October 28th, 2013
September 29th, 2013
When Gardener’s Supply arrived in the Intervale in 1985 there were hundreds of junk cars, trash lined the dirt roads and a proud tradition of caring for the land and growing local food had been abandoned for decades.
Thirty years ago there were a billion people on the planet hungry and “food insecure” (ie. unable to access enough food to meet basic needs). Today there are still a billion people suffering in this way.
Our food system is failing us globally. In the US 50 million Americans — 1 in 4 children —don’t know where their next meal is coming from. 1 of 2 kids in the US will be on food assistance at some time in their life. This is a system and economic problem, not a production issue.
Mark Bittman wrote a good column for World Food Day Oct 16 reporting that industrial agriculture is NOT solving the hunger problem: How to Feed the World. In fact he points out that there are two food systems and one (industrial agriculture) can be highly inefficient:
"Let’s at last recognize that there are two food systems, one industrial and one of small landholders, or peasants if you prefer. The peasant system is not only here for good, it’s arguably more efficient than the industrial model. According to the ETC Group, a research and advocacy organization based in Ottawa, the industrial food chain uses 70 percent of agricultural resources to provide 30 percent of the world’s food, whereas what ETC calls “the peasant food web” produces the remaining 70 percent using only 30 percent of the resources."
In North America, home and community food gardening and the local food movement are essentially part of the “peasant food system”. There are no massive subsidies and no federal Farm Bill funding more efficient and environmentally healthy local food production.
I recognized this 30 years ago and it was one reason why I started Gardener’s Supply: to support and promote more gardening and local farming. 28 years ago we built Gardener’s Supply’s permanent home on 5 acres next to an abandoned slaughterhouse at the edge of a 700 acre flood plain called the Intervale that had become a dumping ground.Three years later we started the Intervale Center. Today, the Intervale Center is a dynamic nonprofit that implements innovative, replicable and place-based solutions to address some of global agriculture’s most pressing problems.
The Intervale Center aims to transform the food system from one that is degrading, anonymous and industrial, to one that is restorative, familiar and human-scale. They are working to foster a local food economy that is good for people and the planet. And, they have succeeded mightily.
The Intervale Center manages 350 acres of land for sustainable agriculture (hosting a dozen organic farms), conservation and recreation in the heart of Burlington, Vermont. They led the cleanup of the “dump” and have helped hundreds of new farmers to establish and grow their businesses in the Intervale and throughout Vermont, and beyond. They have grown new markets for local food and helped Vermont residents be the #1 consumers of local food in the US, per capita.
The Intervale Center also recognizes its opportunity and obligation to fight hunger, ensuring that anyone who wants healthy local food can access it, from low-income individuals to busy working families. It supports farmers to provide subsidized CSA shares, operates gleaning programs on local farms to supply local food shelves, and helps low income new Americans to grow and sell familiar food.
Twenty-five years later the Intervale Center can celebrate that it is one of the catalysts for the most effective state-wide local food system planning and change program in the US: Farm to Plate.
I invite you to help support the important work of the Intervale Center to strengthen America’s “peasant food system”: Donate.
August 30th, 2013
New raised bed CEN gardens
For over a decade I have been helping Restoring Our Watershed (www.ourwatershed.org) in Costa Rica to restore the environmental health and economic vitality of a 30,000 acre watershed on the Pacifica coast of Costa Rica. More local food production, including home and community gardens, is one of our programs. If we can help small land owners increase productivity of their land, using organic growing and permaculture principles we are also improving the watershed with better land use while improving livelihoods.
One of our local food system programs works with the Centro de Educacion y Nutricion to provide organic vegetables to young mothers and their children: http://www.ourwatershed.org/projects/cen-garden-program. Above is a photo of one CEN raised bed garden students installed this year. Mothers and their kids tend the gardens.
