Four U.S. Vegetable Lab Findings on Melons and Collard Greens

sweettatersIn 1937, a year after the U.S. Vegetable Laboratory opened in Charleston, the News & Courier ran a story about goings-on at the facility, explaining “the exact purpose and duties of the station are not usually quite clear to the average person.” Nearly 80 years later, that observation still holds.

But while perceptions of the Savannah Highway lab — and Clemson University’s neighboring Coastal Research and Education Center, which focuses on regional agriculture — haven’t changed much, the nature of the resident scientists’ work has evolved dramatically.

The lab’s staff scientists continue to puzzle out responses to crop threats posed by pests and diseases, but now they’re doing so with the aid of state-of-the-art equipment, such as gene sequencers. (Although they’re not opposed to low-tech solutions: A team working to fight off fruit rot grows its trial phytophthora in rice saturated with V8 juice.)

“Agriculture is a science-driven industry,” supervisory research geneticist Mark Farnham says, contextualizing the lab’s contributions to a sector that’s worth $34 billion in South Carolina alone. Continue reading

Slow Food Film Festival Returns

One of the “joys involved in tending the land” covered by Grow!, the first film on this year’s Slow Food Charleston Fall Film Series schedule, probably isn’t judging locavore picnics. But a few lucky area farmers will have the chance to choose the best “slowest picnic” in a contest preceding the Oct. 10 screening.

If you’d like your dinner assessed, bring enough food to share. Non-competitive eaters are also being urged to bring personal picnics to the 6:30 p.m. event at Dirthugger Farms.

Now in its third year, Slow Food’s film series strives to share stories about food and the people who produce it. In addition to Grow!, which focuses on young Georgia farmers, the lineup includes Eating Alabama, the tale of a young couple who encounter difficulties trying to eat the way their grandparents did; The Garden, a documentary about a Los Angeles urban farm and A Sea Change, an exploration of ocean acidification. Continue reading

LWV Hosts Discussion of The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Michael Pollan’s fans spent the summer reading his latest release, Cooked, but the League of Women Voters’ local chapter is hoping they’ll again reach for his classic, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, in preparation for an upcoming event.

The League on Oct. 17 is hosting a discussion of the book, which probes the political and philosophical dimensions of eating, following a tour of Grow Food Carolina at 990 Morrison Drive. Lisa Turansky, director of sustainable agriculture for the Coastal Conservation League, will lead the conversation.

The event begins at 6 p.m. There’s no charge for the tour or discussion, but dinner costs $12; Attendees can register and choose their wrap or salad on the League’s website.