Posts Tagged ‘sustainable agriculture’

what’s going on?

May 10, 2010

Yeah, I know. This blog has been very quiet. But that’s only because my life hasn’t been. A lot more doing and a little less documenting. So here, in a nutshell, is a rundown of some of the good stuff I’ve been up to.

Growing Power

If you haven’t heard of Will Allen or his magical agricultural oasis in Milwaukee called Growing Power yet, you must not be paying attention to the sustainable urban agriculture movement. Oh wait, according to Will it’s not a movement, it’s now a revolution! My understanding of revolutions is that they are loud… can’t you hear the roar, the passion in Will’s voice?

We went to one of his Growing From the Ground Up weekend workshops a few weeks back. I just got around to uploading the pictures. Check ’em out!

Master Composter Certification

Soil is the basis of life on earth. Without its nutrients and hard-working microorganisms, plants would not grow, we would all quickly starve. In the city, we’ve got some pretty horrendous soil. Poisoned with petrochemicals and heavy metals, compacted, often just dead. Compost brings life back to the soil. I’m having a great time learning all about decomposition, soil organisms, and all of the challenges city composters put up with in the Master Composter training through the NYC Compost Project in Brooklyn (at the lovely Brooklyn Botanic Garden). I’ve met some really cool, passionate people in the class who all love to geek-out on all things compost.

Rich compost from the Lower East Side Ecology Center site

Fellow Master Composters dig in and get dirty

In the next few weeks, I’ll be working with a classmate on some fun compost-related projects in order to fulfill our community outreach hours. And then there’s the Masters of Succession presence at the Figment Festival happening in the middle of June. Learn more about that here.

The Work Office (TWO)

These days I’ve got compost on the brain. So I’ve poured this love for black gold into creative expression.

The Work Office (TWO) is a project put together by Katarina Jerenic (aka Katsie) and Naomi Miller that mimics the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) role in employing artists and other public workers around the time of the Great Depression. I worked for TWO last week in order to promote a new event – Compost Awareness Week – via mixed media poster made from upcycled and natural materials. You can visit the work at 156 William St (corner of Ann St) until next Thursday, May 20 (hours here).

Herbal Medicine Making

Wednesday nights are spent with Robin Rose Bennett at the Open Center making herbal tinctures, decoctions, and infusions. It’s a joy to make medicine with my own two hands while singing with my classmates and putting ‘good energy’ into our jars of botanical concoctions.

My growing herbal medicine collection

the seemingly benign white vinegar

January 24, 2010

I think it was my dad who said if you shop on the outer edges of the supermarket, instead of going up and down the aisles, you’re more apt to eat healthier. When you think of the way a supermarket is laid out, this makes sense. All of the whole foods – fresh fruit and veggies, meats, dairy – are on the perimeter of the store, as opposed to the processed foods stacked on shelves in the aisles.

But that simple rule doesn’t seem so simple anymore. It’s easy to become neurotic over food choices these days. Even Michael Pollan’s tome, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” deserves some caveats.

With genetically engineered and/or modified, chemically treated, and irradiated foods going unlabeled on supermarket shelves, and with all of the strange industrial food additives in packaged foods, it can be difficult to figure out which foods may have unintended long-term consequences on our bodies and on the planet.

One way to overcome this decision-making hurdle is to know the source of your food. I’m fortunate enough to live a couple of blocks away from one of NYC’s best greenmarkets, and so we buy most of our food there. But there are certain items that cannot be purchased at the greenmarket.

One food item that I like to buy at the supermarket is white vinegar. I don’t use it for cooking however. I use it to clean surfaces in our home. Vinegar has so many household uses (which I wrote about a while back). I got to thinking about how white vinegar was made when reading the label:

Heinz® All Natural Distilled White Vinegar is Always:

Sourced from sun-ripened corn.

Ultra-filtered to guarantee sparkling clarity.

Diluted to 5% acidity and bottled at peak freshness.

Naturally Good Since 1869!

Seems pretty wholesome and benign, right? Not when you know that at least 60% of corn grown in the US is genetically engineered (Source: USDA). Currently, it is up to the manufacturer to disclose whether their products contain genetically modified organisms (GMO). The only labeling you’re likely to see is a product label touting that it is non-GMO and not the other way around (no one seems to want to brag about their GMOs).

Why am I so anti-GMO? The answer is, we don’t really know enough about the consequences of GMOs to have unleashed them wholesale onto our complex ecosystems, our complex bodies.

And this recent study has just begun to unveil the potential outcome of the introduction of GMOs into the food web.

So what to do? I may have to splurge and buy organic white vinegar or use the pricier organic apple cider vinegar in lieu of the cheaper GMO variety. It’ll still be cheaper than buying chemically based cleaning solutions (which I wouldn’t do anyway) and I’ll be supporting agriculture that is less likely to have damaging effects on the planet or my body.

More info about GMOs in vinegar and other everyday products: