Monday, November 30, 2009
We've nailed down a date for the FEAST feast: Thursday, December 10th. It is the second day of reading days so things should have cooled down for a bit. We want it to be a pot-luck but if you cannot bring anything don't worry-- just bring $5 and enjoy all the food you want! Bring your smiles, your instruments and high spirits. This is going to be fun. Also, if you need a little pick-me-up on this Monday after break read this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/30/nyregion/30forest.html?em
I wish I could go back to kindergarten and go to that school...
Monday, November 23, 2009
Get ready for the biggest pot-luck feast you have ever attended. Sometime between Thankgiving and Winter break we will come together for a celebration of a great semester. There will be lots of food and fun. Also, we are hoping to be able to sell some of the FEAST tshirts!
Date to be nailed down soon....
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Inspired by Giulia's last blog post we've decided to start a letter-writing campaign for the Food and Flowers Freedom Act.
The way I see it, if we really want to support local food this should be a no-brainer. If this passed, we could sell our produce to neighbors! It will directly help the city's green efforts and get us closer to the goal of getting people to eat local, healthy food. During WWII, 40% of produce consumed by Americans was grown in Victory Gardens. There is no reason we cannot make that happen today and it starts with the Food and Flowers Freedom Act.
Tonight at Garden Time we will not only be planting a bed of succulents (to eventually transplant to different parts of campus to reduce water-usage) but we will also be writing letters to Jose Huizar, our district rep, asking him to support this legislation otherwise known as motion 09-1685. His address is 200 N. Spring St., Room 465, Los Angeles, CA, 90012.
See you tonight!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The chicken prospects are looking good, we have our second meeting with risk management tomorrow to finalize all of our plans so we can get cracking on building that darned coop!
Novella Carpenter is basically a squatter, she farms on the empty 4,500 square foot lot next to the duplex she lives in with her boyfriend in the Ghost town neighborhood of Oakland, where the wind howls through the "ghetto" and "the crack zombies come out at night." She describes her farm as jankity, with most of the beds and sheds made from found objects throughout Oakland there "is no Martha Stuart happening" in her garden. Ghost town Farms, the name of her urban farming venture, has bees, pigs, goats, bunnies, chickens, and turkeys. Novella slaughters her own animals, except for the goat that her halal Yemeni neighbor/liquor store owner offered to slaughter for her. She explains that through raising and slaughtering her own animals, she has learned to see what its really like to eat meat. She actually teaches slaughtering classes at her farm (FIELD TRIP), and as it seems from her blog she also flies other places to teach other eager meat eaters.
Novella's lecture was very very funny, everything on her farm is funny. When describing what it was like to raise her pigs she says, "I felt like the witch from Hansel and Gretel, thinking 'when can I eat you, when can I eat you?!!'" She describes herself as a "robo-hippie," someone who has a blackberry but also slaughters her own animals. For her first slaughters, she said she pulled up a you-tube how-to video.
Things really picked up, Novella recounts, when she and her boyfriend learned about dumpster diving. Most of the pig feed came from the dumpster behind their favorite Chinese restaurant. Yes, her pigs eat Chinese food, "like good urban pigs."
When describing neighbors and other Oakland residents coming into her farm and picking her food, Novella exclaims "YES! Someone at some great produce today!"
Novella and her boyfriend get about 80% of what they eat from the garden. She said that she has been able to get all of her food from the farm, "but then we lose weight."
She mentioned a couple of books which I haven't checked out yet, but:
The Encyclopedia of Country Living
The Integral Urban House
The Good Life by Scott and Helen Nearing
One audience member asked her what her future plans were, again Novella's response was hilarious: she wants to commandeer the nearby abandoned play field for sheep, maybe a mule and then she wants to ride her mule through downtown Oakland. But, then she ended on a more serious note "maintain what you have." I think these words are appropriate for more than just farming.
Check out her book:
Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer: June 2009, Penguin Press
(it's really good)
Monday, November 16, 2009
The main goal of my comps project is turn my on-campus club into a service organization by the end of next semester (a goal that was stated in the constitution on the club). There will also be a hefty written/ research and multi-media component.
The focus of my research will be School Lunch Policy—its founding, history, present-day situation as well as what other countries are doing in the realm of school lunch. I plan to interview long-time cafeteria managers in the area on the challenges they have faced in the last few decades—from cultural changes in American eating habits to budget cut-backs and changing ideas on what healthy and nutritious mean.
