Sink your teeth into this idea

Leslie Carlson

Jefferson_garden_2

"Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens," Thomas Jefferson

I've often pondered the enormity of tackling climate change from the individual perspective. In most of America, it can be difficult to make the changes that are needed to reduce your carbon footprint.

For example, it's hard to ride a bike, take transit or walk if your house is far from work or your neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks. Development patterns since about 1950 have forced people into their cars to run even the most mundane errands, dooming many to poor health and high transportation costs.

Eating local, seasonal food is great, but it can be cost-prohibitive, particularly when our federal government continues to subsidize processed food . Now that we're in the full throes of an awful recession, the cost of eating from small, local farms is spiraling out of reach for many Americans--if they even live close enough to a store that would offer such food.

We can all lower our thermostat to 68 or 65 degrees and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (and heating bills) a little bit, but is that it?

Roger Doiron of Maine thinks not. His great idea: kick-starting the kitchen garden movement by planting an edible garden on the "First Lawn" of the White House. It sounds so new, so radically different--but it's actually an old idea. For hundreds of years, American Presidents grew fruits, vegetables--even raised sheep-- to cut costs and have fresh ingredients available for their meals.

It is such a simple idea, but would be powerful if multiplied across the more than 100 million households in the United States. In fact, one-third of our total greenhouse gas emissions are related to food and agriculture, so growing some of your own food could have a big impact.

Lest you think this a silly idea, consider that during World War II, Americans responded to Eleanor Roosevelt's call for "Victory Gardens" at an incredible rate. At the height of the Victory Garden movement, an astounding 40 percent of American produce was grown at home.

And given that children eat twice as much fresh food when they help grow and prepare it, the Victory might be twofold: a conquering of climate change and our ever-expanding American waistlines.

This "Eat The View" video, should you need more convincing, is below.


Comments

  • Albert Kaufman (unverified)
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    There's a lot going on on this front in Portland and Eugene right now. Check out Portland Yardsharing and keep an eye on the associated Google Group that's discussing these ideas.

    Regarding the White House lawn, should be a great place to grow food once all of the shoes are removed :)

  • Jonathan Radmacher (unverified)
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    Really, W should have raised a couple of steer on the "back 40" of the White House, and called it Rancho Pennsylvania Avenue. (Then again, that wouldn't have allowed him to take vacations back to Texas, to clear brush.)

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    There are a lot of things that people can do as far as food production/food sovereignty.

    In Portland, Growing Gardens is a great place to start.

    I'm a big fan of the gardening shows on the radio saturday mornings. Mike Darcy has his show on KXL and The Garden Doctor is on KEX at about the same time. They both have excellent programs and quite often talk about vegitable gardening and fruit trees, in addition to ornamental gardening. The Extension service has the Master Gardener program. It's my understanding that Multnomah county's lost it's extension service due to lack of funding and interest, but Clackamas and Washington counties still have theirs. In Clackamas county we just passed a special funding district to support ours, and you don't have to live in the county to make use of the extension service in any county. The extension service can also do soil testing, provide info on preserving food, etc..

    As far as growing food in Portland, if you're going to do much, you might think about investing in a drip watering system. My dad has been gardening the same city lot for most of his life and his parents gardened it before him, that lot has been producing food for my family, and my father's family since around 1920 continuously. Water prices are a tad higher than what they were when they started gardening it though. I believe my father spends aound $100/month on water and he's stingy with it. He does some conventional sprinkler watering, but also uses soaker hoses. I'm not sure if he does any drip irrigation. Rain barrels are great too.

    Even obtaining plants doesn't need to be difficult or expensive. You can start your own. Save the plastic pots from the bedding plants and flowers you've bought. Ask friends and family to save them for you. Buy seed and start your own. When you buy seed, you'll have way more than you need, so share with family and friends. Perhaps they can go in with you on seeds, starter, etc.. You can also get together with family and friends and everyone start different things at different times of the year. Spreads the expense and the work out.

    I'm going to be starting a lot of seed for my farm in Mulino. I plan on selling the excess seedlings locally, so I bought commercial plug mix from a nursery supplier, but when I was mixing my own I used 1 part peat moss to 1 part mason's sand by volume, it's pretty inexpensive, and even the plug mix, at $26/3.8 cubic feet isn't bad at all. The plug mix is nice because it has a wetting agent mixed in with it which should make watering much easier than with the mix I used to make. If you do things yourself like this, you'll probably wind up spending around 15 cents/pot to start your own, and that's including the price of seed at retail. For some things like seed potatos, I'm using store bought and letting them sprout. I priced fingerling type seed potato, and it's less expensive at the grocery store than it is from a seed company. So that's where I got my seed potatos for next spring from.

    There are all sorts of sources on the internet to buy heritage/heirloom seeds if you don't want to get the regular commercial stuff at the store, although a lot of stores are carrying heirloom seed nowadays.

    Growing your own food is a wonderful way to become more self sufficient, independant, and reduce the ammount of energy that goes into growing your food. The garden to the kitchen on your own property - now that's a short commute. Even from a community garden to your kitchen is a pretty short commute....

  • joshuawelch (unverified)
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    "In fact, one-third of our total greenhouse gas emissions are related to food and agriculture, so growing some of your own food could have a big impact."

    To be more specific, the #1 source of greenhouse gases according to a U.N. study is animal agriculture, more than the entire transportation industry. It's also the #1 polluter of waterways. It's unfortunate that the plant v. meat & dairy seems to get left out of the food sustainability conversations.

