Monday, April 17, 2017

Food poverty

Food poverty is when people of a certain socioeconomic background have the worse diet and worse access to food. There are many areas in Kalamazoo that do not have access to groceries stores or do not have access to healthy foods. Many children also rely on the food provided by their schools as their only reliable source of a hot meal. With budget cuts to programs that provide meals to people who need them there is a great concern on how to not only stop food hunger but also provide a way for more people to gain access to nutrients and foods they need.  
For this post I want to discuss how we could improve our food industry systems as a whole. We produce so much food and waste just as much of it. Is there a way to balance these out so that everyone can have access to food? These videos discuss the problems of the food industry and its implications in America.
Going to Bed Hungry: The Changing Face of Child Hunger

Kid President Needs Your Help to Fight Child Hunger

A recipe for cutting food waste | Peter Lehner | TEDxManhattan

Ke's Post: Agriculture and Economic Policies

Hi All,
Hope you all enjoyed the sunshine in last weekend. For the topic of this coming Thursday, I would like to discuss how do policies on agriculture affect people’s life. Even though these policies are determined by politicians and economists, which seems not related to us at all, but the impact is huge on various perspective. For example, the one of the reason for President Trump to win the votes in rural area is that, he claimed to remove some policies and associations that restrict the agriculture industries. For consumers, the price of food in the supermarket is associated with the cost of the food production, and cost of the food production would be affected by agriculture policies, like subsidies. For producers, like farmers, their income is also associated with whether they are grow a subsidized crops, which is more profitable than others. What’s more, maybe a surprise, government also consider agriculture policy as a tool to fix poverty issues. By reading the supplementary materials, I would like you to think about is US currently doing a great job on agriculture policies, who are the winners and losers in the effect of these policies, and how can these problems be fixed.

Supplementary Materials:

Milking taxpayers
by The Economists
This is an article introducing the fact that some some farmers are receiving subsidies by growing less crops.

Poverty, Hunger, and US Agricultural Policy: Do Farm Programs Affect the Nutrition of Poor Americans?
by American Boondoggle
This is a report evaluating the effect of agricultural subsidy on food price, poverty and income distribution.

The Luckiest Nut In The World
by Emily James
This is a amusing eight minutes video showing how policy affect the fate of two different nuts.

Please share any thoughts or stories that are related to agricultural market and policies (domestic policy like tax and subsidy, trade policy like tariff and quota).
(Acknowledgement: the post structure is based on Francisco’s Post.)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Week 4 on the Farm: Vegetables, Fruit, and Foraging

Weather Forecast: Tuesday, sunny, 70 degrees F; Wednesday, 65 degrees F

Sounds like the Tuesday group may hit the weather jackpot this week! But if there's one thing I know for sure after farming for so many years, it's that weather forecasts are frequently wrong. So, we'll just need to be flexible and roll with whatever Nature sends our way.

Last week we split you up into groups, with half of you learning about soil biology management in the orchard and the other half working with the annual vegetable beds. This week (weather permitting) we'll take everyone over to the orchard to do a little scouting. Then those of you who didn't get over there last week will have the opportunity to work on improving the orchard's soil biology while those that worked in the orchard last week will come back to the vegetable gardens to work on bed preparation and planting.

The rain and warmth we've had during the past two weeks has really pushed bud development along on all of the fruit trees. John and I have been working hard to try to finish up pruning before the buds get too tender for us to continue that work. John has also been applying "holistic" sprays to the trees, to support the health of the trees and disrupt insect and disease cycles. We'll tell you a bit about those this week, as well as another kind of "disruption" we use to cut down on predation from certain types of pests like Oriental Fruit Moth and Codling Moth. It's called "mating disruption" and it works by flooding the orchard with the pheromone emitted by the female moths, making it a lot harder for the males to find them to mate. Less mating = less egg laying = fewer worms in my apples!

You don't need to read this entire article, but the first graphic ("Mating Disruption") is a nice visual aid to help you understand how this process works: . See those twist-tie like things in the trees in section B of the graphic? Those are the pheromone dispensers that I'm going to have to put in every tree in the orchard. It's quite a job! I hope to have it done by the time the Tuesday group comes out, but if I don't, maybe some of you can help me finish it up.

If we get a rainy day this week I will keep my promise to teach you vermi-composting. This 9 minute video explains how vermi-compost can be a powerful tool in building soil biology that protects and nurtures healthy plant growth: Watching this video always makes me wonder what could happen if every neighborhood had a worm farm to compost its food waste!

