Its Food Day in the U.S. on October 24!

Share:

Food Day in the U.S. is a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainably produced food and a grassroots campaign for better food policies. It builds all year long and culminates on October 24 (NOTE: World Food Day is celebrated on October 16, the day the Food and Agricultural Organization was founded in 1945).

Learn more about Food Day in the video below.

Why Food Day?

The typical American diet is contributing to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems. Those problems cost Americans more than $150 billion per year. Plus, a meat-heavy diet takes a terrible toll on the environment.

Eating Real can save your own health and put our food system on a more humane, sustainable path. With America’s resources, there’s no excuse for hunger, low wages for food and farm workers, or inhumane conditions for farm animals.

Food Day’s national priorities address overarching concerns within the food system and provide common ground for building the food movement. Food Day aims to:

  • Promote safer, healthier diets: The foods we eat should promote, not undermine, our good health. Yet, every year we spend more than $150 billion on obesity-related health care costs, plus another $73 billion in reduced productivity.
  • Support sustainable and organic farms: Currently, sustainable farms receive little to no federal support and often lack market access to keep them competitive. Meanwhile, the largest 10 percent of industrialized farms—which contribute to poor health and severe environmental degradation—receive 75 percent of all farm subsidies.
  • Reduce hunger: Currently, around 50 million Americans are considered “food insecure”, or near hunger, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) participation is at an all-time high. SNAP is vital to reducing hunger, but the program’s budget is under constant attack while federal measures to increase food access are minimal.
  • Reform factory farms to protect the environment and farm animals: Today, most farm animals are confined in “factory farms”—sometimes containing as many as 50,000-100,000 cattle, hens, or pigs. These practices result in needless animal abuse and illness, environmental degradation, and harm the people who live in and around those facilities.
  • Support fair working conditions for food and farm workers: 20 million workers throughout the U.S. food system harvest, process, ship, sell, cook, and serve the food we eat every day. And yet, many farmworkers earn well below poverty levels while the tipped minimum wage for restaurant servers has remained at $2.13 per hour for the last 21 years.

For more information Sign up for weekly email updates, and join the conversation about Food Day issues on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Our Food Day Celebration in Amherst, MA

Grow Food Amherst has organized a community potluck on Food Day, October 24.  This local organization has invited all members of the community to gather for a potluck meal to celebrate National Food Day in the Large Activity Room of the Bangs Community Center.  Everyone is asked to bring a dish to share prepared with items from their garden, CSA, local farm or local food store (as much as possible), their own plate and utensils, and an index card with a list of ingredients for those with food allergies.

The group will also have a photo board on hand so that people may share photos of their gardens or prepared dishes.

“The main idea behind Food Day is to raise awareness of the importance of eating fresh, local and healthy food” said Amherst’s Sustainability Coordinator, Stephanie Ciccarello.

To sign up for the potluck, go to: Sign up here!

==========================================================

This post was created with text from the Food Day web page.  I’d appreciate it if you would share this post with your friends.  And for more ideas, videos and challenges, please join my Facebook Group; Just Food Now.   Go here for more of my World.edu posts.  To get a college degree see: UMass Sustainable Food and Farming.

Winter Online Classes in Sustaianble Food and Farming at UMass

Share:

The University of Massachusetts Stockbridge School of Agriculture online Certificate Program in Sustainable Food and Farming continues to expand its offerings.  This is the only fully online program in the rapidly growing subject matter area of sustainable agriculture that results in a university credential.  While it is not for everyone, many people have found the convenience of online learning works into their busy lives.

You are welcome to take individual courses or sign up to receive the 15-credit Certificate upon completion of 5 classes. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Dr. John M. Gerber, Program Coordinator at jgerber@umass.edu.

———————————————-

Enrollment for the classes being offered during the winter term (December 16 – January 18) begins on October 16, 2013.  This winter we are offering:

STOCKSCH 100 – Botany for Gardeners – GenEd (BS) (4 cr)

This is a class on the science of plant growth, using world food production, our favorite foods, and backyard gardening as the framework for study whenever possible.  We will look at what plants are made of, how they work, how they interact with the environment, and where they came from.  Most important perhaps, we will think together about our relationship with plants in order to better understand our place in the world. (This class was formerly PLSOILIN 100).

 ———————————————-

STOCKSCH 197A – Backyard Homesteading (3 cr)

This course explores home-scale food production systems with a focus on permaculture, intensive mini-farming and urban homesteading. The course integrates both research and practical applications to create home-scale food systems that have the resiliency of natural ecosystems. The essential components of diverse garden systems will be discussed in detail, including edible ecosystem gardens, soil fertility, mini orchards, water management, tools and techniques and planting strategies.

 ———————————————-

STOCKSCH 397C – Community Food Systems (3cr) 

This course examines the movement of food from seed to table. Participants in the course explore local and global food systems, and specific food related issues that impact health of communities. Among the topics we’ll cover are: examining the economic and political decisions that frame our food chain, direct marketing, commercial agriculture, processing, food justice, hunger, health, food security, peak oil, school food systems and school gardens, Community Supported Agriculture, farmers’ markets, small scale farming and homesteading. At the center of this course is the examination of the opportunities and challenges required in making community food projects that create real lasting systems change.

 ———————————————-

And here are the classes that will be offered over the 14 week spring semester!

Spring 2014 – Scheduled Online Courses

STOCKSCH 197G – Introduction to Permaculture (3)

STOCKSCH 265 – Sustainable Agriculture (3)

STOCKSCH 390 U – Sustainable Site Planning and Design (3cr)

STOCKSCH 305 – Small Fruit Production (3cr)

For more information on the program, see Certificate in Sustainable Food and Farming or contact Dr. John M. Gerber, Program Coordinator at jgerber@umass.edu. Enrollment for the winter session, begins on October 16, 2013.

