At the Garden's Gate

Earth Day: 3 Great Innovations

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I am always impressed with the opportunities for ideas to grow and prosper today. So many students, home inventors are getting a chance to see their dreams manifest. Many provide practical solutions to some of our pressing problems. Today’s  post focuses on a couple of perspectives. Watch a video where two students have devised a more practical cardboard packing box. Want to have more edibles in your yard? See what treehugger.com offers. Lastly, New York state puts out a handy list of easy and practical tips. Check it out. Which ones do you put into practice? What would you like to begin?

1. Great new invention for cardboard packing box.   2. Treehugger does it again: Six edible perennials to put in our garden that will reproduce and provide food year and after year.

3. What is your state offering in the way of tips for Earth Day? Here’s what New York suggests:

NEW YORK STATE EARTH DAY TIPS Fifty Ways to Help Our Environment!

Earth Day is almost here. We are creative and inventive and sometimes it takes adversity to bring the best out of us whether beginning a social movement like earth day or devising a solution to an environmental problem.

In my household we stopped using plastic bags to line our in house container for emptied cans, plastics and paper. That reduces our use of plastic bags in one container by at least 5 per week. Bins can easily be washed out if need be and our recycle company for pick up doesn’t mind our recyclables loosely tossed in. In fact plastic bags jam up their machinery at the recycle plant.

Conserving now has some great tips for reducing plastic bags too.

WorldsOceanDay.org states:

“Plastic bags. People use nearly 1 trillion plastic bags each year, and unfortunately, many of those end up ingested by sea turtles that mistake plastic for jellyfish. Remember to bring a reusable bag for food (including vegetables) and other shopping and save a life!”

Let me know a favorite home tip you practice that saves resources. I would enjoy hearing from you.

Enjoy. Judith

Earth Day: 10 Tips from Treehugger.com

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Earth Day is upon us, April 22nd is the official date. Treehugger.com has great tips, reminders that we can do more to reduce, recycle, repurpose stuff. The founder has a great message about a plan he calls “weekday vegetarian.” By reducing meat consumption to one or two days /week ( he chose the weekend), he decreased meat consumption by 70%, ate healthier, lost a bit of weight, and saved money.

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At the Unitarian Fellowship I belong to we made Kablooms… clay and soil balls filled with seed that we can easily plant in our own yards, maybe an unused space or one to toss out the window on a vacant lot. We only used colorful flowers, non invasives.  These make great gift ideas too for Easter or the gardeners in your family. 

Earth Day is a time of action. What would you like to do differently? Treehugger.com has 10 great tips to rethink our personal strategies that support our commitment to be a part of the solutions… What’s your favorite?

Enjoy. Judith

Interview with Katerina vanDeusen: Earth Steward and Scientist

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My interview for this week’s posts take us into a different direction. Katerina vanDeusen and I will both be presenters at a women’s’ gathering in June: “Strawberry Moon Festival.” Kat helped gather the proposed agenda for this weekend event which includes presenter bios.

Kat’s bio intrigued me. She has matrilineal heritage of healers, one of whom, her Grandmother from Puerto Rico, taught her how to respect, gather and use the natural world of plants. And yes, to sense the presences in nature that can guide us, heal us and provide for us.

Kat is a senior project scientist and completed graduate work for a masters in bio-engineering at Cook College, Rutgers University where she also studied molecular plant biology. She is the primary coordinator for an innovative program within her company, EWMA. EWMA primarily tackles sites in New Jersey and New York State. An environmental engineer, she uses her expertise for “phytoremediation”, using plants and trees to decompose the components of toxic pollution from contaminated water and land sites. This is a unique and effective program.

Many of our undeveloped land in these states have soils and waterways contaminated with:

PCB’s
Petroleum products
Dry cleaner fluids (particularly toxic)
Metals
Landfill waste

These sites are termed Brownfield sites. Our traditional way of dealing with contaminated sites is to extract the soil for example, remove it. Then the question becomes where do we dump this toxic soil? Other techniques for water breaks down the contaminants and then sprays them into the air. Is that further contributing to air pollution?

Kat is unique in this field. As a trained scientist she uses the skills and tools from her education. However, her grandmother taught her something about working with the plant kingdom in more traditional, esoteric ways. Kat has a knack for scouting out an area, observing plant species present which often leads to a hidden toxic dump site. How does she do this? The plants tell her, she replies.

How does she work?

