Tuesday, February 14, 2012

federal subsidies

Federal farming subsidies: where are they going? are we feeding people 'real food'? or feeding the pockets of big ag? 
This figure makes me cry a bit inside. If you want to look more into the complexities of lobbying and how it determines consumer food intake, I recommend reading the introduction of "Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating" by Walter C Willett M.D. 

This is the pyramid backed by the USDA. 
notice there is no distinction between types of meat dairy or oils, just the relative amounts of each that should be consumed. 

In his book Dr. Willett re-examines the USDA approved food pyramid and compares it with the most up to date, reliable meta studies on human nutrition and disease prevention. This is the pyramid he came up with:

notice a difference? The food groups more heavily subsidized by the US government are much larger on the USDA pyramid than on the one published by an independent source. 

read the introduction of Dr. Willett's books to see how the meat and dairy producer lobbyists were able to get the current pyramid approved by federal oversight. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Put this in your purse: a follow-up from Megan's post


So I'm logged in as Lindsay, but this is actually Megan, because Lindsay is too busy vigorously mixing rock hard butter and powdered sugar to write. That's right, ya'll, we're makin' frosting.

The two of us have had some interesting baking adventures during our time at Carleton. There was the time we forgot sugar for the cookies and the time we burnt the chocolate sauerkraut cake (trust us, it's better than it sounds), but today tops the list. We were  going to bake brownies, which then turned into chocolate chip cake, and then we forgot the baking soda...so I guess it's...brown goop. With frosting! To our delight, we found that brownie/cake/goop is actually quite good without baking soda. It's just slightly more dense. Who knew?

Even though our mistakes may not yield the most delicious results, at least we're learning. What is baking if not a giant chemistry experiment?

Until next time...
Megan and Lindsay

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What We Learned from Squash: Reflections on the Carleton Student Farm

The fact is, we didn’t know anything about gardening before we started working as the interns of the Carleton Student Farm. At noon on the hottest day of the summer we decided it was a good time to head up to our plot of winter squash and replace the little squash plants that had already died of dehydration.

The Carleton Farm is comprised of 1.5 acres of vegetable garden in the yard of Farmhouse and on a large plot behind the softball field (where our longest hours were spent—by the end of summer, hacking through all the weeds up there was like visiting the Heart of Darkness). The Farm interns spend each summer learning about organic, small-scale farming techniques and raising produce to sell to the dining halls. Students enjoy veggies fresh from our own campus all of fall term, and in return, we use the compost produced by the dining hall in the garden for next year’s crops!

On this particular day, however, we were feeling pretty down on the whole Local Food concept. It was a million degrees—at least! And the dry, dusty dirt blew into our eyes and collected in the creases in our necks. It was too hot to wear long sleeves, so we worked in tank-tops and shorts. (Totally worth it because we got the pleasure of peeling each other’s backs over the next few days.) The sun reflected off of the white row-cover cloth that protected the dying squash plants from dehydration (ha!) and the hard ground scratched our knees as we knelt down to replant seedling after seedling of acorn, butternut, buttercup, and Table Queen squash.

As we realized that we were going back over a row we had already planted, when we also knew we had hours and hours of weeding and planting to do, the futility of the Farm project hit us full force. The conversation had died off hours ago because we were too grumpy to even look at each other. Finally, as she watered a new transplant squash that was already wilting, Ellen said “Well, aren’t you glad we aren’t subsistence farmers, hoping to make it through the winter?”

The truth of this comment hit us like a brick, and we dissolved into laughter.

Laughing at our mistakes was one of the many things we learned to do during our time on the farm. We learned the basics of planning and caring for a garden, gained a greater understanding of the hard realities of organic farming and now understand vividly why food from small farms is so expensive, but so worth it. We soon learned that organizing our lives around the natural biorhythms of the Earth is critical to raising healthy crops and producing natural food, and quickly learned that attempting to fight these rhythms results only in sunburn and dead squash plants.

We saw firsthand why farmers would want to use monoculture techniques and herbicide-resistant crop varieties. After working all day, literally in the weeds, we realized that committing to producing organic, local food is a job too big to do alone. We needed each other’s encouragement and creativity, and when the going got really tough, students from all sides of the Carleton campus came out to lend a hand, proving that community support is critical.

The Carleton Farm serves our campus community by providing local, organic produce to nourish our bodies and raising student awareness of food and environmental issues. But more than anything, we felt nourished by the Carleton community in their support of our project on the Farm. From the chefs at Bon Appetit who greeted every load of veggies with enthusiasm and friendship, to the Grounds staff who lent us tools on the weekends and carts in the mornings, to the students who came out when we needed some extra hands… it was clear that our passion for food justice is supported at Carleton. And despite the challenges (we’re glad we’re not subsistence farmers at this point), we both feel this was the most rewarding job we’ve ever had.

The moral of the story: Farming is not meant to be done alone. Small farmers need a community around them, reminding them of the big picture, and why it’s essential that someone do this job. We encourage Carleton to continue supporting local food at the college and in Northfield. And, in case you were wondering, we ended up with 2000 lbs of squash out of that sad little plot – thanks everyone!

~Sophie Daudon '13 and Ellen Drews '13