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Archive for July, 2010

I just finished a pretty quirky book about a girl from Washington (state not district) that moves to Oakland and rents an apartment on the “2-8”, a street that was known for gunfights, crack dealers and homeless camps, and starts growing food on an abandoned lot.

The book, Farm City by Novella Carpenter is a true story of Novella’s adventures in urban farming. She starts with growing veggies on the abandoned lot, then gets chickens, then bees, then turkeys, ducks and rabbits, and finally two huge pigs.

The book was kinda funny and I learned a bit about raising farm animals to produce meat. But something didn’t sit right with me as far as her intentions for doing it. She was aware of the problems in her neighborhood and that her urban farm project could benefit others, and she did give some lettuce to local Black Panthers and shared food with neighbors. But I kept wondering why she didn’t do more.  I know not everyone has a humanitarian streak and everyone deserves the right to just do for themselves; to learn and experiment.  But I couldn’t help but think that she was missing a big point of the work that she was doing.

She had the opportunity to teach, share more, partner up with organizations in her neighborhood that are fighting for food justice and health. And yet her intentions seemed so centered around herself.

I hate to be so hard on her. And maybe I am missing the point. After all, she did publish this book about her experience, and although her intentions for publishing the book may not have been much more than getting all those quirky stories down, she is adding to the urban food voice and educating people like me on raising turkeys, bees and pigs, so I can’t hold it against her too much.

Thanks to Ouida for giving me this book as a gift before I left DC!!

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Hello West Virginia.

That’s right. I said goodbye to Washington DC, a job, a sweet house, great people, and a boy…to transplant myself to West Virginia and hula hoop barefoot in the grass on a Tuesday afternoon.

Why, you ask?  Well, the hula hooping was not the main objective, although a nice perk.  Nor was the prospect of settling down in good ol’ West Virginia.  However, the mission to spend my Tuesdays barefoot in the grass has a lot to do with why I am here.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am into food.  Not like a foodie into food. But like a farmer into food.  I want to learn how to grow it more efficiently and more harmoniously with our Earth.  I want to make sure its healthy for my body and my planet. I want to learn how to make sure it gets to those in need of it; those that are getting short changed somewhere along the food distribution line.  I want to empower people to grow their own food and fight for fresh food; people living in projects, ghettos, rural hellholes and kids stuck in the school food freak show called the cafeteria.

My interest and work in the environmental and activist movements (and lots and lots of reading) has led me to this point.  I’ve spent the past year and a half reading, volunteering and learning as much as possible about agriculture and the slow food movement.  Now it’s time to dive fully into this path that is calling to me. And if you know me at all, you know I get inspired, I get motivated and then I go for it.  So here I go.

I packed up all my shit once again and set off on the first step of this food journey — learn how to grow it.

What does this have to do with West Virginia?  Well there happens to be a lovely community of people out here that grow food sustainably and organically on a beautiful 350 acre piece of  property.  I found out about them (the Claymont Community) through this fantastic organization, WWOOF, that has been around for 40 years and provides a way for people to work on organic farms all over the world in exchange for knowledge, food and housing.

So I plan to hop around by WWOOFing, volunteering and apprenticing on rural and urban organic farms throughout the States and South America.  All the specific locations are to be determined, and the amount of time I will be farm-hopping is up in the air. But one thing is certain: I’ll be spending my days barefoot in the grass, with my hands in the soil, soaking in every single experience on this journey — even the hula hooping.

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Goodbye D.C.

I spent one of my last nights living in D.C. walking around the countless monuments and memorials that surround the epicenter of the city- the National Mall. It was the one thing I had always wanted to do that was still waiting to be checked off my list. I was told it was beautiful, and the word of mouth proved true. Walking around capturing the glowing white images of the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial,  I could only think that this was a perfect way to say goodbye to D.C. Revisiting the places I came to when I first stepped foot in Washington last December, clueless of what the new year would bring me.

