Garden Visit 3/20

Hello all! I visited the garden today to water the plants and seedlings and make sure everything was all right.

I saw that many of the tomato seedlings had been transplanted into the beds and had established themselves quite well!

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I really like the addition of the educational signs about the plants growing in the garden – they have some interesting and useful info about which plants can be planted together and also some nutritional information, like vitamin content. They make the garden seem even more organized and aesthetically pleasing than it already is!

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Plants are blooming and bolting and it’s all beautiful! I saw some new strawberries, many citrus blooms, baby blueberries and pea greens (those things grow fast!). Can’t wait to visit again after spring break and see the progress.

One thing that might be troublesome is all the pinecones on the ground – they make it difficult/potentially dangerous to walk around. I cleared some out of the way.

If you’re going to be in westwood over spring break please stop by to water the garden!


garden visit 3/19

garden visit 3/19

Went to the garden and again there were people just out there chilling on the table and on the grass around it. Its nice that there is a relaxing place to go that is pretty secluded and has some unique scenery to look at. I took a picture of the strawberry plant which is my favorite. Wish it would already make some more already.


Garden Visit 3/18

Garden Visit 3/18

Went to the garden and checked things out. Another gloomy day but the cool weather made it nice. I turned the compost and added some water to it. There were a lot of little critters in it which was cool to see. There was also a family having a picnic by the garden and some kids checking the plants out which was fun to see.


Book Review: Biopiracy by Vandana Shiva

Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge

Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge

In “Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge” (1997), Vandana Shiva explores the exploitation of the Third World by the North (West).  Major corporations have invaded native communities and environments for commercial interests. In referencing the shift from colonialism to more modern forms of oppression, Shiva writes, “the duty to incorporate savages into Christianity has been replaced by the duty to incorporate non-Western systems of knowledge into the reductionism of commercialized Western science and technology”.

Community knowledge of the intricately interwoven ecosystems of forests, crops, and livestock has for generations sustainably maintained local economies. Biopiracy refers to the theft of this knowledge by corporations seeking to patent indigenous crops, animals and methods of farming.

Vandana Shiva argues that in the return to sustainable practices, science and society have much to learn from indigenous practices and native populations. The rate at which resources are used has spiked only in the last two centuries as globalization and the rise of technology and industry increased production and waste. Our current overzealous habits represent a discord between man and nature as ecosystems are disrupted, species lost, and native communities exploited. Instead of man and woman cohabitating with nature, Shiva explains, we have come to view nature as something to be dominated. Because indigenous knowledge is inherently gendered, both nature and women have come to be dominated and exploited by man. In regarding indigenous knowledge and the work of women, western frameworks have systematically undervalued both systems and their contributions to modern networks.

The Indian view of nature and man, in contrast, presents “..a duality in unity”. In modern society, science and technology have become cognitively inseparable, creating a form of social control. Because science is seen as verifiable and objective, consequent uses of science and technology are rarely questioned. In order to remedy gender relations as they relate to science and technology, it is important not to vilify knowledge, which, although previous misused, may be helpful in a more egalitarian framework. Keeping in mind the past injustices suffered by native communities at the hands of European colonists, indigenous knowledge has survived many setbacks. Regardless, indigenous knowledge systems have contributed greatly to modern science, agriculture and medicine.

Biopiracy was a great book. Vandana Shiva is great writer who makes her claims boldly and references many examples. Her main claim, that no person or corporation can claim ownership of nature is repeated throughout her writing. Shiva fights for independence and autonomy from corporations who only seek profits from the countries they have exploited. Governmental institutions have been complicit in these crimes, enforcing restrictions on Third World countries and limiting them from using their own land sustainably.

This book is relevant to all that we have learned this quarter because as we each become urban agriculturists (or support others who do so) we must be mindful of the agroeconomic systems that we are benefiting from. It is important to realize that everything, from the seeds and soil to the techniques we use are all in some form, are the effect of generations-old techniques used by indigenous and Third-World peoples.


Book Review: Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation written by Eric Schlosser delves into the depths of the birth and life of the Fast Food Industry and the effects it has on our world.  It explores how at the birth of fast food it was the perfect moment in history when technology and necessity were both at the right levels to serve as the catalyst necessary for fast food to take off.

In specific examples, Schlosser talks about McDonalds and Carls Jr, two fast food restaurants that started out at the beginning of fast food.  Both companies used new and exciting business models, which had never been thought of to be used for food before.  Carls Jr took advantage of the Interstate system and built restaurants all along it as to be able to feed hungry motorists as they traveled wherever it was they were going.  McDonalds took advantage of the assembly line model created by Henry Ford.  Just as it was in the car industry, in the food industry it allowed for streamlined food production without the skills previously necessary to cook the food.  No longer was a qualified chef or cook needed, now anyone could do it with little experience or instruction.