    Our most significant personal decision we make regarding environmental health is who or what we choose to eat. Sustainability will require that we grow and consume mostly plant-based foods. Get green and go vegi! See details below from Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

    Meat Consumption and the Vicious Spiral Panel presented by The Center for a Livable Future The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Monday April 26, 2004, 9:00 am As part of the conference: EATING AS A MORAL ACT: ETHICS AND POWER FROM AGRARIANISM TO CONSUMERISM SYMPOSIUM UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE APRIL 25-27, 2004 Overview and theoretical framework: Escaping the Vicious Spiral Robert S. Lawrence, MD Edyth H. Schoenrich Professor of Preventive Medicine and Associate Dean for Professional Practice and Programs Director, Center for a Livable Future Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

    James Grant, the late director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), warned of the “vicious spiral” of population growth, poverty, and environmental degradation - each component exacerbating and accelerating the trend toward destruction of the biosphere. Many other critically important factors are caught up in this spiral of destruction, which, if left unchecked, will continue to intensify the problem while at the same time, if altered, provide opportunities for intervention and interruption of the vicious spiral. Foremost among these other factors is the increasing human consumption of meat - especially beef, pork, and poultry - raised on factory farms, and the spread of Western dietary patterns to cultures where grains and vegetables have traditionally been the source of protein and complex carbohydrates.

    As we become increasingly aware of the finite limits to the carrying capacity of the planet, the inefficiency of converting eight or nine kilograms of grain protein into one kilogram of animal protein for human consumption (in the form of beef protein, less grain required per kilogram of pork or poultry) would by itself be sufficient argument against continuation of our present dietary habits. When one adds in the abuse of animals inherent to factory farming methods, the depletion and contamination of aquifers, the intense use of grain crops in monoculture and overgrazing of grasslands, and the release of methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the case against our meat-eating behavior becomes overwhelming. And that is before we factor in the effects of animal fats - an inescapable component of meat and poultry - on human health. As Colin Campbell has demonstrated in his comparative nutrition studies in China, the consumption by Americans of excessive amounts of animal protein and fat accounts for much of our increased burden of chronic degenerative diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. The linkages among unhealthy diets, animal exploitation, and environmental degradation are powerful and often synergistic. These same linkages also hold promise for workable solutions to planetary overload, for mobilizing coalitions of single-interest groups, for translation of science into public policy and information for advocacy, and for an entry point to interrupt the “vicious spiral”.

    The growth of population is accompanied by increasing gaps in income and access to resources. Current food production and food distribution policies are dominated by policies developed to advance the economic interests of the agricultural sector of the wealthy industrialized nations at the expense of the poor developing countries. Food security for more than a billion of the earth’s people remains elusive and cannot be achieved without a rebalancing of the dietary practices of the rich as well as the poor. The Center for a Livable Future will present examples of interventions designed to contain and ultimately reduce factory farming, improve the nutritional value of the American diet, and protect and preserve the ecosystem to assure food production for future generations.

    A System That “Feeds” the Spiral Shawn McKenzie, MPH
    Project Director, Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

    Today’s industrial agriculture system creates and perpetuates issues of injustice and immoral ecosystem relationships among individuals, communities, animals, the environment, and the public’s health. The adverse effects of hazardous occupational practices, the displacement of small farmers, and the reduced quality of life within rural communities are common by-products of the industrial agriculture system. In addition, the pesticides used heavily in this system are associated with elevated cancer risks for workers and consumers and are coming under greater scrutiny for their links to endocrine disruption and reproductive dysfunction. Industrial agriculture also consumes fossil fuel, water, and topsoil at unsustainable rates, and contributes to numerous forms of environmental degradation, including air and water pollution, soil depletion, diminishing biodiversity, and the eutrophication of river and estuary systems.

    Within the industrial agriculture system, Industrial Animal Production (IAP) contributes disproportionately to each of these problems, in part because feeding grain to livestock to produce meat --instead of growing grain for direct human consumption --involves a large energy loss, making IAP more resource intensive than other forms of food production. The proliferation of IAP creates environmental and public health concerns, including pollution from the high concentrations of animal wastes and the extensive use of antibiotics, which can compromise their effectiveness in medical use. Other justice and morality issues associated with IAP practices include the harmful effects on animal well-being and the often devastating impact on rural communities.

    Dietary Change to Escape the Spiral Janna Howley, MA Project Manager, Center for a Livable Future Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Pamela Rhubart, MPH Research Coordinator, Center for a Livable Future Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

    To help reduce saturated fat intake and encourage increased consumption of healthier dietary alternatives, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has teamed up with the Meatless Monday campaign, a national public health campaign. Although our goal is consistent with the recommendations of the 2000 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association our challenge is to confront the lack of political resolve to recommend a reduction in meat consumption. The symbolic importance of meat in many consumers’ idea of what constitutes a complete diet is a second barrier.

    Our primary target audience includes “gatekeeper moms;” women in the household who purchase and prepare food for their families. We are reaching out to community-based organizations to implement the campaign at local levels. Our secondary target audience includes K-12 and college students. The campaign has launched in elementary schools, college campuses, and their surrounding communities. The increasing burden of chronic disease on our society necessitates proactive alternatives to current consumption patterns, but the difficulty in effecting behavior change in our target populations calls for creative relationships between government, community and academia.

    Local Action for Escaping the Spiral Polly Walker, MD, MPH Associate Director, Center for a Livable Future Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health The Center for a Livable Future (CLF), an interdisciplinary center founded in 1996 at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, focuses attention on the links among diet, health, food production, and the environment. CLF promotes sustainable and equitable food systems that are healthful for people and the environment and seeks to increase understanding of food insecurity as a public health problem. The 1970 Earth Day motto was: Think Globally and Act Locally. We believe it is our responsibility to actively nurture efforts by our neighboring communities to create a livable environment. The goal of CLF’s local projects is improve food security among Baltimore’s poorest residents, empower communities to effect change, and to improve nutrition and overall health.

    Local agriculture requires less transportation, relies less on pesticides, and provides better access to safe, nutritious food. It therefore helps solve some of the ills of our current agricultural system. Urban gardens are an important source of fresh produce for low-income communities. By involving children early, school gardens help children understand natural biological cycles, good nutrition and to experience the thrill of harvesting crops they have planted. Overall gardens contribute to a sense of community and may be a catalyst for other community changes.

    For more information: Contact the Center for a Livable Future

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    A big problem is that so many households now live in apartments, condos, row houses, etc. where they have nowhere to grow a garden. I grow what I've been able to successfully have in pots, mostly herbs and some strawberries. Sometimes I have tomatoes as well.

