Archive for August, 2009

the virtues of raising beef on the pasture

August 31, 2009

I came across this terrific video where cattle farmer Will Harris describes simply why he raises cows on the pasture. He started his career like most cattle farmers in this country, growing beef in a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) where the animals are fed commodity corn and kept in pens – the fast and cheap way. He compares applying chemical fertilizers on grass to cocaine – it feels good at first, but then you become dependent on it. Everything he says makes complete sense to me. It’s a bit long, but it’s shorter than your average TV program and definitely worth a watch. Check it out and then let me know what you think.

CUD from Joe York on Vimeo.

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now read this! a web roundup

August 28, 2009

Here’s a collection of some of the information that’s been shaping my world lately. It runs the gamut, so be prepared (and some of the titles have changed to suit my mood – so there!)

1.
“Old” SIGG reusable water bottles contain BPA [AlterNet]
Time to trade in for a Klean Kanteen! Even though SIGG has a trade-in program where you can return your old BPA-containing bottle for a new, improved BPA-free bottle, I’d rather support a company that was “klean” from the beginning (and didn’t cover up the truth).

What’s so bad about BPA (bisphenol A)?
= YES!

= NO!*

*Unless it was made after 2008. Check the article for a visual reference.

2.
Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food [Time]
If you haven’t had a chance to read Omnivore’s Dilemma or see Food, Inc., here’s a relatively brief, yet in-depth look at the problems plaguing our industrialized food system.

3.
“Organic”: Is It Healthier? [by Susun Weed]
Oh man, this article – part of my permaculture reading this week – made me laugh out loud. Susun has a great way of explaining the finer mechanisms of the world around us. She can make anything hysterical or completely logical just by the way she describes them. Here’s a taste:

I live on an old quarry. When I went to the extension and said, “I’m looking to buy this piece of property,” they pulled out the soil maps and they said, “Ah, there’s no soil on your property, did you realize that?” I said, “Yeah, it’s an old quarry.” They said, “This place is useless. The only thing that you could possibly do there is raise goats or grow weeds. So I went to the people selling it, and I said, “It’s a worthless piece of property, it will only grow weeds.” I got it for a very good price.

She goes on to tell us that, yes, she grows a lot of weeds. Weeds that feed her rabbits and goats. Those rabbits and goats feed her. There are some other, more ‘adult’ things that made me laugh in this article, too. But I’ll let you read those yourself!

4.
Why are we still using atrazine when 7 European countries have banned it?
[Daily Kos]
The health and healthy presence of frogs are a good indicator of the health of an ecosystem, and therefore, the health of us. Well, hate to break it to y’all, but we’re up sh*t’s creek without a paddle, ’cause frogs are mutating and disappearing at alarming rates. Their permeable skin leaves them vulnerable to chemical contaminants like pesticides and herbicides – chemicals used in agriculture and on lawns like atrazine, methyl bromide, and chloropicrin (a nerve gas!) which end up in our drinking water, and in our bodies.

And just in case that wasn’t enough to cheer you up, here’s a related article [NY Times] about the legal allowable limits of atrazine in drinking water, and the detrimental effects of atrazine on women and children.

5.
Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil [by Daniel Hillel]
Soil is the skin of the earth. Yet we literally treat it like dirt. Some say it’s our nation’s biggest export (meaning it erodes away at a disturbingly steady rate). I’ve been really hot for this topic lately, and there’s a chapter out of this book that made me melt. An excerpt:

Soil and water have a physical affinity. Dry soil is “thirsty,” sucking up water the way an old-fashioned blotter sucked up ink. When the soil surface is wetted by rain, the suction force of the deeper soil layers, augmented by the force of gravity, draws the water downward. The soil drinks the rain in a process called “infiltration.” The maximum rate at which the soil is able to absorb water applied to its surface is called the soil’s infiltrability. It is greatest when the soil is dry, and diminishes gradually as the soil is wetted to progressively greater depth. Since the water permeating and seeping in the soil must make its way through the intricate labyrinthine passages between the irregularly shaped and oriented soil grains, it is obvious that a soil’s infiltrability depends on the widths and tortuosities of these interstices, called pores…

Wow!

