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Candy Belsse's 5th Grade Class - Truckee Elementary
It might be a little corny, but Whitney Houston pretty much hit it spot on, "Children are our future!" And in keeping with the kids theme of the past few weeks, I wanted to share some pictures from two, recent, kid-driven harvests at the Truckee Community Farm.

Last Friday, twenty-five 5th graders from Truckee Elementary came out to the Growing Dome and in the matter of one hour harvested, weighed, washed and packed 16lbs of greens and rooted vegetables. About 8lbs will be used to make a soup for a cafeteria meal. But the kids got a special surprise for the weekend when they learned they would each be taking home a bag of lettuce greens to share with their families.

Three weeks before that, students from Tahoe Expeditionary Academy in Kings Beach came to do a harvest helping us prepare a food donation for Project Mana, our local hunger relief agency. Not only did the kids harvest 8lbs of veggies but they got to deliver the food to Project Mana taking their field trip to a whole other dimension and demonstrating the connection we all share with food. Check out the video and photo gallery below.

 
 
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Guest blogger, chef and rad skier...Cody LaPlante
Something I haven't done yet at Food Chronicles is have a guest blogger. Pretty standard stuff for most blogs. Guess I was waiting for just the right contributor! Wait no longer. I would like to introduce my first guest, Cody LaPlante. Cody is 11yrs. old and a great storyteller.

Cody is a member of the Squaw Valley Institute Kid's Club. The club came out to the Growing Dome for an evening tour to learn about the dome and discover cool things about 4-season growing. Everyone got to help Cody harvest veggies that he later used in a seasonal meal prepared for his family. BIG thanks to Carolyn Hamilton who organizes this talented and motivated bunch of kids who are developing a better connection to their food in anticipation of Joel Salatin's visit on Feb. 13th. Here's Cody...

One time my class went to the Growing Dome in Truckee. It was full of vegetables and frogs. I saw a water tank with fish and asked what if was for. Susie said that the fish poop fertilizes the plants in a system called aquaponics. The Dome has solar panels to power the water tank's pump and fans to circulate air. When it gets hot in the Dome the wax on the cooling vents melts and opens the vents so cool air can come in. When the dome starts to cool down the wax hardens and closes the vents. That's cool!  At the Dome we harvested parsley, chard, carrots, one beat, radishes, and spinach leaves.

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Great Basin Community Food Cooperative in Reno is a little market that only sells local, organic foods from farmers around our area. There we got some cabbage and ground beef. The meat was all grass fed from Albaugh Farms in Fallon, Nevada. I visited this farm last fall and we got to see all the cows, sheep, goats, and chickens, and we got to play on the tree swing. The cabbage was from Riverdog Farms in California.

After the LONG process of getting all the food I finally got to make my meal. We made a salad with chard, beat leaves, carrots, and radishes. My favorite part of the salad was the beat leaves! We boiled the beat and sliced it up and put a little vinegar on it. It was really sweet! We added parsley, salt, pepper, and honey from beehives in Sparks, Nevada to the ground beef. Then we cooked it up and made cabbage wraps. It was so good we had it for lunch the next day.

                - Cody LaPlante, 11yrs. old - Truckee, CA

 
 
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One complaint about organics is that it too expensive. I'm not so sure about that...I just made an awesome organic, meal for six people under $35! I'm calling it, sweet potato wrapped chard enchiladas. And was accompanied by a lovely, green salad with slices of blood oranges. I made the dish last Friday after first having it the day before on Thursday. That's how much I loved it...I had to taste it again. and quick! It was that good!

When I handed the clerk my credit card to pay for the ingredients, I thought to myself, "A family of six probably couldn't get out of McDonald's for much cheaper at $5/person." Not only is it price comparable but it is healthier, organic and made in a kitchen hopefully with family and friends laughing and talking as the meal gets assembled. That's exactly what happened on both of my recent cooking occasions. The first occasion was with a group of kids who were learning about one of the fundamental principles to having a sustainable food system...eating seasonally and as locally as possible. The second occasion was with a group of friends that i wanted to share this culinary delight.

