Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Afternoon Amazement

Today's amazement includes my marveling over the amazing things that have taken place in my life this past week.

First of all, we were honored to be visited by Virginia's First Lady, Mrs. Dorothy McAuliffe. Mrs. McAuliffe has a passion for getting local, chemical-free foods to low income children and our farm was the first farm she visited as she explores avenues to make her dream of healthy food for all children a reality.  Sitting next to her at a picnic that followed the tour, I found her to be well educated on the issues of food insecurity and the need to connect local farms with low income families.  A bonus was discovering her to be a warm, gracious person.

Stopping for a photo op with Mrs. McAuliffe

Another amazing event was being second time presenters at the Wild Goose Festival.  This year we again exposed attendees to the realities (and horrors) of industrial agriculture and invited them to be liberated from this oppressive model by partnering with local farmers or to even grow their own food.  

One of the presenters on our panel was a well-known (in certain circles) woman who gave her talk just before ours.  Public speaking is not my forte and knowing a relatively famous person was on our panel upped my anxiety.  What happened just before our turn really raised my blood pressure.

The presentation she gave was not at all what we expected and I was rattled by the time it was our turn to speak.  As she comes from a community where food has been elevated to an elitist state, this particular presenter mocked those who seek out "sustainable" food.  As I stared at the notes for my presentation, which began by my introducing us as sustainable farmers, my mind raced, trying to find a way to not look foolish.  Bill whispered to me that he would open our presentation and then we could continue as planned.  He defended our position and we presented our program.  I kept making eye contact with the previous presenter and at one point, laughed, and told her I wasn't able look at her whenever I used the word "sustainable."  This got a laugh from everyone, including her, and helped lighten the tension.  

The final outcome from our program was that most of those attending the session agreed with us and felt the other presenter didn't understand the problems with health and food choices outside of her culture.  Friends who attended said people were very attentive when we spoke and most were busy taking notes.  We also were stopped by at least 15 people over the course of the weekend who said they agreed with us.  There is a vast difference between an area where shoppers use the food movement as an vehicle for prestige and a region where poor food choices are killing people and causing health care costs to sky rocket (not to mention the cost to the environment).

Ours were not the only two presentations.  Another presenter was Olufemi Lewis, an amazing woman who has started a program called Ujamaa Freedom Market.  This program has a food bus that travels to low income neighborhoods in Asheville, North Carolina, delivering healthy produce as a foil against the "candy bus" that goes through those same neighborhoods, offering nothing but sugar laden fare.  The program came about because Olufemi noticed that this candy bus only went to low income neighborhoods where most of the residents were African Americans; she noted that this bus did not go to the affluent, mainly Caucasian neighborhoods.  Olufemi says her current struggle is getting community members to change their eating habits, to learn how to cook produce, and to wean themselves from processed food.  We know that she also understands that people in our region need to be educated about and buy (or grow) sustainable food.  Not because it's trendy, but because it will save lives.

Despite the moments of stress - both with the First Lady's visit and with the presentation - it has been an amazing week.  It is wonderful to see the message I've been preaching become more mainstream.  Good for people and good for the planet.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Quote for the Day

To commemorate returning from our fourth attendance at the Wild Goose Festival (and the second time as presenters representing the local food movement), I'm sharing a Wendell Berry poem:

What We Need Is Here
by Wendell Berry

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye

clear. What we need is here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Random goat pic
While it may seem that I have neglected my blog lately, it has been for a good reason - we've had a lot of activity going on behind the scenes at the farm.  In addition to our regular twice-weekly deliveries and Saturday farmers' market, we've been busy prepping for an important visitor.  The First Lady of Virginia, Mrs. Dorothy McAuliffe, is coming to visit the farm today!  We're so excited to to be ambassadors for sustainable, chemical-free farming in our state (and the rest of the country).  Mrs. McAuliffe has a special concern for childhood nutrition and food security and an interest in boosting agriculture in the state.  Here's some of the press on her visit.