  1. She evaluates the landscape or Brownfield.
  2. Evaluates plant and tree species present; these two steps are complex as our topography undulates, has curves and slopes.
  3. If she has to replant the area, she uses plants/trees in multiple steps to prevent further contamination into water or lowlands.
  4. Specific plants/trees can eat up contaminants, metabolize them, which results in in the expiration of water vapor into the air that is no longer toxic.
  5. First successors like cedar trees, pokeweed do this efficiently.
  6. Does it work? Ground water is repeatedly tested and these scientists note an 80% reduction in contaminants in the soil and water.
  7. Cattails (Typha latifolia), Phragmites are great at protecting habitats. Have you observed these plants around waterways near our highways?  While some may consider Phragmites to be invasive I find it interesting that these plants are part of nature’s clean up crew. Dandelions are soil stabilizers. Did you know sunflowers are planted extensively around Chernobyl? They absorb the radiation from the soil. Fukushima sunflower project is under way.


Kat concluded our interview by stating nature has effectively engineered a way to create balance and the renewed hope of cleaning up our mess.

Lastly, she gives thanks to the plant kingdom for their guidance and when done often feels she receives their blessing.

She states: “The true measure of a scientist is to allow themselves to be open to all possibilities not the empirical.” This philosophy allows the scientist within and her scientific curiosity to blend with her matrilineal ability to perceive plants differently: which plants give a clue to a problem, which plants can literally eat up toxins and bring healthy renewal to our land. Her projects are unique. Her approach is innovative. Her results are measurable and positive.

Earth Day is upon us; a national awareness time for our country to celebrate the abundance and bounty the earth provides for us. And to highlight the problems before us and stimulate us to take action. I would like to see us honor the earth everyday, wouldn’t you? Katerina vanDeusen’s phytoremediation efforts remind us of the complexity of nature. We still have much to learn don’t we? Earth Day for me is a reminder to stop, observe,  and give thanks.

Enjoy. Judith

 

 

 

 

Nourishing Long Island

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TEDX Manhattan Talks stimulate, educate, and inspire. Recently TEDX Manhattan offered folks in the surrounding areas, satellite locations to view their recent taping, “Changing the Way We Eat,” one of which was Huntington, NY at the Cinema Arts Center (CAC) . The CAC set up their café for this day of speakers. We viewed a live-stream from the event.

Kenny Friedman, member coordinator for Nourishing Long Island (NLI) was present. He gave information and answered questions about the unique food-buying club he manages on Long Island, NY. I was intrigued by the concept for several reasons.

First, this club offers access to pasture raised animal meats, homemade cheeses from the milk produced by the farm’s cows, and eggs from pastured, humanely raised hens.

Second, they support sustained organic farming.

Third, there is no minimum order nor any obligation to order week to week. One can order when needed and pick up at several convenient locations. Member fees are reasonable.

I think when a human being is pushed against some wall their creative juices get flowing. I have been attempting to break down the severity of the GMO issue into smaller bites for clarity, resources and action.

The TEDX talks alone, see previous posts, have opened my eyes to hope, to the ingenuity we possess to fight against unfair and harmful farm practices and to create healthy solutions, sometimes one by one, sometimes collectively.

Today my focus is on NLI.

I asked Kenny if we could talk and I could interview him for this blog.

He is a professional musician, and like some of us, had some health issues. He treated them with OTC’s plus a couple of prescription meds. He had health in mind but realized he was not “eating good food, but eating what Americans are programmed to think is healthy.” A friend of his intervened and educated Kenny about the “Standard American Diet” and how far it strayed from the traditional diets of our ancestors, from even as recently as 100 years ago. Following his friend’s advice, Kenny eliminated wheat, vegetable oils, and refined sugars, while adding butter, bone broth and fermented foods. Not overnight but over a few months, these diet changes built health, and eliminated the need for pharmaceuticals he’d needed to live day by day. He began to take a holistic approach to his health and well-being. It worked. His energy was higher, he had a better outlook on life and lost some weight.

The friend who had initially intervened, Brett Shulman, an acupuncturist, belonged to a food-buying club, whereby members had access to farmers in PA who grew  agriculturally sustainable food. Kenny joined and eventually, as things evolved and changed, he was asked to manage the club and the farmer connections.

I have seen brochures and photos of the Amish farms where the cattle are pastured, pigs root in corn fields, baby chicks are in safe open aired pens on grass. The farmers raise their own feed from non GMO seed. This allows them to manage the quality and decreases the “carbon footprint” in all aspects of farm production.

Kenny began managing the club in July 2013 and expected 100+ members to sign up. By year’s end, 300+ families had signed on.