    That's why I think more apartment complexes need to be encouraged to replace areas of landscaping with community gardens. And we need to do more to open up lots with community gardens in areas where there are a lot of apartments, condos, row houses, etc. so they can have the option of growing their own food.

    There was a story in the paper recently about the looooong waiting list for a plot in the community gardens. And not only that, but a map of where they are show they are typically unavailable in the areas most likely to need them, such as the low income areas in east Portland and eastern suburban Mult Co.

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    I love this idea, but...

    I tried really hard to grow vegetables this year. I planted onions along the driveway, and my husband built a raised bed. We bought pepper plants at the farmer's market, put in tomatoes, lettuce, peas, carrots, and beets. I declared that all new plants in our yard should produce food!

    I ended up with $64 tomatoes. The one serving of peas was inedible, and the tomatoes are still ripening (inside)--we'll have fresh ones for Christmas. The beets and carrots were small, but OK. The onions tiny, but flavorful. Lettuce, arugula, and herbs turned out to be the only worthwhile crops for my level of growing expertise.

    Great idea, but let's have some classes for the clueless! Growing vegetables isn't as easy as it sounds.

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    Back home we had agriculture extension offices that gave classes on how to do things like growing your own gardens. It was a service provided through a partnership with the county, state, and the like, and classes were often free or had a very small cost. They have a Master Gardeners group that helps do all of this.

    Even my county, which was pretty much completely urban until you got to our small neck of the woods, had one.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    Jenni, that waiting list sounds like an opportunity. I think it would be great for apartments and condos to set aside areas for community gardens.

    The areas in east Multnomah county should have residents with property (small acreages) that, if not being cultivated, might be useful as community gardens. I wonder if some kind of pilot project could be drawn up for people with land like that in which they could allow community gardens for people without land of their own to use for food production in exchange for some form of compensation? Perhaps the land owner could be compensated either with money or with food produced by the community gardeners. East Portland has a lot of land like that too doesn't it? Issues like water useage and liability and hours of access would have to be addressed too.

    I also wouldn't mind seeing more CSA type small farms involved in animal agriculture near urban areas for more sustainable meat, dairy, egg production. As joshuawelch pointed out, animal agriculture contributes a lot of GHG, but the U.N. study he is apparently refering to, Livestock's Long Shadow, concentrates primarily on industrial animal agriculture, not sustainable, small scale animal agriculture, the type typically practiced in what is commonly known as 'grass farming'. That type of animal agriculture contributes very little if any GHG. Grass farming is inherently extremely limited in the stocking rate, that is the density of animals, possible on a given ammount of acreage. It's orders of magnitude lower than the stocking rate of a confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). In addition, grass farming allows the animals raised in that system to live in an environment and a way, that is more suited to the animals' natural biology. One of the problems with animals, especially cattle, raised in the CAFO system, is that, in addition to the higher stocking rate, which results in much greater waste problems, is that they are usually fed feeds that are not suitable to their systems at a rate that they are not able to accomodate without a considerable ammount of acclimation. This results in things like excess gas production in many cases.

    However, the urban farmer/gardener is unlikely to engage much in animal agriculture, aside from keeping a few hens or rabbits for their own use. On the other hand, rabbit manure makes a fine fertiliser, as well as providing some meat, and in the case of the hens, eggs for the urban homesteader.

  • Steve Packer (unverified)
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    This year was a difficult one for growing vegetables for me. Normally failsafe veggies like string beans seemed to develop late, grow slow and be course and pithy. The carrots were stubby, the onions small and the egg plants never developed. All these grew in my garden with terrific results in prior years. And zucchini, the veggie that everyone hates, failed to produce as expected. I do grow variants, Greek and cannon ball zuks, but they have never failed in the past. My rhubarb was sickly, the cucumbers were stunted and the tomatoes were attacked by mildew. I’ve really had it with the heirloom tomatoes which have wonderful flavor but I will stick to hardy variants in the future like early girl. And, at 1000 feet, I have to keep the young tomato plants warm in the spring with “walls-o-water”. I hope next year is better because I really appreciate eating my own vegetables.

    Perhaps this year I should try more root vegetables because they keep into the winter. On the other hand, the battle is with the gophers. Think “caddie shack”! I have a score card for the war of the garden and I only count corpses. Too bad gophers are not tasty. They got at least half the carrots this year and next year they will get less.

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    I'm hoping to get appointed to the city's Citizen Involvement Committee. It would be a perfect place to try to encourage a program like this.

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    zucchini..... yummy... grilled... in soups... in stews.... yummy

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    It raises awareness on so many levels and saves home costs on so many others, it's too lengthy to itemize. Besides the money you save because you only harvest the portions you need, when you need it, there's the awareness generated by thinking like your plants. A lot of yards in SE have already gone that way. Besides all the good reasons for doing it, you save resources and reduce environmental impact, just because you don't have a lawn or something else that you'll sustain during the summer.

    Also, we have it easy here. There are a number of gardening groups around town where Texans seem to be overrepresented. My theory is that in Texas you have to know what you're doing to get decent results. Here, it's throw something down and jump back, practically. One of my Texas friends used to always be confused by nutritional info. and knowing which organics were more critical than others, if you had to choose. I noticed recently that she seemed to have the info better in hand and asked about it. Seems that spending time with the veggie garden has given her the ability to think through the question, rather than look up and memorize an answer. One good example was realizing that strawberries must be sprayed a lot commercially, after fighting molds, mites and aphids with them. Fungicides are, as a class, among the most carcinogenic sprays used, mites either require constant spraying or kelthane to kill the eggs (related chemically to lindane, chlordane and DDT), and one aphid can reproduce the colony (via fission, true parthenogenesis), so they get sprayed a lot. Add it up, strawberries get the works if not grown organically. On the other hand take Okra, which is very well defended. On top of that it secrets a sticky goop that attracts ants. It's not likely that an economical farmer would ever spray it.

    You also get clued into which foods are high in what, because you have to give it to them! My favorite "secret" to healthy peppers and bananas is to add epsom salts, magnesium sulfate, to the soil. If, later, you want to increase your dietary magnesium, you naturally think peppers and bananas.