My club is FEAST (Food, Energy and Sustainability Team). It started last semester as just a few of us clamoring for an on-campus vegetable garden—to raise awareness about the environmental impacts of our current food systems as well as the health and class issues associated with our dependence on a terrible food distribution system. Eight months later (and many, many hours of labor!) we have finally established a garden on the lawn in front of the UEP building. The garden consists of seventeen 4x8 raised beds as well as an extensive composting program. We have built relationships with many organizations on campus from the UEP department to campus dining and administrators (any everyone in between). We have over 300 members on our mailing list, 40 of who come to events regularly.
As exciting as completing the garden is we need to stay focused on our original mission—to raise awareness and educate through hands-on learning both within the Oxy community and in the LA community. We have accomplished a lot on campus in this regard and I feel that before I graduate I want to complete the final mission which involves connecting with local schools.
Luckily, UEPI just finished building a new Farm 2 School curriculum that we hope to implement in the garden. I have partnered with a grad student at UCLA who just received a grant for this type of work and she will be using our work-force of dedicated gardener/ educators to work in low-income schools that already have gardens but are finding their pockets empty for these types of programs this year. In addition to these two programs I aim to expose elementary students to local farmers’ markets. When I think about what really gets me excited about healthy eating and cooking it truly is the farmers’ market. The music, the colors, the smells, the free samples all culminate in a truly inspiring experience. Through my job working at a local CSA I have made connections with many local farmers who would love to get on board with this project.I realize there are liability issues with this type of project. Having already worked closely with risk management on various issues I feel there are ways to make this project a reality. Through partnerships with Neighborhood Partnership Program, an existing service organization on campus, and Teach for America (to which I have a few connections) as well as the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute I believe FEAST can really make this work.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Garden Report to the Administration, November 2009
We are happy to report that after 8 months of work FEAST, along with many academic and administrative partnerships has established an organic vegetable garden on Occidental’s campus. The garden is located on the lawn in front of the Urban and Environmental Policy building and consists on 17, four by eight raised beds. We are in the midst of harvesting our second crop—radishes, lettuces, pumpkins, butternut squash, kale, chard, brussel sprouts, broccoli, peas and various herbs with more on the way. For more moment-to-moment information, pictures and videos please visit our blog: occidental-feast.blogspot.com
In this report we aim to share what we have accomplished—how on track we are with our original mission, how we have accomplished it, long-term goals and specific needs of the organization.
Original Mission and Success
The reason the club was founded was to answer the question, “We know the food systems in this country are bad for our health and the environment but what can we do about it?” The mission outlined in our founding documents is, “to learn about sustainable, local, and organic food through hands on experiences and to teach the cultural, environmental and economic impacts of food systems. Our overarching goal is to create awareness about sustainable, healthy food on the Occidental Campus and ultimately in the Los Angeles community.”
The educational aspect for club members as well as for other students who have come to some events has been substantial. Members who consistently come to weekly meetings have learned how to compost (that special ratio of straw, to food-prep waste to grass trimmings) as well as which seeds to plant at which time of year and watering and harvesting techniques. To reach out to the broader Oxy community we have been in the quad at lunch with informational fliers, served pumpkin pie from the garden at A Taste of Oxy, done a free-screening of Food Inc. in Johnson 200 and opened our garden to all community members regardless of their club membership status.
In terms of the “green-ness” of our project we have had 33 days of composting since the beginning of our project. Every week we use 6 bins of food-prep waste from the Marketplace each weighing about 10 pounds. That equals 1,980 pounds of waste that we diverted from a landfill (as well as the amount of CO2 it would take to cart it there). We also use 3 full garbage bags of grass trimmings every week (provided by Facilities). That makes 100 bags of grass trimmings diverted.
There was some alarm when the first water bill came at the beginning of the fall but there were two reasons for this—neither of which had to do with water-usage in our garden. I have attached an updated copy of the water bill for UEPI. From the summary box in the lower RH portion you can see that the number of hundred cubic feet (HFC) of usage is down for the month of September by 14 units (3 in Tier 1 and 11 in Tier 2) , but the cost is up from last year by $343.84. There are 2 reasons for this increase:
1. The cost increase/HCF unit from $3.07 to $3.53 for Tier 1 and $3.56 to $5.48 for Tier 2.
2. Decrease in the cap for Tier 1 from 74 units in 2008 to 71 units in 2009.
We have control over the amount of water used. However, we do not have control over the cost or the Tier 1 caps. These are determined by the DWP, and there is no way to anticipate this number or the cost increases. Because of these factors, the cost of water will continue to rise despite our conservation efforts.
We can keep water use to a minimum because we "engineered" the soil used in the raised beds to include a high compost lower sand content to decrease drainage. We can also mulch around plantings with high water retaining compost generated on site, which also recycles College generated greens waste from grass clippings and kitchen fruit & vegetable trimmings. This helps reduce our solid waste footprint, as well as the real cost and environmental cost of transporting this waste to a landfill.
