine that can jumpstart development. If these places were going to try to attract new businesses, the employees they would bring would want a quality of life similar to where they came from. So these towns needed to have nice coffee shops, good local brewpubs and a farmers' market.
Winne said he also saw the emergence of an entrepreneurial class. "They were looking at the marketplace and wondering is this place ready for good food, or do I need to make them ready by opening up a place and hoping they will come?" he added.
For Winne, this has all illustrated a new national consciousness that has taken hold across the country, and it is apparent in these new food towns.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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