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The kids, were the real inspiration! They are part of a program which studies the monthly lecturers hosted by the Squaw Valley Institute. The next speaker is farmer, Joel Salatin! One of Joel's suggestions for re-normalizing society...is to get our hands on our food coming together in community to tell the story of our food and make a wonderful meal which can be shared together.

Want to make this amazing feast? First I have to give props to Aaron at New Moon Natural Foods in Truckee, CA. This incredible combination of flavors and textures is his own creation crafted on the fly when asked to participate in this worthy program. He led a group of 9 kids through the gastro-technical process each taking pride in their contribution later licking the platter clean. Had these children been fed blanched chard leaves with no connection to the meal, they would have probably snubbed their noses. But having all participated in the preparation, they wanted to savor their hard work. Not longer was it wilted green leaves but green pockets with yummy filling. Get cooking in the kitchen and brings lots of people with you!

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SWEET POTATO WRAPPED CHARD ENCHILADAS:

1 bunch         rainbow chard
3 medium       sweet potatoes
2 large           leeks  
1 small           block of parmesan
1 ball              fresh mozzarella
2 cans            crushed tomatoes
1 head           garlic
1 bunch          parsley
1 cup              pine nuts
1 TBSP           sugar
To taste          salt & pepper

Boil and mash the sweet potatoes (optional: add butter and cream). Chop and saute leeks adding them to the mashers. Grate parm into mashers adding salt & pepper to taste. In a large sauce pan, saute whole garlic cloves adding crushed tomatoes. Add in chopped ends of the rainbow chard and parsley. Finish with sugar and salt & pepper to taste. Blanch the chard leaves then wrap them with a large serving spoon full of masher filling. Place in a large casserole dish stacked tight like enchiladas. Pour the tomato sauce over top. Grate mozzarella over top and sprinkle with pine nuts. Bake for 20-30 minutes @ 350°.          

 
 
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Adam & Laura - graduates of Organic Field School
I participate in a working group helping a land-grant university (name withheld) evaluate the best way to use their 1,000 acre field station. A 100-acre portion is in jeopardy of being rezoned commercial and sold-off. The sale would put much needed money in the pockets of the university but they would fail in their commitment as a land-grant institution.by taking prime farmland from the community. In a time when communities need to be focused on food security and realizing agriculture's green job potential for economic development, farmland needs to be preserved not removed. Below is my proposal outlining one of the ways to repurpose the 100-acres and make a little bit of money while educating new farmers of tomorrow...a farm incubator!

INTRODUCTION
A farm incubator trains people how to farm ecologically and subsidizes their start-up costs with the primary intent of generating new farmers.

The biggest risk in starting a farm is taking that financial leap of faith. Even if someone can afford to buy land, they have a huge learning curve in developing best farming practices. In a 2011 survey of 1,000 US farmers by the National Young Farmers' Coalition, "access to capital, access to land and health insurance present the largest obstacles for beginning farmers." A farm incubator addresses these concerns and starts to build the infrastructure necessary to educate and support new farmers.  

With less than 1% of the population farming and 70% of today’s farmers about to retire, the United States is in desperate need of more farmers; farmers who can keep land in agricultural production and if necessary, rehabilitate the land away from conventional farming through regenerative, organic, farming practices.

Land-grant universities have an opportunity to open up the next green, job market by helping put people back to work as farmers and in the process create economic prosperity and healthy food for their community.

A farm incubator program is the agricultural degree for the 21st Century. A traditional agriculture degree leaves graduates with few options in today’s job market. And to train young farmers to be conventional, mega-farm operators is not progressive or ecological. But teaching farmers to be self-reliant, small-scale farmers creates jobs, ownership and environmental responsibility. Students learn sustainable, farming techniques and how to build a business plan. Upon graduation, they are provided further training opportunities as well as access to grants and subsidized land. University X has the opportunity to be a center for creating small-scale farmers and be a model for other land-grant universities to follow.

