Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

Photo: Suzanne and John’s Mom.
Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet, founded the Small Planet Institute, which focuses on social solutions to environmental, hunger, and political challenges.

The environmental radio show Living on Earth is staying on top of concerns about our global food system and the role it plays in “environmental crises like global warming and water pollution even as it fails to adequately feed billions of people.” Diet for a Small Planet author Frances Moore Lappé recently joined host Steve Curwood to discuss how “embracing the plant world in our diets connects to climate, health, and democracy.”

“STEVE CURWOOD: Our present food system is polluting and wasteful. For starters, about a third is thrown away, tossed from kitchens and plates in rich places and spoiled where people can’t afford to refrigerate. And many industrial growing systems pollute and waste as well, using too much water, land and chemicals in ways that also add to climate disaster. Yet around the world more than 2 billion people are food insecure.

“Fifty years ago Frances Moore Lappé wrote the bestselling Diet for a Small Planet in a bid to address the hunger crisis, and along the way she seeded a plant-centered food revolution in the kitchens of America. She joins me now from Belmont, Massachusetts. … Frankie, just to be clear, what is a plant-centered diet?

“FRANCES MOORE: Well, it’s embracing the plant world. When I moved from meat, you know I grew up in Texas cow town, right. So people said oh you’re giving up so much and I said, no, no, no, it’s the plant world that has all the taste differences, the color, the shapes, the textures, you know, it’s where all the yummy stuff is. And so for me being plant centered is I don’t follow recipes a lot but going into the kitchen and looking, you know, seeing what’s there and finding out spices and herbs I love and for example, I turned a basic beans and rice dish into an Italian dish by just changing the herbs that are used in it. It’s called Roman Rice and Beans in Diet for a Small Planet. …

“CURWOOD: So what’s changed in the last 50 years since you wrote Diet for a Small Planet? …

“MOORE: We’re sort of moving in two directions at once because we’ve got it now we know what to do and all over the world, people are aligning with nature to grow our food [but] the dominant extractive approach that is so dangerous and so unnecessary is still going strong. …

“Our food system globally contributes about 37% of greenhouse gas emissions and about 40% of that is from the livestock sector. So that’s a huge contribution. And now I’m calling it a plant- and planet-centered diet because if we really addressed this crisis and grew a healthy plant-centered diet, that would cut the agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by about two-thirds. A professor at the University of Minnesota calculated that it would be the equivalent to removing basically all the vehicles off the planet.

“CURWOOD: Now, people listening to us need to be reassured that you’re not saying you can never eat meat, you’re just telling us to make it a rare occasion. …

“MOORE: I really want to be big tent and to welcome people if they are eager to align with their body because there’s a lot of evidence that this plant-centered stuff is really good for us. … Any step we can take, I celebrate.

“CURWOOD: Now, the meat production industry has gone to great lengths to concentrate operations. …

“MOORE: What woke me up at age 26 [was] that I saw meat production as a protein factory in reverse. Consider this, we use about 80% of our agricultural land to produce livestock, but they give to us only 18% of our calories. So right there, that is pretty darn inefficient and for beef, one estimate says that of the grains fed to livestock we get about 3% to 5% of the calories and protein that we eat from all of that grain that gets fed to livestock in this country. So it’s really hard to imagine anything less efficient. …

“CURWOOD: Tell me a little bit more about the the health risk of red meat.

“MOORE: Well, I was actually shocked to learn recently that the WHO, the World Health Organization, has deemed red meat a probable carcinogen. And when I looked into it a bit that has to do with heme iron in red meat. … And then on processed meat, the WHO has deemed processed meat a carcinogen. …

“CURWOOD: Why [is] the food we eat is also linked to the health of our democracy in your view? …

“MOORE: Our democracy [is] the taproot crisis and we also have a living-planet crisis and we also have an economic crisis [of] concentration of wealth, but the taproot is democracy, because that is the way that we make decisions together to solve problems. [If] we’re going to solve these huge problems of our environment and the impact of farming on climate change, which is quite significant, we have to have democracy. And what we have now I think of as a very corrupted form because private interests those who are benefiting very much from fossil fuels and from the meat-production industry and [they] have tremendous power in Washington. There are now 20 corporate lobbyists in Washington for every single person that you and I elect to represent us in Washington. That is problematic, that is what I call a corrupted system, and that’s why I think it’s so important, Steve, we’ve got to solve these problems, and we’ve got to have democracy to solve them.”