If the weather is at least relatively dry, we'll take a detour from the gardens and head into the woods to do some foraging. And we'll talk about the role of foraging in the local foods movement. This article gives a good example of what can happen when a marketplace mentality is applied to wild foods:

So that you will be prepared to forage with good intentions, your assignment before coming to the farm is to do a little research to get to know the plant we'll be looking for: "ramps" or "wild leeks". Search online and see what else you can find out about this plant. Post one "fun fact" plus a link to a recipe that you plan to make with the ramps you harvest.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Francisco's Post: Engaging the New Generation of Farmers

Hello Everyone!
I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and took some time to enjoy the beautiful weather that we have been having. For this next piece, I would like to delve into the topic of interest in agriculture and barriers that we face with engaging a new generation of farmers in modern society. Children are pushed to perform well academically so that they can obtain rewarding careers, typically those that are not very labor intensive. In our culture, occupations in fields such as technology/computer science, medicine, law, etc. receive more respect than other fields. Therefore, there are many types of work, often pivotal to sustaining our way of life, that are completely undervalued. Agriculture is a perfect example of a profession that is greatly undervalued. This translates over to the amount of resources that are available to people doing this type of work. Considering that at one point in human history, just about everyone was farming compared to now where approximately 2% of the US population is employed as a farm laborer. A couple of things that I would like you to keep in mind while going through this material deal with the amount of labor that goes into sustaining yourself/others through growing your own food. How much are you willing to sacrifice to eat healthy, sustain this kind of lifestyle?
Supplementary Materials:

What nobody told me about small farming: I can’t make a living (blog/article)

Jaclyn Moyer operates a small to medium farm and grows ten acres of organic veggies just east of Sacramento, CA. She writes about her experience running this farm and some problems that come with it.
(Note: Amy wrote an essay in response to this article a couple of years back. In case you are interested in reading the article use the link below)
This computer will grow your food in the future

Caleb Harper runs the open agriculture initiative at the MIT media Lab. His ultimate goal is to connect growers and potential growers with technology and its potential role in farming for the future.

Questions to reflect on will be italicized
As you could already tell, both materials are quite different from each other. The one from Jaclyn Moyer speaks to some of the many problems that small/medium farmers face and act to limit the amount of interest in farming. I would like us to think about some of the limiting factors that she mentions in her post and how public opinion on farming may reflect or complement them. What value would you place on this kind of farming? The Ted Talk by Caleb Harper focuses on an alternative form of farming that more closely pulls together the world of organic farming and technology. I would like us to think about how this new technology could impact the future of farming. What value would you place on this kind of farming?
Francisco’s Reflection

As a child, My parents would tell me that I  had to study hard so that I do not end up in the fields like they did. My mom would tell stories of the back breaking labor that she had to do in order to sustain herself and the family. They would tell me that I could not go backwards, they suffered so that I could have a life far away from the fields. Recently, I have struggled with the value I hold in terms of growing my own food and even the value it has in terms of a profession (source of income/full time). I think that it is a noble profession and one that is severely undervalued. Although, it is not one that i see myself doing full time. There are just too many barriers for farmers, especially if they are not large scale farms. Another part that I feel would stop me from doing working in agriculture is the perception that I would get from my family and loved ones. I would be seen as the one who could have had a successful career in another area but choose to throw it all away. I guess it is seen in my family as a profession that you do when you are not able to successful. If things weren't that way, I would just move out to some tropical island and start my own farm where I  could live out my life in peace and serenity. Thinking about how technology seems to be merging or connecting with farming, I would take a different approach. I feel as though I could do this type of farming on the side as I would be able to grow food in any climate and in the comfort of my own home. Not to mention much of it will be done with technology and there will be less barriers to this type of farming.

Dejah's Post: Food, Agriculture, and Health in the Mainstream Curriculum

Hello all!

So, last week we talked a lot about storytelling (courtesy of Rachel) and this week we will ask you to use your storytelling skills to think back on your own narratives of learning about food in school. We have talked a lot about our personal narratives with food and farming, yet most of those stories have taken place outside of the classroom. This week we would like you guys to reflect on your own experiences learning about food, agriculture, and health in school. How early were you taught about these things? What things did the mainstream curriculum focus on? Knowing what you know now, do you think your education provided you with enough information on these important topics? These are the type of questions we want you to begin to consider. 

When I think about food, agriculture, and health in education, I usually think about two different things: understanding where our food comes from and what it means to eat a healthy/balanced diet. When you look at our mainstream curriculum, think about these two things: 

1. How good of a job is our curriculum doing in teaching students about agriculture?
2. And, how good of a job is our curriculum doing in teaching students about eating           healthy? 

As you can probably guess, our education system right now is not up to par. With the exception of a few unique school projects that really aim to teach kids everything they need to know about growing and eating healthy food, most public schools in the United States fail to offer children these important lessons. 

The things I am going to have you look at for Thursday are all about this issue. The first thing I am going to ask you to read is an article. This article discusses K-12 Agricultural Education in the United States, and it really explains the history and development of today’s mainstream curriculum. It’s a 24 page PDF, but no worries, you don’t have to read all of it-- unless you want to. I would only like you to look at the first three sections (Introduction,  History of K-12 Agricultural Education in the United States, and Current Structure of K-12 Food and Agricultural Education in the United States). You can stop when you get to the section about funding for these programs, on page 12 of 24. 

Again, this is also about reflecting and thinking of your own personal narratives! So, after reading this article, ask yourself: how much did your education experience align with the current curriculum on food and agricultural, as talked about in this article? What was the same? What was different? 

