Join the City Dock Community Garden

Grow Annapolis is now accepting Plot Applications for the City Dock Community Garden in Downtown Annapolis. If you are interested in joining this garden, please submit your applications online by March 15th. Gardenerships will be given on a first come basis.  To read more about this great Annapolis project and to fill out an application, go here.

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GOT (Grass-Fed) MILK?

Milk is vastly different than what was consumed in the 1950’s.  Back then, cows produced 4 to 5 gallons of protein-rich milk with high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids (which are natural anti-inflammatories) and up to five times CLA  (conjugated linoleic acid) which boosts your immune system and is also anti-inflammatory.  Now, half of the milk in this country comes from just 3% of the dairy farms.  That is milk from confined cows who eat grains (corn and soy – usually GMO), have no access to exercise (whereas, a healthy cow should walk about a mile a day) and is producing between 8 to 10 gallons of milk a day due to artificial growth hormones. A cow is a ruminant, which means it should be eating grass and not grains.   Of course, these confinement dairy producers will tell you that the milk has the same health benefits as the grass-fed, pastured cow’s milk.  But I think common sense should tell you otherwise.

Well, there are more options than ever to get the milk you may remember drinking as a kid – starting with Trickling Springs in Chambersburg, PA.  You can find Trickling Springs milk, cream and butter at Graul’s, Whole Foods, The Dutch Market in Annapolis, Sun & Earth, and MOM’s. Trickling Springs uses milk only from happy, grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone free cows!

Would you like grass-fed, antibiotic, hormone free REAL GLASS BOTTLED MILK, (and many other products) delivered right to your house just like the old days? Well, it’s possible now in Annapolis thanks to South Mountain Creamery (Middleton, MD).   To read more about what they feed their cows, go here.

Natural by Nature (West Grove, PA) is one of my favorite products.  I use their Half and Half for my coffee.  They are organic, grass-fed and use a low –temp pasteurization. I buy this at Whole Foods and MOM’s.

And, finally…Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy, Ohio. A bit out of the 100 mile range I like to keep, but I’m so pleased with their philosophy that I wanted to include them.  Their cows are grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free and minimally processed.  You can buy this at Whole Foods, MOM’s and probably any health/whole food store in your area.

 Of course, on any of these milks, I would recommend that you drink the whole milk…why take out all the good nutrients (Vitamins A & D) that have been placed there by nature by drinking a low-fat or non-fat.

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Politically Incorrect Nutrition: Debunking the Low-Fat Myth

Well, let me begin this blog with an apology for NOT blogging reglarly the past six months.  Thus, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to blog at least once a week.  I have had a lot of personal changes (challenges and triumphs) since May of last year and am just now really coming into a more stable time in my life. 

Having said all that….Local Food Beat has a new class:  Politically Incorrect Nutrition:  Debunking the Low-Fat Myth.  Read what a student said:  “I attended your Politically Incorrect food seminar on January 8 and was fascinated by much of the material. The slides showing the progression of obesity rates from the CDC site was memorable, followed by your explanation of the impact corn and soy products have on the food system. As you recommended, I went home and watched Food, Inc. which is a very disturbing film. That convinced me to take your advice and try ingesting grass-fed animal products. I started this on Saturday and have already noticed a difference in: (a) the amount of food I eat which is so much less than before; (b) my mood is terrific; (c) my energy levels are fantastic; and (d) I am sleeping soundly without waking up at night.  What a difference! I was a little suspicious about your claim that you lost 20+ lbs just eating properly… Now, I understand how you did it. It really is true that you can easily control appetite when eating the right, but politically incorrect, foods.” GW

 I could not have said it better myself.  I lost over 20 lbs in 2010 without being hungry and/or depriving myself of good, nutrient dense food…and have kept it off.  I went from a size 10/12 to a solid size 6.

 The next class is Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 7 – 8:30 pm at my house (snow date is 2/17).  Due to space it is limited to 10 people.  Please go to Upcoming Events to register.  Upon registration, I will be giving the address.  Hope to see you!  Also, don’t forget that Local Food Beat has a facebook page.  I post a lot of good information including Winter Farmers Market info as well as local food and event information and related articles.