See also: i enjoyed a dirty movie today (my post about the film “Dirt”)

now see this! crude, sweet crude

August 28, 2009

We all know by now that petroleum is poison and that it’s time to move on to cleaner & more ethical forms of fuel, right? Well, I guess not everyone is getting the message, including of course the oil companies themselves. Two films expose the dirty, unjust, and plain despicable practices of big oil. Check out the trailers and reviews below:

Crude

Coming to IFC Center Soon (9/9/09)
Check if it’s playing near you

The Official Site

Read a review of Crude [AlterNet]

Sweet Crude

The Official Site

Read a review of Sweet Crude [Variety]

skills to pay the bills (or at least save a little dough)

August 26, 2009

Got a hankerin’ to make stuff, but don’t know how? In a time when people are pinching pennies out of necessity or just to consume less for the good of the planet, it helps to know there are some free ways to learn a few new tricks.

Check it out…

Thursday, August 27 (that’s tomorrow!)

Lori Gibbs and Atom Cianfarani want to teach you how to GreenIt Yourself this Thursday with a green roof and gardening in small spaces Workshop. At the Toyota Children’s Garden (one of New York Restoration Project’s babies) from 7 pm to 8 pm. And there will be refreshments!

Toyota Children’s Garden
603 East 11th Street, New York, NY

Friday, August 28 (in prep for Saturday, October 10)

Okay, this one’s a little bit preemptive, and maybe not so free, but it comes pretty darn close. This concert, featuring local bands, will help fund a day of skill sharing on October 10 at the Brooklyn Skillshare.

On Saturday, October 10, you’re gonna learn all kinds of crazy stuff: ricotta-making, liquor-infusing, kombucha-brewing, screenprinting, and a whole lot more. The door price is based on a sliding scale ($10 suggested), so pay what you can.

The fundraising show that’s this Saturday, on the other hand, is $7 and features local acts like The XYZ Affair and Gunfight!.

Get all the details for the event and the fund-raising-music-show at the trusty e-newsletter of my favorite borough, Brooklyn Based.


Monday, August 31

So you want to use a reusable shopping bag but don’t want to shell out the dollars to get one? How’s about making one for yourself? Learn how at this free workshop – 3rd Ward’s Sweatshop Social. You supply the fabric (an old t-shirt perhaps?), they supply the notions and the (cheap) beer. Bring your own cup and the suds are just a buck.

[via Brooklyn Based]

And for all you green thumb wannabes…
More free events coming soon to Brooklyn Botanic Garden through their GreenBridge Program (these are free, but ya gotta register – so sign up right quick!).

Street Tree Care
Thursday, September 17, 6 to 8 pm
Thursday, November 5, 6 to 8 pm
Street trees do much to improve our environment, but they often receive little care. In this class, learn the benefits of street trees and how to improve the health of a street tree by caring for its bed. Get tips on amending soil, mulching, watering, pruning, and tree-bed gardening. Bring your street-tree care questions and find out more about the city’s efforts to increase and protect the urban forest canopy.

Starting a Children’s Garden
Thursday, October 15, 6 to 8 pm
Would you like to develop a children’s garden at your school, block association, or neighborhood organization? This workshop will provide tips for adult leaders who want to organize a children’s gardening program. Learn how to plan your program and what tools and plant materials are needed to get growing. You will receive a free activity booklet and visit our children’s education greenhouse for hands-on activities.

Getting to Know Your Soil
Wednesday, October 28, 6 to 8 pm
Interested in knowing more about your soil? Concerned about safely growing food in urban soils? This class will demonstrate several easy diagnostic activities for learning about your soil. How to take a soil sample for testing will be demonstrated as well as interpreting lab results. You’ll also receive tips on improving urban soils.

