Wowed by WV, Part 1

I have always loved West Virginia, but I have never thought of WV as a local food destination, nor has any dish I’ve had there really excited me (other than the Treehugger burrito at Hellbender Burritos in Davis). So imagine my surprise upon visiting Berkeley Springs for the first time and eating some really good food and finding great support for local farmers! Unfortunately, the place I really wanted to try was closed while I was there, but I’ll share the menu anyway since they serve local food.

Cool Thing #1: CGM (Community Garden Market) Natural & Organic Foods

While browsing around the market, saw Cool Thing #2: an ad for a local farm directory.

You can get the Morgan County Farm Directory here to help you find local produce, meat, plants, and agricultural supplies in Morgan County. The page also lists a couple restaurants in the county that serve local food.

Next to that flyer was Cool Thing #3: an ad for the Berkeley Springs farmers market.

The market runs Thursdays and Sundays through much of the year; unfortunately that doesn’t include December, which is when I was there. Local farmers and business people sell produce, dairy products, eggs, plants, herbs, baked goods, sauces, jams, honey, and more.

Cool Thing #4 spotted while browsing the art galleries in town. Another flyer, cool because it’s raising awareness of local issues, but not cool for the content:

What is fracking, and why is it important to the citizens of Morgan County? Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the injection of highly-pressurized water into rock to create new cracks and channels to ease extraction of fossil fuels. Environmental concerns around fracking include air pollution, groundwater contamination, and earthquakes. The web site seeks to ban fracking in Morgan County by educating residents and linking the local movement to other anti-fracking groups across the state.

To be continued…

How do you say “happy chickens” in Chinese?

These people know!

Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden

Everybody can help to make a difference, every day, through small choices and lifestyle changes that can have big impacts to the general health and well-being of the planet.

While wandering around Hong Kong, looking for a Pret in Central, Mr. HP and I came upon a woman selling eggs and displaying this:

She didn’t understand my questions, but gave me a flyer for Kadoorie Farm. It’s too far from downtown to visit on this trip, like the Singapore goat farm, but it’s a great educational resource for the city-folk, and I hope it gets many visitors.

From the poultry section of their site:

Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG) raises chickens in a healthy living environment. In 2004, we adopted “natural” poultry farming practices. We care about animal welfare and treat our chickens with dignity. They are free to roam, enjoy fresh air in their living area and can stay outdoors. We do not use antibiotics or growth hormones. This is different from ‘factory-farms’ where large numbers of animals are tightly packed, crowded together. We believe a healthy environment is critical for bringing up strong and healthy animals. We have also set up a waste management system to recycle organic resources generated from our poultry into compost for use in organic farming of vegetables and fruits.

For the past 50 years, KFBG has worked to improve livestock farming. In the early history of the Farm, one of our main goals was to help local farmers by raising and supplying quality livestock, namely, chickens and pigs. Today, we still keep a family of 11 pigs as a heritage display and maintain a natural poultry farming system with about 2,000 chickens.

The farm has walking trails, educational displays, a cafe, flower and vegetable gardens, an aviary, and a pig sty, in addition to the chicken farm. Sounds like a lovely place for locals to spend a few hours enjoying the environment and learning about responsible consumerism.

(Bonus: while researching this post, I learned there’s a Pret only 2 blocks from my hotel!)


Hints from Haute Pasture

Today’s hint is courtesy of State Farm. I don’t usually read the little magazines they mail customers to remind you that they care, but for some reason I read the most recent issue, and was pleased to see “A Greener Green: Eight time-saving penny-pinching, eco-friendly ways to get the lawn you want.”

Suggestion #1 jumped out at me as I have been reading about this problem on farms. As do farmers on their fields, homeowners often overuse fertilizers and pesticides on their lawns, and the overage runs off into waterways. The chemicals can be toxic to fish, and the fertilizers promote algae growth, crowding out fish and sucking up the oxygen from the water. Instead, homeowners (and farmers!) should use natural fertilizers and pesticides which won’t contribute chemicals to the rivers and oceans.

