Thursday, March 31, 2011

cabarus county food system interviews

These are unedited interviews by Sidney Cruze of David Goforth and Carl Pless. Sidney works with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and is conducting the Cabarrus County Community Food Assessment(CFA).

Eventually these interviews, along with many others that were not captured on camera, will be shared as part of the full CFA report. What does the food system look like in Cabarrus County? This assessment will tell us and will help us get to work creating a new system for the future in our county. You have to know where you are before you can start off on any journey.

Big thanks to Chris Bullard for shooting these and getting them up on the Internet.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

smidgie size me

I recently read an article in The New York Times about the shrinking size of food packages, an alternative for the food companies who don't want to raise the cost of the items we buy at the grocery store but are facing higher commodity prices for the materials they use to make and transport those items. This is nothing new. From a 2008 Times article,
Soaring commodity and fuel prices are driving up costs for manufacturers; faced with a choice between raising prices (which consumers would surely notice) or quietly putting fewer ounces in the bag, carton or cup (which they generally don't) manufacturers are choosing the latter. You can read the rest of that article here.
The newer article though sounds different to me. Maybe it's the tone.
“For indulgences like ice cream, chocolate and potato chips, consumers may say ‘I don’t mind getting a little bit less because I shouldn’t be consuming so much anyway,’ ” said Professor Gourville.
Yeah, that's right. We should be eating less. Remember when Wendy's "downsized"? That was a little different.
Wendy's is doing away with the 'Biggie' drink size and returning to the terms everybody else uses: small, medium and large.

The difference is, though, that Wendy's is increasing the size of all their drinks. What was medium is now a small, etc. So now, small is a 20 ounce drink, medium is 32 ounces and a new 42 ounce size is a called a large. I'll say! 42 ounces is 1.2 liters (or 5 1/4 cups... a third of gallon). Wendy's will still sell a 16 ounce drink on its 99 cent value menu. (link)
Talk about spin. See the processed food companies are in a pickle. They need Americans to feel like they are getting what they are used to which is a lot- often too much- food per item or serving size but the cost of cheap food is going up. The quandary, how to delicately address the needs of the American psyche and it's warped relationship with food and still make a profit.

I remember learning that in undeveloped nations the processed foods are often packaged in single serving sizes because that is what most citizens can afford. In the poorer sections of the town where I live the convenience stores sell single cigarettes. Maybe that's where we're headed with food. Unable to afford 'Biggie-Sized' any longer but mentally and emotionally unable to give up crap food we will dole out a few coins for the 'Smidgie-Sized' portions and blame it on the fact that we are an overweight nation.

Some Serving Size History

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

food production planning

I get asked fairly frequently about how I plan my gardening/farming efforts. It is true that regardless of how well you plan all sorts of stuff will change your plans. However, I think a production plan it's essential to a sucessful food-growing effort.

Things to consider in creating your plan:

1. Grow what you eat. And grow it in quantities that are reasonable. You don't have to grow radishes if you don't like them. And if you do grow them plant only a few at a time. Staggered planting is something a production plan can help you accomplish.

2. Include the name of the varieties you grow. This will help with records when planning for the future.

3. Assign a target date to each of your plantings. You may not hit this date exactly but you will be more likely to get your vegetables in the ground at the best anticipated time if you actually assign a date. It will also help you to estimate the harvest time and/or quantity of food coming in for the future.

4. Stagger your plantings. Especially with those radishes, but really with any of your vegetables that get picked only once. Plan fewer in quantity and do it more often.

5. Assign your vegetables a location. This will help you to better understand what you can and cannot fit into your garden. It's essential for record keeping and planning for the future.

6. Include the following three plantings in each location so you can properly rotate your crops. Later on, you might not remember that you want spring vegetables in Field 3 or you might remember that only after you've planted a successful cover crop that won't be ready to turn into the soil until after spring vegetables should have already been planted

7. Don't get too hung up on the plan. You are going to make changes to it. It will be a living document so don't put off getting started on your production plan just because you're afraid you don't have absolutely everything decided upon today.

I hope this helps.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

cabarrus county food policy council logo

I haven't stopped paying attention to national or international issues related to resources depletion, energy descent, economic catastrophe or other wide spread, unanticipated events. I have been more focused on my local community though; especially in regards to food. And I admit to not having set aside enough time to share as much as I should about what is happening here. I hope to remedy that soon.

In the meantime I'd like to be the first to publicly share the recently adopted Cabarrus County Food Policy Council Logo. The plan is for this image to become the heart of a Local Food Marketing Campaign. Details to be developed as it is rolled out into the community.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

design project four :: a large farm in small pieces

OK let's take a look at an existing parcel of land and do a bit of planning with the end goal of a working homestead that produces not only most of what the residents need and want but also produces extra to generate income. This particular parcel is made up of open land that was formerly farmed shown in yellow-green and areas of existing forest shown in dark green. You can see the existing residence and detached garage at the end of the driveway that connects them to the road.

Moving forward I've removed the colour that indicates which area is open space and which are is existing forest but I've left the outline of the forest so we can keep an eye on it during the planning process.

There are several locations that lend themselves to becoming ponds for water cleansing and storage as well as a place to raise fish, frogs and other protein sources and to serve as habitat for all the animals living on this and the surrounding properties. Pond and stream construction will be a major undertaking so it's best to locate these early in the process and to do this work as soon as possible.

Next I've highlighted areas to remain as existing forest areas. These will serve as habitat for animals and plants and also as a sustainable fuel source for home heating and cooking. They can also be sustainably foraged. One area at the northern edge of the parcel is shown as a reforestation project.

The next image shows tree replacement in several previously forested locations in the form of two different types of orchards. Near the residence you can see row orchards with fruit trees. These will also have cover crops grown under that trees and will serve as a place to pasture poultry. The mixed orchards shown further from the residence will contain a more varied selection of trees including maples for syrup, oaks for acorns, fruit and nut trees and hardwoods for lumber. This mixed orchard will be more intensively managed than the areas left as existing forest but will not be clear cut and replanted all at once. Old trees will be cut for lumber for construction projects on the property and for fuel and new trees will be phased in. The end goal is a managed forest that is not as natural as the native mature forests of this part of the country but not as non-natural as the row orchards.

Certain areas are fenced in and will serve as rotating pastures for cows, sheep, goats, poultry and llamas. I have always wanted llamas.

Row crops will be grown between the main residence and several new residences and out buildings shown below. The main circulation paths are also shown below. Notice how most of the row crops, new structures and pasture areas are outside the outline of the existing forest.

The final plan tries to consider the needs of those humans who inhabit the site as well as the other plants and animals that share this parcel of land. It has a diversity of ecosystems making it a more flexible, adaptable homestead.