I asked Kenny about produce. He feels NLI is an easy partner with CSA’s or local farmers markets but produce is more of a “hands-on” purchase. “What one person looks for might be much different from what another person looks for, which opens the door for customer-service issues. There is plenty of good produce being grown right here on LI. We focus on keeping our sources as local as possible.”

NLI, a buyer’s club, right here on Long Island, offers GMO free, organic, sustainable and regionally local food.

For more information go to www.nourishingli.com and click the link that says: “I am not an NLI Member and I would like to become one.” Fill out the simple questionnaire and you’ll receive an email that details how the group works, as well as a list of common items available and the reasonable club fees. Once members sign up, they are able to place an order. The member selects a pickup location (from a list of 13 all over Nassau, Suffolk, Queens, Staten Island) and picks up the food they purchased the following Saturday. It’s that easy.

Earth Day is coming up.  Earth Day is a concentrated effort to focus our attention on complex environmental issues that affect us every day.

In my  ”local” area, NLI represents a concept in action, a food buying club that partners urbanites with regionally grown food and  one that decreases our carbon footprint.

What works in your area? I ‘d like to hear from you.

Enjoy. Judith

 

 

 

 

Nikki Silvestri: Building Allies

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Nikki Sivestri, a food activist, executive director of Green for All in Oakland California is a passionate speaker and reminder of food unavailability in areas of our country. She speaks of “building allies” and defines this concept as allies” who protect from harm and create the future“.

Protect and Create.

Positive words, change our focus from sadness and anger over the complex food issues we face today and  thrusts us into positive thinking about community, can we work together to solve these  complex problems. She states: “Strong social movements come from strong relationships”. Other speakers at these TEDX talks Manhattan spoke of innovative efforts in  many and varied ways:

1. Education: we are passing information about food policy issues at the speed of nanoseconds

2. Artists: Matt Moore is a farmer in AZ who created picture fields of crops; his photography captures the growth cycle from tiny seed planted in the ground to full mature plant. His videos are viewed in supermarket and schools.

3. Renewing new movements like meatless mondays

4. School teachers changing their school’s food programs, one by one

5. Edible schoolyards

6. Chefs are changing menus

7. Some politicians do care about crafting food policy that ensures quality food for all of us. In a previous post I highlighted the work of Chellie Pingree, Congresswoman from Maine

Many food pioneers are taking inspiration and putting it into action. Together, much like the feminist movement, civil rights protests, we can bring in the changes we long for.

Protect. Create. Community.

Do you have a project, an idea, food related you would like to see happen? Next week I will be posting two interviews, vastly different in content, from two folks working on changing our perception of plants and food purchasing. See you then.

Enjoy. Judith

 

“Vote for Organics with our Forks”, Myra Goodman

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Myra Goodman and her husband founded Earthbound Farm organic, a familiar site in our supermarket’s produce case. She spoke recently at the TEDX talks Manhattan  on the topic : Changing The Way We Eat.

I didn’t realize how small the organic industry is in the US. Only 4.2 % of sales in food dollars are organic. Less than 1% of our farmland is organic. 99% of our food production farms  use conventional pesticides to manage problems. Pesticide use creates problems for humans and other species. What is the definition of organic?

Earthbound Farm organic states: “Federally regulated since 2002, the term organic means food grown using methods that foster the health and harmony of the ecosystem, including the people and animals living in it.”

 

Organic food is produced with:
No synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fumigants
No fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge
No genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
No irradiation
No hormones, antibiotics, artificial ingredients or trans fats

This method of farming is catching on… from those of us who plant an earth box planter for growing our own organic greens to the younger generations choosing farming as a lifestyle, career choice and everything in between.

Did you know that Earthbound Farms also makes a commitment to using recycled packaging? The process described below is less expensive than making plastics from scratch.

Facts, Farms, Food. We vote with our fork. Let’s vote organic.

Enjoy. Judith

Our Food and Politics: Chellie Pingree: US Rep from Maine

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At some point we have to talk politics. I have included several sites in recent posts that have petitions ready to be sent to our lawmakers.  At the TEDX Manhattan talks I

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listened to the speech of  Representative Chellie Pingree from Maine. She’s a farmer, an innkeeper, has a CSA and a politician serving her state for over 20 years. I found her talk to be inspiring on this critical subject that’s even broader than just policy. Look what the other species on this planet are showing us. Bees are dying mysteriously and pollinate a tremendous number of crops. The Monarch Butterfly’s population has drastically decreased. Where’s the food they need to sustain their long migration pattern? Milkweed sources in particular have declined as our wildlife habitat areas have declined and that decline is related to the use of introduced genetically modified seed into our food supply and pesticides on our crops.