Rainwater Harvesting
Thursday, October 22, 6 to 8 pm
Learn the benefits of reducing your dependence on NYC water and minimizing storm water flows into our sewers by collecting rainwater for use in your garden. It’s easy to use roofs from nearby buildings and garden sheds to harvest rainwater. Come learn about the different types of rainwater harvesting systems being used throughout NYC community gardens from simple pickle barrels to large tanks, and get tips on how to build your own.

Introduction to Permaculture
Tuesday, November 10, 6 to 8 pm
Permaculture is a design approach based on interpreting natural patterns for human benefit. Learning how to read the land and planning for long-term development are two objectives of this workshop. Permaculture works on all scales and levels. Discussion will cover topics ranging from choosing and using plants in groupings to observing and utilizing the elemental forces of wind, water, and sun.

blight bites!

August 24, 2009

This year, tomato growers & lovers on the East Coast were faced with the nasty disease known as “late blight,” which rendered many tomato crops useless within a matter of days. (You can read more about late blight in this op-ed from the amazing Dan Barber).

If you’re like me, lamenting the lacklusterness of this year’s tomatoes, there’s now a way to express your frustration. Introducing Blightee, Hudson Valley Seed Library’s answer to the terrible blight. It’s a t-shirt, it’s an act of aggression, it’s a way to say, “hey blight, you bite!” Get yours now, while supplies last.

Bite back by spore-ting this tee that says it all: Blight Bites! Each shirt features the “Blight Bites” image front and center with a very small Hudson Valley Seed Library logo on the sleeve. The American Apparel-brand natural-color shirts are made in America and woven from 100% organic cotton; the printing is done by Antilogy Designs in Tillson, New York. The logo is based on a design created by Michael Wilcock.

Shirts cost $16 each, or $14 for members (be sure to log in to receive your discount). To purchase a shirt, click on your desired size, then click “Add to Cart” on the following page. (Please note that the seed catalog remains closed until early November. Only t-shirts can be ordered at this time.)

lettuce eat local!

August 21, 2009

I mean Let Us Eat Local. It’s a gala event for Just Food, advocates for healthful, sustainable food access for all. Check it!

Tickets are now available for our second annual Let Us Eat Local Gala and Award Ceremony, a fundraiser that helps support our programs. More than 30 chefs from NYC’s finest restaurants will be serving up 100% local food paired with local craft beers. The McKinley Hightower-Beyah Awards will honor farmers, organizations, journalists, and gardeners who work to bring fresh, locally grown food to those who need it most.
Let Us Eat Local!

DATE: Wednesday, September 16, 2009
TIME: VIP hour begins 6 PM
General Admission begins 7 PM

LOCATION:
Prince George Hotel Ballroom
15 East 27th Street, NYC
Get Your Ticket!
$235 VIP (entrance to event, 6:00 PM)
$150 General Admission (entrance to event, 7:00 PM)
$135 Just Food Members (entrance to event, 7:00PM)
Purchase Tickets Online

Menu
Starters:
VIP Exclusive with an extra hour and special tastings

The Main Course
So much to savor, so little time. 30 Chefs. 40 Local Producers.

Perfectly Paired
Each tasting is paired with a local craft beer.
Orchestrated by NY Craft Beer Week.

A Celebration of Our Region’s Finest
Journalist
Organization
Farmer
Gardener

Silent Auction
Featuring gardening and cooking gear, hand-crafted jewelry, cooking classes, and more!

Satisfaction:
100% of proceeds support our efforts to change the world through food.

Plus goody bags with delicious treats and cool items to take home!

do chickens get seasick?

August 19, 2009


Below the BQE, in a barren industrialized part of Brooklyn, was docked the Waterpod

Do chickens get seasick? Does sea air help or hinder the tomatoes? If you get a chance to visit the Waterpod – 3,000 square foot living ‘art-installation’ barge – could you do me a favor and ask these questions? A combination of heat and a weekend’s worth of permaculture lessons fried my noodle when I went to visit the operation on the Brooklyn waterfront last Sunday.

Here are some things to look forward to on your visit (they’re currently docked in Staten Island):


Bucky, eat your heart out.


Hey, your squash is hanging out!


These ladies are just minding their own business.


