Thursday, September 27, 2007

now is the time to write to your senator

The House of Representatives did some good, but not nearly enough, with the Farm Bill before summer recess.

Now some in the Senate are trying to push the envelope on reform, led by the chair of the Senate ag committee, Tom Harkin of Iowa. When somebody from Iowa says it's time for a change in the way we do ag, it's definitely time for a change. But the transition toward a more sustainable and just farm policy will take money.

Looks like next week is when mark-up of the bill in committee will happen.

So please - write to your senators and ask them to support Harkin's efforts.

And follow any of the links related to the farm bill for more information. (Californians: see California Coalition for Food and Farming on the list to the right for the latest.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

reading and picking

It's been weeks since I did as much writing here as I had hoped, but I have been reading and picking.

Things are slowing down in the garden - or I am. Still produce is everywhere. Yesterday at a meeting of the Sonoma County Food working group New College students brought a huge box of produce - which I resisted. But when I saw the eggplants, I brought some home to go with the squash and tomatoes I have.

I think that we are finally moving, having agreed yesterday to tackle a countywide food assessment. This is foundational - knowing where we are to identify how to move toward where we want to be - fresh, affordable food for all, that's good for people and our environment.

All of this for me against a backdrop of pondering food globally. I'm recording notes from Food Wars today, before returning it to the library, and taking at last look at Hungry Planet before it, too, goes back. Whenever I feel sorry for myself trying to can and bake at the same time in my galley kitchen I will remember the two page spread (pp. 54-55) "Kitchens".

If you are not familiar with Hungry Planet, it has photos of a families with their food for a week from a number of places around the world. Some, mostly in Africa, have no packaged foods, and perhaps not enough. Some, like Greenland, have curious mixtures of packaged, imported items and local foods. Others, like the family that shops at Raley's and Costco and the German and Japanese families have an astounding array of packaged items. If I had to eat anywhere else, based on these photos, it would be Guatemala, Italy or Turkey.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

god and mammon and a cup o' joe

An investigative report for The Sacramento Bee, by Tom Knudson, indicates that the individual consumer, however reassured by corporate marketing, must still be wary of claims of eco-friendly or worker-friendly production.

Perhaps we'd be better off with Just Coffee

Saturday, September 22, 2007

greening the synagogue

Rabbi David J. Cooper on Yom Kippur encouraged his congregation to use the day to think about how to become better stewards of the earth.

Reported by Meredith May, Saturday, September 22, 2007

Kehilla Synagogue - High Holydays Services 2007/5768
"The Earth Upon Which You Stand is Holy Ground" (Exodus 3:5)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

greening the church

September 23 bulletin insert focuses on 'a fair harvest,' the U.S. Farm Bill

September 17, 2007 [Episcopal News Service] Fairness for farmers and food for the hungry at home and abroad, and how you can help are the main ingredients in the September 23 Episcopal Life bulletin insert

commodification gone cuckoo

'Twenty years ago, who would have thought that someone would get money for a bottle of drinking water? Now, in Belgium, a glass of drinking water in a pub is more expensive than a glass of beer! The trend towards the commodification of almost everything has been most exemplified in Ireland with the commodification of drinking water....'

I'd copy the whole dang article if I could - but check it out for yourself. Dara lives on Inis Mor in the Aran Islands - he grows potatoes the old way, in lazy beds, fertilized with kelp gathered from the sea and brought up from the beach for manure (as is shown in "Man of Aran" 1934 film - on IMDB a viewer ponders, "I wonder if people are still farming Aran or if they have all left for the big city.").

The Reverend Billy (yes!) taught me a lot about the commodification of experience.

'Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir believe that Consumerism is overwhelming our lives. The corporations want us to have experiences only through their products. Our neighborhoods, "commons" places like stoops and parks and streets and libraries, are disappearing into the corporatized world of big boxes and chain stores. .... So we are singing and preaching for local economies and real - not mediated through products -- experience. We like independent shops where you know the person behind the counter or at least - you like them enough to share a story.'

