Creativity will conquer

As artist we struggle with the balance of fulfillment thru our arts and thriving as a struggling artist.  Our creative outlet is way of expressing ourselves, not necessarily for others acceptance, but for selfish reasons.   Over the pas 16 years my passion for art has led me to meet dozens of wonderful people some successful and some not so successful.  It took me a while to figure this success out for myself. art and passion There has to be a balance of Artistic fulfillment and a balance of career.  When I say career I don’t mean an executive position in a high rise in Chicago.  I mean being a professional artist who creates art to put bread on the table and save for retirement.  This is the balance so many artist struggle with.  How do I do it?  It focusing and scheduling.  I a lot time for my passion and I find I am way more focused when I have a limited time.  I don’t get side tracked with little ideas, I focus on my task and I find it way more fulfilling because I see results.  These results lead to more exhibits more shows, more art sales and in turn more income.  I try not to preach this idea to everyone but most people fall do to lack of focus.  We are not victims of circumstance we are of victims of the choices we make in life.  If art is your priority make is so, however you will need to find that balance for yourself.  Success comes thru passion, persistence and always finding a way to over come hurdles in your life.  I am inspired by a friend I had in high school.  He had many talents that lead him down many paths. Art, sports, science and technology came very easily to him.  He met a wondering Canadian girl and moved to Toronto.  He had children and realized that he need to be the bread winner and support his family.  He married two of his passions art and technology and created a digital marketing agency in Barrie.  These two passions gave him fulfillment and success, thru persistence.  Finding a balance of passion and career is the key to success.

ECO tours in the Caribbean

Last January we went on an ECO tours in Dominican Republic at the Rustic Pathways Base House in a sustainable ranch. We got to spent time working with the farmers on the organic gardens and tour the farm animals. It doesn’t take long to see the ideal way of life here in the Dominican Republic. It makes me wonder why people live on colder climates.


The DR is one of the most beautiful and serene places on earth and as a result, many people dream about moving and living here. I hate the cold and want to enjoy sunny, tropical weather for most of the year, so the North Shore of DR is the ideal place to live. Most people who live in western countries have to deal with severe winters which can worsen medical conditions and make life quite difficult. However, if you move to warmer climates, you will never have to deal with winter or snow ever again.

Another reason to move to the DR, is of course, the beaches! The Caribbean is well known for its white sandy beaches and cool turquoise waters. If your idea of a good time is a day lounging at the beach, drinking rum punch and engaging in various water sports, then the Caribbean is definitely a place you will enjoy.

Lastly, the cost of living in the DR is much lower than most Western countries and you will most likely enjoy a significantly higher purchasing power. This would allow you to enjoy a higher quality of life at a lower cost which is definitely a dream come true. We stop it the town of Cabarete to enjoy the Beaches and met a Dominican Republic real estate agent who showed us some home prices and we were really surprised at what you can get compare to a similar property in the US.eco tour in DR

The Rustic Pathways Base House Eco tour was a phenomenal ECO tour, I recommend it to everyone ages 16-60. It is truly an amazing place to live and there are numerous things to see and do depending on what you want to experience. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain, the ECO tour was amazing, thanks so much to our friends at Rustic Pathways Base House.

Sharing our hot potato with the magic of video

Artist love our craft and enjoy the peace and serenity or making our artistic statement.  What we don’t enjoy is promoting ourselves. Most of use are not extraverts, instead we are introverts. Showing our art to the world is sometimes the hardest thing we can imagine.  Wearing our heart on our sleeves, for everyone to judge and express and opinion.  Expressions of positivity is always welcome, encouragement to our craft is never a bad thing.  For every 9 positive comments there is 1 negative comment. The problem is when we receive a negative comment we tend to let these sink in or stick with us more than the positive.

The real issue is believing in our self and not caring what the 10% of the art critics say.  Being true to your craft and enjoy the moment is why we should be creating art.

So for you closet artists and introverts I have found a way to share your art to the world and not accept comments good or bad.  Blocking out the critics and sharing for the pure fun of it.  That’s why we have decided to share our hot potato on Youtube.

We have teamed up with some tech guys to help us set up our YouTube Channel.  We will be bringing you our best creative and hoping you will enjoy it as much as we do. It should be working is a few weeks so check back soon for more details.  In the meantime you can take a look at their marketing YouTube channel.

Once again we encourage you all to share your artistic side to your community and followers. Remember you can reach more people across the world with 1 video than you can with 100 galleries.  This is one of the major reasons we are back online again,  to reach our communities thru our arts to inspire.

 

Posted in art

SUSTAINABLE AND ORGANIC Part 2 of 2

SUSTAINABLE AND ORGANIC: Two Words Everyone Who Eats Should Know, Part 2 of 2

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
– ancient Native American proverb by Canada’s Haida nation
from the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia
ENTERING THE GARDEN. “Please don’t walk on the beds” says the sign at Ecology Action’s Common Ground Biointensive Research Mini-Farm in Willits, California.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN to live sustainably? Why is this one of the most important questions facing humanity at this point in history? Last week, we defined living sustainably in two ways: “giving back what you take from the Earth, and then some” and adopting practices that could be carried on indefinitely in their current form.

We are living in one of the most unsustainable societies that has ever existed, polluting the air faster than our disappearing forests can clean it. Organic and non-organic agriculture are destroying topsoil that John Jeavons, director of Ecology Action, estimates we may have as few as 40 years of topsoil left. Carbon greenhouse gas from fossil fuels have reached such an alarming rate that global temperatures are rising towards dangerous levels; air pollution particulates are blocking sunlight effecting rain, droughts, and food security; and experts predict global demand for oil will outstrip supply as soon as next year. This way of life cannot continue for much longer. How do we begin to reverse the damage that is already done? How do we begin, as individuals, communities, and societies, to live sustainably so that all of us can survive and thrive in health and harmony? What we need are models of sustainability in action leading the way. We also need creativity and the free exchange of ideas as we begin to visualize what creating a sustainable future looks like.

