Saturday, December 20, 2008

The relationship between fertilizer and hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico

We discussed this important issue in the class I took this semester. A downside of growing corn crops, besides the one I discussed yesterday, is the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that is used and eventually runs off to the Gulf of Mexico, creating a dead zone, or hypoxia.

The Discovery Channel's website related this to America's consumption of meat. As our meat consumption is largely driven by large amounts of corn fed to cattle, chicken, and pigs, I think it is important to consider the relationship between the sustainability of those crops and the meat that is ultimately served in our homes and restaurants.

Friday, December 19, 2008

For discussion: Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary

Barack Obama's choice of governor Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary is not going over well with many in the sustainability community, reported here in the Twin Cities Daily Planet. I have some initial reactions.

Politically, I'm not thrilled by this choice, if I start from the premise that someone tied to the agriculture business is not going to help guide us towards a more sustainable agriculture. I am interested in seeing the governing tone Obama sets with this representative of status quo thinking. Perhaps Vilsack's knowledge, although historically slanted towards the interests of big ag, will be an asset that will be utilized towards a different type of agriculture policy. We'll see.

If change in this regards come, I would like to see a reduction in the amount of subsidies farmers are paid for growing corn and producing ethanol, as I think the government can incentivize much better innovation than using our farmland for growing a poor choice of fuel crop like corn. With that, I would like to see encouragement of other crops. If part of our energy strategy is to produce some fuel from crops, I don't think it shouldn't be from food crops.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sutainable sustenance

I would like to start by saying I am a meat eater. An unabashed meat eater. I love meat. I would drink meat flavored soda pop if it were available. So now that we have that fact established lets get on to the "meat" of the subject.
Sustainability--I think I define this by what it is not. It is not:
Walmart plastic vegetables
Feedlot Beef
Dairy that is shipped across the country for sale.

The way I look at it, if you can, grow your own! I grew up on a farm in south Mississippi. We grew a garden of all our vegetables. We raised our own beef, poultry and swine. We hunted and fished to supplement our table fare. It was a good life!

I know this isnt possible for all but even now as an "Urban Dweller" I particiapate in the neighborhood garden program and grow alot of my own vegetables.

So if you cant grow your own (Most landlords have a problem with indoor bovine pets)! What do you do? BUY LOCAL!!!!!
I was reading an article that stated that only a dime of every dollar spent at stores like Walmart remain in the community. Besides the economic there are the "green" issues. Walmart trucks its good from across the nation for your consumption. Why contribute to this waste of fossil fuel and pollution when you can get better products locally. And do it now while you still can get them locally before the conglomerates force local farmers out of business. This has already happened in my area with dairy farms. Walthall county MS was the "cream Pitcher" of Mississippi until the 1980's. Now there are fewer than a dozen dairies left. All the milk in our area except for a very few exceptions comes from California. Yeh, those happy cows in California....WHY??? Why would I want old milk from across the country??

For your meat selection try talking to local butchers about where they get there beef/swine/etc. Drive out to the country and visit farms. Since my family no longer raises animals, we often go together and buy a side of beef from a local farmer. Much better quality. And you know the history. I had a chef make a smart remark about my comment that my cut of steak I was served was quite nervy and just not as good as I expected. He said "Well, you may not be familiar with fresh grass fed beef"
I replied that the last steaks I had I knew the steers name!

So there it is......Just my 2 centavos!
Grow it!
Buy it local!
Help the enviroment and your community!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Greetings (and good eating)

Last night, after listening to a classmate give a presentation on sustainable eating and just after taking a bite of not-so-tender roast from the crockpot, it occurred to me to cut down on meat consumption next year. I told Melissa about the idea, and that I was not necessarily thinking we would eat less meals with meat, but when we do, we should eat a bit less (and higher quality).

She replied that she would be inclined to eat more vegetarian dishes, as long as they didn’t get too boring or complicated. She mentioned a vegetarian cookbook we have. However, the cookbook does tend toward those that are more complicated and lengthy, which during the week is a bit hard to reasonably prepare.

It occurred to me today to start a conversation with others who have a thoughtful relationship with food, whether they are vegetarians, vegans, or omnivores. My impetus for this project of writing and conversation is my recent reading of an article in the New York Times article, As More Eat Meat, a Bid to Cut Emissions.

I love meat, but I am well aware of the unsustainable practices of producing much of it. After reading Michael Pollan’s wonderful and personally eye-opening book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I changed at least part of our family’s diet by buying free range hamburger and steak from our local co-op. (Everyone who has tasted the burgers that I’ve served have loved the taste.)

So, with that, I would like to invite those of you who would like to participate in this conversation to write me so I can add you as an author to this blog. Thank you!


Joe Erjavec