J500 Media and the Environment

Local: It’s all the local rage. Locally. by bendcohen

Local agriculture and business are reaching new levels of popularity right now.  Part of the modern sustainability movement is, for a variety of reasons, increasing consumption of local products.  Part of this has to do with reducing the carbon footprint of the agriculture industry, by increasing demand for items that do not have to travel as far to be sold.  Economically, it also supports the efforts of smaller farms and merchants, reducing the stranglehold that large producers and distributors have on the food industry.  And from a health perspective, foods produced with a smaller market in line do not typically have the horrendous amount of preservatives, growth hormones, and other strange things that foods produced for a massive distribution do.

The only major knock against local foods that I give any credence is that they are popular now because it is trendy.  You sound so much healthier and more conscious of the shady practices of major food producing companies, and some people will find that out and use it to feel cool.  That being said, this is one of those cases where I have to say “So what?”

Like any trend, the cultural shift in the favor of local foods (one which is still taking place, slowly but surely), can be exploited not just by those demanding to be cool at all times, but by business interests who know that those same people often have a lot of extra money to shill out for things with words like “local” and “organic” plastered on the packaging.

Also, by whatever diabolical genius grew this guy.

Regardless of the motivations some people have in supporting local food producers, and who finds the easiest way to make a buck off of them, the truths about locally-grown and distributed foods, the benefits mentioned earlier stand.  Economic uncertainty pervades our culture, so knowing that we can help our neighbors succeed is comforting.  Obesity is the great new American stereotype, so finding foods that don’t contribute to that is always exciting.  And then there are people like the contributors to Lawrence’s own Localvores blog whose passion for local food production just makes me feel bad for passing it over sometimes.

So for those reasons, I hold back the cynicism.  Time will tell how much this effects our health, economy, and indeed American culture in the long run.  In the short term, the trend really can’t hurt too much.

About Me: Angela Jones by angelajon

While Oregon is very green (in many ways) growing up in the Willamette Valley on a medium-sized ‘working’ farm was not always fun; in fact I believe it is the reason I ran away and joined the military.

My First Horse and Her Colt; Roxie and Rusty

My First Horse and Her Colt; Roxie and Rusty

As a kid, my summers were filled, from before school let out to late fall, with putting up peaches, apples, apricots, plums, pears, tomatoes, and berries into sauces, jams and jellies. We had 7 chest freezers for any food that was not preserved by canning or drying. We traded apples from our orchard for peaches with the guy up the road. We grew our own blackberries and raspberries; at picking farms we picked blueberries and strawberries. Beans, peas, potatoes, carrots, onions, cucumbers and a full menu of squashes were some of the vegetables we could put up and there were so many more in the garden that we just ate as they matured. We raised our own livestock and chickens. For variety my father would hunt deer, elk, rabbit, raccoon, and we all fished from the local lake. Meat was canned, pickled, jerked, frozen, or made into pâté or sausage. All parts of the animals were used: bone was ground into dust and tilled into the soil, skin was tanned, horns and teeth were used for handy-crafts, and buttons, hoofs, tails, guts, and inedible bits were cooked or steamed down into a meal to feed the pigs, goats or chickens.

My Older Brother, Carl, and His Award Winning Kill

My Older Brother, Carl, and His Award Winning Kill

Firewood finished the summer. As harvesting and storing the garden came to an end, my father would get us up drastically early and drive us into the wooded areas of our land. There we would fell, split, chop and cut cottonwood, oak, and ash. We had a wood room on the side of the house. There we could store over 20 cord of wood. Then we would fill the adjacent field with another 20-25 cord of cut, split, and stacked wood. By spring it would all be gone; we heated solely with wood. The ashes were mixed with the winter collection of manure and tilled back into the soil.

Maybe, in some eyes, this is living naturally, living off the land, recycling the woods (we used downed trees first as the wood was ‘seasoned’, but felled what we required). My father was very conscious about sustaining the woods; we cut and felled responsibly, providing growth room for new saplings. He was very aware that if he cut too much, in the wrong areas, or of the wrong type it would impact our ability to heat the home in upcoming years and could cause land erosion.

However, we had a playground for bored kids; a dirty secret for the family.

