2023: International Year of the Millets

The United Nations declared 2023 the International Year of Millets, which got us pretty excited about this little grain. There are a number of reasons why the United Nations is shining a spotlight on this little-known nutri-cereal including millets’ suitability for cultivation under adverse and changing climate conditions.

 

Wait, what is millet?

Millets are a group of grains referred to as “nutri-cereals” because of their high nutrition content compared to more common cereal grains like wheat, rice and corn. Millets are a genetically diverse group including pearl, proso, foxtail, barnyard, little, kodo, browntop, finger and Guinea millets as well as fonio, sorghum (or great millet) and teff. Millets were some of the first plants to be domesticated and serve as a staple crop for millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia to this day. These grains can grow in poor soil with few inputs, are resistant to many crop diseases and pests, and can survive harsh climatic conditions. So far, everything is coming up millets!

Millet is a nutritional powerhouse

  • Gluten free
  • Low Glycemic Index
  • Good source of fiber and protein
  • Excellent source of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, phosphorus, potassium, antioxidants, niacin, calcium and iron

More Reasons to Love Millets

  • Adaptable to different production environments, without high fertilizer or pesticide needs
  • Deeply tied to ancestral traditions, cultures and Indigenous knowledge
  • Good for animal health as feed
  • Diverse in taste and applications in the kitchen (recipes follow)
  • Quick cooking time
  • A source of income for marginal production areas in rural, urban, regional and
    international trade

You can read more about the International Year of the Millets here.

Find millet products including whole grain millet and millet flour on Co-op shelves year round! Not sure what to do with it? You can swap it out for rice or quinoa in most recipes. I like to toast it and add it to granola, chocolate chip cookies and other bakes goods. Check out some of our favorite recipes below.

Perfect Stovetop Millet

  • 1 cup whole grain millet
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Rinse millet under cold running water for about 30 seconds. Add to a pot with 2 cups water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat but DO NOT remove the lid. Set a time for 10 more minutes for the millet to steam. When the timer goes off, remove lid and fluff with a fork.  

Vegan Millet Pancakes

  • 1 cup millet flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup nondairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • vegan butter
  • For serving: maple syrup, fresh or stewed berries, peanut butter, toasted coconut, banana slices, etc. 

Combine millet flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Mix well. In a separate bowl, combine mashed bananas, milk and vanilla. Add the dry to the wet and whisk until no lumps remain. 

Heat vegan butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, spoon about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. You can do more than one at a time, but don’t crowd the pan. Reduce heat and cook until you see bubbles coming to the pancake’s surface and the bottom is golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook another 2-4 minutes. Keep pancakes warm in a 180 degree F oven until ready to serve then top with your favorite things! 

Maple Pecan Breakfast Bowl

  • 1 cup cooked millet
  • roasted pumpkin or squash
  • maple pecans*
  • ground flaxseeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • hemp seeds 
  • ground cinnamon
  • maple syrup
  • ½ cup warmed milk of choice

*To make maple pecans preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss raw pecans with a little maple syrup, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool at room temperature before eating or using in a recipe. Store at room temperature for up to 5 days in an airtight container. 

Heat milk over low heat until steaming (hot but not boiling). Add cooked millet to a bowl. Top with roasted pumpkin, maple pecans, seeds, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup. Finish by pouring warmed milk over everything. 

Spiced Millet and Dried Apricot Salad

 or Salad

  • ½ cup uncooked millet (or 2 cups cooked millet)
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • ¼ cup pistachios, chopped
  • 6 dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
  • ¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil (or EVOO)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon ras el hanout seasoning blend 
  • ¼ teaspoon maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
  • a grind of black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Rinse millet in a strainer until the water runs clear.  Add to a small pan with 1 cup of clean water and a pinch of salt, put the lid on, bring to the boil and turn the heat right down to low. Leave the millet simmering for 10-15 minutes until cooked. Remove from the heat but do not remove the lid. Set a time for 10 more minutes for the millet to steam. When the timer goes off, remove lid and fluff with a fork.  Cool at room temperature for about an hour or in the fridge for 20 minutes. 

 

Mix the cooled millet with the rest of the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl. Combine dressing ingredients in a mason jar with a well-fitting lid or in a small bowl. Shake or whisk until combined. Pour over the salad and toss. Allow to sit at room temp for 20 minutes before serving as this will allow flavors to really come together. 

