Monday, August 31, 2009

Sorry Snapple/Soda Drinkers

I agree that these ads are sorta gross... but they're effective, don't you think? (Read about the "controversy" here)

Local Food Hub

This is exactly the kind of grassroots motion we need in the local food movement: Proper distribution of local produce on a larger supply-meets-demand-in-a-timely-and-efficient-and affordable-fashion scale. The Washington Post reports:

"The Local Food Hub's director, Kate Collier, hadn't intended to get into the wholesale produce business. She and her husband, Eric Gertner, own a gourmet food store, Feast, in Charlottesville. Feast sells jams, chutneys, meats, cheeses and produce; the produce has the lowest profit margins.

In April 2008, Collier made a presentation to a panel convened by local food advocates that outlined how a new distribution system could support small farmers and improve access to their products. "I told them, 'This is where I see the holes are,' " she said. "Everybody jumped on the idea. They said if there was one phone number to call, they'd do it."

Last fall, Collier began to put a plan into action. She raised $305,000 from local foundations and individuals and established a nonprofit group. She leased a 3,100-square-foot warehouse. She bought a refrigerated truck for deliveries and purchased $3 million in liability insurance, a requirement to sell to large institutions. She also hired a staff of five to market the new organization, manage the warehouse and educate the community about the benefits of local food..."

"...The Obama administration has plans to help. The Department of Agriculture is required to put at least 5 percent of its business and industry budget into developing local production. "That's the floor," Vilsack said. "What we're looking at is how can we more effectively use [those funds] to create a whole new way of thinking about the rural economy. Be assured it's one of our priorities."

Collier projects that the Hub could turn a profit with revenue of $1.5 million annually. If all goes well, that could happen in six to eight years. In the meantime, small farmers are taking advantage of the opportunity to find broad and steady markets for their products.

"It's nice to know you don't need to have 200 acres," Down Branch Farm's Proutt said. "You can still make it work.""

Global Releaf

My mom introduced me to Pearlstone Jewelry and their "Plant a Tree" partnership with and I'm lovin' it.

The bracelets are handmade with natural stones, reclaimed bone, crystal, glass and the official charm in Woodstock, NY and a tree is planted for every purchase. Since 2007 they have planted more than 9,000 trees.

Learn more and help the organization reach 10,000 by 2010 here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Another endangered amphibian

Now this awesome little fellow is on the verge of extinction too. Population has declined six-fold in the last ten years. In fact: Recent surveys suggest that only "between 700 and 1,200 Mexican Axolotl Salamanders survive in six reduced and scattered areas within the Xochimilco area of the Mexican Central Valley."

Commonly know as the "Peter Pan" of animals, the Mexican Axolotl is a favorite of scientists and pet-lovers because of their ability to regenerate body parts and their perma-larval, underwater lifestyle. But it appears that while a few human being nurture the little guys, the rest of us humans have passively harmed their habitat. Dr Luis Zambrano and colleagues at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, based in Mexico City report in the journal Biological Conservation:

"... As [Mexico] City has increased in size, it has dramatically reduced the axolotl's natural habitat.

...The salamander now exists in just six isolated parts of the water system, often near to some of the few remaining natural springs supplying clear, fresh water.

...Most recent work shows that the reduction in water quality is one of the main factors driving the axolotl to extinction in the wild. Another is the presence of large numbers of introduced carp and tilapia fish, which both compete ecologically with axolotls for food and resource, and also eat axolotl eggs."

Read more here.

Monday, August 24, 2009


If you aren't already reading Mental Floss Magazine, it's time to pick it up. Find a copy at your local Whole Foods, mag stand, or subscribe here. I'm serious. If you don't, you'll have to wait a pretty long time to read Maggie Koerth-Baker's findings about the origins of those noble, inbred lab mice and their first breeders that have been and continue to be paramount in furthering our scientific understanding of cancer, Parkinson's disease, and pretty much anything else you can think of - because that article is not available online without a subscription.

Another article from the most recent issue needs reading: Tree Bark Eating for Beginners, by David Clark:

For the choicest strips of bark, be sure to go for the nutritious, tender inner layer known as the cambium. (Eating the outer bark would be no more pleasant than chomping into your bookshelf.) If some resin or gum oozes out as you pry off the main course, be sure to lap it up for quick energy. Here are a few fun ways to serve tree bark:

Raw. Shred finely and chew thoroughly.