Most farmers have the same secret, but in our area, since much of our land was not cleared, and the land of the other farmers was sustaining crops, several of our neighbors would come and add to our shame; we had a dump. Out, alongside the furthermost field, ran a tree infested gully. Our land was flood land and every few years the Willamette River would flood its banks and turn much of our land into a lake. There were lots of gullies, formed by water rushed along under the force of the overflowing river. In this gully my father dumped our waste. We burned what we could, the rest: the glass, metal, old mattresses, and what-not were dumped between the trees into this depression. Neighbors came frequently to ask for a favor, “As long as it don’t stink, and bring in varmints,” was my father’s reply to the request, and the dump grew.

At the end of our quarter mile long drive, our closest neighbor had the same type of dump. Otto Hahn was the only farm equipment repairman for over 100 miles; he was famous, much sought after and damned good at what he did. Out the back door of his work shop went his trash, down a small incline into a low area. Trees had grown over it, brush obscured it from view (for the most part), but it was there. On occasion, instead of playing in our own backyard dump, we played in Otto’s. One day I discovered a clear-glass Pyrex dish, wrapped in baking parchment, held in place by cooking twine, with a treasure inside; a piece of wedding cake with a note giving the date and a wedding blessing. Otto Hahn, widowed less than two years ago, had just married is childhood sweetheart 70 years after they met and 57 years after her mother refused to allow her to marry a farmer. Otto and his first wife, Adelia, had been married over 50 years and this was a piece of their wedding cake.

I gave the Pyrex dish, complete with the treasure it contained, to my mother. She took it to Otto and asked his wishes. He was touched, but felt the cake and its importance in his life had been overcome by events. That dish was the first piece to be put in my hope chest; it is a bread loaf baking dish. My dream for many years was to be a baker. I love to make bread. I use the pan often and always remember the sweet old man who could repair anything.

Today, I consciously avoid yard/garage sales as I tend to ‘discover’ way too many treasures. Being with the military and now the federal government, I have not lived in the same house for more than 3.5 years since 1981. I keep my clutter to a minimum or face the pain of packing and moving all of it every few years. This can be a powerful motivator.

I have traveled extensively all over Europe and lived more of my life in countries where English is not the native tongue than the total number of years I have spent state-side. I bring with me all of the paradigms created in Europe by the lack of space, the need to build up rather than spread out, the drive to maintain standards in densely populated multi-cultural cities. In Germany, Italy and several other European Union nations, recycling is mandatory. My weekly garbage, what did not go in one of the three different recycling bins, could fit in a sandwich bag. Taking my trash out each week was actually a pleasure.

We are not as efficient or regimented in our recycling here in the U.S., but I hope to be part of that change as it happens.


Life is GREAT when there is lots of LOVE.

Angela Jones

About Me: Beth Davis by bethd
June 9, 2009, 10:02 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 1 | Tags: ,

The pursuit of environmentalism and sustainability is very relevant to my work. I work with agricultural companies, and the topic of sustainable agriculture and fertilizer run-off is of more concern today than ever before. Input costs are higher and regulations are tightening; the agriculture industry is desperate to meet increasing demands for food and preserve the environment, while still maintaining profitability. Advances in fertilizer additives that reduce run-off and leaching, no-till crop production and other conservative farming practices are growing in popularity—but the industry still needs to adapt further.

My professional portfolio includes an array of corporate communications experiences including not-for-profit, for profit, B-to-B, B-to-C, domestic and international organizations.   For the past year I’ve been working for Osborn & Barr, an integrated marketing communications firm. My current clients include USDA and American Farm Bureau Federation.

Prior to joining O&B, I worked in an internal communications role at Sprint-Nextel Corporation where I led in formulating corporate-wide messages to convey key initiatives and corporate responsibility efforts to internal and vendor audiences. 

Before working for Sprint, I was a member of the public relations and marketing team at Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, Mo., where I was accountable for media relations, web content, internal communications, brand management, market research and business development for the 30,000-employee healthcare network.   

I received a bachelor’s degree from Washburn University, and I was raised on an Angus ranch in southeast Kansas where her father owns and operates the local grain elevator.


Beth Davis

About me: CindyOl by cindyol

“It’s never too late,” would be great lyrics for a song on my iPod these days. As I’m hitting the closing act of my fifth decade, my list of new experiences is growing quickly: learn new technology, acquire new eating habits, go back to school, get a job in a new industry, be a grandmother, and now becoming sustainable. It’s all happening to me. But no complaints here.

When I was born, there were no home versions of VCRs, let alone DVRs, or microwave ovens. I remember getting our first color television, and it certainly wasn’t flat. The idea that a home personal computer was even possible didn’t gain ground until I was in college, and we didn’t own one until our oldest child was entering first grade. If you mentioned the Internet and social media? You might have been considered a bit “teched.”  So the idea that I am the digital communications subject matter expert in my current job is amusing to me.

