BU Future of Food Conference – wild fermentation

May 7, 2009 in farm, Humble Garden

for blog (NOT MINE)

(Lactobacillus god – Sandorkraut)

A couple of weeks ago, while twittering, I heard about this conference at Boston University called “The Future of Food: Transatlantic Perspectives” which will happen this coming weekend (May 8-9, 2009).

Its sort of shocking how close I came to totally missing out on this conference.

I have pasted at the bottom of this post, the schedule that they have put together! You can also visit the same schedule at this link.

Note that a whole lot of it is free and open to the public!

While I am not able to attend all of the great festivities (I live 1.5 hours outside of Boston so this is a field trip for me) I am making it a priority to attend a particular workshop, to be held this Friday (tomorrow) from 2:30 to 5:00.

for blog (NOT MINE)

Fermentation lecture and workshop: Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods
Join Sandor Ellix Katz (aka Sandorkraut), author of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, for this workshop. Learn how easy it is to make sauerkraut, pickles and other live-culture ferments in your own kitchen. Highly nutritious and filled with life, fermented foods have a long history and a promising future. Empower yourself to create these delicious and healthful foods!

I have been wanting to buy this book and never thought I would actually get a chance to SEE Sandor speak in person so I am quite excited about this workshop.

Fermentation may seem like an arcane skill to learn but if you garden, like I do (see our garden blog at Humble Garden) it is hugely important to be able to do ferments to put up some of the harvest.

While fermenting is not hard (the bacteria do all the hard work) its best if you get a good foundation up front so that you do not waste food due to ignorance of important practices and also because you do not know what a good and a bad ferment looks like!

One last word on fermentation – its not just about preserving food. Fermentation is the process of changing or morphing foods from a fresh state to some new and improved collective organism made up of a whole, complex and dynamic bacterial ecology where lactobacillus bacteria produce lactic acid that inhibits pathogenic (toxic) bacterial species and ALSO unlocks nutrients, co-factors, and vitamins from the original food.

Sandor has completely immersed himself in a fermenting world and seems to be wholly dedicated to bringing it to the rest of us!

for blog (NOT MINE)

You can learn so much more by visiting his web site at this link.

At this workshop, I will also get a copy of his book (hope to get it signed and add it to my growing collection of signed book copies – see this link)

for blog (NOT MINE)

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods

I will be doing this tomorrow and then report back here after that!

Conference Schedule

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fermentation lecture and workshop: Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods

Join Sandor Ellix Katz (aka Sandorkraut), author of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, for this workshop. Learn how easy it is to make sauerkraut, pickles and other live-culture ferments in your own kitchen. Highly nutritious and filled with life, fermented foods have a long history and a promising future. Empower yourself to create these delicious and healthful foods!

2:30 PM – 5:00 PM
808 Commonwealth Avenue (Fuller Building)
Demonstration Room

Seating limited | $30 includes signed copy of Wild Fermentation | $20 without book.


If you have questions about the workshop, please contact Kate Seif at clseif@bu.edu or 610-420-7854.

Lecture, cooking-demo and dinner: Cooking with a Conscience

Featuring ec0-chef, author, and food-justice activist Bryant Terry

Bryant Terry is a nationally recognized eco chef, author, and food justice activist. He is currently a Food and Society Policy Fellow, a national program of the WK Kellogg Foundation. He is co-author, with Anna Lappé, of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen and author of the recently released Vegan Soul Kitchen. With the help of a Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Policy Fellowship, he has started the Southern Organic Kitchen Project in order to educate primarily African-Americans living in the Southern United States about the connections between diet and health.

Dinner (see menu) features recipes from Bryant’s Vegan Soul Kitchen.

5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
808 Commonwealth Avenue (Fuller Building)
Demonstration Room

Seating limited | $45.00 includes signed copy of Vegan Soul Kitchen


If you have questions about the dinner with Bryant Terry, please contact Kate Seif at clseif@bu.edu or 610-420-7854.

Film Screening and discussion: King Corn

King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation.

In King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat – and how we farm.

Film-screening will be introduced by Ian Cheney, filmmaker, and followed by discussion with Aaron Woolf, director.

8:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Boston University Law School
Auditorium | Barristers’ Hall
765 Commonwealth Avenue

Free and open to the public | Reception to follow

Saturday, May 9, 2009

International Conference: The Future of Food: Transatlantic Perspectives

Free and open to the public

(includes all panels, breakfast, coffee breaks, reception)

8:00 AM – 8:45 AM: Breakfast and Registration

8:45 AM – 9:00 AM: Introductions
9:00 AM – 9:30 AM: Opening Keynote Address – Satish Kumar, Editor, Resurgence

9:30 AM – 11:00 AM: Session I: From Farm to Fork: The Global Food Chain

This session traces the increasingly obscure path of food from “farm to fork.” The focus is on food production and the industrialization of agriculture. It will consider the growing influence of “agribusiness” and the “politics of food.” Our goals are to explore the alignment (or lack thereof) of business and consumer interests and the impact of the transformation of the food system on culture.

Helena Norberg-Hodge, founder and director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC)
Henrik Selin, Professor of International Relations, Boston University
Mark Winne, author of Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty
Moderator: James McCann, Professor of History and Associate Director for Development, African Studies Center, Boston University

11:00 AM – 11:30AM: Coffee Break

11:30 AM – 1:00 PM: Session II: The End of Cheap Food: Food and Geopolitics

This session will center on “food security.” It will address the rising cost of food and the “fuel vs. food” debate. Is the growing demand for biofuels responsible for food inflation? Other threats to food security will also be explored, namely, fossil fuel dependence, loss of biodiversity, and water shortages.

Benedikt Haerlin, Foundation on Future Farming | Save Our Seeds
Jim Harkness, President, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Tim Wise, Director of the Research and Policy Program at the Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University
Moderator: Cutler Cleveland, Professor of Geography and Environmental Science, Boston University

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM: Vegetarian lunch with guest speakers

Seating limited | $15.00 | Please indicate when registering whether or not you will attend the lunch.


2:00 PM – 3:30 PM: Session III: What’s in What You Eat? Food Safety in a New Ecology

This panel focuses on “food safety” with an emphasis on regulation in the United States and Europe, the GMO debate, recent “food scares,” and the looming threat of bioterrorism.

Benedikt Haerlin, Foundation on Future Farming | Save Our Seeds
Helen Holder, GM Campaign Coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe
Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director, Center for Food Safety
Moderator: Adil Najam, Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, Boston University

3:30 PM – 4:00 PM: Coffee Break

4:00 PM – 5:30 PM: Session IV: Eating Green: Food and Climate Change

This panel looks at the relationship between food production and climate change, addressing issues of deforestation, soil degradation, and factory farms and considers whether what we eat can make a difference.

Daniel Hillel, Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University
Björn-Ola Linnér, Linköping University, the Tema Institute
Mia MacDonald, Founder and Executive Director, Brighter Green
Cynthia Rosenzweig, Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University
Moderator: Henrik Selin, Professor of International Relations, Boston University

5:30 PM – 6:00 PM: Coffee Break

6:00 PM – 7:30 PM: Session V: What Is “Good” Food? The Ethics of Eating

Is “good” food healthy, sustainable, delectable or cheap? This panel explores why our food choices matter. It addresses the “ethics of eating” and the health and environmental costs of “cheap food.” It looks at some of the grassroots alternatives including the rise of organic farming, locavorism, and the “slow food” movement.

Sandor Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved
Satish Kumar, Editor, Resurgence
Harriet Lamb, Executive Director, Fair Trade Foundation
Helena Norberg-Hodge, founder and director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC)
Moderator: Molly Anderson, independent consultant on science and policy for sustainability

7:30 PM – 8:00 PM: Closing Keynote Address
Michael Ableman, farmer, author, and photographer and a recognized practitioner of sustainable agriculture and proponent of regional food systems

8:00 PM – 8:30 PM: Reception

Boston University Law School
Auditorium | Barristers’ Hall
765 Commonwealth Avenue

All Saturday events, with exception of lunch, are free and open to the public. Registration in advance is appreciated and helps us with planning.

Note: There will be no admittance while sessions are in process or after 6:00 PM. Please plan your travel to arrive before the start of the session(s) you would like to attend.

If you have questions about the conference, please contact Elizabeth Amrien at eamrien@bu.edu or 617-358-2778.

Thanks Giving – to Others

November 11, 2008 in farm, holiday

Roast Chicken - Light Test

Unfortunately, America is starving it’s food banks. At a time when food bank demands are shooting through the roof, donations to the food banks are disappearing. The NYT is running an article in a special section called “Giving” entitled “When the Cupboard Is Bare” by David Cay Johnson where they delve into the exploding food crisis here in the US.