The produce generally gets distributed between club members or used in meals provided by Well Fed, the new student-run “restaurant” (oxywellfed.blogspot.com for more information). As of November 1 we have all the raised beds staked in and from now on can measure the productive capabilities of the garden and look into new food distribution programs.
The community-building aspect of the club has been integral to the success of the garden. What started out as one or two people clamoring for an on-campus garden has turned into an organization with over 300 members, 20 or 30 of who attend events on a regular basis. There are no guidelines on who can be a member and as a result students of all classes and all backgrounds have met each other as well as professors from different disciplines, various staff members and even supportive community members. Events range from our weekly Thursday meetings to turn the compost pile, plant and harvest to trips to the beach to collect kelp to improve the quality of our compost, to potluck dinners and brunches to baking 20 pumpkin pies (with pumpkins from the garden!) to share at A Taste of Oxy. There are just as many freshman involved in the program as there are seniors which not only makes for a friendly atmosphere but also ensures the sustainability of the effort.
On some days we have had so many volunteers and not enough jobs for all the hands. As a result we have had collaborative programming on some Thursdays. One afternoon we had a certified yoga instructor (and fellow student) teach a yoga course. Another Thursday we had a student-band play. We’re hoping to have permanent student art in the garden installed next semester (a bench as well as mosaic stepping stones). The garden has morphed from a sustainability project into a platform to host student-projects--all the while maintaining our original mission of awareness and hands-on learning.
As graduation approaches for current club leaders we are looking closely at leadership development for next year. Luckily we have very dedicated underclassmen involved in the project and are developing an executive board around them. We’re hoping for more collaborative management and have five elected positions for the spring: Presidential Team, Chicken Guardian(s), Gardening/ Composting Expert, Events Manager/Fundraising and Treasurer. Elections will be held the first week of December and we already have 10 candidates on the ballot.
Key to the success of future management is strong partnerships with faculty, administration and staff as they can monitor successes and failures from year to year. Currently we have strong links with the UEP department (specifically Professor Vallianatos and Heng Lam Foong), Facilities (Bruce Steele) and various administrators (Dean Avery, James Tranquada), Campus dining (Amy Munoz).
Organization Needs and Long-Term Goals
We have a few pressing needs that we hope the administration will help us with. Currently we store all our tools in the basement of the UEP building. This is not only a pain for us but also a burden on Campus Safety whom we must call to let us in and then again to let us put the tools away. We need a tool-shed in the garden. We believe that we could build one for around $300.
This semester we completed research and a proposal around the idea of getting chickens. We met with Rebecca Dowling to hear her perspective and the final proposal is attached this report (covering avian flu concerns, maintenance, and neighbor concerns). We are looking at the leadership for next year to determine whether we are justified in implementing the program. So far we have heard some innovative ways of dealing with chicken responsibilities over break ranging from leaving our chickens with chicken owners in the area, relying on many dedicated faculty members who have stated interest or even building a portable coop that students who live in California could bring home with them.
Looking more long-term we hope to be an established organization on campus much like the Oxy Weekly or Koxy (radio). While our operations do not require a large budget we do need straw every week for composting, updated tools, seeds, transportation and some other basics. It would be more efficient to not consistently apply for funds from ASOC or the Sustainability Fund. Perhaps we could automatically get 20% of the Sustainability Fund each year, giving an incentive for FEAST members to recruit students to donate to the program.
Sustainable Food At Oxy
The issue of sustainable food is something students and faculty alike are passionate about. In partnership with UEP 247, FEAST put together a survey to gauge students’ desire to have more local and organic foods available in campus dining facilities. 64.2% of the 205 survey respondents stated that they care about both local and organic food being offered on campus. 82% of respondents said they eat lunch in campus dining facilities more than any other meal. Fruit was the most important item that students wanted to see local/ organic closely followed by dairy and vegetables. 34.8% of respondents said they would be willing to pay extra money for local food along with 53.4% who stated it depended on how much extra. Of that 53.4%, 51.4% said they would be willing to pay 5-10% more. During Local Foods Month, hosted in October by FEAST, UEPI and the ORSL the Marketplace offered all local foods. When I asked Amy Munoz (head of Campus Dining) how much that program increased the budget the answer went well with our findings—just over 10%. Given our data we recommend providing more local and organic fruit, dairy and vegetables during the lunch hours.
Thank you for your continued support throughout the growth of our organization. Without the help of the administration, staff (Bruce Steele especially!) and faculty this project would never have gotten off the ground. It has certainly been one of the most meaningful experiences of my college career and has certainly enhanced student-life on campus.