A year ago, if I was making a list to describe my interests and passions, sustainability Brewster Sunsetwould not be among them. I grew up in a small Massachusetts town surrounded by incredible natural resources. (I often long for the times when I dawdled away my summer days on an ocean beach.) It gave me an appreciation of the things that sustainability stands for. But I would have to say my experience with sustainability is more awareness than action. Civic and social responsibility (causes that include people) has always been a part of my life. From the Girl Scouts to faith-based service to others, helping people and teaching my children to help people is a foundational principle in my life.

Jersey CowIn my new job as a communicator in the dairy industry, I interact with people who are staunch advocates for the land and their animals. They bring the perspective of generations of experience. They are concerned about food safety and our health. And they want to do what’s right. I’m excited to be able to help them bring their stories to the public.
Cindy O.

Growing Plants and Relationships: Katherine Kelly at KCCUA by brennad87

Katherine in the leafy greenhouse at KCCUA.

Katherine Kelly in the leafy greenhouse at KCCUA.

Katherine chats with each customer at the spring transplant sale.

Katherine chats with each customer at the spring transplant sale.

From our perch on top of a stack of soggy hay bales, six-year-old Evangeline Ellingsworth and I can see the entirety of the farm that is her stomping ground. Beyond the curved hoophouses and stillbarren fields, lie ranch style houses, a school, and the buzzing freeway. The farm is smack in the center of an urban environment.

Six-year-old Evangeline Ellingsworth, daughter of KCCUA farm manager Alicia Ellingsworth.

Six-year-old Evangeline Ellingsworth, daughter of KCCUA farm manager Alicia Ellingsworth, makes the farm her playground.

Evangeline, daughter of farm manager Alicia Ellingsworth, explains to me the workings of the urban farm where she is growing up.

“Well,” she says, “Katherine is kind of the boss around here.”

From our high position, we can see the woman herself, framed in the doorway of the greenhouse. Katherine Kelly is the co-founder, executive director and soul of Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture—a working farm and community center. She stands in her characteristic position, one leg up as she talks to folks milling around the spring transplant sale. With the farm’s responsibility on her shoulders, Katherine is busy. But she has time for a chat with everyone this busy Saturday afternoon– the farm crew, her customers, the refugee women she teaches to farm for a living.

“Have you ever had a boss who hugs you and you cry on?” asks Evangeline’s mom, farm manager Alicia Ellingsworth. “I see Katherine hug ten people a day.”

Katherine kindles the community spirit of the farm. She originally founded the farm to satisfy her own desire to live in the city and farm at the same time. However, her history as a community organizer kicked in as soon as she began to meet other farmers. In talking, she heard a common theme: “It used to be, if you were a farmer, you had grown up in it,” she said. “There is no longer the experience base or industrial infrastructure that there used to be.”

With Katherine’s hard work, development and apprenticeship programs strengthening local agricultural infrastructure sprung up around KCCUA. One project is the Juniper Gardens Training Farm, where local farmers helps refugee woman negotiate the challenges of starting an urban farm.

“They are all about relationships,” Katherine said. “Farmers are not classroom people. We all learn really well by thinking problems out loud with each other.”

From policymakers to religious leaders, Katherine speaks with everyone about the growing movement supporting local food, a movement she fully believes in.

“Agriculture is a connecting activity,” she said. “We are the very immediate part of people’s decision to be healthy and to live well and to take care of their family and friends.”

Katherine Kelly points a customer to fresh, home-grown greens at the spring transplant sale.

Katherine points a customer to fresh, home-grown greens at the spring transplant sale.

KCCUA’s many programs mean that Katherine spends an equal amount of time in the office organizing as actually in the dirt. Sometimes it’s a hard balance. Katherine worries about her produce until the Saturday morning market. As she walked quickly through the greenhouse with me on a Friday afternoon, I complimented her on what looked to me like Eden: rows of leafy greens and blooming flowers.

“Oh, I see a lot of problems out there,” she said with a wry smile.

Only the next morning in the pre-dawn chill, as the farm crew packed the vegetables for market, did she finally relax.

Katherine Kelly listens to the questions of a fellow farmer.

Katherine listens to the questions of a fellow farmer.

“I think things are going to be all right,” she said.