We also have an upcoming presentation on the alternative to the current industrial food model.  More on that later.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Quote for the Day

"Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."
~Henry James

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

Good and Cheap cookbook
Photo by Leanne Brown
I often hear people complain that it's too expensive to eat healthy.  Well, author Leanne Brown has come up with a cookbook that reveals the lie in that belief.  Her cookbook, Good and Cheap:  A SNAP Cookbook is available as a free download.  In this book, Leanne teaches readers how to eat well on $4 a day ($4 a day is a typical foodstamp budget.)  The photos are beautiful and the recipes sound delicious. My only criticism is that some of the ingredients are a bit exotic and not readily available in many low income areas (her comparison was low income communities in New York).  However, she has some great tips on saving money by breaking out of the our current mindset of what we "need" (i.e., skip prepackaged drinks; eat oatmeal rather than over-priced cereals.)  Looking to make good, cheap meals?  Go here to get it.  

Leanne also has a Kickstarter campaign going to get print copies into the hands of low income families and individuals who do not have the luxury of the internet.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Power vs. Small Farms

Last week I blogged about how we are not allowed to use the "o" word when describing the methods that we use to farm.  (Hmm, I wonder how I can describe the "o" matter that we put in our compost pile since that is the only thing that will break down into beautiful soil; synthetic material certainly won't - but I digress.)

Here's another instance where a small farmer is persecuted by the authorities in North America.  While the initial raid took place in 2010, this exemplifies how the powers (both corporate and government) work overtime to shut down farmers who are trying to produce clean, healthy food, to raise animals in an ethical humane way, and to preserve our agricultural heritage.  Montana Jones now faces a 12 year prison sentence and over a million dollar fine even though she did nothing wrong.  This photo from the article captures her heartbreaking experience:
Clearly, small farmers are a threat to the safety and security of citizens in North America large corporate interests.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday Morning Amusement

Am I the only one who sees a problem with the placement of these billboards?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Quote for the Day

"This world is but a canvas to our imagination."
~Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Are You Kidding Me?

When I first saw the following story, I thought it was a joke.  But then I saw that it was a legitimate news source (The Oklahoman) and written by reporter Carla Hinton, I sadly realized that it's true.  Here's the story in its entirety:
“The Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible” will be released in October, Thomas Nelson publishers announced today.
I know that many Oklahomans are interested in the hit reality TV show “Duck Dynasty” so I thought this news might be of interest. Late last year, I received a slew of emails and mail when I asked readers if A&E, the cable network that airs “Duck Dynasty,” was right in suspending Duck Commander head Phil Robertson from the show because of comments his comments that were printed in a magazine article.
According to a new release, “The Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible” will focus on the Robertson’s five core values: faith, family, fellowship, forgiveness and freedom and will be released in the King James Version.
It also will include “30 life-changing testimonials along with 125 ‘Set Your Sights’ features from Phil and Al (Robertson), who serve as executive editors on the project,” the news release stated.
For those who don’t already know it, Al Robertson is Phil Robertson’s oldest son.The Bible project, which is set for an Oct. 28 release, also will include 52 Bible reading plans each from the father-son duo.Robert Sanford, vice president and and associate publisher for Thomas Nelson’s Bible Group, said the publisher is honored and excited to be working with Phil and Al Robertson.
“The Robertson family’s passion for the Word is infectious and the impact of their ministry is amazing. We see this Bible as being something people can grow with in their own personal walk with God,” Sanford said in the news release.
Back when I was still attending church (before I realized nothing short of a Quaker meeting would work for me), I found all kinds of church-related sources that accused anyone who believed in the idea of "creation care" - that is to actually care for the planet and all its creatures - to be practicing heresy.  Yet this type of book can be published with much praise from the right.  And they wonder why so many people have turned their back on organized religion.  Give me heresy any day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

Baby Feet
Dirt is good for you.  I recently listed to a podcast (An Organic Conversation) with featured speaker Dr. Stephen Andrews of the University of California at Berkeley, a soil scientist and natural resources educator.  Dr. Andrews spoke of a study that showed people who came in contact with soil had healthier immune systems than those who didn't. 

