A Clean Life Touchpoints

A touchpoint is the moment when a person interfaces with your product. This can occur before, during, or after a transaction. In the case of the internet it can occur on your own site or any number of other secondary sites.

In the world of customer service touchpoints are intensely important. They can often define a customer’s first impression of the the product and cause them to become immediately loyal or offended. For this reason it is important to know and understand all the ways a person can interact with your product.

For A Clean Life I approach touchpoints like a business would to enjoy the dogged determination, but also keep things open and collaborative. After all it is more important to get others involved and understanding the mission than it is to sell something. Further I want to develop trust that can lead to curiosity and eventually growth.

Possibly three of the hardest things to cultivate!

No matter, doggedeness shines through and here are two new touchpoints for y’all.

Email – Weekly Newsletter

I actually like subscribing to email newsletters. To me my inbox represents a private space where I can closely monitor whatever I’m obsessed with. For a broader perspective I move out into the social web and patrol Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc.

weekly newsletter mail chimp a clean lifeFor my weekly newsletter I tried to recreate what I enjoy in newsletters. Not a lot of flash or pictures just compelling stories, easy to read, and well placed links to the content. This way you can easily browse and click to the site for more.

I hope I have accomplished something clean and simple with the newsletter. You can preview it with the screenshot at the right.

Feel free to sign up (the registration box is at the top of every page). Let me know about any tweaks or suggestions.

Facebook Fan Page

The Facebook fan page has been around for a while but only recently caught fire. More and more of the incoming readers are coming from Facebook. This is partially due to an ad I placed (pic at below, right). It is working fairly well and so far has cost me nothing (coupons!).

facebook ad for a clean life ninja locavoreMore importantly it allows folks to “Like” the fan page allowing me to create an ongoing relationship with new folks. Maybe it will also introduce existing members to new like-minded individuals.

There is also a new Facebook widget on the right of every page now. Where folks can “like” right from the site and gives the rest of us a fun view of everyone’s profile pics.

These are the newest touchpoints for A Clean Life. I hope you like them and thanks for all the support.

PS – because you read all the way to the bottom and because I love stats, here is a screenshot of my stats for running this ad:

stats for facebook ad dollars cost clicks actions

Silver Diner Offers Local Food, Claims Farm To Table

Silver Diner, a restaurant chain serving Virginia and Maryland, recently decided to offer “fresh and local” food. When I heard this I excitedly ventured out to our closest diner with a group of colleagues. We were ready for some good old fashioned home cooking and jukebox heroes (yes they do have them!). Trouble was not far away though…

The first thing one notices at the new Silver Diner are the advertisements all over the diner for the new local food. The host and server make sure to mention it. The menus is similarly plastered with the words local, fresh, farm. The marketing was a little over the top but at least it got the job done.

The next step was looking into the food. Are they really committing to this or just jumping on the local bandwagon (like Harris Teeter is doing). They appear to be doing both.

The food is local, fresh, and from the farm. They are buying local wine and coffee from a local roaster. These are amazing steps that contribute greatly to local business and can even spur these local industries to greater heights. I think it is important to recognize these steps and even say “thank you”.

Thank you Silver Diner for committing to local, fresh, and farm to table.

With that being said here are some points to improve upon. Transparency is sorely lacking. The menu is more marketing than information. I was forced to ask the server for more details (which she barely knew). Of the two farms listed both were in Pennsylvania, which seems not local at all since farms and cooperatives exist in Virginia and Maryland offering meat, eggs, and dairy. The farms they do mention have only basic websites and do not even list certifications like organic or certified naturally grown.

I was forced to google for information and found that one of them was linked to being a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation). I didn’t want to believe that Silver Diner could have overlooked this huge problem but found that the farm in question lists on its website a herd of 2,000 cows in a gigantic indoor facility, a sort of half-CAFO. Without more information and more transparency, what am I to think of this?