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Save Our Raw Cheese! And Senate Bill 510

Would you believe the following statement has actually been made by the FDA and is in the public record?   “The American people have no ”fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health” and “do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish”.   Senate Bill 510 may be one of the biggest threats to small producers and farmers than has ever been seen before.  The American Thinker had the following to say about the bill.  Introduced by Dick Durbin of Illinois, the bill has moved through the usual phases of amalgamation and deal-making. The monstrosity advancing to the floor on Wednesday is not so much “food safety” as it is the decadence of the rights of small farmers, hobbyist food producers, garden-variety farmers markets, and your average small producer of foodstuffs. Under the rubric of safety, this Senate proposes a bill that establishes such new and sweeping powers over how you and I produce and consume foodstuffs that even the Pew Charitable Trusts are calling S510 a clear and present danger.” It is imperative that we call our Senators TODAY and MONDAY and ask them to vote AGAINST S.510.  I have already called twice this week.  Here are the numbers:  Cardin: (202) 224-4524 and Mikukski: (202) 224-4654.  If you would like to read more about this bill, please visit The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund’s website and read their talking points.

Now on to Who Stole the Cheese?!  And this really is all the same issue because small farmers and producers are being attacked from every direction.  There have been numerous farm raids in the past 6 months (including my own Amish farmer with just 36 cows). FDA officials have served warrants, knocked on farmers doors at the early hours disturbing unsuspecting local farmers, and demanded healthy nourishing foods to be destroyed without justified cause.  A great partner of Local Food Beat is Nourishing Creations, and Liz has written a great blog on the raid and I am reposting:

   ” ….our Amish Farmer was raided and spied on by agents earlier this year. He is a gentle peaceful farmer who cares for his farm and supports his family off of his land.  It infuriated me when I found out agents came to his farm, unannounced at 5 in the morning during “normal” business hours. The agents terrified his children and family. His children asked, Is daddy going to jail?   That’s when I broke into tears- because this kind, and peaceful man who raises his animals in a natural and healthy way- supports and provides food for many people- including my child who thrives on food and dairy from his farm.

We have to protect our local farmers who provide us the clean, health building foods that our families and our nation needs to be well- and to raise up a well formed and nourished future generation.  If WE don’t stop this from happening NOW, then who will?   We must ensure access to healthy local foods for ourselves, the farmers, and the future generation. We have the RIGHT to choose and EAT healthy nutrient dense foods!  No more bullying our farmers!”

Amen Liz!

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As eating locally becomes more and more popular and quite the buzz word, it is important that the consumer really understand why it is important to eat local food that has been grown sustainably (grass-fed and/or pastured raised). 

First, raising animals on pasture instead of factory farms is a net benefit to the environment. A diet of grazed grass requires much less fossil fuel than a feedlot diet of dried corn and soy. Traditional farming has minimal carbon dioxide emissions because animals on pasture require the use of very little machinery.

Second, grazing animals do their own fertilizing thus limiting polluting emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency says, “Before the 1970s, methane emissions from manure were minimal because the majority of livestock farms in the U.S. were small operations where animals deposited manure in pastures and corrals,” Unfortunately, the EPA found that with the rise of factory farms, the inevitable sewage ponds became the “norm and methane emissions skyrocketed.” According to a July 2011 study conducted by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, a 10,000 cow confinement dairy in Idaho produces staggering amounts of greenhouse gases. Every day, 37,075 pounds of pollution spew into the air. This breaks down into 33,092 pounds of methane, 3,575 pounds of ammonia, and 409 pounds of nitrous oxide. Raising dairy cows on pasture results in a fraction of this amount of pollution.

Third, and maybe the ultimate benefit,is that  pasture-based farming does an excellent job of harvesting solar energy. Enough solar energy hits the Earth in one hour to power the world for a year. One sustainable farmer stated, “While food is what we sell, we are really in the business of harvesting solar energy by means of living plants grown on healthy soil. Then grazing animals package the natural resources of these plants into a very healthy food product for people to nourish themselves with.”

Fourth, eating pastured foods is more healthy for you than eating foods from confined animal operations. Nicholas Perricone wrote in 7 Secrets to Beauty, Health and Longevity, “Researchers have also compared key antioxidants in meat from pasture-fed and grain-fed cattle. The grass-fed meat was higher in vitamin C, vitamin E, and folic acid. It was also 10 times higher in beta-carotene.”  Nature always has the best solutions. For instance, the richer the soil (back to the ultimate solar energy), the more nutritious the grass. Cows that eat that wonderfully nutritious grass make extra-nutritious milk that has more antioxidants, more omega-3 fatty acids, and more beta-carotene for us to consume.

Got milk? Got grass fed beef?

To find a grass-fed farmer near you (in addition to the ones who will be with us this coming weekend), please visit the following websites: www.eatwild.com, www.futureharvestcasa.org, www.localharvest.com, and for other resources in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, go to www.cbf.org (under ACT tab – Buy Fresh Buy Local).