UNIVERSITY X MODEL
University X is primed to offer its community the opportunity of a farm incubator. With Cooperative Extension for classes, College of Ag for supplemental courses and available land at the adjacent field station, the foundation is in place. Unlike many incubators, the classrooms are already built, the land is available and there is access to qualified instructors of the university. Developing a farm incubator at University X is more about coordinating resources within the existing infrastructure than having to build one from the ground up.

A farm incubator compliments and cooperates with existing and proposed research plans for University X filed labs.  A farm incubator diversifies University X’s product offerings attracting students who are not targeting a 4-year degree but want more in-depth training than a community college can offer. To promote the program, an outreach campaign can be launched to area high schools in order to raise awareness for the career possibilities in agriculture and improve the perception of farming as a viable career opportunity.

A farm incubator provides University X’s development office an exciting, new fundraising opportunity and a “fresh” way to engage potential and current donors. The farm incubator will generate revenue from the tuition and fees collected but capital will still need to be raised over the life of the incubator in order to purchase equipment and supplies. Donors will be attracted by the innovative approach of the farm incubator. It enriches a donors gift  by being able to do more than just support education but also support the environment as well as social and economic stimulus to the community….with more people farming, more people have jobs; local food production increases; and money stays local fostering a more resilient and equitable economy.

All told, a farmer incubator is a good story and PR opportunity for the university. A farm incubator is an inspiring demonstration for modern education and an admirable way for the university to help increase city x’s food security by fostering new farmers.

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Sarita Schaffer - Viva Farms in WA
THE PROPOSAL
 A farm incubator is a revenue generating, academic opportunity. It is an alternative education model and positions University X as a cutting edge land-grant university committed to supporting and preparing farmers of tomorrow.

University X, however, should consider a variety of small farmer programs to diversify their course offerings. In addition to a farm incubator program, other traditional, but innovative, models can be developed such as a 2yr small-farmer certificate program and a small farm training series. By offering three programs, University X can leverage the classes designed, teachers hired and materials required over three programs. The 2-year program and the training series would utilize a 5-acre, demonstration garden to fulfill their course work. The 5-acres would be located on the University X’s adjacent field station property and ideally right along TBD Blvd where the public would have an aesthetic view of a working farm. Below is a recap of the three “small farmer” programs that University X should consider as a way to utilize a portion of the field station:                            

1.      2yr small farm certificate – a certificate-based program with an emphasis on business

2.      Small Farm Training Series – 6-month training program ONLY

3.      Farmer Incubator Program – 6-month training program with access to subsidized land and equipment after graduation.

SAMPLE: Economies of a Farm Incubator

·        80-acres @ $600/acre for year lease = $48,000

·        12 students @ $1200/6-month course = $14,400 every six months ($28,800/year)

·        12 students @ $150 annually for continued education and marketing support

·        40 farmers paying grounds fee, irrigation & equipment rental (not including gas) = $10,000

        Total = $86,800/year*

*$45,000 would pay a full-time farm incubator manager who oversees the program as well as the
5-acre, demonstration parcel.

CASE STUDY: ALBA Organics – Salinas, CA
ALBA stands for Agriculture Land Based Training Association. ALBA trains people how to farm organically and helps them get started by leasing them subsidized land from their 110 acre property. ALBA's collaborative approach provides continued field education for all its graduates. At ALBA, you start with 6-months (150 hours) of training on a sliding scale that ranges from $250-$2500. After graduation, farmers/students pay 20% the market value for their initial 1/2-acre and over time will pay 100% for up to 7 acres. Farmers work side-by-side learning from each other with continued education from ALBA's trainers. Business support is available for small entrepreneurs or farmers can sell produce to the organization's private label brand, ALBA Organics, which is sells to Whole Foods and other grocers. In addition to the lease payments, ALBA Organics is the engine which funds the entire project first paying their growers for their harvest and returning profits back into the program.