Slice it into strips and boil it to make a rustic pasta. Top with sap, dandelion greens, or insect parts (see entry #2). Alternatively, you can add the noodles to a stew.

Dry and grind into flour. The ground bark is pretty versatile and can be mixed with water into a breakfast gruel, baked into bread, added to soup for extra
body, or even guzzled straight like a Pixy Stick.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reading the morning news...

Whenever I recommend Thomas L. Friedman's The Lexus and The Olive Tree, I struggle to articulate his take on globalization - perhaps because it takes reading the whole book to gain that greater understanding I so wish I could hand to people. Thankfully, my man wrote another typically insightful Op-Ed for today's NY Times. From Jao Flats, Botswana, Friedman connects the dots with 54 year old director of sustainability for Wilderness Safaris, Map Ives:

We’re trying to deal with a whole array of integrated problems — climate change, energy, biodiversity loss, poverty alleviation and the need to grow enough food to feed the planet — separately. The poverty fighters resent the climate-change folks; climate folks hold summits without reference to biodiversity; the food advocates resist the biodiversity protectors.

They all need to go on safari together.

“We need to stop thinking about these issues in isolation — each with its own champion, constituency and agenda — and deal with them in an integrated way, the way they actually occur on the ground,” argued Glenn Prickett, senior vice president with Conservation International. “We tend to think about climate change as just an energy issue, but it’s also about land use: one-third of greenhouse gas emissions come from tropical deforestation and agriculture. So we need to preserve forests and other ecosystems to solve climate change, not only to save species.”

But we also need to double food production to feed a growing population. “So we’ll need to do that without clearing more forests and draining more wetlands, which means farmers will need new technologies and practices to grow more food on the same land they use today — with less water,” he added. “Healthy forests, wetlands and grasslands not only preserve biodiversity and store carbon, they also help buffer the impacts of climate change. So our success in tackling climate change, poverty, food security and biodiversity loss will depend on finding integrated solutions from the land.”

This passage does not include Ives most fascinating - and so widely overlooked - observations on nature so find the entire op-ed here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Save the Rain Forest

Paying landowners to protect the rain forests isn't a new idea. It's also not guaranteed to be as successful as we may hope because, unfortunately, local and global economic forces driving deforestation are often far more lucrative. The NY Times reports on recent efforts in Brazil:

Deforestation, a critical contributor to climate change, effectively accounts for 20 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions and 70 percent of the emissions in Brazil. Halting new deforestation, experts say, is as powerful a way to combat warming as closing the world’s coal plants.

But until now, there has been no financial reward for keeping forest standing. Which is why a growing number of scientists, politicians and environmentalists argue that cash payments — like that offered to Mr. Marcolini — are the only way to end tropical forest destruction and provide a game-changing strategy in efforts to limit global warming.

Unlike high-tech solutions like capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide or making “green” fuel from algae, preserving a forest yields a strikingly simple environmental payback: a landowner reduces his property’s emissions to zero.

Are you ready for some mind-blowing statistics? (Keep in mind, the Amazon accounts for about 17% of the world's forested area and deforestation and forest degradation make make up the second largest overall contributor to global warming) At the current deforestation rate, the Amazon is losing nearly 5 million acres per year. Since 1970, about 230,000 square miles have been lost. It is predicted that at the current rate, the Amazon will be cut in half by 2030. Do you know what the land sans trees is being used for? Cattle. In 2004, Brazil surpassed the United States as the largest meat exporter and has maintained approximately a 25% market share since.

I'm just saying... Who knows if paying the land owners will help. I bet a decreasing demand for meat would though. Bottom line: Saving the rain forest (or rainforest - it was one word in 1989) is one of our biggest challenges.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lovin' Nat Geo Right Now (as always)

Not only is the National Geographic Society sharing 150 vintage prints from their archives at an exhibition at the Steven Kasher Gallery in Chelsea beginning September 17th (read all about that awesomeness here), their newest issue features an article that truly brightened my day upon discovery. I'll give you a hint: Michael Pollan.

Okay, I'll give you more than a hint. It's about Orchids and it's fascinating. MP's "The Botany of Desire" changed my outlook on life and nature. His insight, study and consideration of the co-evolution between plants and animals captivates me. If you haven't read the aforementioned book, which examines the relationship human beings have had and continue to have with the cultivation of apples, tulips, potatoes and marijuana, think of this article as an introduction to this arena of Pollan's writing. Here's the teaser:

Love and Lies: How do you spread your genes around when you're stuck in one place? By tricking animals, including us, into falling in love.

