Tag Archives: moms

FoodCorps Group Tours Alabama Sustainable Farms

Went to Montgomery, Ala., last week to tour some sustainable farms, as part of our NCAT Gulf States Office mission to promote sustainable agriculture in the 5-state region. It was a bringing together of some real heavyweights when it comes to local food, urban ag and community activism.

Members of the NCAT Gulf States Regional Office, Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity and FoodCorps service members pose with EAT South Executive Director Edwin Marty (right) in Montgomery, Ala., Oct. 16, 2013. From left: front: FoodCorps Members Mariel Parman, Claire Brown and Rebecca Rosenthal; Roadmap Executive Director Beneta Burt and NCAT Ag Specialist Felicia Bell; back row: FoodCorps Director Willie Nash, FoodCorps Fellow Liz Broussard, NCAT Gulf States Regional Director Rockiell Woods and Marty. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Members of the NCAT Gulf States Regional Office, Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity and FoodCorps service members pose with EAT South Executive Director Edwin Marty (right) in Montgomery, Ala., Oct. 16, 2013. From left: front: FoodCorps Members Mariel Parman, Claire Brown and Rebecca Rosenthal; Roadmap Executive Director Beneta Burt and NCAT Ag Specialist Felicia Bell; back row: FoodCorps Director Willie Nash, FoodCorps Fellow Liz Broussard, NCAT Gulf States Regional Director Rockiell Woods and Marty. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The FoodCorps service members who went on the trip seemed to have a good time and learned a lot. I can’t say enough good things about FoodCorps. Those who are based at Mississippi Roadmap for Health Equity next to our office at the old New Deal Grocery in Jackson are top notch! I see them every day going out to the local schools helping kids and moms appreciate fresh, local food that they grow right there at the inner city schools.

I also can’t say enough good about Roadmap Executive Director Beneta Burt, who has created a food oasis in the inner city of Jackson. Roadmap is located in Ward 3, the poorest of the city’s wards. She started a farmers market, providing a place where people in the neighborhood can come buy fresh, healthy, nutritious food locally.

She put in a fitness center so that neighborhood moms and elders can stay in shape. She started a summer school program that teaches kids good health habits and the importance of fitness and nutrition. She sponsors the FoodCorps volunteers for the local public schools.

She muscled through a rule with the capital city’s school board that food service personnel in the public schools can actually get paid to take fitness classes (which, in turn, make them more fitness aware in creating the food in the public schools). She’s a pillar of the state food policy council. And more than I can ennummerate here. Suffice it to say, she’s a real powerhouse.

Now, with this visit to Montgomery, Ala., she’s seen how E.A.T. South Executive Director Edwin Marty has created an urban ag program in the inner city there. E.A.T. stands for Education, Act, Transform! The organization encourages healthy lifestyles through education and sustainable food production in urban areas throughout the Southeast.

Burt had already started such a program; she was able to see how an established program works. E.A.T. South ushers some 5,000 school kids through its site annually, offering a demonstration for local folks there on how to grow their own food.

I can’t say enough good about Edwin, either. He literally wrote the book on urban agriculture, called Breaking Through Concrete, published by the University of California Press in 2012. See: www.breakingthroughconcrete.com.

I’m honored to know and be friends with both people. They certainly are incredible role models. If every city had a Beneta Burt and an Edwin Marty this would be a much healthier, happier planet!

E.A.T. South Executive Director Edwin Marty (left) of Montgomery, Ala., is shown with Beneta Burt, of Jackson, Miss., executive director of Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity Inc. , and Jim Ewing, outreach coordinator for the National Center for Appropriate Technology Gulf States Region. (NCAT photo)

E.A.T. South Executive Director Edwin Marty (left) of Montgomery, Ala., is shown with Beneta Burt, of Jackson, Miss., executive director of Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity Inc., and Jim Ewing, outreach coordinator for the National Center for Appropriate Technology Gulf States Region. (NCAT photo)

For more, see:
NCAT blog: https://www.ncat.org/gulf-states-office-tours-sustainable-farms-in-alabama/
Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity: http://mississippiroadmap.org/
E.A.T South: http://www.eatsouth.org

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @edibleprayers or visit blueskywaters.com.

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A Local Sustainable Beef and Poultry Operation

I’m way behind on keeping up with this blog on all the new things I’ve been seeing, learning and doing. I’ve been traveling so much – hardly two days in a row at home during the entire month of August – and September seems just as busy.

So, I’m just going to throw random thoughts and observations in here, and they might not be in chronological order.