Surplus production, once a major source of food for food banks, is now often sold to overseas markets. There manufacturers can get more than the value of the tax deduction of a charitable donation. This and other factors are forcing some food centers to turn away the hungry. SOURCE

You might imagine that this year is the same as past when food banks make their usual annual press releases pleading for food as we near the holidays.

This year it will be different and it is really only the beginning. With accelerating job losses and the depletions of meager savings for winter heating costs (officially called “fuel poverty“) more and more people will be forced to visit desperately understocked food pantries.

In the four months since June, demand for food aid has risen 20 percent in areas of the country with the healthiest economies and more than 40 percent in areas with the weakest, leaders of nonprofit food-distribution organizations say. And they predict that the need will keep growing in 2009 if the job market continues to contract, as expected.

“We are getting people whose work is always up and down, and they have lived with that their whole lives because they work construction,” Mr. Sly said. “Construction here has just stopped, and so we have carpenters and masons and electricians who have not worked on a new house in forever. So it is not that they are out of work for some weeks and then they go back to work. There is nothing for them, and they cannot imagine when there will be work again.” SOURCE

golden onions - view large

There are roughly a thousand pantries and soup kitchens in New York, said Ms. Stephens. City Harvest collects surplus food from restaurants and grocers and distributes it to nearly half of these volunteer feeding operations. It also operates a twice-monthly farmers’ market in the South Bronx, providing fresh produce at no charge, part of a small but growing trend among emergency food providers. SOURCE

US Food Crisis: Hungry in America (NOT MINE)
(Do you see that long line? There in the background? This is in America kids, right now, around the corner from your community. Melrose Mobile Market NYT Photo: Librado Romero/The New York Times)

Please consider becoming much more involved this year with your local food security efforts. Give money, give time, plan on growing some food especially for your local banks next year.

Each dollar of donated money, many food bank managers said, can be leveraged through barters, buying surplus products and otherwise arranging for $12 or more of food. City Harvest, for example, relies on 100 paid employees and 700 volunteers who gather surplus food and deliver it. “One of the big misconceptions is that we collect waste, which we do not,” Ms. Stephens said. SOURCE

Starting the 2008 garden
(Planting seedlings for the 2008 garden)

I can not stress too much how important it is to take that first step, out your front door, to do something for your neighbors while you can and to support an effort that you yourself may one day have to avail yourself of.

Please share your unique ways of helping to feed people. I would love to hear it all.

My children have had the opportunity to grow their own food and raise their own chickens and milk their own dairy goats. By no means are we affluent and we struggle like others to keep the house and feed the kids. But, while we all must eat every day, is doesn’t really take THAT much to get full and there should always be a way to share and a time to learn how and why to share.

This fall, I think its important that we share our feasting with others.

Tell me how you do this with your kids!

Ask yourself: Are organic veggies BETTER than conventional?

August 25, 2008 in farm, Food Science, ingredient, issues, vegetable


(This is what you are really getting with conventional and Big Ag Organic food – depleted foods)

Who has not stood before a pile of organic vegetables or fruits and compared their price to the price of the conventionally grown ones next to it? Who has not asked, on some level, is there some real qualitative difference? You likely appreciate the lack of chemicals used to grow it – artificial fertilizers and pesticides made from petroleum.

This question – “Are organic vegetables BETTER than conventional ones?” can catch you because there are several assumptions that are meant to trip you up.

Our first broccoli, for supper tonight

Not all organic growers are the same, what the USDA means by Organic may not square with your idea of it, the USDA is known for letting certain things slide for Big Ag, and many other system issues that have been purposefully institutionalized.

You may also assume that “Organic Food” is more wholesome too.

Merriam Webster defines wholesome this way:

  • Pronunciation: \hōl-sÉ™m\
  • Function: adjective
  • Date: 13th century
  • 1: promoting health or well-being of mind or spirit
  • 2: promoting health of body
  • 3 a: sound in body, mind, or morals b: having the simple health or vigor of normal domesticity
  • 4 a: based on well-grounded fear : prudent -a wholesome respect for the law- b: safe (it wouldn’t be wholesome for you to go down there — Mark Twain)

Unless you are standing in a farmer’s market where the veggies or fruits are honestly sourced from a local small holding organic farm, the organic items in question – in the big box grocery store – are likely to have MUCH more in common with the conventional ones.

How is this possible?

Big Organic growers grow their plants with the same industrial model as Big Agriculture – huge carbon foot print and constant destruction of the soils.

Depleted Soils

Soil, or dirt as some may think of it, is not just powdery minerals. It is a complex mixture that includes those minerals from long eroded rocks but also organic residues from all the activity that has happened in the soil.