When I first stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial, I had never been to D.C. before. I had never thought about living here, but there I stood, hoping I would find a job so I could embark on my mission to save the planet. I had no clue that a crazy, inspiring whirlwind of working for change would take place over the next year and a half,  or that I’d participate in events that I never fathomed I’d find myself in.

At that time I didn’t know that I would soon find myself in probably the only place in the country that I needed to be at that moment; a place where I could continue to grow and learn and be exposed to as much as I had been while traveling. I was clueless that I would soon walk down the streets of my neighborhood, soaking in every row house, every tree, every street lamp, every person I passed –because it’d been so long since I felt so at home.  I didn’t yet know that I would continually be blown away by the people I met, the similarities we shared, the small world that D.C. was, the connections and community we created, and the uniqueness of this special place.  Little did I know I would fall in love with where I lived and the people I would soon call my dear friends.

So when I stood there Saturday night by the Reflection Pool, scaring baby ducks into the water (by accident!), I couldn’t help but smile on all of the things D.C. brought to me in that gap between my last visit to this spot. Now I knew I could check this night time monument tour off of my list, along with everything else I accomplished and experienced here.

Thank you D.C. , thank you my DC lovesss — Ciao.

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When I read articles like this, I can’t help but want to press pause on life and scream ” What the fuck are we thinking?!”.  Here we have countries like Sudan, Ethiopia and the DRC who are suffering from famine and depending on World Food Programs to help feed their people. Then we have powerhouses like China and Saudi Arabia coming in and dangling money in their faces; enticing them to make land acquisition deals and give up their land to be farmed for food to feed, not the starving Ethiopians or Sudanese, but the Chinese and Saudis who have run out of land and water resources in their own countries.

How does this make any sense? And who knows what is done with the money given to Ethiopia and Sudan in these deals because there is no transparency, and the farmers (the ones who should be at the table and getting a piece of the pie) are being left out of the conversation and kicked off of their land. Which just adds to the cycle of unemployment, lack of domestic agriculture and famine.

This is just the continual cycle we have seen in so many arenas: rob from the poor to give to the rich.

And this is just the beginning of what we can expect to see as climate change causes more drought and lower crop yields, and all of our natural resources keep shrinking until we reach world war over food and water. Surprise, surprise the developing countries will be the ones getting the shit end of the stick.

OK, enough ranting, read more about this for yourself:

If food prices are rising in the host country, will the investing country have to hire security forces to ensure that the harvests can be brought home? Aware of this potential problem, the government of Pakistan, which is trying to sell or lease 400,000 hectares, is offering to provide a security force of 100,000 men to protect the land and assets of investors.

Another disturbing dimension of many land investments is that they are taking place in countries like Indonesia, Brazil, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where expanding cropland typically means clearing tropical rainforests that sequester large quantities of carbon. This could measurably raise global carbon emissions, increasing the climate threat to world food security.

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Check out my first posts while I reminisce on places I have lived before picking up and heading off yet again..

Europe – on the road

  • Where you can make a home out of a station wagon and a tent
  • Where travelers create an entire road-sleeping community in vans and RVs
  • Where you can be at the ocean and then the Alps over night
  • Where your navigation skills will hit their peak
  • Where cheese and baguettes is considered a meal
  • Where you can find an abundance of Brits, Germans and Australians
  • Where almost everyone is a little bilingual
  • Where you can find good, local wine for 5 euro
  • Where Italian children are too cool for summer camp games
  • Where the little things can make your day
  • Where hitchhikers can become your travel mates for the rest of that country
  • Where fishing skills can come in handy for finding dinner
  • Where beach showers, water bottles and rain can be good substitutes for showering
  • Where you will discover how to live off of very little..and how beautiful that can be
  • Where you will learn what’s really important in life
  • Where you can really experience human kindness
  • Where you will learn simplicity
  • Where you can perpetually stand in awe of beauty
  • Where I lived for 5 months

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