To start, here’s photo of me taken Sunday speaking at the Farm Field Day that NCAT sponsored in Clay County, where I was speaking about the importance of sustainability in local food.

NCAT Outreach Coordinator Jim Ewing explains the importance of growing food sustainably and locally during a farm field day in Clay County, MS., Sept. 15, 2013.

NCAT Outreach Coordinator Jim Ewing explains the importance of growing food sustainably and locally during a farm field day in Clay County, MS., Sept. 15, 2013.

To cut to the chase, our Gulf States office of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (which operates the Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) and Gaining Ground – Sustainability Institute of Mississippi sponsored the field day to draw attention to a combined cattle/poultry/swine operation for its sustainable practices.

About 70 people attended — lots of them young moms and dads with small children who are interested in buying locally grown food. It was my honor to be asked to explain to them how and why sustainably grown food is as important as it being locally grown food – to the environment, to the consumer, to the farmer.

In this particular operation, the Clay County, Miss., farm of Johnny Wray, cattle, poultry and swine are used to improve the habitat and their own health by allowing each animal to do what it does best.

Patterned on the model made popular by Virginia farmer/author Joel Salatin, their hogs are cleaning out overgrown areas of the farm by rooting through underbrush and uprooting saplings. The chickens are housed in chicken tractors which are flat cages that allow the chickens to range through grass after the steers have moved through.

The cattle are “mob grazed” – kept in a bunch in approximately one acre paddocks, where they eat most of the grass offered. The chickens follow, eating the vegetation  that the cattle don’t like and eating the bugs that are there, along with those drawn to the cow patties.

What results is a flat, extremely fertile field that appears mowed like a golf course.

From that, by naturally eradicating weeds, indigenous prairie grasses are exposed to sunlight and allowed to come forward in the pasture. So that, next time, after the field has been rested, the cows and chickens will have even denser forage that is even more nutritious.

Instead of depleting natural resources, as “conventional” farming and grazing does, the rotational grazing of combined cattle and poultry improves the soil and forage as well as the health of the animals. That’s what is meant by a “sustainable” system.

As owner Wray notes, he no longer has to apply fertilizer to his fields or cut hay from them to artificially supplement his cattle. He grows them grassfed and finishes them himself without having to send them to a feeder lot. Though he keeps the cattle longer, they sell for much higher than otherwise. Plus, since they are grassfed and not fed corn or treated with chemicals, he fetches a higher price from consumers who are don’t trust chemically or artificially raised animals. He says he has more orders for his grassfed beef than he has cattle.

Wray is partnering in the cattle business with Elton Dean, a neighbor who is also a member of GGSIM’s Food Systems Committee. The operation is managed by Dustin Pinion and Ali Fratesi, who live in Starkville.  Dustin apprenticed under Salatin in 2011 and is showcasing his talents in partnership with Wray and Dean.

More on this later….

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Worst Produce for Pesticides

Don’t Buy Dirty

When it comes to produce, buying organic means not buying chemicals and pesticides with your food.

June 13, 2012

People can’t always buy organic for a variety of reasons: The local store may have limited supplies, they lack variety or cost is a consideration. But whatever the reason—or excuse—shoppers should be aware that some produce at the grocery store is more pesticide-laden than others.

Every year, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group tests all manner of produce for pesticides and chemicals to compile its list of the “Dirty Dozen,” and “Clean 15” foods. By using the list to choose the foods to buy organically, EWG says consumers can substantially lower their pesticide intake.

You would be surprised at the level of pesticide contamination found in common, conventionally grown food. According to EWG:
• Every sample of imported nectarines tested positive for pesticides, followed by apples (97.8 percent) and imported plums (97.2 percent).
• 92 percent of apples contained two or more pesticide residues‚ followed by imported nectarines (90.8 percent) and peaches (85.6 percent).
• Some 96 percent of all celery samples tested positive for pesticides, followed by cilantro (92.9 percent) and potatoes (91.4 percent).
• Nearly 90 percent of celery samples contained multiple pesticides, followed by cilantro (70.1 percent) and sweet bell peppers (69.4 percent).
• Hot peppers had been treated with as many as 97 pesticides, followed by cucumbers (68) and greens (66).

If that doesn’t underscore the need to “buy organic,” I don’t know what does. You might want to clip this out and keep it with you for handy reference when you go shopping.

According to EWG, if you choose five servings a day from the “Clean 15” instead of the “Dirty Dozen,” you can lower the volume of pesticide you consume daily by 92 percent. You’ll also eat fewer types of pesticides. Picking five from the “Dirty Dozen” would cause you to consume an average of 14 different pesticides a day, the EWG states. If you choose five servings from the “Clean 15,” you’ll consume fewer than two pesticides per day.

