Monday, October 25, 2010

Trick or Trivia?

1.) In 1985, the candy industry actually lobbied to to move the end of Daylight Saving Time into early November - after Halloween. They hoped that the longer days would increase the time spent trick-or-treating and boost candy sales. The National Confectioners Association reportedly "pleaded with U.S. senators and, according to some reports, left pumpkins full of candy on their chairs." In 2007, more than twenty years later, the candy makers' wish was granted and Congress altered Daylight Saving Time to accommodate.

2.) You may notice that you don't see "high fructose corn syrup" in the ingredient lists of candies anymore. Rest assured that you are still getting your dose - it is just a name change to "corn sugar."

3.) In 2009, Americans consumed 24.3 pounds of candy per capita.

Answers: All trivia. (Sources: Mental Floss, Census Bureau)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sustainable Agriculture: At UMD's Institute of Applied Agriculture

Walk around any college campus in autumn, and you’ll see sidewalks illustrated with neon, chalk‐written invites to rush sororities and attend student government rallies‐‐but if you want the real news on the University of Maryland, College Park campus, you’ve got to look up as well. Up to the roof‐top community gardens, that is.

Fruits, veggies and herbs are growing as strong on the top of the campus diner as they are in the Greenhouse. Soil nurtured by student volunteers this summer produced more than just delicious heirlooms and a sense of community scarce in modern society. It produced a group of students interested in sustainability.

The Institute of Applied Agriculture (IAA), in the college of Agriculture and Natural Resources, partnered up with the Accokeek Foundation to create a program designed specifically for Sustainable Agriculture that officially began this fall semester.

Brian Hughes, a University of Maryland graduate in Landscape Architecture with nearly 20 years farming experience, teaches the new course required for the major but open to allstudents: Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture. Interest in the course this fall was sogreat that students found themselves waitlisted.

Wednesday nights, earth‐conscious students pile into a small classroom in Jull Hall to learn how to integrate sustainable conservation practices into their respective courses of study and perhaps most importantly: their own farms and gardens. The class met on Hughes’ organic CSA Shaw Farm in Columbia, Maryland once this semester already. Seeing the health of carefully nurtured soil on a bio‐diverse farm enhances students’ understanding of soil health, compost practices, and the rich atmosphere of community supported agriculture.

“I’m excited to be at the beginning of a shift like this,” Hughes said while waiting for students to arrive on the farm. “I feel like the university needs to catch up with the students on this creeping awareness. Interest in sustainable and organic agriculture used to be the fringe but it’s becoming common now.”

The enthusiasm and activism of students interested in this resurgence of community‐supported, sustainable agriculture is contagious. Class discussions allow for spirited and constructive debates between students from varied backgrounds and courses of study. Many have spent summers working on organic farms while others come with a strong background in economic and environmental policy. A handful have grown up on or worked on conventional farms and offer a grounded perspective for the fundamentalist organics. Hughes encourages cutting‐edge Urban Farming and Aquaculture majors to share their perspectives and concerns about farm run‐off and the importance of small, local farming ventures. Several students have even begun a small, honor‐based book exchange in the computer lab of the IAA’s main building, Jull Hall, to which local author and conservationist Ned Tillman has agreed to gift copies of his award‐winning book The Chesapeake Watershed: A Sense of Place and a Call to Action.

On top of regular coursework, the unique certificate program allows students to spend six months in a full‐time cooperative position with local farms and organizations to plan, plant, cultivate, harvest and market various products. Upon graduation, students will have the tools to start or manage sustainable agricultural operations or seek employment at established operations, parks, schools and organizations focused on natural resource management and advocacy.

IAA Director, Glori Hyman, hopes that the new Sustainable Agriculture Program will provide a growth area within the Agricultural Business Management Program, which has been stagnant for the past decade. A partnership with the Accokeek Foundation will help place students in co‐ops and internships catered to their specific area of interest.

“Two years ago we met with the Accokeek Foundation and began working on a plan to jointly offer education and training in sustainable agriculture,” Glori explained. “Matt Mulder, the Director of the Center for Agricultural and Environmental Stewardship at the Accokeek Foundation, helped us design the curriculum and the Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture course.”