Grey water filtration system – awesome!


There shouldn’t be a mutiny on this bounty. (Ouch!)


Looks like a healthy tomato crop – no scurvy here


Some worthy shipmates saving amaranth seeds


Inside the living room – it was pretty cozy I’ll have to admit

Get the poop on the Waterpod

And some press on
NY Times

august abundance

August 19, 2009

I recently started a habit of popping over to Union Square Farmers Market midweek after witnessing the great abundance on a whim a couple weeks back. I’ve been missing out on my own little neighborhood market lately because it’s held on Saturday’s (at Grand Army Plaza), which is the day I learn the wonders of permaculture.

The abundance of food and sunshine at Union Square is often overwhelming. Today I tried to take it slow by scanning the whole shebang to compare goods before making any hard and fast decisions. Here’s what I came up with:


Escarole, dandelion, frisee, black & purple peppers, eggs, chanterelles, husk tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, and a loaf of hazelnut sweet rye sourdough bread

Psst, thanks to Alison for inspiring this post, here’s the bounty she brought home from the market:


(If you couldn’t tell, Alison has a thing for peppers)

Subsequently, my sweetheart sent over these two videos from The Atlantic’s new From Farm to Table series (not to be confused with Zach Cohen’s Farm to Table blog & show). These really make farming look romantic (& the yield delicious). They also give us a sense of distinction between ‘real’ food and the stuff you’ll find at the supermarket which has been picked many days (or weeks) ago and shipped many miles to get to your plate.

And then to round it all out, an article from, once again, The Atlantic about how ‘organic’ has grown too big for its britches. Here, I’d like to point out that the author is talking about big organic vs small scale locally distributed organic like you’d find at the farmers market.

Find a farmers market near you!

bk farmyards fundraiser: come & get it!

August 17, 2009


Howdy pardners! The dinner bell’s ringin’ and I’m hungry for some change. And by change I mean bringing some country to the city – that new ol’ fangled thang called urban farming.

BK Farmyards is itchin’ to grow food on your tiny parcel of city land. So mosey on down to this Saturday’s fundraiser to support the cause (RSVP here). Then take a gander at my latest post about BK Farmyards on the Brooklyn Food Coalition blog. But before you leave this here page, check out this video on Stacey Murphy, the lady behind BK Farmyards:

NYC’s Cool New Backyard Farms: Growing More Than Just Produce from SkeeterNYC on Vimeo.

Here’s the info again in case you missed it:

AUGUST 22
BK FARMYARDS FUNDRAISER
3pm-12am
hosted @ COMPOUND brooklyn
1287 Atlantic Ave, near Nostrand
2 blocks Nostrand A stop;
2-3 blocks B44, B65 , B25;
LIRR Nostrand stop steps away

Please RSVP on Facebook

Live bands, original artworks, dance troupe, local food & drinks, growing display, cooking demonstrations, and games: Fun for all ages. Bring along a blanket to picnic on the grass. Suggested donation $5 at the door or pay what you can. All donations go toward creating more farmyards. We are currently working with developers on converting 3 acres to farm next year. Gift certificates for Get Fresh Table and Market, Ici, Franny’s, The Farm on Adderley, Brooklyn Kitchen, Edible Brooklyn, and more will be auctioned off.

Pass the word along! Help us build more farms!


i enjoyed a dirty movie today

August 13, 2009

Well, actually it was more of a love story. A love story about dirt, probably the most overlooked natural resource, yet one of the most vital elements on the planet. Without healthy soil there would be no food… and we all know where that would lead us.

The film includes an all-star cast of ecological gurus gushing about the ‘skin of the earth.’ This list of heavyweights in the film just scratches the surface – Vandana Shiva, Nobel-peace-prize-winning Wangari Maathai, John Todd, Majora Carter of Sustainable South Bronx, and Andy Lipkis of TreePeople.

Check out the trailer, then see if it’s playing near you!

After watching the film I’m feeling motivated to learn more about soil. Here are some resources I’m going to check out:


(You can also get this one at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Bookstore)