Just a little over 100 years ago, almost all people in the U.S. lived on a farm or homestead. Imagine knowing the entire history of the last meal you ate beginning with seed saved through the winter, nurtured into baby seedlings, then the first exciting harvest transformed by a special family recipe, and finally delicious smells and tastes shared with loved ones. Also imagine how much more we would appreciate household goods made by the hands of family and friends and made of materials grown in our own neighborhood. Imagine how much more we as a society would take great steps to care for the Earth, conscious of where things and life come from. We can reclaim and redefine this sacred connection in a new vision of a sustainable future.

ROSE CREATING A RIVER. Hanging out in the path between two sloped beds planted with yarrow to protect against erosion.

FROM DUST TO BREAD: GROWING FOOD SUSTAINABLY

As we established last week, organic farming is far better for the environment, animals, and human health than chemical farming. However, organic farming as it is widely practiced still relies on non-renewable, polluting fossil fuels to distribute inputs & outputs and power tractors. We need to ensure one of our most valuable resources, topsoil, is not only preserved but built up for future generations. This means that food-raising will have to become decentralized, localized, and non-mechanized. Many more farmers or mini-farmers will be needed.

Right now, less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, or 6 million people, work on farms. In the post-oil era, Richard Heinberg, author of The Party’s Over, estimates that 50 million farmers will be needed to meet our food needs. Farmer Sharon Astyk places the figure at closer to 100 million. Sharon writes: “I picked 100 million, rather than 50 million (a figure I considered) because while 50 million represents somewhere between 25 and 30% of the fully employed adults in the work world in America, agriculture is something that doesn’t actually work in the same ways as traditional employment. That is, when one member of a family farms, everyone farms.”

No matter what the estimate, the majority of people worldwide including the U.S. will have to become involved in the joy of food-raising. A method will be needed where large amounts of food can be raised in small areas like lawns, balconies, and vacant lots so those who do not have a “farm” will be able to supply their families with enough food. It would need to be independent of heavy machinery, done by hand with simple tools and yet not back-breaking. A method that’s simple to understand, and yet based on a system that returns what it takes from the Earth while growing topsoil.

Miraculously, such a method exists called Biointensive mini-farming and gardening which may well be the sustainable solution for growing food in the coming years. Detailed in the book How To Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons, Biointensive developed from Chinese-French Intensive and Biodynamic techniques with roots dating back 4,000 years in ancient Chinese, Mayan, and Greek methods. The 8 Step GROW BIOINTENSIVE Food-Raising Method is now practiced and taught in over 130 countries.

ECOLOGY ACTION’S COMMON GROUND MINI-FARM. John Jeavons leads a 3-Day Workshop Tour overlooking the mini-farm’s Biointensive double-dug raised beds and the beautiful valley in Willits, California.

Our first experience with Biointensive occurred last year at the farm in Wisconsin. The joy of working the soil by hand was immediate, and among the rewards that we reaped from our small plot included the most delicious cucumbers and celery we had ever tasted. Aireen doesn’t even like cucumbers, but she loved the ones we grew biointensively!

Biointensive’s gentle double-digging deeply aerates soil without destroying beneficial microbes, earthworms, and soil structure. An intensive, hexagonal planting in beds rather than rows creates a microclimate that shades the soil, holds in moisture, keeps temperatures stable, and protects the soil from erosion while maximizing space. Plants are able to grow deep roots with access to nutrients and moisture. Crops are grown for compost and incorporated with greens like kitchen scraps in specific ratios to return nutrients and organic matter to the soil with the potential to build topsoil up to 60 times faster than in nature. Potential yields are up to four times higher than mechanized agricultural methods.

In the future, the necessity for backyard gardeners, city-dwellers, and country homesteaders to learn sustainable food-raising methods will be part of a new sustainable vision. You’ve heard of computer literacy? Humanity’s future depends on what John Jeavons calls farming literacy. Other methods include Fukuoka no-till natural farming; Permaculture, which focuses on the planting of perennial crops (crops that grow back year after year), rainwater catchment, and energy-saving design principles; and traditional indigenous systems. One popular Native American technique is called Three Sisters. Beans are planted to vine up tall corn stalks, while broad and prickly squash leaves shade and protect the ground around the other “sisters”, the corn and beans.

KICKING THE FOSSIL FUEL HABIT
Everything from food production to distribution, manufacturing to the packaging of goods, our transportation industry, and the way we power our homes relies on natural gas, coal, and petroleum. Many everyday products contain petroleum-based ingredients such as plastics, polyester, computers, appliances, and parabens in cosmetics. The average piece of food purchased at the store has travelled 1,000 to 1,500 miles before reaching your plate.

According to a 1997 study by the Energy Information Administration, transportation alone (especially airplanes) pumps an estimated 450 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. Highest is industry emitting over 600 million metric tons of CO2 through coal, natural gas, and petroleum use – 33 percent of all greenhouse gases. Transportation accounts for close to 25 percent, residential power equals 17 percent or 300 million metric tons, followed by commercial energy use at 16 percent or 280 million metric tons, and last but not least, agriculture at around 7 percent or 120 million metric tons of CO2.