Sweet Potato and Millet Falafel

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup cooked sweet potato, mashed*
  • ½ cup red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt plus more for sprinkling
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup cooked millet, at room temperature
  • Avocado or grapeseed oil for frying

*Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Cube 1 medium sweet potato (no need to peel – lots of nutrients in the skin) and toss with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and generous pinches of salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, flip, and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes. Cool slightly then mash with a fork.

Place the chickpeas, sweet potato, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, coriander, salt, cumin, cayenne, and black pepper into the bowl of a food processor and pulse, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until all of the ingredients are uniform in size, but still slightly grainy in texture. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and fold in the cooked millet. Roll 2-3 tablespoons of the falafel mixture into a small patty with your hands. Repeat with the rest of the falafel mixture placing the uncooked falafel on a large plate or baking sheet until ready to cook.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of frying oil in the skillet and swirl to coat. Place the patties in the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until crispy and brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb the excess oil and sprinkle with salt.

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Fairtrade Farmers are More Resilient

A 2022 study finds fair trade farmers experience increased economic resilience, social wellbeing, environmental sustainability and governance of their cooperatives, particularly in times of global crisis.

The Fairtrade System uses 2 price mechanisms, the minimum price and the premium, to ensure farmers earn a reliable and, well, fair income. These price mechanisms represent a safety net not only for the farmers who grow the food, but for their co-ops and communities more broadly. From 2012 to 2022 Fairtrade farmers experienced increased earnings, the ability to withstand periods of financial instability and boosted savings. In the case of Fairtrade certified La Florida cooperative in Peru, farmers reported incomes 50% higher than those of non-Fairtrade farmers. 

The study also found Fairtrade cooperatives enjoy

  • stronger governance

  • greater transparency

  • more democratic decision-making

  • increased gender equality

  • improved workplace health and safety

80% of the world’s food comes from 608 million family farms, with one third of those farming less than 5 acres of land. Not surpisingly, the overlapping global crises of recent years have hit smallholder farms in Global South countries the hardest. With pressure from consumers to keep prices low in the United States, costs are often passed back to small farmers and the land itself. Renato Alvarado, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock in Costa Rica, explains, “producers bear the production costs on our shoulders and the profits remain in the hands of others.” 

Carmen is a member of the CONACADO cooperative, and by joining the Fairtrade certified co-op, she has been able to tap into their collective bargaining power when it comes to pricing. Through the co-op, she has secured a better price for her cocoa making it possible to achieve her goals of scaling production and diversifying her crops. And for Carmen, cocoa isn’t just about her own business. It’s about the community working and thriving together. Shoppers in the US are directly participating in this community by purchasing products made with ingredients from Fairtrade certified farms like Carmen’s.

The findings of this study underscore our continued commitment to carrying and promoting as many fair trade products as possible at the Co-op. Purchasing fair trade products at the Davis Food Co-op not only helps support our store and local economy, but ensures that we are also being good global stewards by supporting the fair treatment of small farmers and producers worldwide.

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Reclaiming Indigenous Food Sovereignty

What was once a rare disease, type two diabetes is now the highest amongst Native American and Alaskan Native adults and children than any other racial and ethnic group in the United States. Those children, particularly living on or near reservation and tribal lands, are more likely to experience type 2 diabetes, food insecurity, and obesity in comparison to all other children in the United States. Food access is an issue at multiple levels: access to seasonally available wild foods, financial access to fresh, whole foods, and access to the cultural knowledge to prepare and preserve traditional foods. The biggest contributors to this loss in food access were forced removals from native lands onto barren reservations, forced assimilation in Native American Boarding Schools, and the government-provided commodity food that was then distributed to those on reservations. Those foods commonly included white flour, lard, sugar, dairy products, and canned meats- a major contrast from the unprocessed, whole, traditional foods they were use to.

It is because of this epidemic, people within the Indigenous communities are working towards an indigenous foods movement as a means of cultural renewal, environmental sustainability, and a way to reclaim Food Sovereignty.

“Indigenous food sovereignty is the act of going back to our roots as Indigenous peoples and using the knowledge and wisdom of our people that they used when they oversaw their own survival. This includes the ability to define one’s own food sources and processes, such as the decision to hunt, trap, fish, gather, harvest, grow and eat based on Indigenous culture and ways of life.”

Below, is a TedxTalk from Sean Sherman, who further discusses where the traditional knowledge got lost, and how himself and many other indigenous folks are taking matters into their own hands, reclaiming their Indigenous Food Sovereignty.

