Monday, November 28, 2016

Eating Omily: Lexicon of Sustainability-Seeds of Hope

It's been a while since we've discussed the Lexicon of Sustainability, but I haven't forgotten about it! This issue is a really important one: we're in the midst of a mass extinction that no one is talking about! By creating an economy in which small, diverse, family farms struggle to survive, let alone survive, we've also majorly shrunk the gene pool of what we eat...but before I get into that, you should watch the video! It's right here: http://www.pbs.org/food/features/lexicon-of-sustainability-seeds/

You may recall the discussion of landraces from an earlier video and blogpost (Hint: it's right here!): when food crops are allowed to evolve over time in specific regions, when seeds are shared between farmers, and traits that we like, such as the ability to be stored for months in a root cellar and stay nutritious and delicious, are bred back into the gene pool, we end of up with a thriving, diverse ecosystem of food crops that can withstand harsh conditions.

When selling seeds becomes about making as much money as possible, only a few easily producible, high-yield varieties get sold, and GMOs become more and more popular because they are patentable: non-GMOs can be saved and shared by farmers, reducing the number of seeds a company can sell.

Now, to be clear, I don't believe GMOs cause autism or cancer or allergies, or whatever. I think GMOs represent a grave misuse of an important and useful technology. Did you know the same technology that produces GMO corn also produces insulin for diabetics?

Aside from hurting farmers by taking their right to breed, share, and save seeds, GMOs also are a huge cause for the extinction of so many valuable food crops, a situation that puts us at direct risk of famine, food shortage, and hunger. This 2016. We know better. Learn how you can fight for GMO labeling, so we can make choices about where our money is going, and support seed sovereignty. Of course, at the core of this is supporting the very small, diverse, family farms that create sustainable ecosystems. Buy your food from them! Farmers Markets are one way, but CSAs are another, and farm stands, and even shopping online, are other ways.

I've said it before, and I've said it again. The old guard is fighting like hell to take us all down, and the planet with us. We need to be fighting just as hard. This isn't the time for half measures. If you can do it, do it. If you can't, do what you can, and encourage others.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Can You Hear My Voice This Time?

Well, it happened. It seemed like it couldn't possibly happen simply because of how deeply horrific it was, but it did. And if you're anything like me, you've spent the last week vacillating between rage, heartbreak, confusion, physical illness, and deep down, hope. The fight doesn't end with Trump's election. In fact, it has just begun. Everything we've worked so long for is going to be challenged, and we have to do everything in our power to defend it. We always knew this was a long game.

This is what's getting me through these dark days as I seek out the best ways to make a difference.
(And in case the imbed feature doesn't work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YttscNOoAjA)

I loved this video when it premiered at the DNC...but it's take on so much more meaning now. I won't be quiet to avoid starting a fight with my family. I won't pretend like an opinion that someone else doesn't deserve human rights is valid. But I'm doing more than that, and you should, too.

Donate to Planned Parenthood. Send cards of support to LGBTQ support centers. Send money and supplies to Standing Rock. Write members of the electoral college, and remind them of their responsibility not to elect an unqualified candidate to office, and who won the popular vote. Ask President Obama to appoint his choice of Supreme Court Justice: Congress has waived their right to comment by refusing to do their job. Send reiki healing to the current Supreme Court Justices!

Don't just do one thing. Don't just do the easy thing. If ever there was a time to step out of complacency, to make sacrifices to build the world you want to live in, this is it. Take a long, hard look at your life, at how you talk about oppressed groups. Don't just stand around in your safety pin: do more.

Don't block your Trump supporter family members on Facebook! TALK BACK! Kindly, compassionately if you can stand it, but at the very minimum, don't let them forget that they are not the majority. We are all humans: women, LGBTQ people, Muslims, immigrants, Jewish people, people of color, poor people. Fight for human rights for every. Single. Person.

I don't know about you, but I've still got a lot of fight left in me.
Live Omily,
~Emily

Monday, November 7, 2016

On the Importance of Shifting

I was on such a role sharing a vintage or writing a new blogpost every week! But last week, I knew on Sunday that a Monday blogpost was just not happening! Not with a full day of work, family visiting, a neighborhood block party, AND the Halloween parade to get to! I knew you wouldn't mind. I'll always be back!

Lately I've been hard at work updating my website. Just typing the phrase is frustrating! It seems like every time I turn around, I'm having to make major changes again. I update, fix, rewrite, swap in better photos, and then I breathe a sigh of relief. Done at last! And then the next thing I know, the whole thing is out of date again, not matching what I'm doing, what I'm offering, or even who I feel like I am anymore. Up to now, I've been thinking that it's because I'm no good at designing websites (and lets be real, I would definitely be better served by leaving this to a pro; I hope I can afford to soon!).