Lasting solutions are still developing, such as significant government-imposed environmental standards. Hybrid vehicles, which get 33 to 49 miles per gallon (mpg) compared to a 2006 average of 24.6 mpg for compact cars and 18.5 mpg for SUVs, have an impact. Cars and trucks converted to run on waste vegetable oil and biodiesel, fuel made from a mixture of petroleum and vegetable oil, are empowering alternatives that do not directly contribute to CO2 greenhouse emissions. But because of high energy inefficiency, continued particulate pollution, and wasted cropland to produce the biofuels, they are at best a transitional technology. For example, it has been noted that the amount of corn converted into ethanol that it takes to fill one SUV tank is enough corn to feed a person for one year. For industrial, residential, and commercial buildings, renewable alternatives like solar and wind power are gaining popularity, both for their energy and money-saving benefits. Renewable energy can help us to become sustainable as more people embrace these technologies. Individuals, communities, and businesses all across the United States and the world are getting “off the grid”. In cities like Los Angeles, any household still “on the grid” can choose wind or solar-powered energy from their electrical company.

A magic bullet technology does not currently exist, and we may not have the time to wait around for one to be discovered, but there are two time-tested “technologies” that do make a HUGE difference: reducing consumption and going local. It’s up to us, as consumers and responsible citizens of the Earth, to cultivate habits and lifestyles to improve the quality of our air, water, topsoil, and health. A growing movement called Relocaliztion, which we will explore in a future column, is walking the walk, community by community, toward a less fossil fuel dependent and more energy, food, and economy independent future.

WALK THE WALK: CREATING A SUSTAINABLE WORLD

Living sustainably means living simply and naturally. You don’t have to give up all worldly possessions and live like an ascetic; the key is to make more creative and less wasteful use of what we have while letting go of what we don’t need. It can mean buying in bulk to reduce the waste of packaging and reusing jars and other containers rather than throwing them away. Or composting food scraps to grow healthy soil and delicious food. Giving old clothes and stuff you don’t use to charities or friends, or bartering for something you need. It can be as simple as turning off the lights and T.V. more often in favor of candlelight dinners and family story time. It can also mean becoming a green consumer, going for products such as energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances. Buying recycled products like paper, tissue, and napkins (or better yet, use cloth), and buying from companies that have a proven commitment to sustainability can help reduce waste and cut consumption while sending a message to corporations that environmental responsibility is top on the list of consumer demands. If you’re crafty or just enjoy making stuff, you can learn how to make your own candles, clothes, greeting cards, paper, or reuse old items for new purposes. Reducing travel and opting for more bicycle and walking trips are part of a sustainable lifestyle that strengthens our bodies while nourishing our spirits.

The things we have listed here are just the tip of the iceberg. We are all still learning, so we welcome your own ideas and tips to share with readers in a future column. What’s your own DIY (do-it-yourself) recipe or project? Nobody is perfect; the goal is not to be perfect, but to learn how to live in harmony with nature and each other so that generations after us will thrive on a pristine planet full of abundance, biodiversity, and beauty for all people, animals, and life interconnected. With cooperation and imagination, we have the power to create the world that we know is meant to be. Until next week, the hot potato is in your hands. Pass it on!

Some resources to help us live simply and sustainably:
• How To Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons. See also Ecology Action’s site www.growbiointensive.org.
• Food Not Lawns: How To Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community by H.C. Flores. See also www.foodnotlawns.com.
• Radical Simplicity by Jim Merkel. See also www.myfootprint.org – take the Ecological Footprint Quiz to estimate how much productive land and water you need to support what you use and what you discard.
• www.energybulletin.net – source of “50 Million Farmers” article by Richard Heinberg and other articles on renewable energy news and sustainable solutions.
• www.coopamerica.org – search Co-op America’s Green Pages, a national directory of environmentally and socially-conscious companies leading the way toward a cleaner, healthier society.
• YES! Magazine – An energizing, positive magazine “concerned with building a more just, sustainable, and compassionate future with articles about economic alternatives and peace options.” See www.yesmagazine.org

Adam and Aireen are available to give presentations or literature on GROW BIOINTENSIVE gardening and mini-farming to interested groups in the Chicago area.

SUSTAINABLE AND ORGANIC

SUSTAINABLE AND ORGANIC: Two Words Everyone Who Eats Should Know, Part 1 of 2

THE POTATO HARVEST. Matt displays a bountiful harvest of potatoes freshly dug up from rich, organic soil. No pesticides here!

SUSTAINABLE AND ORGANIC. You’ve seen them in this column, no doubt heard mention of them on the news. They are two of the most important words in food and agriculture today, and especially for those who are really concerned about what goes into their food and how this affects their bodies and the Earth. In this article, we will explore the meaning behind these two words, especially what they mean to you, the consumer, who goes to the supermarket with the trust that the tomato you are buying is really just a tomato, the ear of corn just an ear of corn… What business does an animal gene have being in your tomato sauce? Or bacteria genes in your buttery corn on the cob? What business do derivatives of poisonous World War II chemical weapons have being fed to dairy and beef cows via grain feed whose milk and meat you eat? And why are they finding their way into your apple pie or hot potato? Business is the name of the corporate agribusiness’ lucrative yet deadly experimental game of pesticides and genetically engineered foods, and the test subjects are unassuming American consumers and entire ecosystems.

A HISTORY OF FOOD AND WHERE WE ARE TODAY

For food to be certified “organic” means:

• It must be grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and sewage sludge for a period of three years;
• There can be no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or irradiation;
• There must be positive soil building practices, conservation, crop rotation, and manure management;
• All livestock must have outdoor access and pasture;
• No antibiotics or hormones may be given to the animals;
• Animals must be fed 100% organic feed;
• And detailed records of operations must be kept.