Further, the main reason I would continue coming back is for the vegetables and fruits. The menu and the website only state “produce from local farms”. A method to fix this, since produce is perishable and seasonal, is to list the farms that you regularly buy from or an extra menu listing farm, season, and offerings (provided upon request).

Another issue is standards. Just what are you committing to? The local roaster, Arlington based Greenberry, does not seem to believe in Fair Trade, which is a way to ensure that coffee farmers are not being exploited as cheap labor. If you’re going to offer hormone free meat, then why no offer antibiotic free as well? Also, no mention is made of organic or certified naturally grown, or any other standard that covers pesticide use?

Overall I am impressed by the moves Silver Diner has made. They are good first steps and probably necessary to build local food relationships. It does takes time to establish the operations of delivery and scheduling in bulk quantities. If they can continue their new efforts and build on them I will definitely be a frequent customer.

How To Choose a Good Nutritionist?

Choosing a nutritionist can be a tough decision to make. With all of the diet advice and vitamin choices it gets confusing real fast. To help you decide here are two simple things to remember when choosing your diet yogi.

Bumpy Ride

Any good nutritionist will tell you right away that food science is shaky at best. We are in a period of unprecedented period diet related diseases including the leading killers in America. The obesity and diabetes epidemics are raging across the country. There is definitely something wrong and it may just be “the latest study shows” lifestyle we have become accustomed to.

For example, take a look at these two images from David McCandless who took the time to research and compare a large portion of the studies on nutrition.

The first image shows vitamins, minerals, nutrients of no proven value.

Every single item in this picture has no evidence proving its value for health. Now, I’m not saying this is definitive or I am an expert, I’m just saying food science is shaky. Take a look at the next picture to see the ones with conflicting evidence:

There are so many on this list that many would consider absolutely essential to health and yet the studies have not shown that yet. The question is then, where we getting this proof from, is it social proof, marketing proof?

One better make sure to ask any nutritionist about this before making major changes.

It’s the Food, Stupid!

Like the Bill Clinton’s ringing catchphrase, it’s about the economy, stupid! In the world of nutrition its all about the food and no amount of pills, supplements, or working out can replace it. The right nutritionist will make sure to talk with you about this and ask you to focus on the quality of the food you are eating.

Quality is an essential element to food, but many would have you believe that selection is more important. All to often the advice will be to eat less meat and more vegetables. Or, you have a deficiency of XX so you should eat more of YY. This can be extremely problematic especially if one is always selecting low quality food.

A good nutritionist will provide expert advice on how to find quality food. They will tell you about the difference between supermarket vegetables and farmers market vegetables (I have yet to find one doing this). With the difference being extreme, sometimes as much as three times worse for you. Supermarket vegetables are grown for hardiness and long lasting at the expense of nutrition. Whereas farmers market vegetables are grown from high quality seeds (called heritage seeds), grown in specific seasons to maximize nutritional value and sold as fresh as possible to capitalize on the vitamins/minerals before they degrade.

The same type of story can be told for fruits, nuts, meats, cheese; for everything you eat. Eating quality food can often make or break a health routine. After all quality food not only tastes better but provides more nutrition per ounce. This means that you will need to eat less to feel full and meet your nutritional needs (i.e. lose weight).

Further, studies are showing that seasonal, fresh, and high quality food contains not only more nutrients but extra ones too. It might be possible that one can get all the calcium they need from fresh, seasonal broccoli and avoid the need for all those calcium pills, soy cartons, and expensive seafood.

Make sure to choose a nutritionist who understands food quality and makes it an important part of their advice.

Conclusion

I’m not a doctor nor a nutritionist but I have spent the past year studying these issues for my own personal health and for this non-profit. I have talked to hundreds of people, including doctors and nutritionists. Only a handful of them even consider what I wrote about in this post, even though they seem like common sense.

These issues are common sense to me and I hope they help you to choose the right nutritionist.

