Friday, October 24, 2008

Color Me Happy

I think it is fair to say that the dominant culture in America is not one that embraces color as something to which people should aspire. Most home decorators will include a "splash" of color and fashion/style designers would go with the same. Although there are pockets of minority cultures here that thrive on vibrant colors in their dress and home decor - think of the brilliant colors of women dressed in traditional Indian Saris or the rainbow of suits and hats on African American women at church on Sunday - but the majority of folks don't do color. I won't try to analyze why, it would all be just guessing.

For whatever reason, I am once again in love with color, trying to wear it and although I can't paint my house as I would like (some of my past abodes I painted such bright colors as rasberry sherbet pink, cantalope orange, and fresh spring green) I wanted to share this slide show and accompanying article of "outside" artist Anada McLauchlin whose work left me filled with joy and pure happiness.

This is the slideshow from the article:

Here's the article if you're so inclined, but definitely check out the art as well!

Love and hugs

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Local News to Crow About!

I am seriously considering creating a website that gathers information about local food and the various facets that involves. Until that happens, here are some more reports I've found, current and a bit dated.


1) "Let Them Eat Kale" in Chicago's School System

2) "Feeding the Locavores" in Southwest Virginia!

3) "Locavores Unite" Feeding North Carolinans Local Food

4) "Got Local? Farmers' Markets Draw Crowds" Even Canada is going local!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Locavores Across the Universe

So in lieu of always writing a lot, I'm also going to post news links to interesting food stories. Here's a Vermont School going local. While it is no longer "news" in that it is not completely new, I'm really excited that this practice is catching on in more and more places!

1)"Burlington Schools Celebrate Local Food and Local Farmers"

2) Go North Dakota!!! (Yes, you can eat locally in North Dakota, afterall, before Eisenhower's highway system existed to bring produce from Florida and California, local was all there was!)

"Local Foods Initiative Underway in North Dakota"

3) And in Montana...note that in this article the first farmer interviewed is from Big Sandy, which is where my favorite U.S. Senator (and organic farmer) Jon Tester is from.

"Agriculture, Local Food and Open Space at the New West Conference"

4) Wexford Ireland is no slouch either...

"Feeding Your Retail Habit"

5) And to round it out, here's a presidential like column on farming from Wisconsin.
(note all of these places are cold weather places, so it's not impossible!)

"McCain, Obama Should Pay Attention to Farmers"

Happy reading!

Love and hugs

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

DIYers Win This Round

All of you who know me know I’m a sucker for feel good stories that involve farmers, community and food. Straight out of Vermont in today’s New York Times is a doozie and I just have to share.

The story is about several different purveyors of food products – vegetable farmers, cheese makers, restauranteur – who have banded together in a loose sort of cooperation to bolster each other’s economic success and it’s working. You’ve got the cheesemakers who expanded their cheese cave to allow others to age their cheeses and farmers who include livestock farmers’ products in their CSA shares.

It’s a win-win all around because everyone gets more business, increasing recognition of their product and improving the community’s economic viability. It’s not communism or socialism because it was all self-initiated. I’m sure some people (not readers of this blog!) will read the New York Times article and sniff at the Vermont Hippies since it could be classified as communal in nature. But I like to think of it is neighborly in nature, and plain ole smart. So let’s hear it for the DIYers who didn’t need the government or the ideologues to tell them how to leverage their resources to improve everyone’s success, not just their own.

Love and Hugs

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Genius is All Around

Whenever I was running out of money in graduate school I’d throw a dinner party. It wasn’t something conscious, it would just happen. These were not small and intimate, but for 8 or more people. They were multi-course meals and I would cook for hours prior to my guests arriving. And they would be fabulous dinner parties, including such menus as homemade vegetable tempura with four flavored green beans or handmade pumpkin ravioli with a balsamic cream sauce. I even made bread and dessert and let my guests provide the libations. Looking back, I think I understand my actions in two ways; one, I refused to let a lack of money dictate my happiness and two, it was a challenge to see if I could make a sumptuous meal for many on less than $15, mostly using what was in the pantry. Needless to say I have a fairly well stocked pantry and the meals were vegetarian, but the meals were gorgeous, and even the carnivores coveted return invitations.

So just as Wall Street is in shambles and business credit is non-existent I keep dreaming up new business ventures. One after another they keep tumbling out of my head, like clowns coming out of a cannon. They’re full grown, with marketing and business plans in hand. Their painted faces keep popping up in front of me saying, “Pick me! Pick me!” And while they’re interesting and fun to play with, I fear they’re a bit outlandish.

And just when I’ve dismissed them as too niche oriented or something that only I and a very select group of people would be interested in, I read an article in the New York Times about an urban, organic, black farmer, Will Allen, who just won a “genius” award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which is – no joke – a gift of $500,000 ($100,000 a year for five years) to people who are considered genius in their field. They receive the money for simply being who they are. No grant writing, no application, no letters of recommendation. Just, hello, we think you’re doing amazing things, here’s half a million dollars, do whatever you want to do with it. Really.

So it turns out Will Allen founded and runs Green Power, which is one of these amazing nonprofits that has quietly been revolutionalizing farming, urban renewal, and sustainable food production. Green Power is located in one of the most economically distressed parts of Milwaukee, an area of town that doesn’t have real grocery stores, what people in the food movement refer to as urban “food deserts,” where the only access to food is corner grocery stories filled with beer, cigarettes and processed foods.

Green Power has been around for 16 years and now has a staff of about three dozen full-time workers and 2,000 residents pitching in as volunteers. They grow about $500,000 worth of affordable produce, meat and fish in several locations across the city and on 40 acres in a nearby town. This project is very similar to an organization here in Oakland, the People’s Grocery, which was founded five years ago to create a real grocery store in a similar “food desert” neighborhood. Like Green Power, the People’s Grocery has gardens and a few acres of farmland to raise its own produce to make available to the lowest income people.

But what I find so amazing is that Will Allen started this in 1994!! I didn’t even know the word organic in 1994! I didn’t even hear about such a thing as organic farming until 1996. I am in awe of both the foresight to create such a project and the ability to sustain and grow it to its present capacity. As the creation of the People’s Grocery demonstrates, the impetus to grow and provide healthy, sustainably grown food even in the urban food desert is not an isolated desire. This is a prime example of how greatness can come from poor conditions.

I am so thrilled that my desire, as expressed in yesterday’s blog post, to find the good that can come from scarce times manifested this wonderful example of ingenuity and social good. So let this be the first of many to inspire all to build a better future.

(link to the article)