Unfortunately, the refrigerator where we store our seed failed during the rainy season and we lost all our saved seed two months ago. Planting for the ‘summer’ season begins Nov-Dec and we need to replace our seed stock.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SAVED SEED YOU CAN SPARE?
We need lettuce that grows well in the heat (85-90 degrees most days). Kale. chard, collards, arugula and basil also work for us. We also need disease resistant medium and cherry tomatoes you can recommend, plus tomatillos and peppers. Tomatoes and peppers that are good for processing are also needed. Larger cucumbers that thrive in the heat are needed plus large snap beans (like “Provider”). “Ticos’ also like pear-shaped chayote-type squash as well as watermelon. And, we need root crops (carrots, beets, radish), especially cultivars that perform in warm soil.
IF POSSIBLE CAN YOU SEND US YOUR SPARE SEED BEFORE THANKSGIVING?
If so we will have it growing in CEN gardens before Christmas. Send your seed to:
Gardener’s Supply Company
128 Intervale Road
Burlington, VT 05401
For your trouble I will send you a $10 Gardener’s Supply Coupon plus offer my deep gratitude for sharing your favorite seed with gardeners in Central America.
Here are some specific varieties we were saving that we hope to replace:
Black seeded Simpson
New Red Fire
Moon and Stars
Lynette and I are members of 2 CSA’s plus we grow 4 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Boy, are we swimming in tomatoes right now! We have hundreds of these luscious red, orange and pink fruits to deal with. I love to eat them fresh. This time of year tomatoes are 20-30% of the food I eat. Fortunately, Lynette loves to dehydrate, sauce, freeze and preserve them for the coming Vermont winter.
This is fortunate because “love apples” are incredibly good for our health and we can then eat this goodness from the garden all year. Most of us know tomatoes are rich in calcium and vitamins A and C (one tomato provides almost half of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C!), low in calories and fat free.
Tomatoes are also the best natural source of lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, which means it is a nutrient that can reduce damage to cells. Numerous research studies show Lycopene can reduce the risk of several cancers, including prostate, cervical, mouth, pharynx, throat, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectal, prostate and ovarian cancer.
Fresh tomatoes are a good source of lycopene but processed tomatoes contain even more. The process of cooking breaks down the cell walls, helping to release the lycopene. Eating tomatoes with a little bit of fat, such as olive oil, helps more lycopene to be better absorbed by the body.
Tomatoes also reduce the risk of heart disease. One study found that women who ate 7 to 10 servings of tomato products per week had a 30 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease than women who consumed less than a serving and a half of tomato products each week.
What’s more, these health benefits can be tripled for tomato products made with organic ingredients. Think of organic tomato sauce, soup, salsa and ketchup as a preventative treatment for cancer and heart disease, two of our deadliest diseases.
Lynette and I think of the fall as the perfect time to fill up our pantry and freezer with sun drenched medicines straight from our garden and local organic farms. And with today’s run away health care costs and rising food prices there is no better investment of your time than preserving tomatoes at home.
Ralph Borsodi was an American rural philosopher and practical economist. He wrote Flight from the City at the height of the depression in 1933, an early “back to the land” guide. In it he determined "the cost of the homemade product was much lower than the price of the factory-made merchandise. He wondered how his wife who worked alone, could produce tomato sauce and soup at a price lower than Campbell’s Soup with its labor-saving machines, massive economies of scale, and professional management. After much study, Ralph began to put the pieces together. He concluded:
“Transportation, warehousing, advertising, salesmanship, wholesaling,
retailing – all these aspects of distribution cost more than the whole
cost of fabricating the goods themselves. Less than one-third of what
the consumer pays when actually buying goods at retail is paid for the
raw materials and costs of manufacturing finished commodities.”
This conclusion still stands today, as farmers are paid only about 10% of the retail value of processed foods for the ingredients they supply. If you have the time and interest the best economic investment you can make this month is to process locally harvested organic tomatoes. At the same time you will also be investing in better health for you and your family. What a great outcome…lower cost of living AND better health, all from the garden!