Katherine’s customers know the care she takes with her produce. KCCUA’s fresh-tasting tomatoes have the farm’s own guarantee, a guarantee customers value after recent salmonella outbreaks in food produced by large corporations. Even organic labels do not have that personal guarantee: according to a New York Times article, large corporations produce 25% of organic foods. At the Saturday morning farmers market, Katherine meets customers who have raised their children on her produce. She supports people, she feeds them. It is one and the same.

Plants grow and relationships grow together at this farm. Back in the greenhouse, a Hmong woman, Kim, solemnly waters her budding greens. Angela, a cheerful woman who runs a church youth garden, trims plants with two young girls. The girls are timidly friendly, telling me shyly that they love harvest time. Angela prepares the food that they’ve grown into such delicacies as red cabbage with apple. She is proud to be teaching these young girls about farming. Everyone is sharing stories, asking advice, and learning. At the heart is Katherine. She is the go-to person for everything.

“She is my best farming friend,” says Angela.

“You do this because it suits you,” Katherine said. “It fits what you want to create in the world.”

— Brenna Daldorph

Benefits of Local and Organic for the Community by brennad87


KCCUA: A place where all Americans are brought to the field and the table

KCCUA is like the Thanksgiving table: a place where all Kansas City residents can come together

There is nothing more American than Thanksgiving when Americans of all colors and religions gather around dinners symbolizing the first Thanksgiving. On that historic day, Pilgrims and Indians broke bread at the same rough-hewn table.  The table, however, was not where they first interacted. They first worked together in the fields. The story goes that Squanto reached out to the starving newcomers. His people taught the pilgrims how to grow squash and corn and beans; how to survive in a harsh land. The two groups were probably suspicious at first, but over wet earth and hoes, over back-aches and beanpoles, they came together in this act of making life-sustaining food.

Our quintessential American holiday is still about harvest and community, about sharing food and growing it together. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of America still had that spirit? But these days, big business strips the caring and interaction from food production.

Not so at the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture. In my visits to the center, I watched diverse Kansas City residents interact with each other at all levels of food production. I saw a six-year-old help with planting. I saw mother and son lend a hand in washing vegetables, and I saw customers visit KCCUA’s market stall on a bright Saturday morning. Community and food production are one and the same at KCCUA, just like at Plymouth Plantation.

KCCUA doesn’t exist off of the grid in a hippy land. Instead, it is a successful part of the local economy: providing stable jobs and adding to community wealth and self-reliance. As a small, independent business, KCCUA exemplifies an American ideal. Moreover, KCCUA promotes vitality and interaction within the Kansas City community through farmer’s apprenticeship programs and community events.

“At its heart, our movement for local living economies is about love,” wrote Judy Wicks, author of Good Morning, Beautiful Business. “Business has been corrupted as an instrument of greed rather than used to serve the public good. You know that business is beautiful when we put our creativity, care and energy into producing products and services our community needs.”

The farmers at KCCUA make it their business to foster and feed the Kansas City community, bringing together people as diverse as those who gathered at the first Thanksgiving table. In that act, the farm exemplifies the true culture of America. 

— Brenna Daldorph, group 3

Image courtesy of http://fragranceoftruth.wordpress.com

Defining Food by meganr21
May 1, 2009, 2:44 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , , ,
Field Equipment Operations Class

Field Equipment Operations Class

Growing up in Los Angeles my definition of a farm came from a field trip I took in first grade –we drove out of the city to visit cows and see corn grow. This interaction led me to believe that food isn’t grown in the city and except for the occasional garden. After high school I went to an Ag school where I learned how to drive a tractor and plow a field. Classes like this did nothing but reinforce my previous idea of what agriculture in the United States is.

Working with KCCUA, Cross-Lines and Drumm Farm has thrown me for a loop, my definition of food and agriculture has been re-defined many times this semester. I’ve learned that food can be successfully grown within city limits and farms have many roles in the community. Urban agriculture can provide health and nutrition, combat poverty, and educate children. Unbeknownst to many people agriculture exists in our own backyard and it is thriving.

The banana tree in our front yard.

The banana tree in our front yard.

 Food has always played a huge role in my life, but KCCUA has helped give that food a face. It’s not just something from the grocery store anymore, food is grown by real people. I’ll shortly be leaving Kansas to move back to California and hope to embolden my friends and neighbors to support local produce and grow their own. My parents have already begun to grow tomatoes, herbs, nopales (prickly pear cactus), lemons, strawberries, even bananas. I can’t wait to try it all. 


-Megan Richards