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Local First This Holiday Season

It’s ironic that WalMart has become an iconic symbol of the very same small towns that they’ve destroyed.  Main Street sits, rotting if even in a beautiful way, as a vacant reminder of the not-too-distant past when we built walkable communities that worked.  Places worth caring about, aesthetically pleasing mixed-use human scale neighborhoods that grew organically over time as the need arised.  Buildings designed and built by real people, kept up with pride by the business owners who lived in an apartment on top of the store itself, or in a house a few blocks away.  One with a long porch, on a street with sidewalks…so they could greet their neighbors as they walked by on a Sunday morning.

I’m not gonna think that I can influence the shopping habits of America with one blog post, but I am going to ask you the favor of at least considering what I have to say.  If you’re gonna shop tomorrow, at least consider our neighbors and our neighborhoods.  America is in the late stages of a serious disease, but fortunately there’s a cure…

Riddle Me This, President-Elect Obama

If you’ll forgive the unfortunate Batman reference in the title, I must say that I’m glad our worst fears haven’t yet come to pass.  We’re at a major fork in the road, and there’s still a chance that we’ll prove to be a reality-based nation after all.  For the last 60-plus years, and especially over the past 8…we haven’t so much been ‘told’, as we’ve had it jammed down our throats relentlessly that food is just another commodity best left to international commodity traders and chemical companies.  Unsurprisingly, globalization as defined by those types in this area has proven to be a massive failure, as has everything else based upon their theories.

The simple fact is that our food system is completely broken.  We’re drive-thruing ourselves to ruin while trying to drown out the sounds of our destruction with the popping of Pringles…

If we intend to remain a “first-world” nation, we need to ensure we have the bare basics to begin with.  Like food, which comes from our soil…the health of which directly impacts the nutrients contained in same.  

It’s time we had people in positions of power in Washington who understood that, people like Jim Riddle.

Crossposted as always from La Vida Locavore, jump below the fold…

Eating Oregon: Will Walk For (Real) Food…

Saturday morning, November 22.  Jay awakes (and refers to himself in the third person) in his tiny apartment in an inner Southeast Portland neighborhood.  Showers, dresses…tries to leave but gets sucked into 30 minutes of college football pregame shows on ESPN…breaks free eventually and throws on a jacket and a hat.

Let’s take a walk to the Portland Farmers Market at PSU, shall we?

First though, we need coffee.  Stumptown of course, mmmm!


Crossposted from La Vida Locavore, journey below the fold…

New Jersey Loses A Good One

A little bit of shuffling in New Jersey’s state government leading up to next year’s elections.  New Jersey holds state elections in the “odd-numbered” years – in 2009 there will be a gubernatorial election with incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine (D-Hoboken) running for a second term, while all 80 seats in New Jersey’s General Assembly (the Lower House of the NJ State Legislature, currently controlled by Democrats 48-32) will be up for election.  Elections for seats in the Upper House (the NJ State Senate, currently controlled by Democrats 23-17) are held in years ending in 1, 3 and 7.  A “2-4-4 cycle” in order to reflect redistricting changes due to the Census.

In the midst of a recent certain other (heh…) important and closely-watched election, came news that Charles Kuperus, the head of New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture, has resigned the position he’s held for the past six years after originally being appointed by former Governor Jim McGreevey.

As someone who grew up in New Jersey, and was a resident as recently as two years ago…I’m sad to say that we lost a really good one here –

“Charlie has been taking the heat from many in the farm community who would rather be able to sell their land to developers, growing houses [rather] than crops,” Tittel said. “He has helped protect farming for the future.”

Crossposted from La Vida Locavore, more below the fold…

Race To Watch: Peter Goldmark for WA Public Lands Commissioner

A whole bunch of vital races tend to get lost amidst big media’s obsession with the minutiae of the ‘big’ races, especially in presidential years.  One of those races is mentioned this morning in the Seattle P-I

The campaign to be the state’s next commissioner of public lands is one of the tightest and most polarized political races this year.

It is also the least understood, though the office determines the management of 5.6 million acres of state timber and aquatic lands, shorelines and agricultural fields for a trust that funds public schools and universities throughout Washington.

Crossposted from La Vida Locavore, more below the fold…

More Collateral Damage Brought To You By The “War On Drugs”…

This AP article via Yahoo caught my attention for many reasons, but what ultimately led me me to respond was this infuriating quote –

“People light up a joint, and they have no idea the amount of environmental damage associated with it,” said Cicely Muldoon, deputy regional director of the Pacific West Region of the National Park Service.

