Friday, February 27, 2009

Open Air: Maine Farmers’ Market Convention

The Down East Business Alliance, a division of Washington Hancock Community Agency, will be hosting the Maine Farmers’ Market Convention during the first weekend of spring -- March 20, 21, and 22 -- at the Schoodic Education and Research Center in Acadia National Park at Winter Harbor.

This convention Maine Farmers’ Market Convention designed to assist Farmers' Market managers, vendors, and potential vendors as they strive to start up or improve their markets, increase profits, and sell more locally grown and produced products.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Open Air: Poplar Head Farmers’ Market

A new farmers market in Dothan, Alabama -- the Poplar Head Farmers’ Market -- will open for the first time on Saturday, June 6, from 8 a.m. to noon.

The open air market will feature fresh, locally-grown vegetables, fruits, flowers, prepared foods and specialty items on Saturday mornings in June and July. Farmers and artists within 50 miles of Dothan may apply to be vendors, as well as Georgia and Florida farmers living within 25 miles of the Alabama line. Spaces will be rotated to maintain a ratio of 70 percent farmers to 30 percent artists.

Located at 126 Museum Ave. in downtown Dothan, the market is situated next to the Wiregrass Museum of Art and Poplar Head Park.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Book Stall Review: Saving Paradise

Saving Paradise
How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire
by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker

The classic crucifixion image of Jesus in agony on a cross, so ingrained in Christian consciousness as to be its dominant archetype, is a rather new expression (probably less than a millenia old) created for political reasons during the Dark Ages. It has largely supplanted images of Christ's victory over death and a paradise on earth that filled the earliest Christian churches.

"It took Jesus a thousand years to die. Images of his corpse did not appear in churches until the tenth century," write Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker in their book Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire.

During a five-year survey of early Christian art in the Mediterranean and throughout Europe, the authors looked for the earliest depictions of Jesus and found plenty of images suggesting rescue from danger, baptism, paradise, and victory over death.

The earliest "dead" Jesus they found was in a side chapel of the Cologne Cathedral in northern Germany. The Gero Cross, a crucifix sculpted from oak, dates from around 960-970.

"In Christianity's second millenium the Crucifixion expelled paradise from earth. And Jesus died again."

In their book, the authors detail how life-affirming forms of Christianity succumbed to a focus on redemptive violence during the second millenium, infecting the faith like a virus.

"We recover here a life-giving, life-affirming Christianity, rooted in an ancient Mesopotamian past, that has survived despite many attempts to repress or destroy it and despite theological shifts that have betrayed it. We offer our study of this world as paradise as a way to retrieve a faith that affirms the many ways that people love one another, themselves, and the earth."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bites: 'Joy of Cooking' Increasingly Fattening

Recipes in America's classic cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, keep getting bigger and richer per serving, according to a new Cornell study.

By examining the 18 recipes that have been continuously published in "The Joy of Cooking" since it was first published in 1936, Cornell University marketing professor Brian Wansink has found that the average calories per serving have jumped 63 percent in the past 70 years.

The study, which is published in the Feb. 17 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine (150:3), looks at recipes ranging from macaroni and cheese, beef stroganoff, Spanish rice and goulash to brownies, sugar cookies and apple pie.

"This jump in calories was influenced by both changes in ingredients -- usually increases in fat and sugar -- and changes in serving size," said Wansink, who co-authored the study with Collin Payne of New Mexico State University-Las Cruces.

Wansink and Payne found that the average number of calories per recipe in 1936 was 2,124, about 268 calories per serving. In 2006, the average number of calories per recipe was 3,052 calories, about 436 calories a serving.

"What served four people in 1986 would have served almost seven people by 1936 standards," Wansink noted.

In analyzing just the calorie density of the recipes -- the amount of calories in the food, regardless of serving size -- the foods in the 2006 edition had 37 percent more calories than the 18 recipes did in the 1936 edition.

"The Joy of Cooking," which has sold more than 18 million copies, is one of the country's best-known cookbooks and is considered a backbone cookbook by many home cooks. Wansink said he suspected that analyses of other long-published cookbooks would yield similar results.

"People often blame eating out as being one of the big culprits for gaining weight, but this study suggests that what we do in our own homes may be equally bad or even worse. Family size has gotten smaller, but calorie content and portion sizes have gotten bigger."

What are considered "normal" portion sizes have gradually grown, perhaps because Americans have increasingly grown larger, the amount of income spent on food has grown proportionally smaller over the years so we can afford more food, or because we have just gotten used to the larger portions that many restaurants serve.

"To prevent overeating, I'd recommend making a recipe that says it serves four, and freezing half of it immediately for future use [assuming you are feeding four people], and only serve half of what you prepared," said Wansink, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. (Bantam, 2006).

