J500 Media and the Environment

Satisfaction Through Learning by jackiemcc

What I expected to learn, and what I did learn in this course, couldn’t have been more different. I came into this course expecting to learn about ways in which we can be more environmentally responsible, like recycling. In fact, we didn’t learn much about that at all. We discussed how food impacts the environment. Not only did we learn about general knowledge of environmental food issues, like the difference between “local” and “organic,” but we contributed to the community as well.

This semester we were able to work the newly-formed Douglas County Food Policy Council for our service learning project. For me, this was the best part of the class. I am in another service learning course this semester, and the satisfaction that comes from helping someone in the community while learning, is tremendous. When you are able to have a hands-on experience, you learn so much more than you could by reading a book. Hands-on experiences help you connect and see how things work and impact your life.

Through this experience, I was able to learn about the impact of local foods to many local farmers and KU students. I didn’t realize its impact on so many people. Before this class, local foods didn’t really cross my mind. I knew they existed, but I didn’t realize they were that big of an issue. I thought eating them was something people did nonchalantly. From this experience, I realize it’s larger than that; for some people, it is their life.

Through my interviews, I also learned about and toured a hoop house. A hoop house is a plastic-roofed greenhouse. Photo Courtesy of: http://www.growingformarket.com.

This experience impacted me the most because of our involvement with the community though. After all is said and done, I feel satisfied knowing that I contributed to the community, and that all my hard work will pay off for someone else too, not just me (as compared to a non-service learning course where I’m just earning a grade for myself). It makes me feel good that I am helping someone else out.

-Jackie McClellan

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

Why spending more $$$ sometimes buys less by bryand09
February 20, 2009, 2:01 pm
Filed under: Food + Health, Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

Public schools might be where we win or lose a portion of the environmental fight, and right now, we are losing.

Uploaded to Flickr.com on November 10, 2008 by specialkrb

Uploaded to Flickr.com on November 10, 2008 by specialkrb

Why public schools? Almost half of the state budget is allocated to schools. In fact, less than two years ago, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state wasn’t spending enough, and had a constitutional duty to give them more financing. Children spend so much time in school — a state mandated 11,000 hours a year over at least 13 years.

So many resources go into schools, yet because they have to meet federal standards, hardly any flexibility is allowed in day-to-day schooling. It appears that spending more money hardly helps us buy a better education, just a more strictly planned one.

Sounds like a bad diet.

Teaching nutrition of such a limited basis (maybe one lesson a month or one guest speaker a year) makes it seem trivial and out of the ordinary, maybe even stupid to some kids. Especially in the era of NCLB, nutrition may even seem standardized.

Yet, eating is something we all do every day. And what we eat can’t be standardized. It has to be a reflection on the region and climate we live in, or else we are shipping in tons of frozen and preserved, low-quality factory foods. So why aren’t schools (where children practically spend every day) choosing to spend more time on this?

Money, state and federal funding, resources, community willingness?

Where Kansas Spends Money

Where Kansas Spends Money

As much as we idealize our public schools and praise them for raising test scores, there is much that institutionalized schooling can’t do. I find it sad that we spend so much time and resources at a state level and have so many good teachers, but we still have to teach to tests, serve A or B lunch, and sit quietly while the state legislature decides to spend $33 to $55 dollars less on every student.

—Bryan Dykman

is convenience a crime? by dmdeshazer
March 4, 2008, 3:20 pm
Filed under: Food + Health | Tags: , , , , ,

What my food says about me? One word: convenience.

For a typical 24-hour period, here’s a rather intensive chronicle of my eating habits.

I woke up and my stomach was growling before I went to work, so I grabbed the only thing I had time for: a low-fat Granola bar (Chocolate Chunk flavored, if you wanted to know). I was feeling groggy and tired (which is usually the case, but rarely I have a solution for it) so I made two cups of French Vanilla cappucino mixed with coffee and creamer. I always used to say that caffeine had little to no effect on me– that was until I sometimes added coffee in the morning.

Anyway, as the morning wore on at the Ogden Publications office, more specifically the Natural Home magazine office, my stomach grumbled for a little snackity-snack. I had a small, yet always promising, stash of snacks in my drawer, so I ravaged the end of my Reduced Fat Wheat Thins box. Travis Brown, a fellow classmate of ours, came in and stole a couple, but I won’t hold it against him.

Lunch time was a-nearing, and I hadn’t had time to bring my lunch (note: remember that granola bar on the way out of the house?), so I was listening to my cravings. Lucky for me, my cravings are usually the same things: sandwiches and thai. I chose thai, and went on a rather rewarding experience to Tup Tim Thai in Topeka, Kan. I was feeling brave, so instead of sticking to what I get every single time at any Thai restaurant (Chicken Phad Thai), I ordered this peanutty, tangy curry– Panang curry. It changed my life. I am craving it just talking about it, or rather, writing about it, or rather, typing about it. I might just order Thai tonight only because I can’t stop thinking about how sensational this curry was.

Needless to say, I was pretty full after stuffing my face. I did find room in my tummy for two peanut M&M’s I found in my desk drawer (they were still in the bag) before the work day was over. For dinner, I was in a rush, running from Rock Chalk Revue rehearsal and the Stauffer-Flint building to work on a lab project. I grabbed a turkey sandwich from my favorite sub place, Jersey Mike’s, and went on my way.