But today, I had an insight that's invited me to flip my perspective on this problem as well:

I was taking a bag of clothes with me to the Farmers Market to drop off at the textile recycling tent. I had my route all mapped out: clothing drop-off at 17th street, then up to 18th street to check for on-sale halloween candy, and pick up cash at the atm, then back down to the Farmer's market. I got to 17th and...no textile recycling tent! Where could they be? They were here last week! I stood there, awkwardly gripping my big bag of clothes, and desperately trying to keep my tote bag on my shoulder, feeling utterly lost. My whole plan was down the drain!  Thankfully, there was an alternative: I could carry the clothes down to 14th and 5th and drop them at the Goodwill there. But that was four blocks out of my way!

I set off in that direction, feeling very annoyed. I do not like my well-laid plans going awry. I took some deep breaths, and reminded myself that the discomfort I was feeling was just my brain not wanting to accept that things were different from how I had wanted them to be. Something about the way I phrased it reminded me of a definition of humor: the difference between what you expect, and what you get. It seemed like if I could shift my perspective just a hair, I could see the humor of the situation, and feel amused instead of frustrated.

Spoiler alert, I wasn't able to make that shift, though the attempt was interesting. But when I got back to thinking about my website, and what I still needed to complete the updates (birth ball photo shoot, anyone?), it occurred to me that maybe the problem wasn't that I had to keep updating it, but my expectation that I shouldn't have to. If my website stopped needing updating, didn't that just mean that I had stopped changing? Growing? Evolving? Allowing myself to constantly grow, change, and evolve is at the bedrock of who I am, and who I want to be. Why would I be frustrated by the fact that my career progress has never stagnated for any appreciable amount of  time??

Change is good! Not always easy, but good. Keep any eye out on Facebook, instagram, tumblr, twitter, and my e-mail list for the launch of, actually, TWO freshly updated websites. The hustle is too big for one, y'all.

Oh, it's only fair that I leave you with the end of the story: turns out the textile recycling tent WAS there, just a few spots down from its usual place. So, if I had literally shifted my perspective about ten feet over, I wouldn't have had to walk those four extra blocks at all! Don't get stuck in a place, or a mindset. It will not serve you!!

How are you making space for worthwhile shifts in your life? How could you be?

Live Omily,
~em

Monday, October 3, 2016

Eating Omily: The Lexicon of Sustainability: CSA! CSA! CSA!

Are you ready for some good old fashioned impassioned chanting? Here we go:

CSA! CSA! CSA!

Wasn't that fun?? If you aren't joining in yet, I hope you will be by the end of this blogpost! The topic is...you guessed it! CSAs! What are they? Why are they great for you? Why are they even better for farmers? Just watch this video from the Lexicon of Sustainability to get up to speed!

So, it's pretty clear how awesome this is for farmers: Farming is a risky business! So many things can wreak havoc on a harvest: the weather, a broken down tractor, a lack of workers, the shifting winds of food trends (kohlrabi is the new kale!), and about a million other influences. By committing at the start of the season to be the market for this food, and paying up front, you're giving the farmer needed funds to invest in this season, and future seasons, and to ride out some of those rough times.

But wait...what's in it for you??

A CSA can feel like a huge check to write for a bunch of fruits and veggies, and it IS a big chunk of change up front! You may not be in a position financially to make that outlay, but if you are, or you're already buying organic, or shopping at your farmers' market, you will likely find that you come out ahead, or at least break even. AND, no stressing over what to get, or when to go: your stuff is bagged or boxed up waiting for you. Go pick it up, and away you go!

Many CSA members enjoy being exposed to fruits and veggies they may have never had before (were you like, wtf is kohlrabi??)! If you enjoy cooking, and preserving, you'll love having lots of inspiration every week.

If you don't, you will want to be prepared to pick up these skills in order to get the most out of your CSA. You could team up with a buddy to help you figure out what to do with your bounty, in exchange for part of your share. I'm just going to say this right now, friends: I am SO up for being your preserving/cooking buddy! Take the plunge!! You could plan out soups, crockpot meals, days to prep and freeze extra veggies, and more all in advance, and along the way, you'll get to know the food you eat in a whole new, more intimate way!

Speaking of getting to know in a more intimate way, CSAs build communities around local food sources: you'll get to know the farmers and workers who feed your family, which inspires a whole new level of gratitude for your daily bread, and you'll meet neighbors at your pick ups who you already have something in common with: a passion for sustainable, healthy, delicious food! CSA stands for community supported agriculture, but you can also turn that phrase around: CSAs are when agriculture supports community!

If you're intrigued, now's a great time to do your research: ask around and see if any of your friends did a CSA this year. It will be winding down in the next couple months. Ask them what they thought of it. See what all options are available in your area. Once you find a good one, put the sign-up dates in your calendar, and be prepared to leap on it! The good ones are known to fill up!