Images pulled from Snake Oil? Scientific Evidence For Health Supplements

Alexandria Farmers Markets

We love our Alexandria Farmers Markets.

Alexandria, Virginia has two Saturday markets, one Sunday market, and a Wednesday evening market. The Old Town market is an institution in front of City Hall open all year round. While the Del Ray market is quintessential Alexandria located in a nestle of local shops, cute little houses, and plenty of locals walking around.

If you looking for more markets Arlington has six more that are not too far away with some open during the week (tues, thurs). You can find those lower on the page along with the DC markets and our Farmers Market Brochure.

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Alexandria Farmers Markets

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Fridays

none

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Saturdays

Old Town Alexandria – 5-10:30am – all year
Market Square/City Hall, 301 King Street

Del Ray Alexandria – 8-12pm – till dec
East Oxford & Mount Vernon Ave

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Sundays

West End Alexandria – 9-1pm – May to Nov
4800 Brenman Park Drive

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Mondays

None

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Tuesdays

none

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Wednesdays

King Street Alexandria – 3-7pm – May to Oct
1806 King Street, King St Metro

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Thursdays

none

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Arlington Farmers Markets

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Fridays

none

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Saturdays

Arlington Market at Courthouse – 8-12pm – Year Round
Courthouse Metro (1 block south)

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Sundays

Columbia Pike – 9-1pm – Year Round
S. Walter Reed Dr at Columbia Pike

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Mondays

None

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Tuesdays

Crystal City – 3-7pm – May to Oct
Crystal Drive – 18 to 20th St

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Wednesdays

Clarendon – 2-7pm – Year Round
Clarendon Metro

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Thursdays

Rosslyn – 11-3pm – May to Oct
Wilson Blvd/N. Oak St- Rosslyn Metro

Ballston – 3-7pm – May to Oct
Wellburn Square, 9th/N. Stuart, 1 block south Ballston Metro

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DC Farmers Markets

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Fridays

USDA People’s Garden – 10-2pm – Jun to Oct
12th/Independence Ave – Smithsonian Metro

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Saturdays

Eastern Market – 7-6pm – Year Round
225 7th ST, SE – Eastern Market Metro

14th & U St – 9-1pm – May to Nov
14th/U St – U St/Cardozo Metro

Adams Morgan – 8-1pm – Apr to Dec
18th/Columbia, NW

Silver Spring – 9-1pm – Apr to Dec
951 Ellsworth Dr – Silver Spring Metro

H Street – 9-12pm – May to Nov
625 H St, NE – Union Station Metro, (5 blocks away)

Chevy Chase – 9-1pm – Apr to Nov
Broad Branch Rd/N Hampton St, NW

Bethesda – 9-1pm – Jun to Oct
Norfolk Ave at Veteran’s Park, Bethesda Station Metro

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Sundays

Dupont - 9-1pm – Year Round
1500 20th St – Dupont Metro

Eastern Market – 9-5pm – Year Round
225 7th ST, SE – Eastern Market Metro

Bloomingdale – 10-2pm – May to Nov
1st/R St, NW – Shaw/NY Metro

Takoma Park – 10-2pm – Year Round
Carroll/Laurel Ave – Takoma Park Metro

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Mondays

None

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Tuesdays

New Morning – 4-8pm – Jun to Sep
36th/Alton Place – Sheridan School

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Wednesdays

Foggy Bottom – 2:30-7pm – Apr to Nov
Foggy Bottom Metro – 2400 I St/New Hampshire

Health and Human Services – 2:30-6:30pm – Jun to Oct
200 Independence Ave, SW – Federal Center Metro

Crossroads – 3-7pm – Jun to Oct
Holton Lane/New Hampshire (Takoma Park)

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Thursdays

Penn Quarter – 3-7pm – Apr to Dec
450 8th St, NW – Chinatown/Archives Metro

White House – 3-7pm – May to Nov
810 Vermont Ave, NW – McPherson Square Metro

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Farmers Market Brochure

To help you find all these markets A Clean Life offers a brochure (link below) listing them by day/hour/metro.