Up until the beginning of the 20th century, all agriculture was organic agriculture. Organic food, in other words, was the only kind of food ever eaten by our grandparents, great grandparents, and all our relations before them. First developed in the 1920’s, the widespread use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers really took off after World War II. It was then that a historic mass movement toward what is now known as factory farming and conventional farming began. The Future of Food, an excellent film covering the many human & environmental consequences and science of chemical and GMO farming, states: “The manufacture of nitrogen-based bombs during World War I led to the development of nitrogen-based fertilizers. Nerve gas, developed during World War II, was slightly modified to make insecticides. …New technologies promised higher yields, increased food production, cheaper prices, and greater availability.” Increasing market pressure, tempting bank loans, and governmental incentives for the family farm paved the road towards: very expensive, inefficient, and soil-compacting mechanization; priority placed on quantity and uniformity of the look and flavor of produce while quality in taste, variety, and nutrition plummeted; and the use of chemicals to achieve picture perfect produce, higher yields despite wasteful and nutrient as well as topsoil depleting farming practices, and vast acreage of monoculture production, now owned mostly by a handful of large corporations.

The next time you walk into your local supermarket and peruse the produce section, take a moment to notice some of the consequences of factory farming food systems on display. There are few varieties of each fruit and vegetable, and within each variety, they all pretty much look and taste the same. This is not what nature intended for us, our bodies, or our taste buds. Most famously, heirloom tomatoes come in a rainbow of colors, shapes, and tastes, but these gifts from nature rarely make it to the grocery stores. Organic food is not gourmet food either! It’s normal, natural food that people have been eating for thousands of years. Industrially and chemically-raised fruits and vegetables may be priced deceptively low, so they seem like a great deal compared to their (usually) more expensive organic counterparts. But what you can’t see or squeeze or smell is the hidden cost of this seemingly cheap and harmless produce, a cost that is daily exacting its toll not only on your pocketbook, but on your health and on the health of the Earth as well.

THE BENEFITS OF ORGANIC VERSUS THE HIDDEN COST OF “CONVENTIONAL”

When we begin to reprioritize the way that we look at food, it becomes obvious that there is more to the cost of, say, an ear of corn, than meets the eye. First of all, the industrial-chemical farming industry receives 22 billion dollars a year in federal government subsidies. These subsidies are financed by none other than you, Mr. & Ms. American Taxpayer. “Conventional” non-organic corn farmers alone receive 5 billion dollars in subsidies each year. This keeps the price of corn low in the marketplace, but again, you the taxpayer are paying for this price reduction.

Of the 12 billion bushels of corn produced in the U.S. each year, over half, 51% goes to feed livestock alone. Batting next in the corn lineup are ethanol at 18% and exported corn also at 18%. Sweet corn (canned, frozen, and on-the-cob) make up just 0.2% of all corn grown in the U.S. So we may be able to buy cheap conventional corn at the store, but we’ve already paid a much higher cost for it in our taxes, most of which went to factory farm animals, transportation fuel, and other countries’ factory farm animals & transportation fuel. Subsidies also create an unfair price advantage over family farms and smaller organic operations, whose higher price is reflected by the fact that they are not receiving taxpayer money to finance the purchase of their inputs and machinery.

Another very serious hidden cost to “cheap”, chemically-raised food are its effect on the health of those who live near places where this food is being raised. Chemical farming dumps tons of deadly nitrates and other chemicals into the waterways and groundwater of local communities every year. For example, after upstream farms have sprayed heavy doses of chemical fertilizers, heavy storm runoff brings these chemicals into the water supply in the Des Moines, Iowa area. For some Des Moines families, the amount of nitrates in their tap water is so high, they are unable to drink from their own faucets at those times of the year. Children under 6 months are especially susceptible to excess nitrite in water supplies which can cause blue baby syndrome, oxygen starvation in the brain. It’s even easier to understand how connected our planet’s ecosystems are when you travel to the Gulf of Mexico where there is now a “dead zone” the size of New Jersey linked with mass kills of fish, shrimp, and other animals affected by the water’s low oxygen levels. The runoff from chemical applications (from agriculture, golf courses, and lawns) begins over 1,000 miles away starting in the Midwest, then through the South, and ends at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

A study by The American Journal of Public Health conducted 10 years ago showed that people living closer than 2,600 feet to a site where produce is chemically raised have a 6.7 times greater incidence of brain cancer. Other studies of home pesticide and herbicide use (including those used outdoors on lawns, golf courses & landscaping, and indoors in various household products) have shown links to increases in other types of cancer, including leukemia. The use of pesticides and herbicides have also been linked in numerous studies to an increase in miscarriage, genetic deformities, reduced immune function, Parkinson’s Disease, A.D.D. symptoms in children, and brain damage. Still more studies have documented the serious health effects of chemical farming on agricultural workers including the men and women who work in greenhouses for the flower industry.

For those who eat chemically-raised produce, the hidden health costs are more than enough by themselves to outweigh the “cheap” price. If ingesting chemical pesticides and herbicides have the potential to damage our health in the above ways, purchasing foods that have been sprayed with them would not appear to be a wise investment. All fruits and vegetables that are sprayed retain a significant amount of toxic residue which is then passed on to the consumer. What you’re not paying for in food now, you may pay for in medical bills later and certainly we are all effected by the toll on the Earth.

In addition, when you compare organic and chemical produce for nutritional value, the price difference begins to make even more sense. Organic produce may have up to 83 percent more nutritional value than non-organic produce. Why is this? The non-organic stuff tends to be grown on nutritionally-depleted soil, and what you get from nutritionally-depleted soil is nutritionally-depleted fruits and vegetables. You may be paying 83 percent more for an organic tomato versus a “conventional” tomato, but you are getting what you pay for.