By Michael Pollan
Photograph by Christian Ziegler

We animals don't give plants nearly enough credit. When we want to dismiss a fellow human as ineffectual or superfluous, we call him a "potted plant." A "vegetable" is how we refer to a person reduced to utter helplessness, having lost most of the essential tools for getting along in life. Yet plants get along in life just fine, thank you, and did so for millions of years before we came along. True, they lack such abilities as locomotion, the command of tools and fire, the miracles of consciousness and language. To animals like ourselves, these are the tools for living we deem the most "advanced," which is not at all surprising, since they have been the shining destinations of our evolutionary journey thus far. But the next time you're tempted to celebrate human consciousness as the pinnacle of evolution, stop to consider where you got that idea. Human consciousness. Not exactly an objective source.

You know you want to read on. And see Christian Ziegler's amazing photographs. Find the full article here.

Might be tough to find a date this weekend

Or rather, this next lunar month. For the first time in a decade, Ramadan begins before the medjool (aka the most sought after date) harvest season in the Coachella or Imperial valleys in Southern California. The LA Times reports:

"...Wholesalers and grocers were rushing to put their orders in for Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that begins Saturday. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, followed by evening meals that commence with at least one date, a practice believed followed by the prophet Muhammad. Preferences for the fleshy fruit run from the drier deglet noor to the sweet Medina to the hard, yellow barhi. But the most sought-after dates -- especially among Middle Easterners -- are the soft, plump medjool..."

So what is a practicing Muslim to do? Enjoy the 2008 harvest. They freeze remarkably well.

"...But the thought of year-old fruit remains unappealing and callers to SeaView insist on fresh produce. Some, unfamiliar with the ripening process, ask if the dates can be picked a few weeks early. "The funny part is when they argue with you, 'Why aren't they ready?' " said Roya Jensen, Dennis' wife, who oversees sales. "Because every year they're ready in September." Growers including the Jensens have been dealing with the supply-and-demand crunch the last few years, with harvested dates rushed from the groves straight to markets. This year, growers have had to rely on last year's crop going into the season..."

Something tells me that many are hoping for fresh dates come Lailatul-Qadr and Eid-al-Fitr. Read more about Southern California's ideal growing conditions and date business in . Ramadan beings this Saturday, August 22nd.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pro Pitt

Bill Maher interviewed Brad Pitt last week and I am ashamed to report that I knew very little about until watching this but urge everyone to check out the site and make a donation or get involved.

Furthermore, I think this is a great interview so check it out. I swear Pitt mentions the "environment" and "sustainability" somewhere in here - which means it qualifies for the blog, right?

Saturday, August 15, 2009


First toad that I have seen all summer. Is it just me, or are there very few of them around this year?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

On the other hand...

Dan Barber wrote a great Op-Ed for the NY Times, You Say Tomato, I Say Agricultural Disaster, about the spread of "late blight," a plant disease that usually attacks potatoes and tomatoes late in the summer that has spread quite rapidly throughout the Northeast. An aid to the problem, Barber suggests, is the backyard farmer:

"...According to plant pathologists, this killer round of blight began with a widespread infiltration of the disease in tomato starter plants. Large retailers like Home Depot, Kmart, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart bought starter plants from industrial breeding operations in the South and distributed them throughout the Northeast. (Fungal spores, which can travel up to 40 miles, may also have been dispersed in transit.) Once those infected starter plants arrived at the stores, they were purchased and planted, transferring their pathogens like tiny Trojan horses into backyard and community gardens. Perhaps this is why the Northeast was hit so viciously: instead of being spread through large farms, the blight sneaked through lots of little gardens, enabling it to escape the attention of the people who track plant diseases..."

So now what? Well, I suggest reading the article but for those of you who prefer what my sister calls the "mini research paper" posts here on JustSaying, I shall summarize:

- When you start a garden, keep in mind that you are joining an agricultural network of farmers and growers. Spores (think late blight) spread.
- If you aren't growing from seed, which is the ideal method, pick up your plants from a local grower rather than large home improvement chains whose managers have little control over the products sold.
- Ask an expert. If you are concerned that a disease is festering in your garden, contact a local farmer or utilize the magic of the Internet.
- Grow heirlooms. They are cherished and carefully monitored by their cultivators.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Yes, this really exists.