Cornell University

Monday, February 16, 2009

Seafood from Clearwater Beach, Florida

Fresh from the Boat Seafood of Clearwater Beach, Florida, has listed its Whole Red Snapper, Gulf Grouper Fillets, Giant Sea Scallops, and Crab Stuffed Flounder on the Buy Direct Directory at Farmer's Market Online.

Look for links to the Whole Red Snapper on our Red Snapper page, Gulf Grouper Fillets on our Grouper page, Crab Stuffed Flounder on our Flounder page, and Giant Sea Scallops on our Scallops page.

The Giant Sea Scallops are available from October 15th to May 15th.

Links to all four products are also found in the Seafood and Fish section as well as the Buy Direct Directory listings for Florida.

Growth Spurts: Enzyme Cocktail Converts Woodchips and Grass Into Hydrogen Fuel

Researchers at Virginia Tech, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the University of Georgia have produced hydrogen gas pure enough to power fuel cells by mixing 14 enzymes, one coenzyme, and cellulosic materials like woodchips or grass.

The group announced three advances from their "one pot" process: 1) a novel combination of enzymes, 2) an increased hydrogen generation rate -- to as fast as natural hydrogen fermentation, and 3) a chemical energy output greater than the chemical energy stored in sugars – the highest hydrogen yield previously reported from cellulosic materials.

"In addition to converting the chemical energy from the sugar, the process also converts the low-temperature thermal energy into high-quality hydrogen energy – like Prometheus stealing fire," said Percival Zhang, assistant professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech.

The researchers used cellulosic materials isolated from wood chips, but crop waste or switchgrass could also be used. Using cellulose instead of starch expands the renewable resource for producing hydrogen to include biomass.

"If a small fraction – 2 or 3 percent – of yearly biomass production were used for sugar-to-hydrogen fuel cells for transportation, we could reach transportation fuel independence," Zhang said.

The research results have been published in the Wiley journal ChemSusChem (Chemistry and Sustainability), in an article titled "Spontaneous High-Yield Production of Hydrogen from Cellulosic Materials and Water Catalyzed by Enzyme Cocktails."

Open Air: Supporting Local Farmers in February

Marni Fogelson-Teel of Lynchburg, Virginia, writes on the Celsias blog:
Where I live, in a small city in Virginia, the bustling pace of the summer and fall farmer's markets slows to a near halt in February, with the breadmaker being the busiest vendor, and the few remaining farmers selling apples and potatoes from cold-storage along with other produce from the Carolinas or even further south. It's not an ideal situation, but I'd rather support local farmers who are trying to make ends meet outside their natural growing season than patronize supermarkets selling produce from overseas.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Book Stall Review: Radical Ecology

Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World
by Carolyn Merchant
Routledge, 2005

How we comprehend our world determines, to a large extent, how we interact with its features -- soils, water, air, plants and animals. Logical positivism, handed down from Aristotle and Isaac Newton, is largely responsible for a mechanistic worldview that looks at nature as individual parts behaving according to recognizable laws and capable of being manipulated.

It is this way of thinking, so dominant in Western societies, that many environmentalists blame for a rapacious capitalism that depletes non-renewable resources, ravages ecosystems for profit, and pollutes indiscriminantly.

Only a switch in our mindsets, coupled with real social and political change, can truly transform our society from egocentrism and homocentrism (human-centered) to ecocentrism, shaping a sustainable world out of one that is endangered.

Marking the frontiers of this ethical transformation are the radical ecologists, the subject of environmental historian Carolyn Merchant's detailed study of cutting-edge philosophies and movements. This includes radical thoughts in spiritual ecology, social ecology and deep ecology, and socio-political movements like The Greens, ecofeminism, bioregionalism and sustainable agriculture.

"Radical Ecology" offers a critical assessment of these alternative worldviews, outlining their fundamental principles and describing areas of disagreement and consensus.

Deep ecology, for instance, is founded on the principle of "biospheric equality," according to Merchant, which "places humans on an equal level with all other living things in an organismic democracy." Its worldview embraces complexity and local autonomy, and seeks to establish a new ecologically-based science.

"The new science is process oriented," Merchant explains. "It draws on design with nature, rather than the imposition of form on nature. Biological and cultural diversity are desired ends."

While other forms of radical ecology like Earth First! and spiritual ecofeminism share some of the same goals and principles, they are also at odds over specific actions and values. Deep ecologists who advocate population control have been accused of being overly rationalist and technist. Social ecologists have branded some of their attitudes racist and elitist.