Lower on the page you will find a comprehensive list of all markets in the DC metro region.

Untitled 2pdf of brochure for download —-  high res screenshot

Foraging for Chives in Arlington

This Spring’s bounty was a whole sheaf of chives foraged from my local creek. Just that statement would make you think I live in some picturesque countryside, but no I live in a major city.

It turns that their are a ton of foods growing wild in every city just waiting to be picked. They can be wild mint which grows incredibly fast, onions like the wild ramps and leeks, and of course basic herbs and spices like chives.

The key to being a forager is jumpstarting your hunter gathering brain. We all have a built-in ability to smell, spot, taste, and remember plants growing in the wild. My story began on a visit to Mary Fletcher Jones to film a video. Before we started the interview she gave me a tour of her beautiful flowers and herbs. The tallest of her herbs were the chives and she even let me pick some.

Hint: Chives are a lighter shade of green and can be spotted among green growth by their pale green color and tall, thin and circular, often bent stalks.

The following day I was walking the dog in the park and spotted chives. I don’t know how I did it, my eye just looked at them and my brain said “yep, definitely chives”. Upon which I freaked out. You are not supposed to pick wild things! You could die!!

After a brief moment of panic I walked over and picked some. Yep it tasted and smelled like chives. I then got all bold and decided to put it in my dinner salad. I didn’t die too.

So the next day I picked more. The following day even more and so on. Until I had extra chives laying all around the kitchen prompting my girlfriend to revolt. You can’t just have all these smelly onions in our place?! Apparently her nose is particularly tuned to all things onion and this chive scent was overpoweringly appalling.

Not to worry, I thought, I will dry them and create a spice to use for later. Well this just made things worse. The baking of chives causes them to release so much more onion stink/sweetness that our place was being fumigated with onions. She couldn’t stand it and made me stop.

Eventually, while she was away on vacation, I did get them all baked and dried. They cracked and disintegrated into the perfect size for spicing. I put them into a nice jar and went away satisfied at my foraging ability.

I even went back and harvested a whole new group to double my winnings. They were tasty just long enough until my girlfriend sampled them a few times. Turns out she loves them and within a few days they were all gone!

So goes my first foraging attempt. The chives are still out there growing right now just waiting for me to forage. What a beautiful thing nature is!

photo by It’s Greg

The Nearly Vegetarian Diet

I have been struggling with this post for a few days now. How to tell the story of the nearly vegetarian diet?

Should I start with protein fear? Studies show that vegetarians get just as much protein as meat eaters. In fact, they get their protein in a far superior way, without all the added fat, cholesterol, heart health issues, and possibly even cancer. Despite these well established and respected facts the protein fear lingers.

Maybe I should focus on the government corruption angle. Did you know that the Food Pyramid and Farm Bill directly cater to meat and dairy? The Pyramid tells us all to eat 3 hamburgers a day and drink 3 glasses of milk every day. Seriously, the government recommends that half of our diet consist of meat and dairy.

The Farm Bill, one of our most important pieces of legislation, directly subsidizes that meat and dairy, to the tune of billions of dollars. Explains how a cheeseburger can cost $.99 while a carrot will be $1.50. The situation in Washington DC is so bad that only recently did fruits, vegetables, and nuts make it into the Farm Bill under the category, “specialty foods”.

Another angle that just makes me angry are the ad jingles. Have you heard of “Got Milk” or “Where’s the Beef” or any of the 100s of other marketing slogans? These have been so successful that they are now accepted as truth. A quick look at recent studies show that drinking milk can actually remove calcium from the body and eating meat every day can cause serious health issues. I am really not sure how to help everyone break through the cloud of ad jingles that now hangs over us.