Those organic residues can include:

  • Living and degrading plant debris
  • Living and degrading insect and animal bodies
  • Living and degrading bacterial populations
  • Living and degrading mushrooms (mycelium –mushroom roots-, and mushroom fruiting bodies, even spores)

The activities of these living things lend structure to the soil (different zones of life, mineralization, compaction, oxygen levels, nitrogen levels, moisture levels) and also help by making certain compounds, elements, minerals, available, things like:

  • Plant-usable nitrogen (nitrogen fixation via bacterial-root-rhizome symbiosis)
  • Vitamin production
  • Plant-usable forms of elements like calcium, phosphates, and other more rare types.

Our first broccoli!

(Ready to scarf fresh picked veggies)

When soils are plowed, the structure is obliterated and whole communities of plants, mushrooms and bacteria and insects are disrupted, killed, inhibited. They can no longer transmute atmospheric nitrogen and soil-locked minerals and organic debris into nutrients for plants.

The good stuff in the soil is also exposed to the harsh sun, rains, winds – all depleting the soils even further.

Our present day industrial Big Agriculture requires MASSIVE amounts of oil, mechanical toil, and amendments (also dependent on oil for their very manufacture) to compensate for the damage that plowing does to the soils.

Consider these stats:

Raw Broccoli

  • From 1963 to 1999:
  • calcium went from 103 mg/100g sample down to 48 mg/100g sample
  • potassium went from 382 down to 325 mg/100g sample
  • Water content went from 89.1% up to 90.6%

Red Tomatoes

  • From 1963 to 1999:
  • calcium went from 13 mg/100g sample down to 5 mg/100g sample
  • magnesium went from 14 mg/100g sample down to 11 mg/100g sample
  • potassium went from 244 down to 33 mg/100g sample

Raw Carrots

  • From 1963 to 1999:
  • calcium went from 37 mg/100g sample down to 27 mg/100g sample
  • magnesium went from 23 mg/100g sample down to 15 mg/100g sample
  • potassium went from 341 down to 323 mg/100g sample

On top of this soil holocaust, you have genetically modified plants (via breeding and the lab) that have been optimized for the industrial method and which are able to grow in depleted soils.

What you get are vegetables which LOOK like a carrot, a cabbage, a head of broccoli, corn, cucumbers, etc but if you were to measure the mineral and vitamin contents you would find something closer to a wet soggy sponge.

Humble Garden: goliath broccoli

(Ready to eat!)

Let me repeat: Big Organic growers grow their plants with this same Big Ag industrial model – huge carbon foot print and destruction of the soils.

What this means to you at the store, is that when you buy Organic, you are buying a compromised promise of pesticide purity but not wholesomeness. You are buying simulations of vegetables.

Taking vitamins will not solve this problem because they are based on a false premise. Many vitamins are not absorbable by the human body unless they are embedded within the context of food (be it plant or flesh).

The only way to resolve this issue (and just how many diseases arise from our bodies being depleted almost from the moment of conception) is to buy veggies from small farms that are practicing permaculture and organic gardening methods.

Better yet, learn how to get your own permaculture and organic garden beds going so that you can eat REAL vegetables with actual vitamins and minerals.

What a concept

If you are interested in learning how, visit my garden blog at Humble Garden and also ask me in comments.

Humble Garden: goliath broccoli

(Pretty darn big head of organic homegrown broccoli)

Quiet on the outside, busy behind the scenes

September 23, 2007 in chicken, farm, Food Porn


I have been slow in posting this last week for a variety of reasons, most of them creative!

I will be posting on some new recipes I have tried from a couple of new cookbooks, ones I made up myself, and also about this fantastic tour I took of several Vermont farms on an absolutely beautiful day.

Today, as I write those posts, I will share photos of our new chicklings (as our kids call them). As you may or may not know, you can order day old chicks to arrive by regular mail.

We have been building a chicken house for them.

chicken house

With a nice clear roof.

chicken house

See more details in the post “Avian Abode” over at our Humble Garden blog.

The types I ordered were:

  • White Silkie Bantams – these are important in traditional chinese medicine (they are the black meat chickens), thought I might give them a try, eggs and meat
  • Production Reds – lots of eggs, heavy breed
  • Black Minorcas – interesting looking, eggs
  • Buff Orphingtons – hearty large breed
  • Mystery chicks – hatchery’s choice!

That last mystery set should be interesting, one little guy (seems like a guy, hope they are all girls tho) is all spotty and pretty fiesty!