CASE STUDY: Viva Farms in association w/ WSU – Mount Vernon, WA 
The Viva Farms Incubator Program was launched in June 2009 to provide new farmers affordable access to education, training and technical assistance; capital and credit; land and markets. Approximately, half of the thirty students who participated in the first year are Latino. Each completed Skagit County’s first bilingual “Sustainable Small Farming and Ranching” course and thirty-six students completed the first bilingual “Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Farm Business Planning” course. The Port of Skagit has leased Viva Farms 33 acres for an incubator farm where course graduates may sublease plots on which to launch and grow their farm businesses. Access to shared infrastructure, equipment and low-interest “educational loans” minimizes participants’ start-up costs. Core areas of support include organic production practices, marketing, sales, distribution, record keeping and liability management. The farm incubator at Viva Farms is not an end point for farmers. It is a starting point to transition them to farm ownership and secure long-term tenure. Once farmers establish stable agricultural enterprises at the incubator, Viva Farms will help them relocate to new land and continue growing their operations. They will need capital to acquire land, equipment, seeds, livestock and other farm inputs so Viva Farm established the New Farmer Reserve Fund along with Slow Money NW and a local credit union. The fund acts as a microloan program to provide affordable start-up and growth capital to new farmers.
       

 
 
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The Veg-heads Game: The blueberry, mushroom, cucumber, carrot and tomato
When talking to kids about fruits and veggies, you have to speak their language. Dressing up and  playing with silly props are always a good way to communicate a message but the activity is only as valuable as the impression it leaves on the child and the lessons they take home.

On Wednesday, July 11th...I traveled to Whole Foods Market in Folsom, CA to lead a kid's camp. The objective...teach kids about the nutritional value of their fruits and vegetables. If I went in spouting words like beta-carotene and antioxidants, I would have been met with blank stares. I needed something funny, hands-on, interactive and involved group participation.

The event was sponsored by Lisa's Organics and a promo event for their Gardens-to-Hospitals program. Lisa's Organics produces frozen, organic vegetables and their slogan is "Eat Your Veggies." Gardens-to-Hospitals' (G2H) parallel slogan is "Eat Your Colors!"

I start off asking the kids, "What are are your favorite colors to eat?" They quickly catch-on and start shouting out, "strawberries, snap peas, watermelon, pineapple, etc.." I explain that a colorful plate gives us a plateful of vitamins and minerals from different fruits and veggies.

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I ask for five volunteers to represent the five color groups: red, yellow/orange, green, blue/purple and white/brown. Hands go up! I select the first five promising that everyone will get a turn to participate. I pull out some simple, homemade costumes...colored, felt tunics with matching trucker hats that have a corresponding vegetable for each color group. I slip the tunic over their head and place the hat on their head. Giggles break out! The kids look as silly as I hoped they would. The make-shift costumes get them using their imagination like they would when playing at home and absent a stylie blueberry, mushroom, cucumber, carrot or tomato costume.

The audience members (the other children) take turns pulling a FRESH fruit or vegetable from a basket. Holding the vegetable, they are asked to identify the color and place it in the basket in front of the appropriate child/vegetable. As the items get selected, I get ready with my props...

Beets get pulled from the basket and is determined to be purplish. I say, "beets have magnesium which is good for muscles." I give the blue/purple child, water wings to represent BIG muscles. Laughter erupts!

A carrot gets selected! I follow-up, "carrots have stuff to keep our eyes healthy," and I give the yellow/orange kiddo some over-sized glasses.

Next, snap peas :) I tell the children, "Green veggies have fiber. Fiber keeps things moving through our bodies so stuff doesn't get stuck," and I hand the child a plunger.

Mushrooms get chosen! "Mushrooms have things to help clean our system and flush out the bad toxins. It's like an internal toilet brush." The child smirks as handed a toilet brush to hold.