THE ORGANIC FARMER AT SATURDAY FARMERS MARKET. Adam awaits the next customer eager to try some knock-you-out heirloom tomatoes, dragons tongue beans, and green & blonde cucumbers in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

NATURE VERSUS GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS

If this isn’t enough to keep your organic plate full, now there is a new hidden cost to buying chemically-raised food, and it is one that is just beginning to show its destructiveness on human health and the environment. The history of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, being introduced into our food supply experienced its first major wave between 1996-1997, when GE (genetically engineered) ingredients suddenly appeared in 2/3 of all processed foods. This wave began with a Supreme Court ruling that allowed for the first time in history the patenting of life forms for commercialization. Major agribusiness like Monsanto began bioengineering seeds to resist damage by herbicides and pesticides and to produce higher yields. The corporation even changed the genetic structure of certain seeds to contain the pesticides within the seeds themselves. It should be pointed out that chemically manufactured higher yields, mostly in the form of nitrogen fertilizers, are needed by non-organic agriculture, because these farming practices inherently damage the soil and ecosystems. Lower fertility and soil health would produce lower yields each year, but the numbers are propped up by the addiction to chemicals.

It does not stop with fruit and vegetable seeds. Today’s factory farm animals raised for dairy, eggs, and slaughter are routinely the subject of various genetic experiments. Chickens are genetically altered to grow bigger and produce meat that is more tender, with the result that some of the chickens grow so unnaturally big that they can no longer stand up or turn around on their own. Cows are injected with genetically engineered growth hormones to produce more milk and beef.

These genetic experiments are now being conducted on the public at large who eat GE foods. The scientists and spokespeople for the major biotech companies assure us that there is no need to worry, that genetic engineering is perfectly safe and will prove to bring nothing but benefits to mankind and agriculture as a whole. However, the track record on GMOs and their health effects thus far speak much differently. For example, rBGH, a genetically produced growth hormone that is routinely injected into non-organic dairy cows, has been linked to 400-500% higher risks of human breast, prostate, and colon cancer. Conscious companies such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and recently Dean Foods have pledged to not use milk containing rGBH in their products.

The Future of Food documents massive recalls of certain grocery products containing traces of “Starlink”. This genetically modified strain of corn meant to be fed to animals but “not fit for human consumption” was discovered in tests on several different food products. One woman in the documentary reports having a severe allergic reaction to consuming a taco shell contaminated with the genetically-modified corn.

One of the more alarming studies on the potential environmental effects of genetic engineering involves a recent study conducted on genetically modified medaka fish. A study conducted at Purdue University by researchers William Muir and Richard Howard in 2000 found that the fish, who were genetically modified with human growth hormones to grow bigger faster, did just that, but with many devastating side effects. Only 2/3 of the GE fish made it to reproductive age, and the female non-genetically modified medakas preferred the larger but now genetically-inferior GE medakas. The researchers plugged their results into a computer and figured out that if just 60 of these transgenic fish were introduced into a wild population of 60,000 medakas, the population would become extinct within just 40 generations.

After a series of storms and roving sea lions tore open floating tanks that held genetically modified salmon in fish farms on the Northeast coast, thousands of the salmon found their way into the Atlantic Ocean. What effects will this mistake have on larger ecosystems? One possibility, named the “Trojan Gene Hypothesis” by the Purdue researchers, is that the GM fish could outcompete the natural, unmodified salmon for food and mates and eventually bring about the extinction of the natural salmon and possibly devastate the entire salmon population. Since GE salmon have an increased likelihood of diseases and a diminished awareness of predators, it is possible they won’t last long enough in the Ocean to create such a disaster, but as of yet nobody knows for sure what the outcome will be.

Today, the effects of genetically modified foods on the environment and on human life are still being tested, and much is unknown as to the potential consequences. We do know that not only have GMO crops failed to deliver on their promise of higher yields and resistance to pests, but because of cross-pollination of commonly genetically engineered crops like corn, soy and canola, the diversity and integrity of our food supply is now being threatened with contamination. Cross-pollination occurs when pollen from crops in neighboring fields is carried by the wind or by bees and mixes with neighboring crops, thereby forming a cross-breed of the two crops. Because of cross-pollination and field contamination via GMO seeds falling off of trucks into farmers’ fields, many thousands of acres of crops across the U.S. and Canada have already been contaminated. Monsanto has even sued several farmers, claiming that since they own the patent on these seeds, even if the crops finds their way into a farmer’s field without the farmer knowing about it, that farmer is infringing on Monsanto’s patent and thereby owes them money. The Organic Consumers Association is advocating for a change in laws to hold the accountability on the seed corporations, not the farmers whose fields were contaminated.

The European Union has required that all foods sold in Europe containing GMOs be labeled. Labeling of GMO food is not mandatory in this country, in part because of the strong lobbying power of big agribusiness. One of the surest ways to avoid eating GMOs is to buy organic. Certified organic foods do not contain any GMO ingredients, although it is still possible that cross-pollination can contaminate even organic crops. Three counties in California have passed referendums banning the growth of GMO crops in the entire county. Perhaps the best way to eat the most organic, nutritious, and delicious food is by growing your own or sharing with a friend who does!