Additionally, because genetically modified, or GMO, seeds are more often used in conventionally raised corn, and the United States (unlike other countries) does not require GMO labeling, EWG recommends consumers only buy organic sweet corn; GMO seeds are banned in organic growing.

For more information, including a printable “Clean 15/Dirty Dozen” wallet card, visit http://www.ewg.org/foodnews.

The Clean 15
These are the lowest in contamination; if you must buy commercially raised products, stick to this list.

1. Onions
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocados
5. Asparagus
6. Sweet peas
7. Mangoes
8. Eggplants
9. Cantaloupes, domestic
10. Kiwis
11. Cabbages
12. Watermelons
13. Sweet potatoes
14. Grapefruits
15. Mushrooms

The Dirty Dozen
Always buy these foods grown organically to avoid pesticide intake.

1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Nectarines, imported
7. Grapes, imported
8. Sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Blueberries, domestic (These are grown locally in Mississippi; ask your farmer.)
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/collard greens

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Mother’s Day moms can get naked in garden, grocery

May 6, 2011

Mother’s Day moms can get naked in the garden, grocery

Stumped for something useful and unique to give Mom on Mother’s Day on Sunday?

Why not give her some tips on how to get naked in the grocery store or garden – the organic garden, of course! – and get healthier while she’s at it.

There’s actually a new book scheduled for release in June: Eat Naked: Unprocessed, Unpolluted & Undressed Eating for a Healthier, Sexier You by Margaret Floyd (New Harbinger, Oakland, Calif., $16.95).

Of course, the title doesn’t refer to actually getting nude, but rather the dos and don’ts of processed foods, and regarding organic and sustainable farming practices and how they relate to the foods we eat.

In it are all manner of facts that tend to get glossed over; for example, most folks know that soy is a great protein source. But what Floyd points out is that soy also has in it enzyme inhibitors that make it less than ideal as a food source. Preparation can make soy more useful to the body, such as through fermentation, she notes.

Floyd outlines other issues that affect nutrition, such as gluten intolerance, “good” and “bad” fats, best ways to eat nuts and seeds, along with meat and fish facts (it’s not strictly vegan or vegetarian).

She even has a checklist not only for shopping, but “How Naked is My Dinner?” including: “Is it made from fresh ingredients? Are they organic? Are the veggies local? Is the meat from pastured animals or industrial? …”

It’s a fun title for a sound book on food and nutrition. Since it won’t be out until until next month, you can clip out this article and hand it to her on Sunday along with a gift card for your local bookstore and a note: “Run free, Ma!”

If Mom already has a handle on how she grows, eats, and shops, how about how she views food, farming and gardening and the ethical responsibility of consumers in shaping food choices?

For an interesting read, see: Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe, by Maria Rodale, Rodale Books, 2010, $23.99).

Folks my age will remember her father, Bob Rodale, who died in a car accident in 1990, and her grandfather, J.I. Rodale, who died in 1971, and were among the founders of the modern organic movement.

Maria Rodale is following in their footsteps, although, some might say that, despite the rather aggressive title of her book, she’s a bit “soft” on industrial farming and latitude given Big Ag in adopting the “organic” label.

The fact is, as she notes, her father and grandfather would be astounded that organic was now “mainstream.”

Nonetheless, the book is “must read” in the current state of the evolution of organics and offers great insights into how modern farming is being transformed – and areas in which greater transformation is needed.

As she notes, the consumer is dictating the future of agriculture through food choices, requiring sustainability, accountability, transparency and safety. The challenge is to keep organic standards rigorous and reliable.

Finally, if you’ve wondered how young moms or moms-to-be may be faring in agriculture, there’s a wonderful book about a couple of 25-year-olds starting their own organic farm.

The Wisdom of the Radish: And Other Lessons Learned on a Small Farm by Lynda Hopkins (Sasquatch Books, Seattle, 2011, $23.95) is a sweet, sometimes humorous and sometimes bittersweet tale of a young woman learning the joys and heartaches of growing food for others.

I found myself sadly shaking my head in agreement and wishing some things were different; such as the harsh realities of the marketplace, the hard work involved for little pay. But it remarkably outlines the optimism of young people going into farming, a trend called The Greenhorn Movement, and speaks with love and tenderness toward the magnificent calling that is being stewards of the earth.

A great book. I won’t tell how it ends, but it does surprise!

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.