Making sense of these multivarious belief systems and coalitions, and providing a conceptual framework on which to analyze their thought, is Merchant's singular accomplishment. Like a TV channel guide to alternative programming, "Radical Ecology" offers a menu of ethical performances and a synopsis of their story line.

None of these radical movements are likely to make America's epistemological prime time but, as Merchant points out, their ground-breaking effort may set the stage for genuine change:

"The visibility of radical environmental movements may make mainstream environmental goals more acceptable. Radical actions often raise public consciousness about issues enmeshed in bureaucratic technicalities. Changes triggered by radical actions may then come about through normal political processes."

Copyright 2005 by Michael Hofferber

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rural Delivery: We've Flown The Coop

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved.

I spent many hours of my childhood in chicken coops. If I wasn't gathering eggs from my Grandpa's laying hens or teasing his rooster I was likely with my cousins in the abandoned coop behind my uncle's place that we'd claimed as a clubhouse.

Every home was built with a chicken coop out back, or so it seemed. Both sets of grandparents kept chickens, and so did most of my aunts and uncles. Until the day he died my Grandpa Jess had a hand-painted sign advertising "EGGS" nailed up out front next to the lane.

Nowadays, I'm hard-pressed to find a chicken coop. We have no chickens. None of our neighbors keep chickens. There are chickens around and eggs for sale someplace nearby, I'm sure, but I couldn't give directions.

We've talked about raising chickens. Every spring, as the slugs rise to gnaw on the strawberries, my wife says, "We ought to have chickens." Free-ranging hens are an effective deterrent to slugs, grasshoppers and many other insect pests. They'll also keep down the weeds and add nutrients to your soil if you manage them carefully.

Every time I trim the fat off a fleshy store-bought chicken I'm preparing for the grill, I tell myself, "We ought to raise our own chickens." Chickens convert feed to meat efficiently. Most broilers will gain a pound of weight for every two-and-a-half pounds of feed. If a bird is allowed to free-range, not only will it be less fatty, but nearly half of its feed will come from foraging grubs, weeds and worms.

Keeping chickens in the backyard is no more bother than having a dog. An 8x10 shed will shelter a dozen hens and so long as they get regular feed and fresh water and ample opportunity to forage, they are likely to thrive. The most clever chicken coop I've heard of is the portable poultry shelter devised by Virginia farmer Joel Salatin. Dubbed the "chicken tractor," the coop is mounted on wheels and has a mesh screen floor. Pulled to a new location on the farm each day, the hens in the tractor have fresh grass and terrain to scratch and in return they leave behind a thin and readily composting layer of rich manure. When the tractor is pulled onto pastures after sheep or cows have grazed, the hens scratch and scatter the piles of manure, eating the eggs of harmful livestock parasites and hastening the decomposition of waste.

Why, then, do so few of us raise chickens? Maybe it's the cholesterol in those eggs. It's hard to take much pride in a product that other folks point to as dangerous and harmful. Or perhaps it’s the low prices. When a full-size broiler brings less than two bucks at the grocer, you know there's not much margin in being a small producer. And then there's zoning laws. Some people take well to chicken coops at their neighbors' place. There's no arguing with them about slugs or the benefits of manure. Dogs and cats are welcome, but not chickens.

When it comes to raising livestock or taking an active role in our food supply, most of us have "flown the coop," so to speak, and would have a difficult time backtracking. Even so, we ought to raise chickens.

Husbandry: Raising Backyard Chickens

Interested in raising chickens in your backyard?

First, check your local zoning laws, which determine what residents can and can’t do in their yards. Sometimes those laws, especially in cities and suburbs, don’t allow “farm” animals, chickens among them. Why? Fear of noise and too much poop.

The good news: Some cities do allow chickens, though usually there are limits, such as no roosters (kind of noisy), only so many hens (like no more than six or 10), and setbacks for the chicken coop (a certain distance from your neighbor’s house).

Other towns may soon lighten up their laws. Why? To help more people grow more of their own food. Cleveland, Ohio, is one of them.

Kurt Knebusch
Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center
Ohio State University Extension

Friday, February 6, 2009

Have You Tried... Ultra-Pasteurized Milk?

You may have seen cartons of "ultra-pasteurized" milk at the grocer and wondered, "What is it?"

Ultra-pasteurization is a more intense process than regular pasteurization and allows milk to have a longer shelf-life. If you don't mind the higher cost and if your milk tends to spoil before you can finish it, it might be an option for you to consider.

Here are the basics: "Pasteurization" means that milk is packaged under sanitary conditions after being heated to a minimum of 161 degrees F for at least 15 seconds, or 145 degrees F for at least 30 minutes. Either heating option kills most bacteria; the type that survive aren't considered harmful but can spoil milk after a period of time. If pasteurized milk is kept properly refrigerated, it can last anywhere from 12 to 21 days after processing; you can generally count on milk to remain fresh from two to five days after the sell-by date on the carton. The colder the storage conditions, the longer milk will last.