Will you consider a CSA this year? Shall we try this one more time..?

CSA! CSA! CSA!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Eating Omily: Economies of Community

Welcome back to my continued exploration of the Lexicon of Sustainability! This video comes in under three minutes, but it gets right down the meat of the matter when it comes to sustainable food: our centralized food system was a bad decision, and has long since proven itself unsustainable. We need to swap it out for what we had before: a series of localized food systems. How do we do that?? Well, to start with, watch the video. As they say at the end of each one, "Your words can change the world".

http://www.pbs.org/food/features/lexicon-of-sustainability-economies-of-community/

Economies of Community...it has a beautiful ring to it, doesn't? Isn't that what economies should be? Shouldn't they serve us, and not the other way around? 

Thanks to a whole bushel of short-sighted decisions that took place around the post WWII boom, instead, we have economies of scale: get big, or get out!

Aside from being unsustainable in just about every way, this new system has cost us so much: local and regional recipes, flavors, and foods, a sense of local pride and belonging, job opportunities that pay a living wage, and more. Our centralized food system is a failed experiment. Thankfully, we're figuring that out, and we're figuring out how to fix it.

We're working toward replacing economies of scale with that beautiful phrase: economies of community. How can you help? Like it says in the video, we need motivated consumers to make this shift. We need people who read labels, go out of their way to spend their money on sustainable foods, and use their voices and well as their dollars to make it clear what they want: local, sustainable food systems.

That's it. It's really that simple. Itching to read more? Just search the 'eating omily', and 'sustainability' tags on this blog, or search terms like 'local'. You'll be up to your ears in details! :-D

Monday, September 5, 2016

Eating Omily: White or Wheat, Hybrid or Landrace, and Other Bread Questions

This week's Lexicon of Sustainability video is all about breads, and the grains they come from. Yep, I'm afraid it won't offer much practical info to the gluten-intolerant...but since a whole lot of people eat a whole lot of bread, if you're committed to participating in building a sustainable future, this may still be useful info for you to have. That's entirely up to you...but if you know you shouldn't eat bread, but are sorely tempted to...consider this your temptation trigger warning! ;-)

Do you love bread? A good sandwich...a flaky croissant...golden buttered toast...mmmm...(I warned you!) If you also try to put nutritious foods in your body, you may feel guilty for your bread habits. And when trying to choose which breads to buy, you may feel confused! There are so many words thrown around: 'multi-grain', 'stone-ground', 'wheat', 'wholewheat', 'whole grain'...what do they mean??

Thankfully, the Lexicon of Sustainability is coming to our rescue to answer those questions, and delve even deeper into the world of grains: how has industrial farming changed the game, and how are we changing it back?

Watch the video here!

I love that this video talked a bit about landraces, but I don't think it covered this issue nearly enough. So, here's some info for your edification:

What are landraces? Wikipedia had this handy, simple definition: "landrace is a domesticated, regional ecotype;[1][2] a locally adapted,[3] traditional variety[4] of a domesticated species of animal or plant that has developed over time, through adaptation to its natural and cultural environment of agriculture and pastoralism, and due to isolation from other populations of the species."

As you can see, landraces differ a great deal from the breeds of foods we find in industrial farming: it's easy to point to GMOs as the antithesis of land races, and the monocultures they encourage are indeed very problematic from this standpoint, but the technology itself could theoretically be used to enhance or recreate lost land races. Hybridizing different breeds to create a plant that yields in very consistent ways is just as much a disruption of the magic of landraces as tearing them out and planting GMOs in their place. 

Basically, landraces have adaptive strategies that allow them to survive the conditions they have been grown in for hundreds or thousands of years: drought or mold resistance, quick-growing for a short season...these are just a few examples. It's easy to produce these tendencies through a strong breeding program, weeding out (no pun intended) traits that pop up in the genome that aren't helpful.

This seems like a win-win: the landrace seeds will inevitably produce some plants that won't produce well in the common growing conditions: those recessive genes in the genome will come up. With lots of hybridization, we can take that to a minimum, increasing production.

BUT. You knew there was a 'but' coming, didn't you? Sometimes a season, or a few seasons in a row, won't bring the expected challenges: an unexpected flood, a late hard frost, a new pest insect. These are challenges that can easily decimate a crop! But a landrace crop produces lots of slightly different plants every season. Some of those plants will likely have the traits needed to survive the onslaught. This saves some of the harvest, but production for that year will likely still be very low. Where landraces shine are in the next year, and the year after that! Saving those seeds that survived is its own form of breeding: putting traits that saved these plants back into future plants, so that if conditions continue in this way, MORE of the crop will survive next year! If not, those standard traits are still in the genome, and they'll come back out, too.