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 This was written by Patrick Crawford from The National Fork and has been used by permission.
 

With a gallon of gasoline in America now averaging almost $4.00, the topic of oil dependence is timely.

Cheap oil and other fossil fuels have helped create the modern American economy, and to a lesser extent, the economies of other industrialized cultures around the world. Big industry totally depends on them. Naturally, this includes the food industry.

Let’s list some of the ways in which cheap fossil fuels sustains the conventional food system in America.

  1. Factory farm grain is sown and harvested using enormous tractors that run on fossil fuels.
  2. Factory farms depend on fertilizers, which are made using fossil fuels.
  3. Factory farm chemicals are dispersed with vehicles that run on fossil fuels.
  4. Factory farm corn and soy are transported long distances to industrial feeding operations in vehicles using fossil fuels.
  5. Factory farm animals are transported to industrial feeding operations in vehicles using fossil fuels.
  6. Factory farm manure is managed with vehicles using fossil fuels.
  7. Factory farm animals are transported to slaughterhouses in vehicles using fossil fuels.
  8. Factory farm corn and soy are transported long distances to industrial processing facilities in vehicles using fossil fuels.
  9. Industrial processing facility workers are transported long distances to and from work in vehicles using fossil fuels.
  10. Factory farm dairy, meat, vegetables, and processed foods are packaged with materials made from fossil fuels.
  11. Factory farm dairy, meat, vegetables, and processed foods are transported long distances to supermarkets using fossil fuels.
  12. Factory farm consumers travel to and from supermarkets in vehicles using fossil fuels.
  13. Industrial food products are shipped around the world in vessels using fossil fuels.

According to Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivor’s Dilemma, in the industrial food system, “it takes more than a calorie of fossil fuel energy to produce a calorie of food, ” and that’s before the food even leaves the farm! Pollan states, “from the standpoint of industrial efficiency, it’s too bad we can’t simply drink the petroleum directly.”

According to Polyface Farms farmer and author Joel Salatin, the current industrial food model that fossil fuels made possible is revolutionary. In his new book, Folk, this ain’t normal, he explains that, prior to the modern age, energy was a precious and rare commodity. He states:

Not very long ago, the average person was responsible for his own energy. … [A person] had to maintain a horse to travel somewhere. That horse required care and feed. [The person] had to cut wood with an ax and crosscut saw to feed the woodstove and, before woodstoves, the incredible inefficient fireplace. Waterwheels often powered grain mills and sawmills. Later, steam engines powered these things, as well as trains. Coal gradually replaced wood. Lights came from candles made from animal fat. All of this took lots of time.

Joel then goes on:

Because energy was precious, people tended to live close to their work. Driving to the office was too expensive and laborious. … Craftspeople tended to live over their shops. Communing into work was not only impractical, it was undesirable and inefficient. Suburban developments only became possible, and will only remain so, as long as energy is cheap. … Food had to be grown close to consumption because transporting it was too expensive. Feedstuffs for animals, whether it was grain or grass, had to be grown and consumed on the same farm; nothing else was possible.

Joel then explains that cheap energy is what allowed for the growth of industry and the removal of industry from their locations within small communities. He explains that, with the arrival of cheap energy:

The butcher, baker, and candlestick maker, formerly embedded in the village, were summarily removed from the community because with cheap energy, their businesses could grow beyond local energy carrying capacity. … Ordinary industries that had been shackled to a village scale could suddenly grow unimpeded. … The huge industrial factories could not be nestled into the village.

Joel argues that this big-ness and isolation of industry had serious downsides. First, removal of industry, including the food industry, from villages and towns where consumers could interact with producers removed transparency from the industrial process and fostered ignorance and complacency among consumers on the topic of industrial processes. Joel states:

These mega-industries actually became repugnant to neighbors, so much so that the businesses erected large security fences to keep out curious eyes that could testify about pollution or worker abuse. Whenever an economic sector cloisters itself behind opaqueness, it will begin taking environmental, social, and economic shortcuts. Integrity occurs when people can see what’s going in at the front door and what’s coming out the back door. Absent that accountability, you lose integrity.

Second, large industry’s dependence on cheap oil leaves it very vulnerable to destruction in the event that cheap oil ends. In other words, large-scale industry made possible by cheap oil is not only revolutionary, it is temporary and may someday disappear. According to Joel:

The reality is that bonanzas don’t survive for very long, and that is what cheap energy is: a bonanza. I don’t know how long it will last, but the way to bet is that we will return to a more normal energy cost sometime in the future.