    I would like to suggest, however, that this needs to be moved out from Parks and into its own city department. They just don't have the budget or manpower to meet the demand. This could be cheaply done, and a win for everyone, if the city would waive property taxes on vacant lots when being used for community cultivation. They have to be involved, or apartment dwellers get left behind. I was able to get 2 dozen ears of corn and two decent pumpkins off my balcony this year, and it's practical to keep lettuce and cilantro going out there, but it's not the same. During the summer the variation in soil temperature and moisture in a container make tomatoes, peppers and other relateds difficult to do on a balcony.

    Taste and quality, including nutrition, can be off the scale compared to commercial bought. It's not that every home gardener is that much better than the farmer, but that they have the huge, twin advantages of being able to pick it when it's at optimum ripeness for eating, not shipping, and you can grow varieties that look and taste best, as opposed to ship and store best. A classic example is those tomatoes you get about now that taste like cardboard. They've been selected for a shape that processes well, a skin that ships well, were picked unripe and ripened using ethylene gas. No comparison with a garden Beefstake, weird shape and thin skin, and...what's that funny taste it has...like ketchup. Exploring heirloom squashes and broccolis can be a hobby in and of itself!

    And has anyone noticed that portabella mushrooms are trivial to grow along the garden paths? You can get more protein from the garden than the occasional worm in an ear of corn! Many of the city's golf courses aren't sprayed and can be a mycological delight. One year I got about 20 pounds of porcinis one morning, sliced 'em, grilled 'em, froze the result, and five years later I can make delightful risotto on a whim. I've noticed morels around Legacy Emanuel, but don't know about their chemical habits.

    Finally, fighting the bugs, done right, means getting other bugs to help you. That, in turn, raises awareness of habitat. You need a varied and diverse ecosystems, where the little islands of habitability are connected, to keep from getting out of balance and ending up with a pest problem. It seems to bring the community together. People may hate your music or politics but food makes strange bedfellows. Portland Community Gardeners get to thank the Police Bureau for the load of crap they're always giving us. They compost the horse manure from their stables and bring it steamin' hot to the gardens!

    Now, if you want to get really progressive, how about looking back to the era of "poor farms", like Edgefield, now owned by McMenamin, for the homeless? I took the tour on it's anniversary, recently, and was struck how much better those "poor folks" had it than I do today, in terms of quality of life.

    Like I said, I won't try to itemize all the advantages. This just scratches the surface.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    I love zuchini. I like to steam or boil 'em with a nice vinegarette or a sauce made with mayonaise and seasoned rice vinegar.

    One of the things that goes hand in hand with gardening, or even using whole foods bought from the store is cooking from scratch. That's the other side to growing your own food. Cooking skills are critical in the support of these types of food systems, and should be encouraged where ever possible.

    Another is learning to preserve what you've grown and the ways in which different preservation techniques will determine how that produce will taste when you go to heat it up or cook with it. For instance, with tomatoes, if you can them, they come out tasting cooked, which is fine. But if you blanch them, peal them, and freeze them, when you thaw them out, they'll taste garden fresh. However, freezing will bring a lot of water out of them, so if you're going to be making fresh salsa in the middle of winter, as I like to do, you need to be careful how you thaw them. On the other hand, for cooking, the water is great, because you have the tomato's own juices to stew it in. I use a lot of frozen tomatoes in the winter, which I put up myself. Last year I put up a little over 100 lbs, and that got me through the winter. This year I was busy and only put up around 45 lbs, thinking that this would suffice. I just made spaghetti sause the other day, and with everything I've been using the tomatoes for, I'm down to 2 gallons of tomatoes and it's only the end of December! I'm going to be doing some serious jonseing for tomatoes by next summer. ;-(

    As for my garden this year, we had a great harvest of tomatoes, both heirloom and the regular hybrids. We had a yield of around 800 ears of corn, we plant the Peaches and Cream hybrid. We didn't do super on the beans, not for lack of good weather and pollinators, our chickens got to them, so we lost over half the harvest to them. If not for the chickens, we'd have had plenty of beans. In addition to eating the corn and sharing with neighbors, etc., I chop the stalks and feed them to the horses and goats. That's a special, end of summer treat for them. The goats and horses especially like the leaves, although the goats like to stip strings off of the long stalks too.

    Planting at elevation like Steve Packer does presents it's own challenges, and people also need to take into consideration their own microclimates even if you're in the lower elevations. My father is in SE Portland pretty close to sea level, I think his elevation is less than 100 feet. He can't grow melons to save his life, and neither could his mom. When he was a kid, a relative of his lived on Mt. Scott and grew water melons every year.

    Out here in Mulino, we're at 185 feet I think, and we grow melons when we don't have an unusually cool/wet summer.

    I tried growing Huahacan Green dent corn this year and it didn't do well. I credit this to the fact that I planted it way late, and there wasn't enough nitrogen in the soil. When I added sulfate of amonia they perked up pretty good. Being an heirloom developed in Huahaca Mexico probably had something to do with it as well. In 2008 I have some Hopi Blue dent corn, and hopefully that will do better, I think it's a bit more suitable for our climate here this part of Oregon.

    We use rotted horse manure for fertilizer, which should be pretty good for nutrients, but it's also mixed with a good ammount of wood chips, which, when they decompose, rob the nitrogen.

    I also grew red potatoes this year, and they did pretty well. I didn't bed them quite the way I should have and I didn't build the beds up while the plants were growing, so I didn't get as high a yield as I could have, but I still got plenty to eat myself and give to friends, especially the fellow I buy my hay from.

    I also buy honey from him, and am considering putting in a couple of hives for myself next year. If you don't have pollinators, you don't have food. I'm very protective of the bees we have out here, both the honey and the mason bees and won't let anyone step on or harrass them. One year we had very few bees here, and so we had almost no beans or tomatoes. The corn did fine, but it's wind pollinated, or if you don't have wind you can easilly hand pollinate it. But with things like beans, peas, tomatoes, squash, sunflowers, etc. you have to have pollinators.