Here, we will be listing just a few of the many Indigenous people/ Indigenous-led Organizations reclaiming Food Sovereignty within the United States.

Indigikitchen

An online cooking show dedicated to re-indigenizing diets using digital media. Using foods native to their Americas, Indigikitchen gives viewers the important tools they need to find and prepare food in their own communities. Beyond that, it strengthens the ties to their cultures and reminds them of the inherent worth of their identities while fueling their physical bodies.

Brian Yazzie “Yazzie the Chef”

A Diné/Navajo chef and food justice activist from Dennehotso, Arizona and based out of Saint Paul, MN. He is the founder of Intertribal Foodways catering company, a YouTube creator under Yazzie The Chef TV, a delegate of Slow Food Turtle Island Association, and a member at I-Collective. Yazzie’s career is devoted to the betterment of tribal communities, wellness, and health.

Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef

Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota, born in Pine Ridge, SD, has been cooking across the US and World for the last 30 years. His main culinary focus has been on the revitalization and awareness of indigenous foods systems in a modern culinary context. Sean has studied on his own extensively to determine the foundations of these food systems which include the knowledge of Native American farming techniques, wild food usage and harvesting, land stewardship, salt and sugar making, hunting and fishing, food preservation, Native American migrational histories, elemental cooking techniques, and Native culture and history in general to gain a full understanding of bringing back a sense of Native American cuisine to today’s world.

The Sioux Chef team works to make indigenous foods more accessible to as many communities as possible. To open opportunities for more people to learn about Native cuisine and develop food enterprises in their tribal communities.

Three Sisters Gardens

Farmer Alfred Melbourne is the owner and operator of Three Sisters Gardens and a long time resident of West Sacramento. Based on traditional native teachings, Three Sisters Gardens is an Indidgenous-led organization with a mission to teach at risk youth how to grow/harvest/distribute organic vegetables, connect Native youth back to the land, build connections with community elders, and reclaim food sovereignty. They donate food to the Yolo Food Bank, and also hold a “Free Farm” stand where they offer their veggies free to to the community.  

 

Linda Black Elk

Linda Black Elk is an ethnobotanist who serves as the Food Sovereignty Coordinator at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, North Dakota. She specializes in teaching about Indigenous plants and their uses as food and medicine. She teaches classes like “Food Preservation and Storage” and “From Farm and Forage to Fork.” She also uses her wealth of knowledge and charismatic ways of connecting through her YouTube channel, covering topics like making homemade cedar blueberry cough syrup, drying squash varieties, and how to make plant-based medicines at home for various health support.
Black Elk’s drive to make wild plants and plant medicine accessible, applicable, and relevant is so strong it resonates throughout all she does. She is also a founding board member of the Mni Wichoni Health Circle, an organization devoted to decolonized medicines.

Reclaiming control over local food systems is an important step toward ensuring the long-lasting health and economic well-being of Native people and communities. Native food system control has proven to increase food production, improve health and nutrition, and eliminate food insecurity in rural and reservation-based communities, while also promoting entrepreneurship and economic development.
This is Indigenous resilience, moving through the era of disconnection to their foods and traditions and reclaiming their intergenerational knowledge.

The Davis Food Co-op occupies land that belongs to three federally recognized Patwin tribes: Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community, Kletsel Dehe Wintun Nation, and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.

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The 2023 Farm Bill- Agovacy at its finest!

Resigned and reauthorized every five years, the largest piece of food-related legislation is up next year, the Farm Bill. This bill determines policy and funding levels for agriculture, food assistance programs, natural resources, and other aspects of food and agriculture under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its impact on the farming industry, its related programs and industries, and the communities they support is tremendous.

The original Farm Bill was enacted during the 1930s as part of the New Deal and had three main goals:

  • Keep food prices fair for farmers and consumers.
  • Ensure an adequate food supply.
  • Protect and sustain the country’s vital natural resources.

While each new Farm Bill is unique, and 18 bills have followed the initial one, the issues addressed in the last 2018 Farm Bill encompassed agricultural commodities, conservation, trade, nutrition, credit, rural development, research, extension and related matters, forestry, energy, horticulture, crop insurance and miscellaneous. To the left is a chart of the $428 million dollars that went towards farm and program support in the last bill.