Energy costs could skyrocket for many reasons. An increasingly discussed reason is the arrival of “peak oil”, the point at which the maximum rate of oil extraction is reached, after which the supply of oil will enter permanent decline. Debate exists on whether peak oil has already occurred.

Regardless of whether peak oil has occurred, the question remains. When fossil fuel is no longer affordable, and therefore, food from the conventional food system is no longer affordable, who will have food to eat?

I’ll put my money on those who eat local.

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So far we’ve discussed how the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world. We talked about how the “food system” is everything required to produce, process, move, sell and consume food. The things used to grow food include land, fertilizers, pesticides, seeds and water – and our current industrial food growing system has resulted in pollution and animal waste. In addition, excessive amounts of energy and fossil fuels are used to process, package, advertise and transport this food.

We also took into consideration how in 2008 Americans spent, on average, less than 10% of their disposable income on food – that’s only half of what we spent on food in the early 1960s. That’s a direct effect of our continuing quest to spend less for more. Our demand for, out-of-season foods come with a huge cost – both nutritional and environmental – because of our insatiable demand for cheap food. Our insistence for cut-rate food is so huge that it has betrayed us.

You may be left wondering…well, then what do I eat? When I began eating locally nearly five years ago, I could barely locate grass-fed beef in the State of Maryland.  Now my butcher – less than a mile away – carries grass-fed beef from a local (as in less than 50 miles away) sustainable producer.

Cheap foods come with hidden costs; thankfully locally grown foods come with hidden benefits.  There are many farmers who farm without fertilizers and pesticides and the numbers are growing. Like old timers they utilize crop rotation and other good soil management practices. Buying your food from local producers reduces the need for unnecessary food packaging. As a result less fossil fuel is used resulting in a lower carbon footprint.

Critics of the local food movement argue that the higher cost of organic and/or locally grown food is unattainable to the average consumer. But we’ve already discussed why better costs more. The food industry talks a great game, but it’s hard to deny the health issues their fake foods have created.  Further, if organic farming were subsidized as much as corn and soy, the cost would decrease significantly.

It all comes down to a personal decision about what kind of world we want and what kind of food we are going to put into our bodies.  It should never be okay to eat meat or drink milk from a cow whose biology has been manipulated for profits.  For me, personally, I would rather have a little bit more of my money go to a local farmer – and my local economy. My personal experience has been that the more I spend on good food, the less I pay for prescriptions and doctors.  It’s that simple.  The father of medicine, Hippocrates, said let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.  I wish doctors would start by asking: “What are you eating?”

The other big argument one hears about a local food system is you cannot possibly feed the world – thus laying the foundation for the use of genetically modified foods.  So can we feed people?  The answer is a big Yes!  A wonderful example is Havana, Cuba. When the Soviet Bloc collapsed in 1989, Cuba lost its food and agricultural support, compounded with the US Embargo led to a serious food shortage affecting the entire country, but most of all Havana.  “Havana residents responded en masse, planting food crops on porches, balconies, backyards and empty city lots.” By 1995 there were approximately 26,000 state owned gardens ranging from a few square yards up to three acres growing food on vacant or abandoned properties.  These gardens continue to flourish even today and provide food security and nourishment to the citizens of Havana.  To read more click here

However, Havana is not a new idea or a communist idea.  In 1943, Eleanor Roosevelt began the Victory Garden movement which helped to feed a lot of families during WWII.  By the way, she did this over the objections of the USDA who feared that home gardening would hurt the American food industry – sound familiar? It’s hard to believe that if our system of food fails, we are all going to Havana for lunch.

In conclusion to this three part series, eating local “real” food has immeasurable benefits.  I urge all of you to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and buy your food directly from a local farmer and enjoy an increased sense of community at the same time. You can find a CSA in your area by going to http://www.localharvest.org/ and Eat Grown Local. It is very satisfying to have a relationship with the person who is growing the food you use to feed your family.  It is very personal.   So this Saturday morning head down to your farmers market and get to know the farmers who labor to grow your food. Reduce your ecological footprint and at the same time cultivate a healthy, sustainable way of life.

This blog was originally written for Solar and Wind Living.

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Last time we discussed how the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world. I discussed how the “food system” consists of everything required to produce, process, move, sell and consume food. The things used to grow food include land, fertilizers, pesticides, seeds and water – and our current industrial food growing system – has resulted in pollution and animal waste. In addition, excessive amounts of energy and fossil fuels are used to process, package, advertise and transport this food.