I guess the most important thing I to say is that eating a vegetarian diet is far superior in every way to any other diet on the planet. It is an undisputed fact based on health, nutrition, and scientific research. Heck, its even better for the environment, preventing pollution and helping to stop climate change. Even more, one could switch over to vegetarianism and spend less money of food while getting a perfect body. Again, these are undisputed facts, which often makes me stop and wonder why are so many avoiding this diet?

Even with that said I still eat some meat, because I’m a nearly vegetarian. I like eating meat and sometimes I crave it. Studies explain this through a vitamin called B-12 that is only found in animal products. We need just a bit of it every once in a while.

I think that neatly explains my diet. I eat a little bit of meat every once in a while. The rest of the time I love eating fruits, vegetables, and reap the wonderous health benefits they provide.

So why isn’t everyone else doing so?

photo by Manjith Kaini

Podcast: NPR’s Intelligence Squared, Is Organic Hype?

“Six debaters, three against three, will be debating this motion: Organic Food is Marketing Hype”

“Now this is a debate, it is not panel discussion or seminar. It is a debate, someone will win and someone will lose.”

That is the intro to the latest debate from NPR’s Intelligence Squared.

I love these debates after picking one up on who is to blame for the Mexican Drug War. They are fun and fascinating, and also heavily liberal.

I do love how they present multiple points of view. They stick to the debate format which includes opening statements, closing ones, and an open question and argue period.

Check out the video and lower on the page are the briefs, audio versions, and an iTunes link.

More Info

photo by Melanie Defazio

School Lunches are Disgusting!

There is a secret undercover teacher eating school lunches. Mrs. Q has decided to slum it with our best and brightest for a whole year. I say slum it because the food she is eating looks absolutely horrid.

Or, it looks just like what every American eats on a daily basis: pizza, hot dogs, pasta, chicken nuggets.

Every day she takes a photo of the food and writes about it. It looks so nasty you just have to see it to believe it (are you eating this too?)…

Day 86 – Hot Dogs

fed_up_with_school_lunch_hot_dog

Day 87  - Pizza

fed_up_with_school_lunch_pizza

Day 88 – Chicken Nuggets

fed_up_with_school_lunch_chicken_nuggets

Day 89 – Pasta

fed_up_with_school_lunch_pasta

Beach Water Quality in Southern California

It just so happens that three of the top ten worst beaches in California are two that I frequented in college and the third is an island 22 miles off the coast. The list is rounded out by LA County taking up half the list and San Diego, Orange, and San Francisco Counties only having one “dirty-ass beach”.

I found this report from Heal the Bay thanks to a tip from the LATimes.

These worst of the worst beaches are so named due to risk of “potential illness (to) include stomach flu, ear infection, respiratory infection, and major skin rash”. Which can result after only a one-time exposure on a single day. Going in the water more than once can “significantly increase” your chances.

The good news is that 90% of the beaches in California came in with a A or B grade. Only 13 beaches completely failed with an F. It seems that the majority of the dirty beaches problems arise only during wet weather. During dry conditions the grades are better with 92% scoring and A/B.

The report says that stormwater runoff is the major culprit. Which just so happens to be the place where kids like to play. I agree with the kids it is the ‘funnest’ place on the beach, if the waves are not hitting.

The worst place for this runoff turns out be Avalon Harbor which is 22 miles out in the ocean on Catalina Island. This seems counter-intuitive but the facts don’t lie, Avalon has been the worst beach in the state 9 out of the past 11 years.

Five others on the list from LA County including two of my old haunts the Santa Monica Pier and where Sunset Blvd hits PCH. Since the county is sorely in need of improvement it is good news to hear that the California budget foibles are minimally affecting LA’s programs.

A few quick other details about LA County. There were five sewage spills into county beaches, with the largest being larger than 100,000 gallons (into Lunada Bay). The county is the only county in the state to measure water quality at point zero, or pipe outlet, which allows for a more accurate picture of pollution. Most counties grab their data lower down the line after the pollution has been diluted.