OLD MCDONALD HAD A FARM VERSUS THE FACTORY FARMING OF ANIMALS

Finally, one of the greatest health debacles of our age besides the rise of pesticides and GMOs is the factory farming of animals for meat, dairy, and eggs. Almost all non-organic meat, dairy, and eggs consumed by Americans today comes from animals that have been raised in the most filthy, squalid conditions imaginable. Millions of cows, chickens, and pigs are fed the ground up bits, blood, and waste of other animals, kept in pens where they have barely enough room to turn around for their entire life, fed drugs to make them produce more meat, milk, and eggs, and are then brutally slaughtered in assembly line-type facilities. Europe has banned the sale of non-organic American beef and poultry since 1988 because of the use of growth hormones and antibiotics which have been linked to adverse health effects for both animals and humans. Yet, most Americans still do not know where their meat comes from, what it is fed, and what drugs it still contains once it reaches their plate. In addition to all of this, because the animals are fed pesticide-heavy grains, the amount of pesticides found in meat is up to possibly 10 times higher and in dairy possibly 4 times higher than the levels found in fruits and vegetables. In contrast, organically-raised cows, pigs, and chickens are guaranteed access to the outdoors, are given no drugs to enhance production, and are fed only 100% organic food.

ORGANIC HEALTH INSURANCE: YOU’RE IN GOOD HANDS

Sure, organic foods are more expensive than non-organic foods when it comes to dollars and cents. But as you can clearly see, you get what you pay for. Like anything else you spend money on, it is an investment: an investment in your health, an investment in a healthy planet, and an investment in the security of your food supply. What you are paying for is the superior quality, flavor, and nutrition of a product that has been grown closer to what it was intended to be. You are investing in a system where animals are treated more humanely, and are actually guaranteed access to the outdoors. Buying organic is, in many ways, better than buying health insurance, because it is a health insurance that protects not only you and your family, but also helps preserve a healthy future for our planet and the many beings who call this planet home.

TO BE CONTINUED: TRANSITION TO AN ORGANIC & SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

The word “sustainable” could best be defined as “giving back what you take from the Earth, and then some.” It refers to practices, including growing food, building homes, energy sources, and transportation, that could be carried on indefinitely in their current form. Organic agriculture, as it is currently practiced, is more sustainable than non-organic farming, because it returns far more of the nutrients and organic matter taken from the soil through practices like composting and crop rotation, and is less reliant on non-renewable fossil fuels.

Even organic farming, however, is still far from being entirely sustainable as it is widely practiced. This is because the majority of organic farming still relies on fossil fuels to power its tractors and trucks for distribution, and because the use of tractors to till the soil and traditional row-cropping methods are still contributing to the compaction and erosion of topsoil at rates that cannot continue much longer. Ecology Action, with whom we took a 3 day workshop on Biointensive gardening and mini-farming in November 2006, estimates that we have as few as 40 years of usable topsoil left. Both organic and non-organic farming are contributing to the rapid depletion of this disappearing source of our sustenance at relatively equal rates.

What is the solution to this? How can we ensure that we feed ourselves and our children in a way that preserves and even builds precious topsoil? Those are the questions that will be the main course for next week’s dish. Until then, the hot potato is in your hands. Pass it on!

TO FIND organic farms, CSA’s, farmer’s markets, restaurants, grocery stores, and organic fruit, flowers, veggies, herbs, eggs, meat, & dairy near you or to order online, you can do a search by typing in your zip-code at www.localharvest.org

A great comparison on sustainable versus industrial agriculture can be found at www.sustainabletable.org/intro/comparison. You can also take the red pill and watch The Meatrix animations, a hilarious play on The Matrix series, about factory farming at www.themeatrix.com.

BENEATH THE SNOW LIES THE ROSE

BENEATH THE SNOW LIES THE ROSE
— Prospect Heights, IL — Jan 19, 2007 —

TO DOWNLOAD a PDF of the article, on Hot Potato Week 2.
THE HOT POTATO
Serving Up a Weekly Helping of
Sustainable & Organic Gardening, Food, Health, and Community

by Adam Brockman & Aireen Joven, January 2007, Article #2

THIS WEEK’S DISH:
BENEATH THE SNOW LIES THE ROSE
“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” – Ovid

SUNFLOWERS greet visitors next to Wellspring’s retreat, conference center, which has a straw bale-constructed addition seen in the background.

IMAGINE a majestic garden in August. Lush flowery jewels of all colors blooming across the field. Green bushy tree tops play in a dancing, unpredictable breeze. The soil under your feet is soft, warm, and singing with life – billions of clever spiders, hungry earthworms, fuzzy caterpillars, bugs that eat your garden’s plants, even more bugs that eat the bugs that eat your garden’s plants, and strange bright bugs you may never have a name for…

…and let us never forget the nearly invisible nutrient-giving microbial organisms teeming with life in the topsoil who are responsible for the health of your plants and consequently the health of your body, the blessed infinite microbial life to whom you have given a healthy home rich in organic matter and free of chemicals…

…now quickly, notice the field mice that dash for the woods, run your hands across the canopy of leaves, flowers, and fruit of the bean patch planted with your own hands, reaching for the sun as baby bunnies hide underneath the canopy nibling their piece of the pie, say hello to the busy bees dreaming of honey in a perfectly yellow sunflower, and at sunset, the celebrities of the garden make an appearance, a mother doe and her two young deer gracefully slip into the lettuce patch and all feel nourished with the summer’s bounty…

…meanwhile, far above a great blue heron spirals down to sit upon her watery throne, and the full court is present of course – untamed dragonflies passing through the kingdom as their iridescent wings reflect flashes of sunset gold, the trilling tree frogs who sing pure love all night long, a shy but regal family of ducks who ceremoniously pay a visit to your freshly dug vegetable bed, slippery gray fish undisturbed under the pond’s blanket of algae,  and what would the summer be without late bloomer baby birds safely nested in the bushes, upon a corner of the tool shed, and in the heron’s court among the happy cattails…

…then when the children find them, the cattail heads full of seeds turn into waves of white fluff as you watch them leave your outstretched hand and float across the universe to plant themselves beside another pond in someone else’s garden waiting to become the next laugh, joy, or miracle discovered.