In this installment we take into consideration how in 2008 Americans spent, on average, less than 10% of their disposable income on food – that’s only half of what we spent on food in the early 1960s. That’s a direct effect of our continuing quest to spend less for more. As we learned in Part I, our demand for, out-of-season foods comes with a huge cost – both nutritional and environmental – because of our insatiable demand for cheap food. Our insistence for cut-rate food is so huge that it has betrayed us.

For example, to satisfy this desire, the food industry has created a diabolically efficient way to “grow” cheap meat. Concentrated area feeding operations, or CAFOs, house thousands of animals (cattle, dairy, hogs and chickens) in pens or cages with as little space as possible. This is done to keep animals from burning calories so they can gain more valuable weight.

Another problem with this system arises from the food source used as feed. Remember this is only an example of the reality that cuts across all types of animal farming. We have to ask ourselves: What is my food eating? For confined cows, it’s grain.

From The National Fork: “The digestive systems of ruminants are not designed to process large amounts of grain, and the grain-based diet causes abnormal changes in the acidity of one of the animal’s stomachs, called the rumin. This abnormal acidity allows for the proliferation of harmful bacteria like E. coli in the animal’s digestive system, and during the butchering process this harmful bacteria often finds its way into the meat.”

This is why more than 80% of antibiotics (used prophylactically) in this country are sold to CAFOs. The overuse of antibiotics is causing growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria strains. The animals are fed a steady diet of hormones and antibiotics and grains. Meat produced like this requires an intense amount of energy…more than 40 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of grain-fed beef (more on this in the next issue).

The following map illustrates where the CAFOs are located around the country – the darker areas represent concentrations of these farms. Americans eat 8.7 billion broiler chickens per year, 100 million hogs and 100 million cattle per year. CAFOs is where that food comes from, unless you buy grass fed beef and sustainably grown foods (more on this on the next issue).

But the damage doesn’t stop there. It is currently estimated that 173,000 miles of national waterways are impacted by runoff from the CAFOs. Confined animal farming is also responsible for 55% of soil and sediment erosion across the country, 37% of nationwide pesticide usage, and for more than 30% of the total nitrogen and phosphorus that ends up in our national drinking water because of this reckless activity. In no time in our past have we faced such detriment to our way of life. It is yours and my duty to stop this thoughtless behavior. Tune in next week when I will present possible solutions.

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Michael Pollan says that the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world. Unfortunately, our food system has less and less to do with the natural world than ever before.

So what do I mean by the term “food system?” The food system is everything required to produce, process, move, sell and consume food. The things used to grow food include land, fertilizers, pesticides, seeds and water – and our current industrial food growing system has resulted in pollution and animal waste. In addition, excessive amounts of energy and fossil fuels are used to process, package, advertise and transport this food.

The average food item travels more than 1500 miles to get to your plate. In 2004, agriculture was responsible for 13.5% of greenhouse gas emissions – more than transportation! So next time you want to buy those grapes from Chile or blueberries in December think about the true cost of how it got to you.

Agriculture accounts for two-thirds of water use worldwide – far above industrial or municipal use. It also accounts for 8% of river and stream pollution and 41% of lake pollution due to current farming practices. Case in point: Forty percent of the Chesapeake Bay was declared a dead zone for part of the summer of 2003. Dead zones, where there is insufficient oxygen for living things to…..well live….are caused by too many nutrients reaching the water. These “nutrients” include fertilizers and animal waste. They feed algae which decompose, and in the process use up the oxygen all the other critters need to live.

How did this current system evolve? In the 1940s, crop yields increased dramatically due to application of petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides and the development of mechanized farm equipment and automation. In fact, we became so efficient that fewer and fewer people are needed. In 1920, agricultural work made up 27% of the U.S. labor force. Today, only 2% of Americans work in agriculture. In our “efficiency,” we have made our food system unsustainable and in the process, we have also harmed our environment, health and communities.

We have to ask ourselves what’s the true price of the food on our plate? And the answer is depletion of fossil fuels and healthy top soil, loss of biodiversity, polluted air and water, increased health care costs (obesity and new inflammatory diseases) – and we haven’t even begun to discuss the economic and social costs to communities (unemployment, reduced land value to name just a few).

But in my opinion, maybe the biggest loss from the rise of “Big Ag,” is the loss of our nations’ farms and farmers. In 1952, 47 cents of every dollar went to a farmer; in 2006, only 10 cents did. I have a baseball hat that says “No Farms, No Food.” Maybe I’ll see you wearing that same hat soon.

Coming next week Part II: The Real Price of Animal Food Production

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