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Urban Chicks

This NY Times food news brought an article about urban backyard poultry

It ALMOST made we want to get a few chickens - which I am sure are not allowed in the condominium where I live. But memories quickly staunched the flow of longings for my own supply of animal protein and manure. My job as a grade school child was the chickens. (My brother's was the pigs - which I liked a whole lot better as creatures.) My father had Five Acres and Independence ambitions, and frequently quoted from St. Paul (though I'm not sure he knew that was the source) that "Those who don't work, don't eat." Eggs still warm from the girls are lovely, but not lovely enough to overcome memories of the daily round of care and the periodic mucking out of the hen house. Slaughtering I could probably do - but the plucking!

Perhaps I need to find someone to partner with who has some hens but isn't much interested in vegetable gardening. We could have our own little sustainability system.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Interlibrary Loan

I'm speeding along reading a book I have for just two weeks, wondering why with all the foodies in this county my library didn't have a copy of it.

It's Food Wars: the Global Battle for Mouths, Minds and Markets by Tim Lang and Michael Heasman. (London: Earthscan, 2004) It is a global book, much less US centered than most of the other reading I have recommended. There are lots of charts and graphs and tables here, which I like a lot. But most significant is that this book does not mince words about the tensions between human health and nutrition values and ecological values. This is a tension I feel a lot when I meet with food system folks around here - I came close to a shouting match with a woman who felt it was more important for folks to have fresh produce, even if it does come from Mexico. I was arguing for sustainability values. It's not that I don't care about health - but that I see the values as nesting. Unless we look at planetary health, our solutions to individual health will be for one generation at most.

One of the tables toward the end of the book is "some tentative rules for food and ecological health (adults)". I love the last bullet
- Enjoy food in the short term, but think about its impact long term

Friday, September 14, 2007

Oh No - Not PASTA!

The Food Museum Blog alerted us to an interesting AP story a few days ago. Italians were being encouraged to boycott pasta because the prices are rising. And why are the prices rising? Because wheat prices are going up. And why is that? Because of the impact of biofuel crop production on the grain supply.

tomato tyranny and zucchini exuberance

I've been neglecting writing because I seem to be spending too much time with my own harvest and (literal) gleanings. As long as I have the oven on to bake zucchini muffins, I might as well roast the excess grape tomatoes for the freezer - that kind of thing.

I've also made muffins with the first pumpkin and grated some zucchini for the freezer, for more muffins later. And frozen some single portions of marinara and giardiniera sauce.

And as long as I have enough green tomatoes and a donation of some backyard pears, why not say yes to an ad for free apples? So tomorrow I can make and can green tomato mincemeat.

But I might have to make applesauce, too - there are so many. They are a beautiful variety - pink pearl (no, no - not erasers, apples) and would make beautiful sauce - or a galette or kuchen.

And with the apples came some tomatillos - and the poor woman was so tired of canning, I could not say no, take them home! No more produce! So instead of sitting with my knitting and watching a ballgame this evening, I made a small batch of salsa verde.

The apples also came with a copy of a recipe for zucchini relish. Frankly, I don't eat much relish - but I suppose it could be a novelty for the fantasy league reunion next winter. But as long as I can find anybody to take zucchini and crooknecks - still producing like their lives depended on it - and, of course, they do (since summer squash are harvested immature, they keep making new ones in pursuit of seeding the next generation) - I think I will keep giving them away.

One of the wonderful things about the garden project is the happy responses of people to whom I give extra produce. I don't know which is more edifying - to look at a colorful basket of tomatoes you grew yourself, or to see the happy smiles of people with whom you share them.

But really plants - time to slow down, and relax into fall, so I can get out of the kitchen in the evenings before the 10:45 weather report. I do want to extend the harvest, with local food put by to enrich winter meals. But I don't want to be building bigger barns.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Okay - I just like the word. We have "farm trails", Brits have "farm stays", but the Italians help to support small scale agriculture and all those resources for slow food with "agroturismi".

Thanks to the Food Museum Blog for this new word which I can practice saying as I prepare pasta with fresh tomatoes from the community garden and Sonoma County cheese.