More on that at Living on Earth, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal.
Brayden Nadeau, seen here at age 10, shows off vegetables he grew on his grandfather’s land in Auburn, Maine.

How great to see a kid who’s into agriculture! Cathy Free at the Washington Post reports on a 12-year-old farmer in Maine who got hooked on farming at age 2. There’s a lot to ponder here about what a close relationship with a grandparent can lead to.

“Brayden Nadeau was 2 when he helped his grandpa steer a John Deere tractor, and he was 3 when he helped feed the hogs and chickens on the family farm in Minot, Maine.

“At age 5, when he was asked by his kindergarten teacher what he hoped to do for a living one day, nobody was surprised when Brayden said he was going to be a farmer, said his mother, Kari Nadeau. …

“Brayden, now 12 and in seventh grade, is already on his way to achieving his career goal. On his own initiative, he does much of the work on his grandfather Dan Herrick’s 25-acre farm, and on the 275 acres that neighbors let Herrick use to grow hay, Kari Nadeau said. Brayden plants, tends and harvests produce, and sells his bounty.

“For the past two years, he has run Brayden’s Vegetable Stand, selling fresh food such as corn, cabbage and tomatoes. He used his savings to buy a new store structure in May 2021 for about $7,000 and install it at the edge of his grandfather’s farm. He posts live updates on Facebook about what’s fresh each day.

“He works on the farm and at his store 10 hours a day in the summer, and four hours a day (mostly after school) when school is in session. He’ll restock his store before school at 7:30 a.m. and leave an honor box for customers to drop in their money.

“Brayden said he puts most of his earnings into savings, but uses some of the money to add improvements to his veggie stand, such as a new floor.

“ ‘I’ve become his employee,’ joked Herrick, 64, adding that he still harvests hay on the farm but has allowed Brayden to take over most other responsibilities. ‘I taught him the basics, and he took it from there. … Brayden pretty much runs the show now. [He] knows how to use the equipment better than I do.’

“Brayden said it’s his favorite way to spend his days. ‘I really enjoy it — even getting up at 5 in the morning,’ he said. ‘I’m not into video games and goofing around on my phone like some of my friends. I’d rather be busy on the farm.’ …

“Maine was among the top five states with declining farmland between 2012 and 2017, according to a survey done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In rural towns like Minot in southern Maine, many families eventually sell their farms or stop working the land because their children find other ways to make a living, said Herrick, who has farmed for most of his life.

“ ‘It’s a hard job, and you really have to enjoy doing it,’ he said. …

“Brayden’s sense of duty to the farm has also helped to foster a close relationship with his grandparents, said his grandmother, Marie Herrick, 60.

“ ‘Nobody has ever asked Brayden to do this — there’s just nowhere else he’d rather be,’ she said. ‘It’s been a joy all these years to watch him learn everything he can from Dan.’

“At 6:30 every morning, one of Brayden’s parents drives him two miles to the Herricks’ farm, and he goes to work.

“Brayden said he feeds the livestock (100 chickens, 60 pigs, 30 laying hens, 20 turkeys and six cows), cleans stalls, picks ripe produce and gathers eggs. Then he stocks the shelves in his vegetable stand, which he operates until Thanksgiving.

“Every spring, he said, he starts his vegetables from seed, then puts them into the ground. To make the task of caring for the plants easier, he recently bought a drip irrigation system with money he’d saved from his produce sales. …

“His customers said they look forward to seeing what he has to offer each day, from broccoli and tomatoes to eggplant and summer squash. Brayden also sells bacon and sausage made from his grandpa’s hogs and loaves of his grandma Marie’s fresh zucchini bread, as well as jars of her zucchini relish.

“ ‘Zucchini is probably the favorite thing I plant,’ he said. ‘It’s always been amazing to watch something grow from an itty-bitty seed.’