SUMMER HOLLYHOCKS bloom over six feet tall gracing Wellspring’s garden in late July.

R.S.V.P. MOTHER EARTH

Ah, summer. You might be thinking, what a terrific fantasy. But this picturesque scene of nature painted above was a real invitation every day on the farm where we lived and worked last year. This invitation, in fact, is open to all of us every day. On the one hand, it is a literal invitation, because where we worked, Wellspring hosts a very affordable, comfortable, and year round bed, breakfast, hostel, and conference & retreat center in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine just half an hour north of Milwaukee and 1 and 1/2 hours from the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Resting on over 30 acres of meadow, lawn, a walking trail along the Milwaukee River, woods, a small orchard, and several acres in fruit and vegetables for their weekly food subscription Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) organic farm, Wellspring is also a nonprofit whose mission is to teach harmony with ourselves and the earth. If you might like to visit, you can go to www.wellspringinc.org or call Mary Ann Ihm at 262-675-6755 for more info.

On the other hand, the summer garden above represents the never ending invitation from Mother Earth to get out of the fast lane. You know that saying – it’s not the destination, it’s the journey? Well, it’s finally winter now, and the snow feels good blanketing the summer’s garden at rest. The winter moonlight moving through the black trees and falling onto the glittering snowscape is in many ways more comforting than being able to wear a tee shirt and sandals in December while Oprah interviews Al Gore about global warming and climate change (a topic The Hot Potato would like to put on the menu for a future article).

We can still accept nature’s invitation in the middle of winter. Several gardens and nature preserves have open invitations with fun attractions year round. Here are a few in the Chicago area:

The Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe, Illinois, www.chicagobotanic.org.
Tropical rain forest greenhouses, watercolor paintings, images of great gardens of the world, and family classes like Pizza Garden, Bathroom Botanicals, Dinosaur Plants

The Morton Arboretum, 4100 Lincoln Ave, Lisle, IL, www.mortonarb.org
Children’s garden winter walks, free guided walks, snowshoeing, dog sledding, and a one acre maze garden with living hedges and a12-foot high lookout platform built around a 60-foot tall Sycamore tree.

The Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave, Chicago, IL, www.garfield-conservatory.org
Chocolate Fest, winter tree ID walk, free weekend plant clinic, amazing and grand greenhouses including the Children’s Garden, Desert House, Horticultural Hall, and Sweet House which includes sugar cane, figs, pineapples, coconuts, cinnamon, chewing gum, mangos, guavas, vanilla and banana plants!

The Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL, www.naturemuseum.org
Green garden model including interactive rooftop gardens, water conservation, and solar panels, the secret world of animal homes, a real butterfly habitat haven, and “Mysteries of the Marsh. about Illinois’ wetlands that are home to nearly two-thirds of Illinois’ endangered and threatened species.

LOOKING FOR SNOW ANGELS

The last time we had a snowball fight was on the farm in March of last year, just before the last snow of the year melted away. When was the last time you made a snow angel, snow man, or snow ball and threw it at somebody? Without driving anywhere, we can make a date with nature close to home, like on a bundled stroll down to the local lake, park, or sledding slope. Even right outside your home might be the perfect spot to breathe in the feeling of winter and store it away until we are back in the heat of a majestic garden in August.

Remember too in the winter, it’s important to get your daily dose of sunshine. The sunshine converts into Vitamin D in your body that aids in the absorption of calcium. You can open your curtains during the day to let the light and warmth in, and then close the curtains at night to keep the cold out. If the winter blues are getting to you, you can always curl up with a hot potato, a warm cup of chamomile tea, and Bette Midler’s song “The Rose” playing softly as she sings to remind us:

When the night has been too lonely
and the road has been too long
and you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
far beneath the bitter snows
lies the seed
that with the sun’s love
in the spring
becomes the rose

Posted in art

WELCOME TO THE HOT POTATO

WELCOME TO THE HOT POTATO!

 

Bean pickers extraordinaire, on a hot Wisconsin summer day in 2006.
HELLO, and welcome to the first ever serving of our new column, The Hot Potato. From here on out, every week, we will be devoting this space to sharing with you the truth as we know it on a variety of seasonal and hot topics. Everything from gardening tips to demystifying food labels to the decline of fossil fuels and smart renewable energy alternatives will be laid out in lavish portions for the discriminating reader to devour. And for those of you who also prefer to play with your food, there will be plenty of creative and enlivening suggestions within or at the end of each entree on how to take action and “pass the hot potato” of healthy knowledge and positive change! We are just beginners ourselves so we hope you will join us every week for news, gardening tips and talk, and empowering actions about how each one of us really can change our health, our wellbeing, and our earth one hot potato at a time.

WHY IS THE POTATO SO HOT?

The truth is that at this moment in human history, the “potato” has never been hotter. With the now near-unanimous acknowledgment of global warming and its already devastating impacts on our planet, the startling revelations about the poisonous pesticides and other chemicals being dumped onto non-organic produce finding its way into our breastmilk and waterways alike, and unsafe genetically modified plant genes contaminating our bodies and farmers’ fields, the time to get educated about our health and the health of the Earth is well upon us. The potato is in the oven; the dinner bell has rung.