Oh really, Cicely?  You know, that’s particularly hilarious coming from a representative of the very same government whose disastrous agricultural policies are directly responsible for the Dead Zone the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s clearly not only fossil fuel companies and other massive corporations engaging in greenwashing these days, it also appears that the US government is now trying to sell its failed “War on Drugs” as a green issue.  The fact is that growing operations in our national parks are disastrous, but at the same time we should also consider the fact that they only exist due to equally disastrous government policy.

More below the fold…

Greetings From Oregon…

Greetings from the Great Green State of Oregon, where I’ve decided to take a few minutes on this damp Sunday here in Portland to collect the latest goings-on here in our US Senate race – where our excellent candidate Jeff Merkley is going to retire Senator Weasel (he of The Great Fake Outrage), in just a few weeks.

Three recent polls (links and numbers below the fold) make it very clear that this is a top-tier race, and a few more news items are included below the fold.

De-Paving Our Way Back to Workable Cities

In June 2008, a derelict parking lot at the corner of N. Williams and Fargo here in Portland was de-paved to make way for what will soon be a public park of fruit trees and native plants.  This project especially stands out to me not only because I pass it every day on my bus ride into work, and the fact that it’s also only 3 blocks from our building…but also because of the neighborhood the site is located in.  One block up from a very recent makeshift memorial to a slain neighborhood resident, and two blocks down the other way from an abandoned industrial building with multiple bullet holes in the street-facing windows.  

This is one of the few neighborhoods in Portland I’d say qualifies as a food desert, and probably the only one in our inner city core that would qualify as same.  The only food stores within walking distance are two corner markets which sell almost exclusively snacks, soda and beer…and a gas station c-store 6 blocks over on MLK which sells the same.  The largest food retailer in the area?  The “Hostess / Wonder Bread Factory Warehouse Store” on N. Vancouver, one block up and over from the Fargo Garden site.  And of course, the sole reason for that place’s existence is to sell nutritionally bankrupt ‘food’ items like white bread and Twinkies.  Would it surprise you to also find out that this neighborhood has historically been one of Portland’s very few majority African-American neighborhoods?

Below the fold, more words and a look at other successful examples of reworking cities to the advantage of people over machines…

Let’s Not Forget The Farmworkers This Labor Day

My Labor Day Weekend began this Sunday morning – I jumped on a TriMet bus for a quick ride out to my Sunday farmers market to pick up most of the food I’ll eat this week, directly from some of the people responsible for growing it.  We all enjoyed those few hours in that little Clackamas County town; and then I hopped on the bus back home to my tiny urban inner SE Portland apartment just as they began to pack up their stands and crates onto their trucks and into their vans to scatter back out to their wide open lands in random towns, villages and hamlets all throughout the Willamette Valley.

It’s September tomorrow, and the transition will come soon – the squash become harder, the berries give way to apples and pears…salads and light sandwiches step aside to make room for soup and chili, potatoes make the move from cold salads to hot and creamy au gratin.  I’ll enjoy these last few weeks of fresh local tomatoes; even as I get the oven ready for heavy-duty work again on these upcoming wet and windy 40 and 50-something degree days and 30-something nights, and dust off my butternut squash sauce and (in)famous Oregon Winter Pizza recipes…

Of course, the current American ‘food’ system overall is hardly pastoral or idyllic…and exploitation is the rule for the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of farmworkers and food processing plant workers who make possible the many great holiday feasts of millions of Americans on these occasions.

Crossposted from La Vida Locavore, more below the fold…

In Case You Missed The Latest Friday Night FDA News Dump…

It’s a long standing tradition for government agencies to publicly release findings, rulings and studies they’d rather just as soon not discuss any further on Friday nights.  Who follows news on the weekend?  And by Monday morning, the story is already 3 days old – or in other words, ancient history…

Of course, those of us who know these things know that Saturday morning’s news will always contain a few interesting items.

Here’s the latest, courtesy of the FDA

A controversial chemical commonly found in can linings, baby bottles and other household products does not pose a health hazard when used in food containers, according to a draft assessment released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday.

FDA scientists said the trace amounts of bisphenol A (BPA) that leach out of food containers are not a threat to infants or adults. The agency acknowledged that more research is needed to fully understand the chemical’s effects on humans and noted “there are always uncertainties associated with safety decisions.”

The FDA previously declared the chemical safe but agreed to revisit that opinion after a report by the federal National Toxicology Program said there was “some concern” about its risks to infants.

There go our “watchdogs” in action again, watch them regulate!  Maybe they’re “saving their powder”.  Then again, this is the FDA we’re talking about here…the agency so clueless that they apparently just play “spin the bottle” whenever there’s an outbreak of food poisoning, or just place blame on the first thing that comes to mind.  I’m still waiting for them to blame the next salmonella outbreak on gerbils, because a top agency official may have a 3-year old daughter who fears small rodents.

Crossposted from La Vida Locavore, more below the fold…