Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sustainable Farming Grants

The Garden Rant Blog (listed in my favorites) featured a link to these grant opportunities for sustainable farming initiatives all over the country. Go ahead: I dare ya to grow food and help your community!

I am going to look into what is involved in turning an empty urban lot into a public garden space...we have so many of them in Albany. Even better would be to turn it into a vegetable garden where people can grow and eat their produce, and maybe even sell it in local markets.

I spend half my days gardening or thinking about it. Mostly flowers. But having grown up in a family that grew much of our food, and having really enjoyed the fruits of my labor this past summer (mmmm, tomatoes, basil, parsley, dill), I know it is something I will try to do on a slightly larger scale from now on. Home-grown food is the future, people.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Heirloom Apple Poem

Thanks to my friend Anne of the Green Leanings blog, who shared this wonderful poem with me. It's by Emma Lee, and celebrates the quirky, musical names and remarkable qualities of many heirloom apples from the region of Devon, near Cornwall in southern England.


He was tall and slender like a Longstem,
eyes soft of grey-Blue Sweet, alert, witty brain,
blemish-free, clear, pale skin like Hollow Core,
hair blue-black as the stem of Loral Drain,

restrained with a Dufflin’s subtlety,
the opposite of a Hoary Morning,
well-respected - unlike Slack Ma Girdle -
our hero composed as a Keswick Cooling.

Our heroine has grace of Sour Natural,
the fairness of Jacob’s Strawberry,
had rejected suitors like Johnny Voun,
and Johnny Andrews, such was her beauty.

For the rest of this delightful poem, go to the Lost Stones blog.

(photo from

Monday, November 17, 2008

What does "Green" Mean?

Okay, somehow I missed the launch of the Green is Universal website last November. Now they're celebrating their second Green Week on MSNBC. (One anchor recently made the point that Ebay and Craigslist are "green" because they encourage recycling--I totally agree.) I guess for a giant media corporation to show its concern about environmental issues is a good thing, but how much of it is pandering to consumers with deep pockets? Let's face it, for the most part, people interested in these issues tend to be liberals and liberals tend to be urban and often well-heeled. This is not to denigrate all the wonderful liberal Democrats, Libertarians, Greens and unaffiliated folks out there who are trying every day to live their lives in an environmentally-responsible way and have done for years.

But have we not heard and seen all this before? "Green" might as well be a coat of toxic paint. Remember when the lawncare giant ChemLawn changed their name to Tru-Green? Did they suddenly stop using dangerous pesticides and herbicides? No! A number of large manufacturers are claiming to create and market "greener" products (like Clorox's new green cleaning sprays, or Clairol's Natural Instincts haircolor). But what about smaller companies that have been making these things for years, like Simply Green, and Arm & Hammer, and Trader Joe's, Burt's Bees, The Body Shop, and good old Dr. Bronner's?

Sadly some of these companies are no longer the small concerns they used to be; Burt's Bees has been sold to Clorox. That's right, the company that used to be owned and run by a former beekeeper is now under the auspices of the biggest bleach makers on the planet. The wide range of body care products made from herbs and natural plant oils has given way to more make-up and a smaller range of choices. The Body Shop, the UK-based international company that was a fine model of environmentally-friendly practices including using fair-trade ingredients, was sold two years ago to L'Oreal, a big traditional cosmetics company. These changes in ownership affect products; The Body Shop no longer carries many of its original products made from simple natural ingredients and now focuses on "home fragrance" and cosmetics.

So I guess what I am wondering is, will the green revolution ever really happen? Or is it all just a big scam designed to make rich corporations richer? Isn't environmental responsibility connected to economic responsibility too? I know one can chose to have one's investment portfolio concentrate in "green" companies. What would happen to our economy if more people did this?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sarah Palin on migrant labor and apples

This article from the Reuters blog mentions a pre-election conversation the Vice Presidential candidate had with a Pennsylvania apple grower, in which the Alaska governor assumes his biggest worry must be Chinese imports. But in truth the grower is more concerned about Washington State apples, which represent 60% of the apples grown in the U.S. The Pennsylvania orchardist expressed concern that he could not find enough migrant labor to pick the harvest, and no other local workers could be found who would do it.

The comments this article sparks, about immigration and migrant labor, among other things, is interesting.

In other related news, this video from looks at a similar labor shortage in Europe during crucial periods of fruit harvesting.

This article details the history of migrant labor and fruit harvests in Washington State. And, from 2006, an artic le on the importance of migrant labor in the NY State apple harvest, in Poughkeepsie.

I am of the opinion that jobs should be given to whoever needs them, and in this case, whoever wants them. What troubles me is that, with such high levels of unemployment is so many areas, how is it that people are unwilling to pick apples for a living? I honestly believe one reason we have been looking at the erosion of small farm concerns in this country is that people just don't see this kind of work as proper employment any more. If it's not in an office or a shopping mall, it's somehow not worthy of us. This is silly. What happened to good, honest, physical labor? And what better work is there than growing healthy food?

BTW, the new blog image is from Flickr photographer LinnMarr:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Willie Nelson sez to Obama: It's all about food!

Pro-pot, pro-farm, awesomely-cool country music icon Willie Nelson has posted an open letter to President-Elect Obama on the Good Food Movement. This movement has swelled and thrived just fine without government interference, but now, Nelson insists, is the time for the federal government to create policies that support what many in America think will save out ailing country and its farms and foodways.

Supporting local farms bolsters economies, provides fresher food for everyone, reduces use of fossil fuels (and thereby may lower food prices in the long run), and preserves small farms (which have disappeared at alarming rates across America. Family farms also embrace alternative fuel sources and environmentally-friendly and sustainable practices.

Check out the many links in the article (yes I blogged it and sneakily made you link to it, ha ha) to learn more about family farms and how to support local food.

It's one thing for journalist and food activist Michael Pollan to offer advice on food policy to the White House via the New York Times, but when a celebrity and known mover and shaker (remember Farm Aid?) does it, let's hope it has a more populist impact.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

True Samhain: November 7th

Since Jason on the Wild Hunt Blog linked to last year's post on True Samhain, I thought it would be a good idea to post here with this year's update. True Samhain, or the time when the Sun enters 15 degrees of Scorpio, the true cross quarter, is November 7th.

So those of you who want to follow up your Hallowe'en celebrations with a more somber, calmer observance apart from the high-energy (and undeniable power and cultural passion) of Hallowe'en, you now have another day to do so, nearly a week later!

Blessings to you all in this season of reflection, harvest, and anticipation of darkness.

(image from

Today's featured blog: Fruits and Votes!

Seems appropriate. And the author once contacted me because of eerie similarities in our blogs (not subject matter so much but terms we chose, etc.) and I have linked to it for a while now. It's a great site and has some helpful and sane info for those wringing their hands today, on this most significant occasion of electing our next leader.

Don't fuck it up, people. Go vote. Vote your conscience, vote strategically, vote out of spite, but VOTE. It's your duty.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Orchards dying out?

I found this distressing article from September about rare and heirloom varieties of orchard fruit dying out in the British Isles. This represents a tragic loss not only of fruit varieties but also of habitat for virtually millions of living things.