Discussions on what is due to be the 2023 Farm Bill have already begun at field hearings and producer meetings across the country, where stakeholders have been vocalizing their recommendations and priorities for the next Farm Bill:

The current baseline for Farm Bill programs for the next five years is $648 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s May 2022 estimates. A new estimate in spring 2023 will set the budget for the new Farm Bill.

Here is a quick rundown of what the process of passing the Farm Bill looks like:
  1. HEARINGS

Legislatively, it all begins with hearings in Washington, DC and across the country – these are listening sessions where members of Congress take input from the public and organizations about what they want to see in a new bill.

  1. AGRICULTURAL COMMITTEES

House and Senate Agriculture Committees each draft, debate, amend and change, and eventually pass a bill; the two committees work on separate bills that can have substantial differences.

  1. FULL CONGRESS / “THE FLOOR”

Each committee bill goes next to “the floor” – the full House of Representatives or Senate. Each bill is debated, amended, and voted on again by its respective body (House or Senate).

  1. CONFERENCE COMMITTEE

After both the full House and Senate have passed a Farm Bill – which can take a while, and may require a bill being sent back to committee for more work before passage, the two bills (House and Senate) go to a smaller group of Senators and Representatives called a “Conference Committee,” which combines the two separate bills into one compromise package. Conferees are typically chosen mostly from House and Senate Agriculture Committee members.

  1. FULL CONGRESS

The combined version of the Conference Committee’s Farm Bill then goes back to the House and Senate floors to be debated – and potentially passed.

  1. LAST STEP: THE WHITE HOUSE

Once the House and Senate approve a final Farm Bill, the bill goes to the President, who can veto it and send it back to Congress or sign it into law.

Once the Farm Bill is signed into law, it’s time for the Appropriations phase: Setting money aside in the yearly federal budget to fund the programs in the Farm Bill, which the federal government operates on a fiscal year from October 1st to September 30th.

 Happening simultaneously with the annual appropriations process is Rulemaking. After Congress passes a Farm Bill, the USDA is responsible for writing the actual rules for how these programs will be implemented on the ground. 

The recent pass of the Inflation Reduction Act will play a major role in the Farm Bill

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown says the Inflation Reduction Act should help jumpstart the 2023 Farm Bill process.

“When we passed the Inflation Reduction Act, we funded some farm programs ahead of time, something we’ve never done,” he says. “So, this Farm Bill should be more productive and more helpful both to consumers and farmers because we planned for it better than we have in the past.”

According to an analysis from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Inflation Reduction Act will provide about a 47% increase over previous Farm Bill levels.

And with the Biden Administration making Climate Change a federal priority, it is likely that the new Farm Bill will reflect such efforts.

 

No exception to previous years, the final draft of the bill will impact every American in a way that so few others do and will require immense collaboration and compromise on both sides of the aisle — and the final product will impact the food and beverage ecosystem for generations to come.

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The People United Will Never Be Defeated- The March for the Governors Signature

In June, I was having a catch-up-on-life dinner with my dad, when I brought up the topic of farm workers. While this wasn’t our first time around having this type of conversation, I wanted his input on what he thought was the best way to show support to farm workers. As a professor at Chico State, he has been teaching Chicano studies for several decades now and has dedicated much of his life to studying and interviewing folks who were in the Bracero program and attending many protests that were fighting for farm worker rights.

This picture above was a protest that took place at the California State Capitol, in 2002; my father standing in solidarity with Farm Workers.

That was when he brought up a march that was going to be happening in a few weeks, being led by the United Farm Workers- The March for the Governor’s Signature. 

This march would begin on August 3rd in Delano, Ca, and end at the State Capitol on August 26th. This was a repeat of the historic march that was led by Cesar Chavez in 1966. This march was to convince Governor Gavin Newsom to sign AB 2183, the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act; a bill which would give farm workers the right to vote for a union, free from intimidation and threats, allowing them to vote in secret whenever and wherever they feel safe.⁠

About 30 farmworkers were marching the entire 335-mile journey through the state’s agricultural Central Valley. Along the way, hundreds of other workers and supporters joined them for parts of the trek.⁣

Despite the heat and physical toll this took on the marchers, they were shown communal support everywhere they went. Supporters passed out waters, food, provided housing, and other supplies needed to keep these marchers going strong.

During the last week of the march, more than 30 students from UC Davis Medical School met up with the marchers in Walnut Grove, Elk Grove, and Sacramento to treat blisters, bandage wounds, and help sooth aching soles.

La lucha es mi lucha- your struggle is my struggle.