“Some of his customers feel the same way about watching Brayden grow.

“ ‘He’s the hardest-working kid I’ve ever known,’ said customer Wendy Simard, 48, who was also Brayden’s reading teacher at Minot Consolidated School. …

“Simard said that when she taught Brayden in first grade, he was drawn to books about farming, and liked drawing pictures of tractors, pigs and cows.

“ ‘Now he comes in to tell our pre-K students all about vegetables, and he’ll bring in a baby pig at the end of every year to show the kids,’ she said.”

More at the Post, here.

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Dyes were made with cabbage, beets, and tumeric because there was a Paas kit shortage this year.

When I made an absent-minded mistake with the egg coloring this year, it occurred to me that misadventures at Easter are sort of a family tradition. For some reason, we like to try new things for this holiday. That’s good. But our adventures frequently lead to hilarious results.

I remember the time our Philadelphia niece and nephew were visiting, and we decided to make bunny cookies from a recipe Suzanne got at Girl Scouts. Barbara went to add milk. The recipe said 2 Tablespoons. She thought it said 2 cups — and, oops! How we laughed!

We turned the cookie batter into something we referred to as “fritters.”

The family has also had lots of experiments with egg-decorating. We’ve tried dipping two sides separately for two-toned eggs; blowing out the raw insides before marbleizing with oil paint floating on water in a bucket; and making Ukrainian wax-resist eggs. Even before John grew up and founded a company that involved visits to Ukraine and employing Ukrainians, he thought we could get Ukrainian egg-decorating instructions and just sit down and do it.

He sat down and did it. I have to say that experiment wasn’t bad.

But I want to tell you about 2021. After not going in a grocery store for a year, I was thrilled to enter at last, and I went looking for white eggs and the Paas coloring kits. The guy who was stocking announced with regret that there were no kits available this year, not even food coloring.

I was floored. But I remembered that one year we made egg dyes with vegetables, so I bought a red cabbage and a beet and went online. One website also suggested tumeric. In three pots, I boiled cabbage for blue, beets for pink, and tumeric for yellow. The tumeric was impossible to strain thoroughly in my strainer and made the yellow eggs all lumpy. (See above.) Plus I forgot the vinegar to set it. The shredded beets worked fine and we ate the leftover beets at dinner.

But I had to do the cabbage twice, and here’s why. The cabbage was the first ingredient I strained after boiling had created a dye. I held the strainer in one hand and the cooled-off pot in the other.

And in true Easter tradition, I poured the dye right down the drain!

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Photo: King Associates
Whether you call it edible landscaping, foodscaping, or front-yard farming, many landscapers around the country are helping homeowners convert work-intensive, enviromentally unsound lawns into productive gardens.

If you’re a homeowner and your yard is covered with snow right now, you may be dreaming of the beautiful lawn you will have in spring. You may even be imagining that you love having a lawn even though no one uses your lawn to picnic or play catch and that you enjoy mowing and spreading weed killer to give your home a green welcome mat until summer sun turns it brown. When you’re in a deep freeze, it’s easy to feel that everything about spring is fun.

But what if someone knocked on your door one day and offered to plant and care for a vegetable garden where your lawn is now, promising to give you a generous cut of the produce?

That is actually happening. Fleet Farming, for example, does this work in Orlando, Florida.

Their website says, “Fleet Farming is a non-profit urban agriculture program whose mission is to empower all generations to grow food to increase local food accessibility. Our Vision is to create localized food systems that bring communities together towards a healthier, more connected world in harmony with people and planet.

“We accomplish this by converting underutilized lawn space into productive localized edible gardens or micro farms. Our program works to provide edible landscaping to schools, community centers, affordable housing units, businesses and individuals through our community farming initiative and Edible Landscapes garden-installation service. Together, we are changing the cycle of food.”

The organization describes a 2018 project at its blog, here. “In May 2018, over 100 student volunteers from Rock Bridge Community Church in Northern Georgia came down to Orlando and partook in a series of action days in partnership with United Way. They aided Fleet Farming and Orlando Permaculture in revitalizing Audubon Park Covenant Church’s beautiful grounds.