“This type of educational opportunity in sustainable agriculture has not been available in the Mid‐Atlantic region,” Mulder adds. “Until now, those interested in this style of learning have needed to leave the area to get the educational component or they have had to cobble together information from various programs. The consolidation of information will prove invaluable to farmers whoa re just beginning their careers or those who are looking for ways to enhance their existing operations.”

Established in 1957 to protect the view from Mount Vernon across the Potomac River, the Accokeek Foundation became one of the nation’s first land trusts. The educational nonprofit stewards 200 acres of Piscataway National Park where visitors can hike trails to the wetlands, walk through a native tree arboretum, visit an outdoor living history museum, and observe an award‐winning forest restoration project.

IAA Horticulture graduate Carin Celebuski is currently enrolled in the Sustainable Agriculture course and interned at Accokeek’s Eco‐System Farm last year. “The Integrated Pest Management practices there are remarkable,” reported Celebuski. “Conservation strips and proper irrigation make a huge difference as far as energy consumption and pesticide use.”

The eight‐acre USDA‐certified organic vegetable farm is a model for farming in the future. Its aim is to achieve optimal production per square foot, as opposed to maximum yield per acre.

For now, the IAA’s aim is to pull all these conservationist components together to provide an educational resource for the progressive agriculture student.
*Note: For mor information about the program, which yours truly is currently enrolled in, check out the IAA website.

Autumn on the Clover

B-E-A-U-tiful time of year to be out walking the dog in Anne Arundel, or any other Maryland county. Here are a few photos from our neck of the woods:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ecomagination: Tag Your Green

This. Is. Fantastic.

General Electric's has launched a new eco-challenge called Tag Your Green that urges all of us to "use the Internet to get inspired, get involved, and get everyone thinking and acting more responsibly." Videos like the 'Eco-Badass' are popping up all over Howcast and YouTube. There's even a flickr photo challenge. Read more here. Any proceeds of the program will benefit charity:water, a non-profit working to bring safe drinking water to developing nations.

Love it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

File Under: Ridiculous

During Sustainable Agriculture class discussions at the University of Maryland, Institute of Applied Agriculture this semester, farmer and teacher Brian Hughes often talks about the spectrum of sustainability - the idea that at this time, within developed countries, it is near impossible to run a business, farm, restaurant, school or home in a manner that could be deemed completely sustainable (unless of course you were living in an Ecovillage). Rather all fall somewhere along the spectrum. To one side we have people and communities are conscientiously operating with very little impact on the soils, people, plants, animals and economy around them. Others, well, land on the other side where this cr*p has broken the record for ridiculous. TIME Newsfeed reports on the world's most expensive house constructed in Mumbai:

India's richest man, and Forbes's fourth richest man, Mukesh Ambani, has built the world's most expensive house in Mumbai. It is estimated to be worth $1 billion. The lavish building– named Antilia, after the mythical island– has 27 stories, is 173 meters high and has 37,000 square meters of floor space — more than the Palace of Versailles. It contains a health club with a gym and dance studio, at least one swimming pool, a ballroom, guestrooms, a variety of lounges and a 50-seater cinema. There are three helicopter pads on the roof and a car park for 160 vehicles on the ground floors. It's obviously quite a job keeping all this running smoothly, so the house, if you can call it that, also boasts a staff of 600. And all this for just Ambani, his wife and their three children to enjoy.

Somebody is already storing up for winter!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Davies Happy Meal Project

How long does it take a McDonald's Happy Meal to decompose? Sally Davies is doing a photo essay on flickr. It's creepy. And considering that Karen Hanrahan's photo below - of a 1996 burger kept in a regular ol' tupperware container - was taken in 2008, I'm guessing it is going to be a while before we see any significant changes.

Clover Noob

Baby bunny. So cute. Second pic including a young Knockout Rose bush is for scale but not sure it accomplishes that. Regardless, we shall call him/her Peter. Obviously.

"What's so fab about it?"