This is just plain silly. And lacks the capacity for dinosaur shaped pancakes. Yet the makers of ChefStack Perfect Panless Pancakes think it's a revolution in the making. From their website:

"[It's] the worlds first automatic pancake machine. The patented process cooks hot, fresh pancakes in a matter of seconds. From an all-natural batter, 97% fat free pancakes emerge at a rate of up to 200 per hour!"

Positively Green

When it comes to choosing the most environmentally friendly products, there are quite a few shades to pick from. Reusable shopping bags are a great example. Some are made in China from recycled materials, others domestically with fair trade organic cotton, and my personal favorites are mailed in return for a donation to the WWF. As long as they aren't collecting dust, any reusable is a better option than disposable plastic but unfortunately none are the solution to our environmental woes. What I am trying to say is - it isn't just about the bag. It's about making conscious decisions to take the greener path. We can't stop consumption all together but we can try and keep our bags half full and be mindful in our purchases. If you do want to purchase a "want" as opposed to a "need," perhaps it's worth doing a little research and seeing if it's available in a deep shade of green. Which brings me to the purpose of this post: Positively Green Cards.

I love sending cards. I'm sure the carbon footprint of a card is greater than that of an email but some sort of cognitive dissonance allows me to slap on that postage with pride. So what's a USPS-utilizer to do? Find the greenest greeting cards!

Each of Positively Green's cards offers an inspirational quote, chic design, an environmental tip, and reminds the purchaser that 10% of the profits from the card are donated to organizations that protect the environment and fight global warming. The company is Forest Steward Council certified 100% recycled stock and printed with soy ink. Read more about them here and find them at your local Wild Birds Unlimited or online here.

A few of my favorites say:

"I felt it shelter to speak to you." - Emily Dickinson
"Go ahead and cry. I'll catch your tears." - Jileen Russell
"You are one of my nicest thoughts." - Georgia O'Keefe

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cooking... Come Back!

If you haven't already, I highly recommend reading Michael Pollan's latest manifesto, Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch: How American Cooking Became a Spectator Sport and What We Lost Along the Way.

In his usual observant and conversational manner, Pollan examines the evolution of cooking, mealtime, feminism and health in relation to the changes in our food culture that have brought us from "The French Chef" to "Iron Chef."

I wish I could highlight exceptional points from the article but the truth is, there are too many fantastic topics to choose from.

This is a must read, folks.

More Market Photos

The adorable child (who will likely captivate readers more than even the most controversial topics discussed here on JustSaying) is my niece, Charlotte Anne. She too was produced locally.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Elmer's Farmers Market

Found an incredible farmers' market on the way home from vacay in Delaware. It's called Elmer's, located somewhere on Route 404, and it's so excellent I have to share some photos. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Can you blame 'em?

An interesting albeit disturbing report in MMWR about cattle-caused deaths was published yesterday. It turns out that 21 people, aged eight to 86 and most commonly male, were killed by cattle aggression from 2003-2007. From the report:

Circumstances associated with these deaths included working with cattle in enclosed areas (33%), moving or herding cattle (24%), loading (14%), and feeding (14%)... A total of 21 deaths met the case definition for 2003--2008. Four fatalities occurred in 2003, two in 2004, six in 2005, and three each year during 2006--2008. During these years, eight of the fatalities occurred in Iowa, two in Kansas, seven in Missouri, and four in Nebraska... Only one of the victims was female. One of the victims was a boy aged 8 years who was helping castrate cattle when he was crushed against a squeeze chute... To reduce the risk for death from cattle-caused injuries, farmers and ranchers should be aware of and follow recommended practices for safe livestock-handling facilities and proper precautions for working with cattle, especially cattle that have exhibited aggressiveness.

Many of the details reported in individual cases are too sad to post but further proof (in my opinion) that these animals do not belong in confined feeding spaces and are still very much animals - not merely inventory. Don't get me wrong, no one deserves the fate these farmers met. I'm just saying, maybe the cows don't deserve the conditions and fate they encounter either. I mean, as one Tierney Lab reader put it, isn't it sort of poetic justice that one of the deaths was by way of the antibiotic intended for the cow? And can we really blame a cow for the fact that it's maternal, animal instinct led her to charge a farmer removing her deceased newborn calf?