    We also had a bumper crop of artichokes as well this year. We had so many I got tired of eating them. I grow the Purple Heart artichoke, and you eat them when the buds are very small, about the size you see in the jars of marinated artichoke hearts, they're not like the big Globe artichokes you see in the stores at all. I let 8 or so buds mature and open. You should have seen the bees in those. The flowers would be rippling, there were so many bees in them. One I was watching had a huge bumble bee in it. The bee came up one side, and like a whale, seemed to take a breath and litterally dove back down. It was covered with pollen. Totally yellow.... So, as a result of that, I have a half of a five gallon bucket full of centers drying in the house. Those centers are full of seed. I'll probably get 700-800 seeds to share and start. Artichokes are great to eat and the plants are terrific as ornamentals, as well as having loads of pollen and nectar to feed the bees.

    Anyway, one of the things a person should check in any area is the availability of pollinators. It's incredably frustrating to go to the trouble of preparing the soil, planting, growing, and seeing all sorts of flowers on your plants only to have almost no yield because nothing got pollinated.

    Jenni, if you have the opportunity to encourage/promote community gardening in your area, I would be more than happy to help you out in any way I can.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    I'll also be working on some experimental projects in 2008, and the data from those will be available to anyone who is interested. All data generated by my work on the farm, as far as plant agriculture and animal agriculture is available to anyone who is interested free of charge. All I ask is that if it's a formal written report, that I be given full attribution. Everything I do out here is geared towards small acreages, we have only 6 1/2 acres, most of which is taken up with livestock and poultry, but we integrate that with the plant agriculture.

    Some of the projects I've got planned -

    Germinating, growing and harvesting lowland (paddy) rice on a small scale for personal use. I already have the seed for that. I'll be using several varieties from several sources. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to have big heavy equipment to harvest and thresh grain. And, from the information I have, you don't have to have a large, flooded area, to grow paddy rice. I'll be growing the rice to determine ease of growing, techniques, and yields per variety and cultivations types.

    Growing melons and tomatoes in hoop houses to provide a warmer environment for them. A hoop house is a sort of temporary, innexpensive greenhouse. I was watching on RFD tv, a short program from some state's extension service, I forget which state it was. But they were experimenting with hoop houses to extend the growing season for gardeners, both on the front end and the back end of the season. The extension agent who was being interviewed was very clear about how this was for gardeners and small scale commercial farms, not large scale production. Anyway, I'll be growing several types of melon, and I will also be using them to extend the season for the tomatoes. If I'd have built a hoop house over our tomatoes, we'd have been picking fresh out of the garden untill a few weeks ago.

    Growing wheat and perhaps barley, I'm going to concentrate on spring wheat though. Wheat I can use, barley not so much except to feed to the chickens. I'd like to use a non patented, non hybrid wheat if I can find it as I'd like to save my own seed, and in the case of patented seed it's illegal to do so, and with a hybrid there's not much point because you don't have any idea what you'll wind up with the next year, and thats assuming that the seed will be fertile to begin with. I'm going to contact the extension office and see if they know where to find the type of seed I'm looking for. I can go to a place like Molalla Fertilizer, but if they carry wheat seed, it's probably going to be a regular commercial variety, and I'll have to buy it in a 50# bag, which I may have to do anyway, but at least I can feed the excess to the hens. The horses and goats wouldn't mind some either.

    Using Polyculture farming techniques for livestock maintenance, meat/dairy/egg production and grass production in a pasture environment on a small acreage. I'll be combining horses, goats and poultry in a system where I intend to maintain the animals as well as harvest some hay. I intend for the pasture to be the primary forage for the horses and goats for a period of time, and will use the chickens for bug control and to fertilize the pasture/spread the manure from the larger animals. Sort of along the lines of how Joel Salatin does on his Polyface Farms in Swope, Virginia. Same principle, but on a much smaller scale.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    Here's another resource. Little Homestead In The City is a 1/4 acre homestead in Pasadena, California. These people produce 3 tons of food from this small plot of land inside the city limits.

    Just goes to show, what a people can do when they approach this type of small scale agriculture with a will. Admitedly, they have a year round growing season that allows them to produce more than perhaps could be produced up here in the Portland area, but it's still inspirational.

    As to Zarathustra's info on the horse manure from the Portland Police Mounted Patrol, this is excellent fertilizer. At an urban farming forum held a couple months ago, I brought up the use of horse manure as fertilizer. There are equine boarding facilities all around the Portland area, especially out toward Gresham, Damascus, etc.. I personally know of one off of Foster/174th, and another off Jenni Road between Foster and Powel that produce prodigious ammounts of horse manure. The one off of 174th is a 36 stall facility. I'm sure they would love for people to come get all the manure you want. The only caution I have as far as using manure of any kind, is that you want it rotted or composted. Composted is better as the heating will help kill seeds and bacteria. Rotting for a period will kill the bacteria, but not the seed, which would be grass, and if whole oats are fed, you can have a pretty good crop of oats as they seem to germinate better after going through a horse's gut. Speaking from experience here....

    On a side note, pea plantin' time is the 14th of February and the solstice is tomorrow, the 21st of December. At least that's what my calendar says. Days are going to start getting longer and soon it'll be time to start seed for the next growing season, if you're into that. ;-)

    Thanks Leslie for starting this thread! Cheers and stay warm!

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    Jenny - Greenleaf? wow.

    it sounds like you need to learn some basics about home gardening. there are a ton of good books out there, but one of the best, esp for people who have limited time & space, is "Square Food Gardening." it's a simple idea: whatever your gardening space, break it down into 1-foot square blocks. any block takes but a few minutes to prepare and care for, yet can produce signficant amounts of produce.

    a subscription to Organic Gardening is not a bad idea, either.

    and one of the best things you can do is get the catalog from Territorial Seeds. not just for the seeds, but because the catalog has the best info on how to garden in our area. also, back when i used to have a home garden, i spent a lot of time at Portland Nursery, just to get inspired and to absorb the good growing vibes of all those plants.

    lastly, if you can find someone who knows about gardening to do the work, while you provide the space, you may have the best of both worlds: fresh, home-grown produce & free labor!