The tomato child gets a tomato placed in their basket. I explain, "tomatoes have stuff to fight cancer. It's like having boxing gloves to ward off disease." The children laugh as oven mitts get slipped on the tomato kid.

By the end, the human fruits & veggies are holding and wearing a variety of props sometimes struggling to keep it all in balance. I ask the audience, "As you can see, we need all these colors to gives us what we need to stay healthy. You just can't eat the same thing everyday and hope to get everything you need to grow big and strong."

I ask, "How can we eat more fruits and veggies?" We talk about making fruit smoothies and juices. We have fun brainstorming the different pizzas, soups, and sandwiches we could make to get as many colors as we need each day. I encourage the kids to get their parents to take them to a farmers' market, perhaps start a garden, find some recipes they can make and basically get more involved in the foods they are being fed so they can have more fun.

 
 
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For the past four months I’ve been taking a leadership class to gain related skills, learn more about my community and network with other, local professionals. It is hosted by the North Tahoe Business Association. For five weeks, we heard from different keynote speakers from all parts of the region and reviewed the critical elements of being a good leader such as reading Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It is a must read for pretty much anybody because whether you are a leader or a member of a team, you’ll be more effective in your role; guaranteed! It’s a fast and entertaining read.

When I first learned about the program, I was intrigued because I heard that participants broke into groups to work on projects. And those projects were submitted by people and businesses in the community with a need. Knowing their efforts would be implemented on the receiving end gave team members an incentive to be invested and deliver a good product or proposal.

At first, I thought I would just submit a proposal for doing a foodshed assessment – an analysis of community’s food source and needs. What ended up happening was even better…I enrolled and took the class. I still got to pitch my idea and with the help of my team redesigned the original plan into something a little more manageable…a business plan for a Tahoe Food Hub!

The business plan would still start with much of the same primary research of a foodshed assessment but would end with a tangible goal where as a foodshed assessment leaves the question, “Now what?” After some discussion, it was apparent that a foodshed assessment was just a means to the same end so why not just go for the prize. It was a food hub we were after. So we began interviewing farmers, ranchers, restaurants, grocery stores, schools and hospitals to ensure there was a need an interest.

A food hub would leverage Tahoe’s close proximity to year-round food production. Something not even Iowa can boast. It would begin to build a regional food system with small farms and ranches that normally cannot compete in the wholesale market. With the help of a food hub, the harvests of say 10 small farms could be coordinated and aggregated to meet the demand of wholesale buyers. In creating a more equitable supply chain, small food producers are supported and Tahoe secures access to local, sustainably grown food.

We completed the first phase of the business plan by graduation day; which by the way was yesterday! With the foundation now laid, the financials and operational plan can be finished and next steps taken moving us closer to our proposed opening date of fall 2013. One of our main deliverables was an informational website to generate a buzz during the planning phase. I am proud to present the Tahoe Food Hub. Enjoy!

 
 
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One of Five "Eat Your Color" fridge magnets
Our first Gardens to Hospitals event is about to kick-off next week in Jackson, CA. Gardens to Hospitals (G2H) is a project of Lisa’s Organics - an organic, frozen vegetable producer based in Lake Tahoe, CA. In short, G2H partners school gardens with hospitals to raise awareness for healthy meal programs and install edible gardens at the hospital. In Jackson, students from local Argonaut High School will lead a food lesson at Sutter Amador Hospital for area children ages 4-7 years old. The lesson plays off a campaign that ran in 2011 for National Nutrition Month called “Eat Your Colors!” Unfortunately, the brilliant campaign only ran for that one month and was archived. Ironically, the campaign is very similar to Lisa’s Organics brand slogan, “Eat Your Veggies.”