Because humans have been growing crops all over the world for thousands of years, we have incredibly diverse, and niche-adapted landraces of tons of important crops! It's a really beautiful gift from our ancestors! 

Land races are an insurance policy from Mother Nature that we just can't replicate through human intervention. The very complexity that we try to breed out to make controlling these plants easier is what makes them amazing!

But because we love our food, and our harvesting practices, to be consistent in an industrial settings, landraces are going extinct all the time. We are losing this precious inheritance at an alarming rate! How can you help? If you grow anything at all from seeds, take the time to ask around and get a hold of some seeds that have been saved, and passed down for generations, instead of the typically hybridized ones you'll find in your gardening center. If you get the opportunity to buy foods or products that come from landrace seeds, put your money there! You won't be sorry.

And yes, read labels! Look at ingredients! Bread should only have a few: flour, water, yeast, salt, maybe a little sugar or honey. There may be seeds or dried fruits, or herbs added in, but a short ingredient list that begins with wholegrain or wholewheat flour is the way to go.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Eating Omily: Trash Talk–The Power of Composting

Welcome to Part 3 of my expansion on the Lexicon of Sustainability short video series! These incredible little videos have so much to offer in terms of getting you up to speed on the Food Justice movement in easily digestible little bites! In fact, this 4 minute, 19 second video is one of the longer ones in the series! I'm super excited for you to give it a watch, and then read my additions and comments below, but before you do, I have a few quick notes for you:

This video shares and support my own ethic on meat-eating: that it can be done humanely, and respectfully. If you disagree, there are a few images in this video you probably won't enjoy seeing (raw meat, and a pig's head). Toward the end, the video also addresses the issues of food waste that happens on the plate, and suggests the ethic of, 'take what you want, but eat what you take'. If you have a history of an unhealthy relationship with food, or disordered eating, this portion could be triggering for you. Remember that eating what you don't want, even if you took it, is just as wasteful as throwing it away. Let it inform how much you choose to take next time. Don't be ashamed of a simple mistaken estimate of your appetite...and of course feel free to skip through these portions of the video if you aren't comfortable with them. That said, here's the link!

I love that this is the next topic in the Lexicon of Sustainability because I just had a conversation about it with the husband last night! Why do we compost? Is it really worth the extra effort, and freezer space? (ALL real estate is precious in NYC!) This video explains a lot of the great reasons to do so nicely, but it left out one: when our food waste rots in a landfill, it creates methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas, and in some cases even nitrous oxide (yes, the stuff your dentist gives you; don't go sniffing landfills, it's not worth it), which is 300 times as bad for our atmosphere as CO2! When our food waste rots in a properly-tended compost pile or bin, it DOESN'T release these harmful compounds. Composting DOES produce some carbon dioxide...there's just no getting around it. There's carbon in those food scraps, and as they are broken down by microbes, that carbon combines with oxygen and escapes as gas, but this short-term carbon cycle is a normal part of how the planet functions, and the compost produced helps plants to grow bigger and healthier, allowing them to sequester more carbon dioxide during their lifespan, so it all comes out in the wash. Worth the freezer space and a little time and space on your part? You bet!! 

Now, it's important to note that proper composting is NOT just tossing food scraps in a pile and leaving them. That's essentially just a mini landfill. If you have the space to compost, it's important that you learn how to do it properly, and tend this incredible, living ecosystem you're creating in order to maximize its benefits for Mother Earth. There are lots of resources for learning how to compost out there. Here's one that I found! If you DON'T have the space to compost, don't despair! You may be able to contribute your scraps to a composting program, or even just a green-thumbed neighbor! Ask around, and do some googling! Remember to follow the rules of what can and can't go in the compost contributions. Those rules do differ depending on the specific program. Things that impact those rules include the scope of the composting project, how the composting process is managed, and what happens to the finished compost. Which might just bring us to why I keep mentioning freezer space! No, you cannot compost in your freezer...but if you're collecting scraps to give to a composting program, the freezer is the best place for them, because they won't start to rot and stink! I use a gallon zip-top bag. As soon as its full, I bring it to the Farmers' Market, and drop it off. Easy!

I love the way this video focuses on composting as a way of closing the loop. Nature works in cycles: the water cycle, the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the cycle of the seasons, the phases of the moon...on and on and on! Nature. Is. Cyclical. This simple fact is exactly why 'conventional' farming doesn't work: it's a linear system! Inputs in, crops out, over and over again: it's the definition of unsustainable! Composting is how we close the loop! It's a HUGE part of sustainable food production.

Are you able to participate in closing the loop and building a more sustainable future through composting? Think you'll give it a try?? Let me know in the comments!