“The students were a massive help in clearing bushes and planting new trees. They collaborated in shoveling and transferring fresh mulch to the church’s plentiful gardens. They showed a true sense of generosity and community.

“Every person, young or old, deserves the right learn how to grow their own food, and engage with nature and the outdoors. If you have a group who would be interested in working with Fleet Farming for a day of action, contact us at info@fleetfarming.org.”

You can also consider “donating” your lawn.

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Rupa Shenoy had an interesting story on WGBH radio recently. It was about local startups interested in urban farming. I wrote previously about Higher Ground Farm, situated on top of the Design Center in South Boston, but Grove Labs, with its use of LED lighting for indoor gardening, was new to me.

Shenoy says, “Some of these new entrepreneurs are thinking big. Jamie Byron and Gabe Blanchet graduated from MIT and started Grove Labs two years ago with the idea to make every living room a potential growing space. …

“Their product is a cabinet that allows people to grow fruits and vegetables year-round in the home. It’s connected to the internet, controlled by an app on your phone, and designed to make urban farming easy and engaging.

“There are a few models set up in a space at Greentown Labs in Somerville, which they share with other startups. Each wooden cabinet, with several components, is about the size of an entertainment center.

“At the heart of the cabinet system is a fish swimming in a tank. The waste from that fish is sucked into tubes and converted into nitrate fertilizer. The fertilizer is pumped around the cabinet to trays filled with brown clay pebbles. That’s where the fruits and vegetables grow, with the pebbles serving as soil. Byron says once you get the system up and running, you can harvest enough for about two small salads everyday.” More at WGBH.

For more on using fish to fertilize your produce, see my recent post about an experiment in Duluth, here.

Photo: Rupa Shenoy / WGBH News
Somerville startup Grove Labs plans to sell cabinets for growing produce in your home.

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The Globe‘s Callum Borchers wrote recently about an organization called Seeding Labs, which presented at the IDEAS conference in Boston.

Founder Nina Dudnick, he says, “collects and ships used lab equipment to developing countries.

“Last year, Seeding Labs hosted six scientists and researchers from Kenya, one of whom was a chemist, Mildred Nawiri, who is studying how certain vegetables that are indigenous to West Africa might help prevent cancer.

“On Wednesday, Dudnick pointed to Nawiri’s research as an example of work that is unlikely to be done in the United States, because the vegetables she is studying do not grow here.

“And whatever benefits she might discover could go unrealized without modern equipment. Before Seeding Labs, Nawiri was using techniques Western scientists employed in the 1800s, Dudnick said.”

Dudnick points out that “this talent really is everywhere. The problems that face us, like cancer, don’t respect boundaries drawn on a map, so why should our scientific community?”

More at the Globe.

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I’m hoping someone from my deep past will remember the name of the man who used to travel to my growing-up neighborhood in a blue-painted school bus to sell fruits and vegetables. The name “Mr. Mackey” is clawing itself to the surface, but I may have that wrong.

I had flashbacks about the huckster today when I read about the Fresh
Truck, an old idea made new in a time of urban food deserts and locavore sensibilities.

Christina Reinwald wrote the story for the Boston Globe.

“A food bus began to roll down the city’s streets Thursday. The retrofitted school bus, the brainchild of a Boston start-up called Fresh Truck, is expected to visit Boston communities that don’t have nearby grocery stores, selling fruits and vegetables.

“Fresh Truck founders Josh Trautwein and Daniel Clarke, recent Northeastern University graduates, came up with the idea last year and work full time now to serve neighborhoods in need of more healthful food options. …

“Fresh Truck raised more than $32,000 from over 300 contributors to its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign earlier this year. It also received private donations to get started.

“Starting Monday outside the New England Baptist Hospital in Roxbury, Fresh Truck will sell its produce for about 20 percent less than average grocery prices, Trautwein said.

“Avoiding the traditional brick-and-mortar shop eliminates many operating costs for Fresh Truck.” More.

Photo: Yoon S. Byun/ Globe Staff
A food bus run by Fresh Truck, a Boston start-up, aims to serve neighborhoods in need of more healthful food options.