Orange County, on the surface, appears to be doing well with 96% of its beaches making the grade (A/B). Only one beach, Poche Beach, getting a failing grade. However, during the few wet weather periods when measurements were taken only 42% of the beaches had A/B grades. The old advice is definitely still holding out “never go in the water after a rain”.

Also of note is Dana Point’s Baby Beach, a location that has been given a consistent failing grade in the past, will no longer be monitored.

As the county faces the same budget troubles as LA County they are making positive steps to improve. Which include unifying the county agencies responsible for monitoring the water quality, eliminating redundant measurements, and dropping consistently clean locations to focus on the dirtier spots.

Steps like these are needed to ensure that what’s happening in San Diego doesn’t spread to the rest of the state. San Diego County has seventeen sewage spills, a top worst beach, and has to continually deal with the pollution coming out of Tiajuana (the Tiajuana Slough).

Only time will tell how our beaches fare during the budget crisis, but the writing is clear. Counties are on their own. I guess so are beach goers…

Read the full report (84 pg PDF).

*all photos from the Heal the Bay full report*

Michael Pollan on the Rising Food Movement in the NY Review of Books

“The First Lady has effectively shifted the conversation about diet from the industry’s preferred ground of “personal responsibility” and exercise to a frank discussion of the way food is produced and marketed. “We need you not just to tweak around the edges,” she told the assembled food makers, “but to entirely rethink the products that you’re offering, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children.”

In his latest essay, The Food Movement, Rising, Michael Pollan chronicles the rise of the Food Movement. It’s a 5,400 word piece in the New York Review of Books that moves from the roots of the movements, to challenging today’s leaders, and, as always, encouraging us to join in.

A striking point comes when he calls out Al Gore for missing the critical role that agriculture plays in global warming. Citing his book/movie/presentation, An Inconvenient Truth,  for making “scant mention of food or agriculture”. Even though our food system makes up one-fifth of American fossil fuel use. Further, it emits an incredible amount of greenhouse gas even thought “(it) is the one human system that should be able to substantially rely on photosynthesis” (i.e. solar energy).

The health industry is also in the center of his piece, citing that 3/4 of all health care spending treats diet related diseases (heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and at least a third of all cancers).

“The health care crisis probably cannot be addressed without addressing the catastrophe of the American diet, and that diet is the direct (even if unintended) result of the way that our agriculture and food industries have been organized.”

Oddly, the good news portion of his essay comes from the government. The FDA is “cracking down on deceptive marketing”, the DOJ is “avowing” to “pursue antitrust” issues, and even the conservative USDA is getting involved. Most importantly, though, is Michelle Obama’s work. As the cited above her direct statements and in-the-field work seem to be having the greatest impact.

“Mrs. Obama explicitly rejected the conventional argument that the food industry is merely giving people the sugary, fatty, and salty foods they want, contending that the industry “doesn’t just respond to people’s natural inclinations—it also actually helps to shape them,” through the ways it creates products and markets them.”

My favorite part about Michael Pollan’s writing are always his euphoric references to our food future. Yes, there are problems and people are suffering, but the light at the end of the tunnel is awe inspiring.

“The food movement is also about community, identity, pleasure…”

I love how he interweaves politics and beliefs into the piece (conservative libertarianism, comunitarian?). Then moves to explore the backlash against consumerism, “an attempt to redefine, or escape, the traditional role of consumer has become an important aspiration of the food movement”.

Finally, a solid reference to our beloved Farmers Markets:

…an activity that a great many people enjoy…(someone) is playing music. Children are everywhere, sampling fresh produce, talking to farmers. Friends and acquaintances stop to chat. One sociologist calculated that people have ten times as many conversations at the farmers’ market than they do in the supermarket.

The piece is well worth reading: The Food Movement, Rising by Michael Pollan