==========================================================

I’d appreciate it if you would share this post with your friends.  And for more ideas, videos and challenges, please join my Facebook Group; Just Food Now.   Go here for more of my World.edu posts.  To get a college degree see: UMass Sustainable Food and Farming.

Your life is a story within a larger story

Share:

As I prepare to teach my Agricultural Systems Thinking class, I’ve been thinking (again) about hierarchy.  I explored this topic a while back in “Systems Thinking Tools: Understanding Hierarchy“, in which I wrote about the power relationships in a human constructed hierarchy as compared with a natural systems hierarchy.

In this blog, I will try to examine more closely the relationship of subsystems within a natural systems hierarchy (or holarchy) to the “system above”, which provides the “system below” with meaning.  But first, lets go back to the title of the blog “your life is a story within stories.”  I borrowed this metaphor from a wonderful systems thinker, Michael Dowd, who wrote ”

“Each of us is a story within stories. My daughter’s life story is part of both my story and her mother’s story. The story of our family is likewise part of other stories larger than our own: the story of our town, our state, our nation, Western civilization, humanity, planet Earth, and the story of the Universe itself. Each of us is a story within stories within stories.

“There is a dynamic relationship between every story, the larger stories it is part of, and the smaller stories that are a part of it. Larger stories influence and add meaning to the stories that are nestled within them. For example, if my wife and I were to move across the country, my daughter’s story would be affected. Similarly, if my nation goes through a severe economic depression, experiences prolonged drought, or undergoes a major spiritual awakening, my community’s story, my story, and my daughter’s story will each be affected. The destiny of every story is affected by the larger stories of which it is a part.”

Get it?

As if the universe was trying to affirm this message, I opened a little book this morning which I had picked up at the library yesterday and read the first line in Hunger Mountain by David Hinton.  He wrote; “things are themselves only as they belong to something more than themselves: I to we, we to earth, earth to planet and stars…”

Hmmmmmm…..  sounds an awful lot like the image from my earlier blog.

I find meaning and purpose in my life by being useful to a system (story) larger than myself, in which my life is embedded.  This mental model of relationships helps me to know who I am and why I am here.  And it helps me choose how to invest my limited time on this planet.

Addictions are a coping mechanism

I sometimes wonder if the many addictions that humans seem to, …. well, become addicted to, result from a life focused on the little “myself” without a strong connection to the larger story.  And of course the addictions are many:

  • drugs (prescribed and illegal)
  • alcohol (at least its legal)
  • recreational sex (friends with benefits in today’s common lingo)
  • passive consumption of violent sports (football, hockey…..)
  • shopping (the number one addiction in America)

Of course, when not taken to the extreme these are normal human behaviors.  But we seem to be addicted to “the extreme.”  I wonder if these common addictions are coping mechanisms for a life lived without a sense of purpose, or a connection to that system (story) larger than the little “myself.”

I believe we find meaning and purpose in “larger” systems (in which our lives are embedded) because indeed, we are an intimate part of those larger natural systems.  This is not necessarily true however, for a human-constructed hierarchy.

We may not want to invest our lives in the next higher system in a human constructed hierarchy.  We may simply choose to “do our job” and take our paycheck home.  Many people today, seem to be willing to settle for this sort of life.  This seems a little sad to me.  I”m reminded of a Robert Frost poem, Two Tramps at Mud Time, where he writes;

My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation.

I wonder how many of us are blessed with a vocation (that which we need to do) that is also an avocation (that which we love).

Frost continues:

Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future’s sakes.

When we live within a human-constructed hierarchy, we may not be in a position to work for “heaven and the future’s sake.”  Whereas, in a natural systems hierarchy, each subsystem is an intimate part of the next “larger” system.  We have no choice but to play for mortal stakes!  Indeed, we (the organism in the graphic below) contribute to the health (or ill health) of the human population, the larger ecosystem, the planet……

When I see myself as part of a human constructed hierarchy, I am likely to be competitive and selfish.  When I see myself as part of a natural systems hierarchy, a living system, it is in my best “self” interest to work for the good of the next larger system!

We are stores within stories

There is a visual tool that might help us picture the relationship among levels of complexity within a natural hierarchy called the Mandelbrot Set.  This is a mathematical set of points with a unique and distinctive shape.  As you look more closely at the shape however, you see the same shape repeated over and over again, seemingly infinitely.

A system in nature consists of smaller systems, upon which it depends.  Likewise the smaller systems are completely dependent on the larger system.  That is, we are stories within stories or using the Mandelbrot metaphor, common shapes within shapes.

But my family or community is a mess!

If we are not blessed with a healthy family and community (and I believe that those of us that are blessed with a healthy family or community have a special responsibiltiy to contribute to the well-being of others), still…. we ALL have a common, and powerful story.  It is The Great Story, and it is the greatest story ever told!

When we see ourselves serving a human constructed hierarchy of power and control, we may become scared and selfish.  And then the addiction that seems to dominate the national dialogue in America emerges, anger.

On the other hand, when we see ourselves as part of The Great Story of the continued evolution of the universe, we may choose to be of service to family, community, the planet, the universe, or even the divine.  When we see ourselves as something MUCH larger than the little “myself” – we may recognize our larger purpose and our obligations to other beings (both human and otherwise).

I believe we have a choice……

==========================================================

I’d appreciate it if you would share this post with your friends.  And for more ideas, videos and challenges along these lines, please join my Facebook Group; Just Food Now.   And go here for more of my World.edu posts.  Finally, for more systems thinking posts, try this link.