Many of us remain unaware of the things that are being put into our food, into our bodies, into the air we breathe, and into the earth, rivers, and oceans. We remain unaware or, once we are aware, we say, “Oh, but this doesn’t affect me. Why should I care?” The truth is, every choice that we are making in our lives right now is affecting not only our own health, but the health of all the life on this planet, and the health of our children, our children’s children, and ALL GENERATIONS TO COME.

It may sound simplistic to think that buying an organic potato free of toxic pesticides is changing the world, but just think: every dollar you spend is a vote toward the world that you want to see. This is more than just a potato: this is one vote, a thousand votes, toward a healthy, abundant future for ourselves and our children. And what we hope to get across is that changing the world is simple. We choose to take a path made up of many simple and courageous steps that culminate in one big paradigm shift. Whether the vote is cast with our money, our labor, or the little things we do with our free time, every vote counts. Every vote is like a stone cast into a pond, rippling outwards into infinity, changing currents across the vast ocean of human and planetary experience.

 

. The more beans you pick, the more beans emerge from the bean plants’ pretty flowers!

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE POTATO

As for our humble yet nutritious friend the potato, if he could only talk, it’s certain he’d have a thing or two to tell us about human and plant-etary experience. So unassuming, and yet so omnipresent in today’s world, the first record of cultivation of potatoes comes from the indigenous peoples of Peru, who have gathered wild potatoes since before 6000 B.C.. Introduced into Europe in the 16th century from its home in the Andes Mountains, potatoes were first vilified as an “evil food” and “unhealthy”, probably due in part to the fact that the potato belongs to the same family as deadly nightshade and has similar poisonous properties when the tuber (potato) is exposed to sunlight for too long and turns green.

Today, the potato is one of the most widely grown and consumed vegetables, with nearly every country in the world taking part in its production. It’s no accident: within a small growing area, the potato contains large amounts of calories, protein, and lots of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C. Whole civilizations and countries have relied on the potato for sustenance, including the Incas and, more recently, the Irish. You can store them over the winter and through the spring, and they are relatively easy to grow: all you need to grow several potatoes is a piece of one potato with one or more “eyes” in it, through which the sprouts grow out. Of course, it helps to have good soil that is well aerated and, if possible, acidic, since that is the potato’s ideal breeding ground.

CULTIVATING A HOT KITCHEN

It also helps to have good “seed” potatoes to begin with. When it comes to ANY seed, and especially seed potatoes, buying organic is a must. Potatoes are one of the most heavily sprayed crops in terms of pesticides. This is because poor growing practices in depleted soil cause the plants to become stressed and weakened, making them susceptible to the Colorado potato beetle. Sadly, instead of changing the original cause of the problem, “conventional” aka chemical agriculture spends billions of dollars each year in energy, chemicals, and machinery fighting the symptoms. This results in potatoes that are only a semblance of what they should be and, worse, are full of chemical poisons that are being linked to higher incidences of cancer and degenerative diseases across the U.S and the world. Supporting organic potato growers also helps protect biodiversity and prevent widespread crop failures. This is because a diversity in potato varieties is less likely to be affected by a disease that can wipe out a whole variety of potatoes but not likely all varieties. This is why it pays to get your seed potatoes AND your table potatoes Certified Organic.

As for cooking, the versatility of the potato shines through. Though commonly consumed as french fries or fried potato chips in this country, there are probably a thousand ways you can prepare a potato that are far more healthful and interesting than these. One of the best ways is just to bake the potato whole in the oven, as this preserves much of the vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals. Steaming and baking are two of the most preferable methods for cooking; boiling and frying are not recommended, as these destroy much of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber content. Lightly sautéing is preferable to long, deep frying. Even better, you can turn those french fries into french bakes! Cut up potatoes into circles like chips or lengthwise into skinny fries, toss with your favorite oil like organic olive oil, add some spices like garlic, rosemary, or cayenne, and bake in the oven until lightly browned. Potato Tip: for crispier fries, you can broil instead of bake. We call these real freedom fries – freedom from heart disease-causing hydrogenated oils, pesticides, and fast-to-the-doctor food.

FRIENDS OF THE POTATO

Now that you know the potato a little bit more intimately, maybe you have decided that the two of you should be friends. If you are eager for more knowledge and want a specific topic addressed, have questions or feedback, or if you just want to say hello, we’re eager to hear from you. Contact us at the website below and we will try to answer any questions and/or address issues of curiosity in a future column.

Until next week, the Hot Potato is in your hands. Pass it on!

— Adam and Aireen recently completed a 32 week garden internship in 2006 at Wellspring, an organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, bed & breakfast, hostel, retreat center, and nonprofit in the Milwaukee River Valley in Wisconsin. Seeing the need to learn beyond organic gardening, the two participated in a 3 day workshop in Willits, California to learn a method of sustainable gardening and mini-farming called Biointensive developed by Ecology Action and John Jeavons, author of How To Grow More Vegetables. Through WWOOF (Worldwide Workers On Organic Farms), Adam lived and worked for a month and a half in 2001 at a small bed & breakfast in southern France where he pulled weeds, helped restore a castle, and tended to sheep, rabbits, chickens, and a goat named Honey. Before realizing her love for gardening, Aireen worked at a garden center, flower shops, and in her mom’s beautiful garden. Adam attended the College of Santa Fe for one year where he studied Music & Creative Writing. Aireen received her B.F.A. in Studio Arts from Barat College in Lake Forest, Illinois. Together they have founded HOPE (Healing Ourselves For Peace On Earth) whose mission is a holistic approach to personal and planetary healing and harmony.

To contact us or read archives of The Hot Potato,
please visit www.thehotpotato.org or send us an email.