The morning of the last day of the march, my father and I were making our way to South Side Park, where folks were gathering for the final stretch to the State Capitol, when there was an announcement from Governor Gavin Newsom stating that he could not support the current bill being proposed, with a spokesperson saying this in an email:

“Governor Newsom is eager to sign legislation that expands opportunity for agricultural workers to come together and be represented, and he supports changes to state law to make it easier for these workers to organize. Our goal is to establish a system for fair elections-requiring employers to abide by rules that guarantee union access and provide key enforceable protections to ensure a fair election. If employers fail to abide by those rules, they would be subject to organizing under a card-check process.

However, we cannot support an untested mail-in election process that lacks critical provisions to protect the integrity of the election and is predicated on an assumption that government cannot effectively enforce laws. We welcome an agreement with UFW on the ground-breaking legislation the administration has proposed.”

 

This came as no surprise since he had already vetoed a similar bill last year, but I found it humorously ironic, being that this fell on the same day the Gov. declared August 26th California Farm Workers Appreciation Day.

 

Despite this announcement, once we arrived, there was no hint of defeat. Thousands were there and we were surrounded with music, dancing, prayers, and laughter all throughout the park.

 After a few speeches and words of encouragement, we all began to get in formation to begin the march to the Capitol.

On the way there, there was continuous chants and songs, only getting stronger as we got closer to the Capitol.

We arrived to the Capitol around 11am, where it was estimated that there were over 7,000 people all there in support of Farm Workers and the signage of this bill. Chants, songs, dancing, and waving of signs and flags continued as we waited for the speeches to begin.

Speeches included Farm Workers, Teresa Romero (current UFW President), Dolores Huerta (Co-Founder of UFW), and other Farm Worker advocates. 

The rally wrapped up around 1:30pm and everyone, including myself and my father, left in high spirits.

It was a powerful, historic event, and it proves that there is so much power in the commUNITY.  

The new iteration of the bill, AB2183, was amended the week after the completion of the march, to lay out a more complex process for farmworker union elections beyond just allowing them to vote by mail. Advocates said it would help farmworkers participate in union elections without interference from their employer.⁣

24-hour around-the-clock vigils began on August 29th in Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
The vigils across the state will all be moving to the State Capitol, starting September 6th, and each location is asking for support from people near or in their community to show up and stand in solidarity with them until Governor Newsom signs this bill.

 

There is no doubt that capitalism has continuously sought pools of workers for the lowest paying, most backbreaking, and dirtiest jobs. It is these workers who were destined to be the most exploited of all. The great leap in improving wages and working conditions for a major section of the nation’s farm labor force has been largely attributable to its strikes, boycotts, and organizing campaigns. The fight for Farm Workers continues!!

 

¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!
(The people united will never be defeated)
– Anna Lopez, Education & Outreach Coordinator

 

Below are resources including documentaries, books, and articles, and organizations  to further your education and support about Farm Workers.

Sign Workers Petition to get Newsom to sign AB 2183 Bill

UFW History Explained

Farm Worker related books, documentaries, and organizations

Pictures used in this blog taken by Cisco Kuhl

 

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A March for the Governor’s Signature for AB 2183

Today begins a historical, 24-day long march where Farm Workers and Farm Worker advocates will be marching 335 miles, starting from Delano CA and ending at the Sacramento State Capitol. ⁠

This march is to convince Governor Gavin Newsom to sign AB 2183, the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act. This bill will give Farm Workers the right to vote for a union, free from intimidation and threats, allowing them to vote in secret whenever and wherever they feel safe.⁠

Today, they must nearly always vote on grower property, amidst cynical voter suppression through abuse and intimidation by foremen, supervisors, and labor contractors. 

Twenty-five full-time marchers will join 500 workers and supporters at 8 a.m. on Wednesday August 3 to kick off the trek at the farm workers’ historic “Forty Acres” complex in Delano, where the union began 60 years ago in September 1962.

Volunteer Town Committees have formed in the two dozen towns along the march route to receive, feed, and house the marchers each day. The march route traces the path of the historic Cesar Chavez-led 1966 peregrinacion (pilgrimage) that first brought the farm workers’ grievances before the Nation’s conscience. 

The march will end on August 26th, the day that Governor Newsom proclaimed as Farm Worker Appreciation Day in California.⁠

Farm workers are asking people to listen to them, to join in conversation, and to help their voices be heard by those in power.⁠

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