What is the hottest trend in food today? People want sustainably grown food farms, organic, and want to know where our food is grown. Restaurants are showcasing these points on menus.The best tip though is that we can make a difference.  Watch this video for facts, figures, and a bit on the farm bill ( I liked her honesty, it’s not perfect).

Lastly, she reminds me : “Are you standing up” for better quality food, better growing practices, truthful labels, the elimination of pesticides in our crops and on our crops? Contact your representative or senator today. What aspect of our food system are you concerned about? Start there.

Watch this video, become an informed consumer who casts a vote with every food dollar we spend.

Inspiring, concise, truthful facts and it’s political.

Enjoy your day. We can make a difference.

Judith

Food Trends: Meatless Mondays

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Food Trends: Cutting down on meat is not new. During World War 1 and World War 11 families were urged to reduce consumption of staples. Meatless Monday and Wheatless Wednesdays were encouraged. We’ve done it before  why now?

According to Meatless Monday website:meatlessmonday.org:

     ”Meatless Monday was revived in 2003 by former ad man turned health advocate Sid Lerner, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future. Reintroduced as a public health awareness campaign, Meatless Monday addresses the prevalence of preventable illnesses associated with excessive meat consumption. With the average American eating as much as 75 more pounds of meat each year than in generations past, our message of “one day a week, cut out meat” is a way for individuals to do something good for themselves and for the planet.”

One health fact I learned from Peggy Neu at the TEDxManhattan talks is that our interest in health goals surges on Monday and plunges by Saturday. Needless to say we all chuckled at our folly. However as a food trend campaign, to begin a new health goal on Monday seems reasonable. It is a day of the week we seriously choose to begin something new.

Meatless Monday, highlighted in Prevention Magazine, The 7 Rules of the New Food Revolution reminds me:

“It also saves fossil fuels: If all Americans avoided meat and cheese 1 day a week for a year, we’d save the same amount as taking 7.6 million cars off the road. That’s a lot of bang for your veggie burger buck. “

Economy: we save food dollars; Health: we cut down on saturated fat; Livestock welfare: we reduce our overall consumption which hopefully would bring relief to large over crowded livestock pens, decrease manure and nitrogen waste; Environment: decreases fossil fuel consumption.

Tired of winter? Eager for gardens to bloom? Here’s a great article on winter recipes ideas cock full of available produce: http://www.meatlessmonday.com/articles/walk-thewinter-greenmarketwith-allie-chez/

Economical, healthy, environmental relief and animal relief makes sense. How about it?

Enjoy. Judith

Happy Spring: Poem by Hafiz

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                       Even after all this time                                                                                                                                                                      the sun never says to the earth “You owe me.”

Look what happens with a love like that.

It lights the whole sky.(Hafiz)

Spring

Relief from winter’s chill.

                  Rebirth as flowers and trees bloom again.

                                  Renewal, the cycle of life continues in a never ending circle.

May Spring’s Blessings fill your life and your hearts.

Judith

Food Trends: Insects

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Insects and Food

According to Food and Agriculture of the United Nations:

“Trends towards 2050 predict a steady population increase to 9 billion people, forcing an increased food/feed output from available agro-ecosystems resulting in an even greater pressure on the environment. Scarcities of agricultural land, water, forest, fishery and biodiversity resources, as well as nutrients and non-renewable  energy are foreseen. “

The report continues:  ”Edible insects contain high quality protein, vitamins and amino acids for humans. Insects have a high food conversion rate, e.g. crickets need six times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep, and twice less than pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein. Besides, they emit less greenhouse gases and ammonia than conventional livestock. Insects can be grown on organic waste. Therefore, insects are a potential source for conventional production (mini-livestock) of protein, either for direct human consumption, or indirectly in recomposed foods (with extracted protein from insects); and as a protein source into feed-stock mixtures.”

One of the speakers for the TEDX Manhattan talks held in March 2014 was Megan Miller founder of Bitty Foods. She promotes the value and edibility of insects, specifically crickets as an alternative source of protein. She also claims insects such as the cricket are the most efficient form of protein on the planet. She’s not ready to sell yet but insect flour is coming. Since the viewing I participated in was offsite we were not able to taste her muffins and cookies.

Other cultures have used insects. We in the US are not used to this idea yet. I would like to try her flour in recipes how about you?

Enjoy. Judith