Willy Wonka: Don't you know what this is?
Violet Beauregarde: By gum, it's gum.
Willy Wonka: [happily, but sarcastically] Wrong! It's the most amazing, fabulous, sensational gum in the whole world.
Violet Beauregarde: What's so fab about it?
Willy Wonka: This little piece of gum is a three-course dinner.
Mr. Salt: Bull.
Willy Wonka: No, roast beef. But I haven't got it quite right yet.

So Scientists at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich are using microcapsules (originally developed to provide a way of delivering drugs to specific parts of the digestive system) to make the idea born in Roald Dahl's fantastic imagination a reality. For realz, folks. What's so fab about it? The kid in me says: EVERYTHING. But the critic in me fears that Slugworth is involved. It's probably his kind of corruption that's landed Boston Creme Pie flavored, low-calorie yogurt on the supermarket shelves. Ugh.

Science correspondent Richard Gray for The Telegraph reports:

Some of the capsules could be filled with flavouring for tomato soup that would break open on contact with saliva, while tougher capsules would contain the flavour for roast beef that would break open as the gum is chewed. A final flavour for blueberry pie could be packaged in capsules that require vigorous chewing to burst. Professor Dave Hart, a food scientist at the Institute has already developed a boiled sweet that uses different layers to provide changes in flavour, but he hopes the new technology could help produce more dramatic results.

He said: "There are a number of groups here at the Institute who have been working with these capsules to provide a new way of delivering drugs to the colon, which means they have to be able to survive passing through the rest of the digestive system.
Researchers in America have been looking at using these capsules as a way of delivering flavour in food. So using it in this way would allow us to provide new experiences for people when eating. Wonka's fantasy concoction has been nothing but a dream for millions of kids across the world. But science and technology is changing the future of food, and these nanoparticles may hold the answer to creating a three course gourmet gum. Tiny nanostructures within the gum would contain each of the different flavours. These would be broken up and released upon contact with saliva or after a certain amount of chewing – providing a sequential taste explosion as you chew harder."

Microscopic capsules, which measure less than a few millionths of millimetre in size, containing flavours have been pioneered by Professor Tony Dinsmore, from the department of physics at the University of Massachusetts. He developed a technique that allows molecules of particular flavours, vitamins or even living cells to be captured inside the capsules before they can be incorporated into the ingredients for food.

The capsules produce an oily shell around the molecules, preventing them from mixing with other ingredients and so allowing the flavours to be kept separate. Professor Hart, who has been working with the National Science and Engineering Competition to develop new ways of providing different flavours in sweets, hopes this can be adapted to recreate Willy Wonka's famous chewing gum.

And now, a some words of wisdom from the Oompa Loompas:

"Gum chewing's fine when it's once in a while -
It stops you from smoking and brightens your smile.
But it's repulsive, revolting and wrong -
Chewing and chewing alllll daaaaay long!
The wa-ay that a co-oww does!
Oompa. Loompa. Doo-pa-dee da -
Given good manners, you will go far."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"You'd never eat 16 packs of sugar"

Once again, the New York City Health Department does a nice job of reminding us how unhealthy certain "food like substances" are. Blehhh.

Win a Copy of The Food Matters Cookbook

Grub Street is giving away a copy of The Food Matters Cookbook by one of our fave foodies: Mark Bittman. Enter to win by emailing 200 (creative and articulate) words or less about which dish or favorite food matters the most to you by 5:00 P.M. on October 11th, 2010. Official rules here.

Toxic Sludge Reaches the Danube

After completely devastating life in the Marcel River, the toxic red sludge (a waste product of making aluminum) that burst out of a metals plant reservoir in Ajka, a town 100 miles southwest of Budapest, has now reached the western branch of the second longest river in Europe - where it will devastate more life and lives than we can possibly imagine as it continues towards the Black Sea.

Read the latest updates on pH levels and other awfulness here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Soda Cup + Chicken Caddy = Ultimate Convenience??

If you thought inventions like the Candwich and crispycones were the ultimate convenience foods, think again. This "all-in-one" creation has been around since 2008 but we here at JustSaying only got wind of it today so... Eww. Read more here.