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Jenny Green, I hate to be commercial and recommend brands, but in the Community Gardens we saw lots that started with your experience and there's one sure path to a first success from which you can vary things. Use Black Gold potting soil, with Whitney Farms organic fertilizer, buy small plants when they are in season, full sunlight, and enough water that they don't wilt.

    A personal hint of mine is that there is no sun direction until July 4th. In June there's usually a uniform white gauzy cloud layer that reflects the sun around pretty much equal, like being inside a ping-pong ball, and you can get away with putting anything anywhere. When the sun comes out in July, you need to make sure they're getting at least 16 if not 18 hours of direct light. Also, you'll hear about beer and slugs. I say drink the beer. Copper is great against slugs. Penny barriers, foil girdles, it all works. Also, fishline to deter birds. Strung taught it creates a sound they won't land near. I've seen robins land 6 inches from a ripe strawberry and try to figure out how to get under the line without sticking their head under the line and fly off. Doesn't have to be a web, just a few strands the length. (Or if you SO isn't into the idea maybe one of those motion activated hose heads that comes on a pole you stick in the yard and you can watch it squirt whatever breaks the sensor).

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Oh, ethical vegetarians will want to read the Whitney Farms ingredients first, as some formulations contain Soylent Green.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    I was wondering if providing a portion of the produce from the garden cultivated on someone else's land would be a good incentive for them to allow someone else to garden would be a good idea. I'd also offer to figure water use for the garden and pay for that as well.

    In addition, it might be a good idea to offer excess produce to the local food bank.

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    Wow...so much info from so many experienced gardeners here. Seems like we need to start a blog for politicos who garden. Green-BlueOregon anyone?

  • notchomsky (unverified)
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    Portland Permaculture Guild

    Connie Van Dyke will be teaching a wonderful permaculture course at Portland Community College this spring. Growing food is no longer merely a choice. If you want to survive the destruction wrought by our economic and political systems, you'd better join the movement for alternative institutions.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    Leslie Carleson - Seems like we need to start a blog for politicos who garden. Green-BlueOregon anyone?

    I'd go for something like that!

  • rw (unverified)
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    Joanne - I once was a Intrepid Gardener. Every rental we lived in excited the interest, anticipation and joy of the local Grandma Ladies, as I'd bring in tons of amendment by hand, work it all myself, and leave behind appropriate and lavishly planted perennials to bring bees, birds and happy plant lovers.

    I've not been able to have a garden for going on six years b/c of the impossible conditions on this overexposed apartment we landed in on the fly. I'm about to move to a sweet little garden apartment being built in Mult. Village beneath a 1927 home.. joyous day for me. A garden again at last, and a place to have a small ceremonial fire regularly. Bees and a flight cage for my birds.

    I noticed that when I could no longer grow my own herbs, I stopped cooking as I once did. It was my wont to step out into my many many herbs sprawling in a plot and simply see what came to hand "asking" to go into the soup. I was famous for my soups.... sigh.

    Ok, ok, enough atmosphere and subtle lobbying: could we consider collectively offering starts come spring? I would like to be able to get reasonably sized starts of a number of herbs to jumpstart this garden but good. I'd be willing to be someone's Garden Ghome in exchange for the plants that will bring my cooking alive again. I can carry hod, haul wood, move any amount of dirt! I can prune trees, manage transplants lovingly... my granny taught me to relish the shaking of soil from weed roots, from teeny girlhood to recently I was known to always start my own seeds, move my rock garden and strawberries with me from house to house, and to ruin the kitchen spoons out there crouched with my mom putting seeds in.

    What do you think?

    I'm itching to get back at it, and also aware that the finances of really getting my hands on a healthy enough size of each to make a real start this year could put a crimp on my efforts. This place is subject to me vacating quickly should my landlord's aging parents need to move in, so even as I look forward to this, I am aware always of being under the clock, the press of the renter's life. A good start would be a grateful one.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
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    Steve Solomon, who founded Territorial Seed Co. and wrote Growing Vegetables in the Northwest has since relocated to NZ and has written a very fine book called "Gardening When It Counts." This is as close to having a personal gardening tutor as I've ever seen a book come. He's got everything, from how to select tools, and which tools to buy and which to ignore, and how to build soil, how to select plants, etc. Probably a good candidate for your "if you could only have one gardening book" list.

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    Steve P, I thought I was doing something wrong this year as most of my garden, which has been quite successful the previous two years, did pretty poorly this year. Except for my pole beans and Italian green beans, on trellises, which did well. But I heard the same from a lot of other home growers. Seems like it was just a tough year to be a vegetable. Maybe it was all that campaigning that kept me from tilling as much as I should have. I'm hoping Obama & Merkley will bring the Change We Need to have prolific Oregon Victory Gardens! Todd, I think you meant Square Foot Gardening.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    Tore up the lawn and gardened the whole front yard this year, so that the chickens could roam the back: http://unconventionalfolly.blogspot.com/2008/07/no-longer-serf-to-turf.html

    But as to that other key means of reducing one's carbon footprint, the bicycle, what is everyone's take on Obama's choice for Secretary of Transportation, Ray Lahood? In introducing Lahood, Obama praised him for essentially improving recreational cycling, neglecting it as a serious transportation option.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    RW, I'd be interested in working out something with you as far as seed starting. I'm going to be doing a lot of that. Shoot me an email and we can talk about it. [email protected]

    I'm located in Mulino, so I don't know how far that is from you or how much you want to drive. Mulino is around 4 miles north of Molalla, and around 10 miles south of Oregon City.

    Gil, cool blog. I love the title to the post - No longer serf to turf.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    <Posted by: Joanne Rigutto | Dec 20, 2008 4:55:49 PM

    Leslie Carleson - Seems like we need to start a blog for politicos who garden. Green-BlueOregon anyone?

    I'd go for something like that!

    New Aquagon?

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    New Aquagon?

    Like it.

    Or how about "Green Thumb, Blue Heart?"

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    Glen, no square food was it: tomatoes that package easily, peas that stay on your fork, pumpkins that don't roll around when you try to carve them....

    yea, typo, and i forgot to add the link. thanks!

    glad to hear a second for Terretorial Seed; a real Oregon treasure.

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    Leslie, a gardening blog would, of course, go well beyond "how come my carrots are so scrawny?" like so many other specific issues we touch on here in BO -- bikes, for example -- there is are innumerable tangential issues to be dealt with. urban gardening leads to land use planning, community spaces, produce availability in stores, pollutants, green space, etc etc. so while lefties helping lefties garden is something many of us would dig (sorry)(and i, like Rebecca, dearly miss my gardens of years past), it would grow like those stupid horseradish plants you know you damn sure didn't put in there. but be much more tasty (i love blogging, hate horseradish).

  • rw (unverified)
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    Now, now T.A.: what've you got against horseradish? It's such a tasty word! Along with Rutabaga, what would be do without such words for clownage?

    Stupid Story Alert: when I was a teenage firefighter in the Mtns outside here, I was on a crew called the Rutabaga I.R. Everyone had a Ruta-name. Mine was Rutabecca, of course. And each person had a lunch pail. Someone brought me a raggedy ann lunchpail. GIven my self-absorption and whiney sentimentality, rather apt, won't you think?

    Heh. Horseradish. Be nice to the lowly horseradish. It never done nothin' to you!

  • rw (unverified)
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    Joanne - very good! I frequently attend Monday night sweatlodge at Carol's horseranch up your way. Go in at seven and get home by midnight maybe. :)... .very exciting during the ice and snow seasons out your way.

    I'll send you a note. I'm also wondering if ANYONE has plants they will be willing to divide out some starts from - I am a little concerned about the fact that late in the game the new landlord explained to me that I'd have one month to move if his parents needed the place, and they are in their seventies and eighties.... so suddenly, my longed-for retreat and finally a place to be that is beautiful, built into the earth, and surrounded utterly by old roses and my garden... now is just another rental situation that may be taken from me. Hate this shit. BUT: I must have a garden again. It's important to me... internal directives on this, if you will... so I am putting a call out to anyone willing to please share more than a tiny handful of herbal green w/roots that I may plant so as to immediately have good access to the herbs with which to doctor myself. The ones you use in your foods as described above. :)... will wash dishes, clean attics or even hold my tongue on the blog for such!

    Hahahah.... ok... here comes a note.

    PS people, I saw Leigh Ann Jashaway Bryant at a recent gathering of people in my profession... funny woman, really strong health education background to boot. And knows my father, the concupiscient old man who occassionaly squires Slug Queens in Eugene and considers a gift of clippings about himself to be a good offering to send a grandchild in his birthday card. :) That there's a funny wench.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Gil: we cannot have everything just as we want it to be. IT is our job as an electorate to commuicate with the Bike Czar and bring light to his mind about the "do-ability" of bringing true transportation mindset to bicycling on a national level. It's not too late, it's not impossible, and though the application is not perfect (differences abound), the European tradition is a place to START the conversation. I think it's great that the man even OWNS bikes as a CONCEPT! We can help him get the rest of the picture on it. IF Obama is as committed to grassroots as he says and we believe, we can take this opportunity to make that difference.

    In answer to your question: I'm pleased.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Gil: we cannot have everything just as we want it to be. IT is our job as an electorate to commuicate with the Bike Czar and bring light to his mind about the "do-ability" of bringing true transportation mindset to bicycling on a national level. It's not too late, it's not impossible, and though the application is not perfect (differences abound), the European tradition is a place to START the conversation. I think it's great that the man even OWNS bikes as a CONCEPT! We can help him get the rest of the picture on it. IF Obama is as committed to grassroots as he says and we believe, we can take this opportunity to make that difference.

    In answer to your question: I'm pleased.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Gil: we cannot have everything just as we want it to be. IT is our job as an electorate to commuicate with the Bike Czar and bring light to his mind about the "do-ability" of bringing true transportation mindset to bicycling on a national level. It's not too late, it's not impossible, and though the application is not perfect (differences abound), the European tradition is a place to START the conversation. I think it's great that the man even OWNS bikes as a CONCEPT! We can help him get the rest of the picture on it. IF Obama is as committed to grassroots as he says and we believe, we can take this opportunity to make that difference.

    In answer to your question: I'm pleased.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Dammit typepad! Dang NABIT

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Or how about "Green Thumb, Blue Heart?"

    Very nice.

    Posted by: t.a. barnhart | Dec 21, 2008 10:20:12 AM

    Leslie, a gardening blog would, of course, go well beyond "how come my carrots are so scrawny?" like so many other specific issues we touch on here in BO -- bikes, for example --

    Definitely someone that has done both! It's very much a relevant concern, I have found. The common issues never much struck me until I lived 2 miles from the garden and had a bumper crop of pumpkins...

    But I'm really seconding the idea that it's a good intro into political issues in general. My big bitch to the City Council for years has been that if they had addressed the issues that community gardeners had about dogs (the gardens are Portland Parks), the debacle with the poisonings and the subsequent rushed implementation of off-leash areas could have been managed in an infinitely less reactive manner.

    Actually, considering how BO seems to make it to every contentious, insoluble day-to-day-rant (not a complaint), I surprised that I can't remember anything on dogs and parks here.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Make it called, simply, "Blue Thumb".

    And I would like to propose that I am thrilled to become the gleaner here if you gardners would like to establish a bit of a network of gardeners sending their overflow to the hunger projects and also bags to the people in teh streets. I would be really happy if I could be helpful, go around and pick up your extra and ensure that it gets to the outlets that feed the hungry, and also simply load up bags that can be dropped off to those "out there".

    I would be more than happy to research who takes care of specicific populations, who does it seasonally, who does it year around... we also of course know who the big ones are, but there are orgs such as Neighborhood House that cover those who are falling between cracks. Often there are small orgs in specific locales that do not turn away those not from the locale, but who do specially take care of those who are "in the neighborhood" and need a loaf of bread more than once a month...

    So this is something that would bring my heart great happiness if you all think you'd like to do something like this. It need not be hugly organized. It can be VERY simply done... or we can be more-organized. Just let me know.

    If any of you are picklers, canners, etc... and feel the prick in your heart while the pocketbook is still sqoze, we can also include such things as jams, preserves, jellies, frozens... at times of the year when there are no crops but we do have the produce as we processed it.

    I have a wonderful little truck again now, and my passion is about HAULING! STones, wood... FOOD.

    Thank you for considering this....

    Rebecca

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    Make it called, simply, "Blue Thumb".

    Like that. I may have to look into starting up a progressive gardening blog. Stay tuned, everybody.

    And T.A., I agree with you that urban gardening touches upon many issues (including bikes, land use, etc. that you already brought up). It could be interesting.

  • Jiang (unverified)
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    Before Reed bulldozed their WWI-II Victory Garden and the neighborhood clinic to build a dorm, we used to give 500# minimum to the Food Bank every year.

  • Queenie (unverified)
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    Now, now T.A.: what've you got against horseradish? It's such a tasty word! Along with Rutabaga, what would be do without such words for clownage?

    My favorite sitcom joke of all time is from Black Adder, series 2, about the "turnip shaped almost exactly like a thingy", and Baldrics quip that he found it doubly ironic because his "thingy is shaped almost exactly like a turnip".

    It gets served in a soup to a couple that are the age's equivalent of the Palins.

  • jim kreutzbender (unverified)
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    Soil, soil,soil or compost is the first key ingredient. i break up the clay soil and add the compost, mushroom compost or composted manures on top of the clay and work from there up. this also leaves weed seed deep in the bed and maybe won't sprout. weeds compete with vegies for sun, h2o, nutients. root crops -carrots, potatoes, beets- need a deep loam and lots of h2o, and attract gophers. lack of honeybees for pollination is a problem for zucs. a grower friend told me that zucs need 12 bee trips to zuc flowers to fully pollinate them- shrunken end of zuc is lacking pollenation. don't use overhead sprinklers- waste of h20- drip or hand water for small areas puts h2o right at the soil and root systems.hand water- build a dike around plants. start small- to what you can manage on a daily basis. in the heat of summer plants can use h2o every day or 2. use cardboard of newspapers between plants or between beds to keep down weeds. yes, provides some slug habitat- what's less work- slugs or weeds?

    YES start a new wesite. or space here on blueoregon.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Soil, soil,soil or compost is the first key ingredient...

    There's even some research now suggesting that our overuse of fungicides on fruit stems from not having the right (really any) leaf culture beneath the trees and that you can eliminate a lot of their usage by restoring a proper micro-flora and beneficial fungi.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    This topic went too fast. Snow shortened it's growing season...

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    I like 'Blue Thumb' or 'Green Thumb, Blue Heart'. Yes do it Leslie, make a blog for this!

    I visit La Vida Locavore quite often, and their slogan is 'Come for the food, stay for the politics' yours could be 'Come work in the garden, and talk politics' or some such.

    Seriously, there are a lot of political issues going on with gardening, farmers markets, homesteading, small independant producers, etc. There is a war going on out there between the large commercial producers/international traders, and the small independant producers, homesteaders, etc.. Anyone who doubts this only has to follow the controversy over rBST, look at what's going on with Monasanto, Syngenta and the seed cleaners, and read the studies that claim that organic foods and free range chicken, eggs, or pastured meats are not better or different than eggs and meats produced in the CAFO system, or produce grown from GMOs.

    Likewise, if/when the gardening movement really gets big, expect a substantial, if subtle pushback from the commercial food industries such as the grocery chains. While stores like Wal-Mart claim to cary local produce, I have a hard time believing that they can do more than a token effort to that kind of sourcing. It just doesn't fit the large chain model. It would be like McDonnalds sourcing its beef from the local, small independant cow/calf opperation. It's a nice thought, but with the smaller chains, it would be possible, especially if uniformity among stores wasn't necessary, but on a really large scale, I just don't think it's possible.

    Then there is the issue of market loss. When I was at the urban farming forum in October, I think it was, some of the talk was about how much could be potentially grown by the people themselves if they so chose to. 1/3 - 1/2 of the produce was the range I heard estimated. Right now, all of that produce is purchased at the store. The ammount that people grow at this time, is so small that the large stores don't even notice it. If you got people in the cities to produce a substantial ammount of their own produce themselves, that's a big bite out of those stores' bottom lines.

    A gardening forum like you might form, Leslie, would also give people a support system when the type of pushback I'm anticipating comes. Also, it helps to have a network of politically active, or at least politically knowleagable people in place when regulations threaten to strangle small producers and even homesteaders, home gardeners, etc..

    For instance, in the farm to school program, some members of congress are preparing to require, through federal law that farms prodicing meat, eggs, dairy, be registered with the NAIS (National Animal ID System) and that's huge. Also, there is a NAIS like program for produce and manufactured foods and feeds, called the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, which is supposed to provide farm to fork tracability for all foods, and food or feed components. This is to protect people from terrorism and contamination of the food supply. While farms aren't a part of this, there is talk about requireing this type of tracability for produce starting from farms now, including tracability not just for shipments of produce, but all the way down to tracability on individual produce, i.e. individual tomatos, apples, heads of lettuce, etc. What this would mead for people distributing to stores, food banks, farm to school programs, etc. is that you'd have to individually lable each vegitable you picked for use other than your own. There was a posting about this over at Ethicurean. Produce Perversions Part 1 - Living With The Underbelly People really need to know about things like this before they get established. It's easier to nip a weed in the bud than it is to dig a 12' monstrosity out of the soil.....

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    On that bit about Tri-Met IT...

    This one has me a bit mystified. It's from the "Winter Weather" alert page at Tri-Met.

    TransitTracker may not be able to predict arrival times. However, for some bus lines, it will report how far away your bus is.

    If mintues=miles, maybe. Hard to imagine the system that would produce such behavior. Would definitely be interesting in hearing theories/clarification.

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