I immediately saw the parallel and began to brainstorm! The result…adorable, fridge magnets as shown in the example to the left. There are five in all. One for each of the following colors: red, green, purple, white/brown and yellow/orange. Each child that attends the G2H event will receive a packet of five magnets. After the lesson, the kids will get a chance to plant some seeds and starters in raised beds which will reside on the hospital's cafeteria patio. The high school students will remind the children about the different colors of each veggie being planted as well as the color of the veggies they will be sampling that day from local, organic farms. The kids will learn their food colors, plant the seed and taste its flavor. At home, they will play with their magnets and hopefully grab one off the fridge and say something like, “Mom, I want purple veggies for dinner!”

Speaking of "colors." The growing dome has been exploding with color the last couple weeks. We are into our 6th week of harvests donating 10-12lbs of assorted greens to our local hunger relief agency, Project Mana. But last week, we started adding radishes and this week beets and carrots. One of my favorite food films, Fridays at the Farm, described the sensation of harvesting radishes to "pulling teeth from the mouth of God!" I love that visual. Today, I got the same satisfaction from harvesting the carrots. With radishes and beets, you can pretty much tell how big the root is before you pull it out of the ground. Carrots on the other hand are a big surprise. They don't reveal their size till plucked. You grab the base of the stem and start pulling. I don't know why but I was half expecting 1-2" puny, roots but on average, they were more like 6-7" long. I sounded like I was watching fireworks instead of harvesting vegetables as exclamations erupted from my mouth, "Ooooh, Wow!"  With each pull I was more and more elated as these striking orange sticks continued to come out of the ground. I felt a little like a magician pulling a scarf out of their sleeve...i just kept pulling and pulling. I love farming!

Check out the video below for a virtual tour of the dome and exciting times on harvest day!

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Bountiful harvest...radishes, carrots and beets!
 
 
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The Kompost Kraft table at Tahoe Truckee Earth Day celebration.

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Last Saturday the 21st marked the 42nd Earth Day! Hopefully, you all got out to hug Mother Earth and honor her magnificence! The Tahoe-Truckee Earth Day Foundation has been hosting a ragingly, successful celebration for the past eight years in the village at Squaw Valley, CA. I wore two hats running back and forth between our Slow Food Lake Tahoe booth and the kids' zone where the grow dome had a craft project to decorate compost buckets...

At the grow dome, we will be embarking upon a relatively large, composting program. We will be collecting yard waste from an eco-friendly landscaper, Green Envy, and organic coffee grounds from Sierra Pacific Coffee Roasters. To feed enough greens and nitrogen to the compost pile, we will be recruiting the veggie and fruit scraps from friends and family. We are supplying each contributor with a 5gl pickle bucket to keep their food scraps smell-tight. We will schedule weekly pick-ups and feed the compost pile the organic waste collected. To make it fun and encourage participation,we wanted to have kids decorate the buckets. Each art piece was transferred to a sticker which could be applied to the bucket so it provided an easy to clean surface. We got a variety of great submissions, see below.

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How to make paper seedling pots: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VW4t_6dTAvA
Over at the Slow Food booth, we had a festive seedling table where we helped kids make seedling pots out of newsprint! Each child got to take home at least one seedling in a cute caring case made out of milk cartons. This is a great project for all kinds of events from birthday parties and school projects to just a fun way to brighten up a rainy day! Kids and volunteers had a blast and got way into it!


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Seedlings planting seedlings!
Paper Seedling Pots Recipe:
  • Strips of newsprint cut to 4"x10"
  • V-8 Juice can and a golf ball. Roll the newsprint around the can to shape the pot and use the golf ball to twist and lock the 1" of paper hanging off the bottom. Or, buy a wooden pot maker.
  • Large bowl of organic, potting soil
  • Variety of organic, seed packets
  • Spray bottle for giving seedlings a drink after planting :)
  • Crop stakes for labeling the seed in the pot. Fun Note: make a seedling wish on the other side!
  • Single serving milk cartons cut in half for carrying the seedling pot. Or, use a 1/2gl carton to carry six

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The compost bays outside the grow dome and more happy artists decorating compost buckets.