See related posts here and here.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma QotD

(From Grass: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pasture, p. 197-198)

In fact, grassing over that portion of the world’s cropland now being used to grow grain to feed ruminants would offset fossil fuel emissions appreciably. For example, if the sixteen million acres now being used to grow corn to feed cows in the United States became well-managed pasture, that would remove fourteen billion pounds of carbon from the atmosphere each year, the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road.

Moral: consumers have the ability to create change through purchase power. Make a difference by avoiding corn-fed beef and support your local farmers who raise cows on pasture.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma QotD

(From Big Organic chapter, p. 183)

The food industry burns nearly a fifth of all the petroleum consumed in the United States (about as much as automobiles do). Today it takes between seven and ten calories of fossil fuel energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to an American plate. And while it is true that organic farmers don’t spread fertilizers made from natural gas or spray pesticides made from petroleum, industrial organic farmers often wind up burning more diesel fuel than their conventional counterparts: in trucking bulky loads of compost across the countryside and weeding their fields, a particularly energy-intensive process involving extra irrigation (to germinate the weeds before planting) and extra cultivation. All told, growing food organically uses about a third less fossil fuel than growing it conventionally, according to David Pimentel, though that savings disappears if the compost is not produced on site or nearby.

Moral of the story: eat local foods! Another bonus–food that travels less distance will be fresher and tastier!

The Omnivore’s Dilemma QotD

(from the Big Organic chapter, p157)

Along with the national list of permissible synthetics, “access to pasture,” and, for other organic animals, “access to the outdoors” indicate how the word “organic” has been stretched and twisted to admit the very sort of industrial practices for which it once offered a critique and an alternative. The final standards also demonstrate how, in Gene Kahn’s words, “everything eventually morphs into the way the world is.” And yet the pastoral values and imagery embodied in that word survive in the minds of many people, as the marketers of organic food well understand: Just look at a container of organic milk, with its happy cows and verdant pastures. Thus is a venerable ideal hollowed out, reduced to a sentimental conceit printed on the side of a milk carton: Supermarket Pastoral.

Was going to stop there, but an interesting counterpoint follows:

Get over it, Gene Kahn would say. The important thing, the real value of putting organic on an industrial scale, is the sheer amount of acreage it puts under organic management. Behind every organic TV dinner or chicken or carton of industrial organic milk stands a certain quantity of land that will no longer be doused with chemicals, an undeniable gain for the environment and the public health.

Industrial agriculture is killing our fisheries

Nitrogen and phosphorus from industrial farming and chicken factories is washing into the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico and over-fertilizing algae. The enormous algae blooms take over fish habitats and consume all the oxygen, making hypoxic zones where no aquatic life can survive.

Your Chicken Nuggets Are Killing Your Crab Cakes

The primary source of the chemicals is industrial corn farms in the Midwest, and factory chicken farms in the Mid-Atlantic.

Industrial corn farms over-apply fertilizers to their fields. The crops cannot absorb the entire amount, and rains carry the residual chemical from the corn farms into the Mississippi, which deposits them in the Gulf of Mexico, where they feed the algae bloom.

The chicken factories on the Delmarva Peninsula produce a huge amount of nitrogen- and phosphorus-rich manure, too much of which is washed into the Chesapeake Bay.

I think the title of the linked article sums it up nicely. If you, like me, enjoy Maryland crab cakes or Louisiana shrimp gumbo, stop eating factory-farmed chicken and processed corn-containing products!


Cheers! (i.e., British kudos)

A couple shout-outs from HP’s recent trip to London…

Marks and Spencer’s Forever Fish campaign:

M&S has had a sustainable fishing policy for 12 years and 84% of the wild fish sold at M&S is now independently certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or undergoing MSC certification. But now M&S wants to take it further – and that is where Forever Fish comes in. Through partnerships with WWF and Marine Conservation Society, education programmes in primary schools and Fish of the Month promotions, the plan is to take the lead to make sure our sea life is protected for future generations to enjoy.

and Chop’d, which uses local ingredients where possible:

Wherever possible we work with the seasons. Every September we take the van down to Kent to pile it full of heirloom apples from Brogdale Farm, home of the National Fruit Collection. Every spring we gather bagfuls of wild garlic from the woods of West Sussex.