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Like most Americans, I don’t know much about the multibillion-dollar Farm Bill, which is up for renewal this year. NYU professor Marion Nestle talks about its enormous complexity in the Boston Globe.

“I’d like to bring agricultural policy in line with health policy. Health policy tells us that we ought to be making fruits and vegetables inexpensive.” Her biggest concern is that those who produce and sell processed foods benefit most from current policy, which has had the effect of lowering prices for processed food and increasing the prices for the fresh fruits and vegetables people really need.

I have blogged before about the related problem of “food deserts,” localities where there is no reasonably priced market and people end up eating too much junk food. (Check out this post and this one.)

Today I would also like to point you to a National Public Radio story by Nancy Shute.

“Increasingly, metropolitan areas are creating or bolstering their food policies, recognizing the need to ensure that healthful and affordable foodstuffs are available for residents. Baltimore fashioned a food policy initiative in 2009 which involves multiple city departments and an advisory group of over 30 organizations. Priorities included the reduction of ‘food deserts’ and the support of projects that allow low-income residents to order groceries online and pick them up at the local library. New York and San Francisco have also created their own food policy initiatives, and mayors across the U.S. have met to launch a food policy task force.”

“In the summer, Shirley and Ewald August grow blueberries at their Windsor Mill, Md., farm and sell at Baltimore farmers markets.” Photograph: Amy Davis/MCT/Landov

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Check out this story in the Boston Globe. It seems especially timely given the increasing numbers of people growing their own food and the concerns about many others who are struggling.

“Every summer, 40 million backyard farmers produce more food than they can use, while people in their communities go hungry. If only they could link up. Enter Gary Oppenheimer, 59, of West Milford, N.J. He was directing a community garden a couple of years ago when inspiration struck. In May 2009, AmpleHarvest.org hit the Internet, connecting food pantries and gardeners. In just 150 days, Rosie’s Place in Boston became the 1,000th pantry on the site, and the growth has continued. As of Labor Day, 4,188 pantries were listed, in all states. Oppenheimer says the nonprofit organization is actively seeking grant funding to sustain what has sprung up.” Read more here.

If you have extra produce from your garden, you can go to AmpleHarvest to find a food pantry near you.

Photographs: Sandra M. Kelly

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Concord’s main business street, sometimes called the Milldam because it was built over a dam, got blocked to traffic this morning, and farmers set up booths. Concord doesn’t do this often because most farmers around town have their own stands. I bought a small yellow watermelon, corn, lettuce, green beans, and a tomato. Because I was on foot I resisted buying more, but the raspberries looked wonderful as did some seasoned salt, pots of flowers, dried hydrangeas, and homemade soaps.

Among the farms represented were Verrill Farm (where we went for Mothers Day brunch this year),  Pete & Jen’s Backyard Birds, Frank Scimone Farm, and Hutchins Farm (pictured).

Last year we attended the Concord farms’ annual Stone Soup dinner, a benefit organized by the town’s Agricultural Committee — quite elaborate and delicious. A scholarship was awarded that night to a young local farmer as part of the campaign to encourage the next generation to pursue or stay in agriculture. I was surprised to learn that there are 18 farms in Concord. Read more here.

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I have been reading about Michelle Obama’s latest efforts to encourage good nutrition in childhood.

“Executives from Wal-Mart, Walgreens, SuperValu and other stores joined Michelle Obama at the White House on [July 21] to announce a pledge to open or expand a combined 1,500 stores in communities that have limited access to nutritious food and are designated as ‘food deserts.’

“With the pledges, secured by the Partnership for a Healthier America, which is part of Mrs. Obama’s campaign to reduce childhood obesity, the stores aim to reach 9.5 million of the 23.5 million Americans who live in areas where finding affordable healthy foods can be difficult. In those areas, many people turn to fast food restaurants or convenience stores.” Read the New York Times article here.

On a related note, John sent me a really interesting link from photographer Mark Menjivar, who documents the insides of people’s refrigerators. He includes a one-line insight into the person whose food he is photographing. Unsurprisingly, the fridge with the least food in it belongs to a “street advertiser” who lives on a $432 fixed monthly income.

See the fascinating photo essay here.

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