Mind Body Green also reported on a study showing that children who suffer from allergies and asthma are typically children who were protected from "dirt."  That is, the dirtier a child's early years were, the better his or her immune system is like to be.  Squeaky clean is not necessarily best for baby.

Bottom line:  spend more time crawling around with your children - especially in the garden - and less time cleaning.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The "O" Word and the Language Police

  1. or·gan·ic
    adjective: organic
    1. 1.
      of, relating to, or derived from living matter.
      "organic soils"
      synonyms:livingliveanimatebiologicalbiotic More
        of, relating to, or denoting compounds containing carbon (other than simple binary compounds and salts) and chiefly or ultimately of biological origin.
      • (of food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents.
        synonyms:pesticide-freeadditive-freenatural More
    2. 2.
      of or relating to a bodily organ or organs.
      • MEDICINE
        (of a disease) affecting the structure of an organ.
    3. 3.
      denoting a relation between elements of something such that they fit together harmoniously as necessary parts of a whole.
      "the organic unity of the integral work of art"
      synonyms:structured, organizedcoherentintegrated, coordinated, ordered,harmonious More
      • characterized by continuous or natural development.
        "companies expand as much by acquisition as by organic growth"

    late Middle English: via Latin from Greek organikos ‘relating to an organ or instrument.’
    Use over time for: organic
The above is from a Google search that I did using the phrase  "define:  organic."  So, the word "organic" has Greek roots and in it's current form is from late Middle English.  You can also see from the graph of the use over time that, beginning in about 1825, the use of the word rose in frequency and has had regular, consistent use since abut 1875.  However, the use of the word became regulated in the United States under Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.  

Recently I learned that, as a result of that act, farmers are prohibited from even using the word in a descriptive manner without a potential $11,000 fine for each use.  Really?  A word that has been in the English language since the early 1400s - prior to the European discovery of the North American continent.   Even if a farm is not holding itself out as certified organic, it cannot use that word to describe its growing methods or compare its methods to those of the certified farms.  A friend now calls it the "O" word as we chemical-free farmers cannot even utter the word.

How is it possible that a word that was in use during the British War of the Roses and is not a trademark has been essentially removed from the English language? 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Quote for the Day

Application Form
This week, after a frustrating experience in which I was a victim of old-fashioned sexism and once again saw proof that equality still doesn't exist for women in the US, I feel a quote by Ms. Steinem is in order:

"In my heart, I think a woman has two choices:  either she's a feminist or a masochist."
~Gloria Steinem

Thursday, June 5, 2014

How to Reduce Spending

I love this illustration, based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, as it gives a great mental picture to live by:

Don't know the source - share with me if you do so I can give credit
Ever since my "buy nothing new" challenge, I've tried to keep in mind that there are often alternatives to buying - and when you do need to purchase something, it doesn't necessarily need to be new.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

Crazy busy on the farm these days, but not too busy to do a quick "Wellness Wednesday" post. Especially when the topic touches on the need for universal access to healthy food and what corporate crap is doing to our bodies and society.  Watch this:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Local Dollars

Here's an interesting infographic from an economic study done in Minnesota that might help encourage you to shop local:

As you can see, with non-local businesses, over half of your money leaves the community.  Unfortunately, with the rise of big box stores in many communities (such as the one I live in), there are rarely local choices.  However, the popularity of farmers' markets has made it easier to keep some food dollars in the community.  For anyone who hasn't shopped a farmers' market, you don't know what you're missing:  fresh-picked (usually within 24 hours) produce that is world's apart from the grocery store food that is sometimes 2 weeks old and has traveled an average of 1500 miles; treats from local bakers; and a feeling of community where old friends stop to chat over a fair trade coffee sold by a local entrepreneur.  So for this weekend, stop at your farmers' market  to support your community.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday Morning Amazement

My French tutor shared this sweet story with me.  Anyone who spends times with animals understands this story: