Archive for the 'Food' Category

Richard

We decided to stop by Sarah and Aaron’s favorite food store before heading off to Vermillion. It was one of those small-but-has everything places which advertises their organic and natural foods. One section in particular that was well stocked, and always gets my attention, was the bulk food section.

Richard and his bulk foods

Richard and his bulk foods

I was browsing the selection of trail mixes when I met Richard, an IRS employee and Clevelandite who had a shopping cart full of items from the bins. Richard was mainly shopping for nuts and seeds that he could not find anywhere else. This is one of the advantages of buying bulk; items not for sale anywhere else can usually be found here. Your ability to choose the quantity is a big plus, and what you end up paying is almost always cheaper per pound than what would be found in the aisle. Not to be overlooked is the packaging that is saved by buying bulk. You can show up with your own containers and bags to fill up, so all you come away with is the food itself! If you do forget your containers, there are always bags supplied. Either way a lot of unnecessary trash is saved from filling a hole in the ground. I was glad to meet Richard, not only because he was buying in bulk, but I got a chance to talk with him about his lifestyle. Richard is doing what he thinks is right, and is willingly making sacrifices in his life to exclude meat, more recently dairy products, and other elements of life we plunder every day. I am not saying we should all become homeless, minimalist, vegans but we should recognize our ability to live comfortably without every new invention, or everything our pocketbooks can give us. Buying bulk food is an easy way to get what we need without all the other resources, we do not use, that usually comes with them.

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Fey

Americans eat beef like Laura eats candy, and Laura

Fey with her meat and vegetables

Fey with her meat and vegetables

eats a lot of candy. On average we eat about 65 lbs of beef a year, about 1/3 of our annual consumption of meat. On account of the demand, the meat industry has been industrialized to the point where your steak comes from a cow that was fed corn based feed with antibiotics and hormones mixed in to help the animal fight off any diseases it would get from living literally on top of its own fecal matter with thousands of other cattle a necks length away. That steak might be cheap, but the hidden costs include heart disease, food-borne illnesses, and environmental degradation to list a few.
Central Market

Central Market

I hopped in to the Lancaster Farmers Market to find out what the meat options were and found Fey, a local who was picking up some steaks at the Country Meadows Farm stand. The farm raises all kinds of meat from beef to lamb and does so in a responsible way. The animals graze on grass and are not fed any hormones or antibiotics. I asked Fey why she bought her beef there instead of at the supermarket, and she said as ruminants, cows are not supposed to eat anything but grass; their digestive systems are not built to process corn based feed. She is absolutely right, how are we supposed to stay healthy when the animals we eat are not healthy? The farm also encourages customers to build a relationship with their farmers, and tear down the barriers set up by supermarkets that disconnect us from our food.
The Market in Lancaster is an impressive sight, the entire building packed with people eager to buy directly from their farmers. It used to be open only two days a week but another day was added because so many people support it. So the next time you are craving that burger find a grocer near you that sells local grass fed beef, it will be high in Omega 3’s, CLA (reduces body fat), vitamins and minerals, and help out the land and local business.

For an in depth look at the beef industry, here is a link to Michael Pollan’s

Susan from Philadelphia

Susan with her eggs

Susan with her eggs

The Fair Food Market is the first stand I ran into in the Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia’s main downtown market. A wide variety of local Pennsylvanian (some from Jersey) vegetables, dairy and meat products, breads, grains, and random items are packed into a couple of square feet that gives the impression food is just bursting out of the baskets. The stand is run almost entirely by volunteers, overseen by only three staff. I talked with Gianni (see post below), who said the volunteers give their time because they care about giving people in the city the option to buy local food. The best part about working there is that he sees and talks with people of all demographics who are shopping there and are excited about local food. One such person is Susan, a
Emu egg from over the river

Emu egg from over the river

Philadelphian who bee-lines it to the Stand for pasture-raised eggs once she runs out. Not many places offer eggs from chickens who live in a pasture. Most stores only offer cage-free eggs at best, but cage-free does not mean the chickens were outside at any point in their lives, only that they were not crammed in to a cage. In addition to eggs, Susan picks up vegetables displayed in baskets with tags telling what farm they came from and where it is.
I did the same, grabbing some greens before I said goodbye to Susan and snapping some photos of the local goose and emu eggs.

Check out what the Union of Concerned Scientists has to say about pasture-raised food

K.K. Haspel

I had never heard of biodynamic

Zinnias are planted in bewtween the spinach to keep it warm

Zinnias are planted in bewtween the spinach to keep it warm

farming until I met K.K and her husband Ira who live on their farm in Southold, a quiet town in the East End of Long Island. The couple has been building on a vision they had the day they first laid eyes on their farm nine years ago. Today a variety of vegetables, flowers, and fruit trees all grow in harmony within the ecosystem.
Biodynamic farming involves homeopathic preparation of the soil, planting and harvesting in accordance with certain positions of the stars (following the Stella Natura Calendar), and, of course, composting. The idea is to have healthy soil. “Healthy soil equals healthy food, which equals healthy people.”
The farm at dusk

The farm at dusk

Considering the physical and spiritual needs of plants may sound too far fetched compared to conventional or even organic methods of farming but increasing the fertility of the topsoil is truly the only fully sustainable way to farm. The plants and birds have a symbiotic relationship: the plants attract bugs, many of which the birds eat, and the birds attract bugs which are beneficial to the plants that the birds don’t eat. No pesticides or herbicides are used which leads to stronger and more nutritious plants. K.K. found out about biodynamics in a class at the Pfeiffer Center in Chestnut Ridge and then the Nature Lyceum School for Environmental Horticulture where she now teaches a class in the subject. Her farm keeps her busy attending to her CSA orders. Unlike most Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in which you sign up for a season to receive a bag of whatever vegetables the farm grows every month, K.K. asks the customer to tell her what they want to eat. That way she can prepare a basket of food that she knows will get eaten. She has clients all over the island, including Manhattan, who know where the best tasting and healthiest food is. Not only can K.K. grow sweeter and tastier food than other farms on the island, but more of it per acre, and still she increases the nutrients in her soil.
What was more significant than what K.K. was doing was how she sounded. She is very passionate, and means it when she says “Real food is an endangered species.” We have lost touch with our food, buying and eating genetically modified food that comes from who knows where and was sprayed with who knows what chemicals. K.K. has a story that she tells of a woman who did not know tomatoes grow from seeds. The food we buy in grocery stores is tasteless and lacks nutrition, especially when compared with that grown in K.K.’s garden. If our health is something we would not like to take for granted, we can start with feeding ourselves with that which we know is healthy for us, and the planet.

The Koren Family

I knew I was going to stay with Ben and his family my first night so I asked him if there was anything I could write about in the blog. He did not think of anything right away, so when I saw their composting operation I asked him why he had not mentioned it. “It is just something we have always done.”

Ben with the compost pile

Ben with the compost pile

Composting, or the decomposition of organic waste by micro-organisms and bacteria, is one of the more sustainable efforts you can take part in because the use of compost (rich soil) in your yard or garden returns organic matter, nutrients and vital bacteria to the earth. Composting is also a component of the growing international movement striving toward Zero Waste. Keeping things out of the landfills and incinerators starts with only buying things you need, reusing what you or other people already have, recycling (I guess I could have said ‘the three Rs’), and composting the organic waste.

On another note Ben’s parents are pretty cool for school. His father Ed is a cartoonist for the New Yorker, while his mother Curtis is the founder and director of Vermont Intercultural Semesters (VIS), a program for High School students to gain credit abroad in Ladakh, India. VIS offers semester and year long immersion courses during which students take part in lectures, discussions, field trips, home stays, and workshops with themes of community heritage, sustainable development, and cultural identity. The placed base courses infuse hands on learning with critical thinking, a method which I can say from experience brings significance to what is being taught in a way that classrooms cannot. For more information visit

Helen Dechtiar

Helen outside the garden with the compost

Helen outside the garden with the compost

Helen is the organizer of a community garden in the heart of Burlington, VT where she serves as a liaison between students and their neighbors. The program is the result of the efforts of the University of Vermont Community Coalition and the Neighborhood Alliance Program. Routinely surrounded by temporary student neighbors, Helen had been interested in improving the image of the community to one that reflects a consciousness for the health of the environment. There was a sense of belonging that was missing from the community, so with permission from the land owner, the Buell Street Neighborhood Garden began selling their plots three years ago. Currently all 12 plots are sold to a combination of student and non-student community members. Each plot sells for $10 which covers most of the cost of operations.

Helen can say that over the three years that the garden has been there it has stimulated awareness that her community is one that cares, and nothing but positive relationships have come from working in the garden with neighbors. She has also learned a tremendous amount. Gardening was not something Helen had much experience with in the beginning, but since then she has realized how fun and easy it is and ‘obsessed’ is the word she chose to use to describe her involvement with her plants.