All our chicken comes from a single farm on the Essex/Suffolk border, is barn reared and meets farm-assured and ‘red tractor’ standards.

Defeat for Big Corn?

News from the NRDC blog: Senate votes overwhelmingly to end corn ethanol subsidies

  • The amendment will end three decades of subsidies to the corn ethanol industry and save taxpayers several billion dollars.
  • The VEETC (Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit) [cost] taxpayers $6 billion this year alone and [gave] almost nothing in return in domestic ethanol production or industry jobs above and beyond what is already mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard
  • [The VEETC] comes at the expense of developing the new and cleaner advanced biofuels we need to create jobs, increase our energy security and address global warming.

We wanted to see if Michael Pollan had written anything recently about ethanol subsidies, and read this article from 2006:

  • The way we grow corn in this country consumes tremendous quantities of fossil fuel: Every bushel of corn grown in America has consumed the equivalent of between a third and a half gallon of gasoline.
    • Corn receives more synthetic fertilizer than any other crop, and that fertilizer is made from fossil fuels — mostly natural gas.
    • Corn also receives more pesticide than any other crop, and most of that pesticide is made from petroleum.
    • To plow or disc the cornfields, plant the seed, spray the corn and harvest it takes large amounts of diesel fuel
    • To dry the corn after harvest requires natural gas.
  • Distill[ing] the corn into ethanol, an energy-intensive process that requires still more fossil fuel. Estimates vary, but they range from two-thirds to nine-tenths of a gallon of oil to produce a single gallon of ethanol. (The more generous number does not count all the energy costs of growing the corn.) Some estimates are still more dismal, suggesting it may actually take more than a gallon of fossil fuel to produce a gallon of our putative alternative to fossil fuel.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, it will cost U.S. taxpayers $120 for every barrel of oil saved by making ethanol.
  • The federal government offers a tax break of 54 cents for every gallon of ethanol produced
  • At the same time, the government protects domestic ethanol producers by imposing a tariff of 54 cents a gallon on imported ethanol
  • Ethanol is just the latest chapter in a long, sorry history of clever and profitable schemes to dispose of surplus corn: there was corn liquor in the 19th century; feedlot meat starting in the 1950’s and, since 1980, high fructose corn syrup.

This all reminds us of a t-shirt we saw recently: It’s not clear from the creator’s description if she is making a statement about the large quantity of corn products found in the composition of the average American body…



Company delivers local food to consumers

A start-up grocery delivery service in Charlottesville, VA, Relay Foods,  recently got some attention from Forbes:

An Online Grocer For Web 2.0. Just Don’t Call It Webvan 2.0.

Relay helps bring consumers and local food producers together by purchasing from small farms, bakeries, butchers, and cheese shops in the Charlottesville area, and delivering the groceries to buyers at convenient pick-up locations. This model gives people easier access to local foods; cuts down on greenhouse gases and cars on the road as many orders are combined into fewer trips made in biodiesel-fueled trucks; and opens a new distribution channel for the local businesses.

We find it interesting that the article refers to Charlottesville, Haute Pasture’s home, as “the locavore capital of the world.”

More from Relay’s web site:

Support a Sustainable Community
Communities are resilent entities. But over time, even the strongest ones become threatened when the ties that bind are loosened. Relay strengthens the ties that bind us to one another. Food is the key that unlocks relationships to farmers, to shop owners, to chefs, to bakers and cheesemakers. Through Relay, you experience the small town connection to those who grow and purvey the food you love to eat!

Shop Green
Relay has designed its operations to be light on the earth. Together with you we reduce our collective carbon footprint. Most food travels on average 1500 miles. With its farm vendors, Relay dramatically reduces the miles from farm to table. Take your car off the road and let Relay do your shopping for you in its small biodiesel-fueled trucks.

If you live or work in the Charlottesville area, check out Relay Foods!