Now, that might not be the most typical day, but it is rather indicative of my eating habits. I’m always on the go and rarely have time to plan out my meals. No, I don’t eat all-organic or even really try to eat local. I’m not too concerned with additives either. I’m just trying to be honest. We’ve all heard about this bad stuff– I just can’t help myself when I have already consciously chosen not to make the time to visit farmer’s markets, or research on the foods that’ll work better with my body, or cook meals on the weekend for easy access during the week. I’m just worrying about getting my homework done, succeeding in classes, graduating, having fun. Sure, maybe I won’t be having fun later if I contract some evil disease, and somehow I feel like I’m going to get knocked down for saying that I don’t eat organic, but is it really a crime? I wish I could say I was better about this, but I’m just putting it out there that I’m not.

–Danae DeShazer

ORGANIC ISN’T ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE: Try Going “Local” by dmdeshazer

Locally grown food helps support local farmers and in turn, generates money for the local economy.We’ve all heard of the organic craze. People are switching their diets to “organic” foods. This is all supposed to be healthier and better for the environment, right? Organic food sales are on the up-and-up, increasing 22 percent in 2006 to a $17 billion industry (for the full article, read here). A lot of people have jumped on the bandwagon—with reasons of personal and planetary health—but how do we know exactly what we’re getting?

What does organic even mean? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.” Also, products that come from animals aren’t given any antibiotics or growth hormones (see The Meatrix if you’re unsure about the standard practices of processed meat companies). Ding, ding, ding! We have a solution. Go out and buy all the organic food you can.

Wrong. There’s a lot more to “buying organic” to save the planet than just looking for that USDA Organic label. Yeah, maybe if your food is organic, it’s probably going to have a better taste and more nutrients (read more reasons to eat organic food in this Prevention magazine article), but you’ve got to read a little closer into those organic labels. Say you want to buy some organic honey. Sure, they probably carry it at your favorite mainstream grocery store—and you’re probably patting yourself on the back for a totally organic purchase. But, take a look at the label. Many honey packages, even organic ones, are produced across oceans from us. Try, Hawaii (Volcano Island Honey) and Africa (Zambezi Organic Forest Honey). Even if it doesn’t come from far away lands, it may even be in Illinois (Y.S. Organic Bee Farm) or Pennsylvania (Dutch Gold Honey). Some may even contain labels including multiple countries, such as Full Circle Farm Organic Honey, which can be bought at Hy-Vee, but is made in Mexico and Brazil.

So is it really that good to buy organic, especially if it travels hundreds of miles in a gas-guzzling truck expending harmful gases into the ozone? It’s still good. But, there’s something better and even cooler you can do for the environment.

Go Local. Did you know there’s locally-made organic food? Alisa Smith and James Mackinnon began something called the 100-Mile Diet, a movement to get others eating local, organic food. They were dissatisfied with the idea that when an average North American sits down to eat, each ingredient has typically traveled at least 1,500 miles—which Alisa and James call “the SUV diet.” The 100-Mile Diet, which is an eating lifestyle that requires you only to eat foods produced within 100 miles of your home, isn’t supposed to be easy—but it’s a way to connect you with your food, your local farmers, the seasons, and the landscape you live in.

Some reasons to go local, instead of just organic:

Eating local means more for the local economy. According to a study by the New Economics Foundation in London, a dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy. When businesses are not owned locally, money leaves the community at every transaction.

Locally grown produce is fresher. While produce that is purchased in the supermarket or a big-box store has been in transit or cold-stored for days or weeks, produce that you purchase at your local farmer’s market has often been picked within 24 hours of your purchase. This freshness not only affects the taste of your food, but the nutritional value which declines with time.

Eating local is better for air quality and pollution than eating organic. In a March 2005 study by the journal Food Policy, it was found that the miles organic food often travels to our plate creates environmental damage that outweighs the benefit of buying organic.

Local food translates to more variety. When a farmer is producing food that will not travel a long distance, will have a shorter shelf life, and does not have a high-yield demand, the farmer is free to try small crops of various fruits and vegetables that would probably never make it to a large supermarket. Supermarkets are interested in selling “Name brand” fruit: Romaine Lettuce, Red Delicious Apples, Russet Potatoes. Local producers often play with their crops from year to year, trying out Little Gem Lettuce, Senshu Apples, and Chieftain Potatoes.

Supporting local providers supports responsible land development. When you buy local, you give those with local open space – farms and pastures – an economic reason to stay open and undeveloped.–excerpted from “10 Reasons to Go Local” from Life Begins at 30 weblog.

Lucky for us Lawrencians, we have a vast arena for local food choices. Here are some ideas of where to go:

–The popular Local Burger restaurant, owned by Hilary Brown, endorses the idea of local food made fast.
Homespun Hill Farms provides quality grass-fed meat.
–For local meats, vegetables and fruits, try the weekly Farmer’s Market in downtown Lawrence.
–For organic soy beans and tofu, check out Central Soy Foods.
–The only certified organic produce section in Lawrence is available at The Merc, a store dedicated to providing organic and local foods.

Organic is great, but local is better. Eating organic may be better for you, and of course the planet, but eating local can help inch the environmental movement forward a little more.

Blog inspired by Lawrence Sustainability Network’s article, “Local eating for global change,” covering information on the 100-Mile Diet. This post now also appears on Eat.Drink.Better.

–Danae DeShazer