"Ultra-pasteurization" means that milk is heated to a minimum of 280 degrees F for at least two seconds. Although the heating period is much shorter than what's used for regular pasteurization, the high heat used in the process is much more lethal to bacteria. Packaging conditions for ultra-pasteurized milk are also more stringent -- practically sterile. In fact, ultra-pasteurized milk would be considered a sterile product if it was canned or otherwise hermetically sealed. All of this means that, when properly refrigerated, ultra-pasteurized milk can last from 30 to 90 days after processing and before the container is opened. After opening, the milk could become contaminated with spoilage bacteria, but you can generally count on it to remain fresh for at least seven to 10 days after the container is opened.

Some people say they think ultra-pasteurized milk has a different flavor, more "cooked" than regular milk, but others don't notice a difference.

No matter which kind of milk you choose, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends three cups each day for anyone 9 years of age or older. The guidelines encourage fat-free or low-fat choices within the dairy group, not only to reduce calories but also to reduce intake of saturated fats and cholesterol, both of which increase the risk of heart disease.

Source: Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Have You Tried... Milkweed?

Milkweed is popularly known as a favorite food of the monarch butterfly caterpillar.
Historically, farmers considered the native American plant a noxious weed. Today, however, common milkweed is being cultivated for its soft, silky floss, which is used commercially as a hypoallergenic filler in high-end pillows, comforters, and jacket linings.

Floss isn’t the only useable portion of milkweed, which grows throughout most of North America. In studies at the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) New Crops and Processing Technology Research Unit in Peoria, Illinois, chemists are experimenting with new, value-added uses derived from unsaturated oil in the seed of common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. Analysis of the waxes and different fatty acids in the oil shows it has potential use as a base material in sunscreen, cosmetics, and skin- and hair-care products, including moisturizers and conditioners.

Many of today’s sunscreens use chemical filters or blocks to protect skin from two types of ultraviolet radiation, UV-A and UV-B, at wavelengths of 290 to 400 nanometers (nm). The effects of UV-B exposure are usually temporary—an example being the sunburn a careless beachgoer must endure for a few days. Repeated or prolonged exposure to UV-A radiation—such as that experienced by lifeguards or road crews—can cause premature aging and skin cancer. The filters and blocks work by absorbing or scattering such radiation before it penetrates and damages skin.

Recently, interest has grown in sunscreen and cosmetic products that not only protect skin, but nourish it. Milkweed-oil-based sunscreen fills the bill on both counts. It contains natural antioxidants, such as tocopherols, and cinnamic acid derivatives like ferulic acid, which occurs naturally in many plants and is highly absorbent of UV rays.

A key step in the process, which ARS has patented, is using zinc chloride to catalyze the conversion of milkweed oil’s triglycerides into the UV-absorbing cinnamic acid derivatives.

In laboratory tests, the derivatives strongly absorbed UV rays in the range of 260 to 360 nm, wavelengths that can damage skin. The milkweed-oil product accomplished this at very low concentrations (1 to 5 percent by weight)—a range far below that approved for today’s topical skin formulations.

Besides skin- and hair-care products, the UV-absorbent formulation could also be tailored for use in epoxies, paints, or other industrial applications.

Source: Agricultural Research Service

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Husbandry: DDGS Boosts Piglet Immune Systems

As feed costs rise and the production of ethanol from corn grain increases, swine producers have ramped up their search for new feed supplements for younger swine. According to studies by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists, feeding dried distiller's grains (DDGS) to piglets can give their immune systems an extra boost.

Researchers divided weanling pigs into four groups and fed them either a standard control diet or diets supplemented with DDGS, soybean hulls or citrus pulp. After one week, the researchers observed an increase in cytokine expression in the pigs’ small intestine, which they linked to DDGS consumption. Cytokines are chemical messengers that are essential for proper immune function.

This response reinforced findings of previous DDGS studies showing that pigs consuming diets supplemented with DDGS exhibited reduced levels of ileitis, a common inflammation of the small intestine.

Researchers have found that adult pigs can be fed with a corn and soy-meal feed that is up to 40 percent DDGS. However, piglets are given feed with a maximum DDG content of 7.5 percent, because their growth may be reduced when they consume too much fiber.

The U.S. ethanol industry generates an estimated 10-14 million metric tons of DDGS annually from the milling of corn grain that yields fermentable sugars for conversion into fuel alcohol. The majority of DDGS are currently fed to beef and dairy cattle.

Source: Agricultural Research Service