The second thing I would like you to watch is a TED talk by Jamie Oliver, titled, “Teach every child about food.” This video is slightly long, but I promise it has some really interesting information and it hits on some really important points. He focuses mainly on obesity in United States, and on how the education system is the main reason behind America’s obesity problem. 

As I said, this video cover a lot of stuff. What do you think was the most important or surprising thing he mentioned? Was there anything in particular that stuck out to you in terms of food and education? 

The last thing I want you to explore is this website. I mentioned before that there are a few unique schools and programs around the United States that are working hard to teach children what they need to know about food, and this is one good example. This is the link to the Maine School Garden Network, which is a local organization in Maine that aims to, as their mission statement says, “promote and support educational gardens for youth, and to encourage school programs which teach healthy eating and environmental stewardship.” I would like you guys to check out their website and just see what kind of work they are doing. Don’t spend too much time on this, just look around a bit and try to get an idea of what kind of programs can be established in communities like this one.

Some things to consider: the example I gave is from Maine, which is made up of mostly rural areas; how would something like this work in an urban environment? 

Dejah’s Reflection-

For my reflection I will narrow in on my own narrative in regards to agriculture and food in education. I have vague memories from 4th and 5th grade about planting a few flowers outside of our classroom, and even vaguer memories about drawing farms in 1st grade. Like the earlier article touched on, most of my memories about farming were in science classes; we learned about photosynthesis- how plants eat, and about food production in middle school. As far as dietary education goes, I remember taking 6th and 7th grade health classes where we had a few lessons that explained what a healthy diet was. We also had one or two short cooking classes when we were in 8th grade. Those are my only memories that stand out at me when I think back at my early education. 
I feel as though my education was definitely lacking, because now I am running into one major problem. I am living off-campus for the first time, having to cook for myself and buy my own food, and I am not being 100% successful. I know the basics of a healthy diet, but it is hard make sure I am getting all the nutrients I needs. Like Jamie Oliver mentioned, the new generation doesn’t know how to cook for themselves and eat a balanced meal each day. 

Questions to reflect on-

I threw out a lot of questions in this blog post so by-no-means try and answer them all! There are only a few main things I want you to answer in your response. I would like you to talk about your own narrative with food in education, and give your opinion on the two main questions I posted:
1. How good of a job is our curriculum doing in teaching students about agriculture?
2. And, how good of a job is our curriculum doing in teaching students about eating                         healthy?
Consider this last question: Knowing what you know now, do you think your education provided you with enough information on these important topics? 

Lastly: Do not put this in your comment, but think about and come to class with a list of the top three things you felt your education was lacking, in regards to food and education. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Week 3 on the Farm: Seedbed Preparation & Soil Fertility

Forecast: Tuesday, cloudy, high 40s; Wednesday, sunny, mid 50s

Despite the forecast dropping back into the 40s & 50s this week, Spring has definitely sprung here on the farm! Sandhill Cranes and Canada Geese circled the orchard this evening as I was out pruning and tonight the Spring Peepers are so loud I can hear them through my closed windows. The honeybees were super busy this afternoon bringing pollen into the hive to make food for their larva. I find it fascinating to watch them and to wonder what flowers the pollen is coming from. Today they were bringing back some dull yellow pollen, some bright yellow pollen, and some brilliant red pollen. From red maples, maybe?

This week on the farm we're going to start working with soil, garden design, and soil preparation. First, though, here's a nice 6 1/2 minute review of factors to consider when starting seeds indoors (you can easily develop your own version of their "garden planner" in MS Word or Excel): We will begin the "hardening off" process with some of your seedlings this week.

We've been talking about the importance of well-stewarded seeds in producing nutritious, delicious, diverse, and organically grown food. Equal in importance to good seeds is good, healthy soil. This short article by Tom DeGomez (University of Arizona), Peter Kolb (Montana State University), and Sabrina Kleinman (University of Arizona) explains the 5 basic components of soil:

After you've got the basics, watch this 15 minute fireside chat in which Dr. Elaine Ingham talks about the effects of "modern" agricultural practices on soil health:
So one of our primary tasks as organic farmers is to restore the life to soil that has been killed by an agricultural system which until recently didn't appreciate the difference between "dirt" and "soil." We'll show you how we are doing this through our garden designs, cultivation methods, cover cropping, and composting.

We'll also talk a bit about how managing the soil of perennial crops like fruit takes a slightly different approach than managing annual vegetables. We're currently transitioning the orchard from a non-organic to an organic management system. As we're working this transition, can you guess one part of the orchard we're paying special attention to? You're right, it's the soil! And can you guess what part of the soil we're especially concerned about?

If you guessed "microbes," then you've been paying attention. Here are a couple of 5-6 minute videos by organic orchardist Micheal Phillips that describe the sort of soil biology we are trying to foster on the orchard floor:

We'll have you help us with a project we're working on to help nurture those good fungi that Phillips talks about. Part of it may involve moving branches around, so you may want a long-sleeved shirt to protect your arms.

Questions for you this week: What part of this class has been most interesting for you so far? Why? What are you most hoping to learn more about at this point? Please respond in the comments section.