 
 
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I'm brushing up on my environmental education for the Gardens-to-Hospitals program that I'm building for Lisa's Organics. It's a program where school gardens partner with hospitals on collaborative projects which galvanize both school and hospital to provide healthy meal programs. Students and children at the hospital will come together for an interactive growing activity or art project. The projects need to be meaningful and impactful.

So I went to straight to the source, The Center for Ecoliteracy, in Berkeley, CA. I ordered one of their books, "Ecological Literacy," in order to immerse myself in the language and produce thought-provoking and policy changing events. The book is a compilation of essays and visionary thought from today's foremost authorities on progressive education.

David Orr of Oberlin College laid the groundwork, "all education is environmental education." And founder for the Center, Fritjof Capra, explained that further to mean, "Education for sustainable living fosters both an intellectual understanding of ecology and emotional bonds with nature that make it more likely that our children will grow into responsible citizens who truly care about sustaining life, and develop a passion for applying their ecological understanding to the fundamental redesign of our technologies and social institutions so as to bridge the current gap between human design and the ecologically sustainable systems of nature."

Amen Fritjof! It's all about building connections! And school gardens reconnect kids to the fundamentals of food. Systems-based learning helps young people see the connectivity of relationships in their environment and surrounding ecosystems. Another contributor, Maurice Holt, points to the essential role that school gardens play in "understanding, not just memorizing, ecological principles."

Lisa’s Organics wants to foster these types of educational opportunities. Gardens-to-Hospitals will help young people understand how food unites us culturally and socially enabling them to make a deeper connection to where their food comes from and the impact that food availability has on their whole community not just in their own lunchroom.

 
 
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Last week, I was sad to read an article on Yahoo news that said agriculture was the #1 useless college degree. Last time I checked, I still needed food to live. How can farming be useless, if that's how we get our food? Maybe the author thinks food just comes from a big factory.

The author based the claim on the fact that land grant universities are cutting their agriculture programs and mega farms are becoming so efficient that they don't need workers. Both are true! But shouldn't statistics like this give alarm for concern instead of being taken for face value to steer students away from this career. Leaving our food supply to less than 1% of the population to grow is a pretty big risk. Meanwhile, if re-branded, farming could be the green job of tomorrow...Sustainable agriculture programs could be training food producers, land stewards and soil carbon ranchers. And by decentralizing the farming industry, smaller farmers would begin to populate rebuilding agricultural ecosystems and putting people back to work.

Adding insult to injury...On Monday, January 23rd, the Supreme Court overturned California's 2009 law which required that non-ambulatory (a.k.a. "downed") livestock be euthanized before slaughter. These are animals who can't stand on their own  because they are too sick and weak. Seems reasonable and humane! How could this even be contested? It seems sometimes that our judicial system gets so caught-up in the process that they forget their common sense.

The despicable, harvesting practices of unethical slaughterhouses were magnified in undercover videos released by the Humane Society in 2008. If you have ever seen these videos, it will make you sick just thinking about it. California took swift action to set new guidelines which were by no means transformative but were at least better than before. The California law left the heart strings out of the court room and just focused on the food safety concerns of meat from sick animals; knowing social and health issues were the best way to get the bill passed. But  for animal rights activists, it was a huge win and a step in securing more, humane, husbandry practices. Pork producers sued saying, "it interfered with federal laws that require inspections of downed livestock before determining whether they can be used for meat." They just wanted more money. And they obviously had the money to get this Supreme Court decision. House of Representative Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-NY, and Rep. Peter King, R-NY have "introduced legislation this month which will hopefully close a loophole in federal laws that allow the slaughter of some types of non-ambulatory animals." Hard to believe this much time is needed to address an otherwise black and white issue.

Sorry to be a Debbie downer with this news report. i usually keep it pretty bright and hopeful. But sometimes it rains on my parade.