Another big impact, which it had on the overall food system, was that of the production of the ingredients necessary for the food, which was made.  No longer was food delivered fresh everyday to be cooked the day of but rather it was delivered in large amounts and frozen to be preserved.  This way ensured there would be enough supply to meet demand and if there were less demand one-day food wouldn’t go bad.  However this put a larger strain on producers of the meat and bread necessary to meet these high quantity demands.  Quality was deemed less important than quantity and it was all about meeting demand.  Everything became centralized in big producing cattle ranches and factories rather than smaller family owned enterprises.  The fast food industry also contributed to the spread of agribusiness with its large demands for food.

As for the marketing scheme, these restaurants made sure to appeal to the whole family.  No longer was eating just to refuel; now it was to have a good time as well.  Campaigns were held to market towards children with specific meals and prizes that came with those meals.  Also all restaurants were made to look the same in order to create a uniform dining experience wherever a person ate.

I found the book to be interesting but at the same time a little scathing of the industry as a whole.  As our population grows and we need to feed more people it will be necessary for us to use farming and food production techniques, which meet demand.  I don’t believe we are doing this as responsibility as we could be doing it but unless we mandate some sort of control on human population growth, it will be a necessity no matter what.  I do agree that quality over quantity has been emphasized in fast food restaurants but this book was written about a decade ago now and a lot has changed since then.  There have been plenty of fast food scandals, which have led to improved quality, and oversight and many of these restaurants have to compete with higher quality food from somewhat fast food restaurants.  This has forced them to reevaluate their menus and practices leading to improvement in quality and options available to the guest.

The further globalization of our restaurants I find to be a good thing as it is comforting and relieving to have them abroad.  In Paris there is pretty much no free Wi-Fi anywhere, except at McDonalds.  It’s nice because international data plans are extremely expensive and one way to communicate is through the Internet on the go and with the many McDonalds around it is easy to do so with their free Wi-Fi.  Overall I believe that the industry is changing for the better because the public demands it and those who don’t adapt will fall to wayside.

Overall the book was interesting and in many respects eye opening though a lot of it seemed like common sense.  Maybe I have just read too many business models, which use fast food restaurants as the example.  That should be pretty telling about business in America.


Garden 3/16

Garden 3/16

I went to the garden to water and check things out. It was pretty overcast in comparison to the few days prior. There were pinecones everywhere and it was pretty sad to seem them in the planters. A lot had fallen from the trees onto the plants and I’m not really sure whether or not it damaged the plants or not.


Taste What You’re Missing!

Barb Stuckey’s Taste What You’re Missing: The Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good” provides an in-depth explanation for one of the most pleasurable and important aspects of living — eating food. In a language that is easily understandable even for folks who do not have strong food science background, Stuckey has successfully rendered me many times more aware of my senses anytime food is in my general vicinity. After reading this book, I am equipped with a basic knowledge of how each of my senses affect my “sensory experience” of consuming food, the different building blocks of taste, how professional tasters taste (and you can too!), and a good argument for why on a gastronomical level urban agriculture is preferable to industrial.

A professional food developer at Mattson, Stuckey has spent decades of her life honing her taste buds and has experienced many fine dining establishments all over the world. Living in San Francisco, Stuckey provides many eating examples in her book from times she has eaten out around the city with her husband and friends. This book reminded me of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste excerpt that we read in class; even including a similar example of how people without tongues eat.

Taste What You’re Missing is divided into four different sections: The Workings of the Senses, The Basic Tastes, The Nuances of Flavor, and Putting it All Together (a section on balancing flavor in recipes). My favorite section was the first one on the senses. I was fascinated by how each one of my senses could contribute to my eating experience. For example, Stuckey explained how our expected sound of a food, the crunch of a potato chip, for example, could affect how we perceive a food tastes. If a particular potato chip lacks that satisfying crunch sound, we are prone to wonder if the chip may be stale or otherwise unsatisfactory, and thus enjoy the snack significantly less.

As stated previously, Taste What You’re Missing is written in a very easy to follow language. Stuckey’s tone is that of an experienced eater who is seemingly simply entertaining you with a conversation about food over dinner. Much of her content provides advice for restaurant owners on how to properly hone one’s establishment to enhance patron experience, and clues for patrons on signs of good/bad eateries. While the audience she is writing for seems to be more of the older, wealthier individuals who will have more resources to eat out at nice restaurants, Stuckey writes of something obviously universal.

That being said, after reading this book I feel there is much content inside that can be applied to urban agriculture. Namely, there are many taste benefits to produce grown on an urban farm versus on a faraway industrial farm. Stuckey discusses how tomatoes on an industrial farm, for example, are grown with the need for hardiness for transport in mind, and thus are lacking in juiciness and volatile content. Urban agriculture, on the other hand, is grown right around the corner from the mouth that will consume it, and thus the farmer can focus on making that heirloom tomato as juicy, aromatic and volatile heavy as possible.

All in all, this book is a great read for those of us who eat, which is hopefully everybody. Taste What You’re Missing helps you do just what the title says — experience the nuances behind food and sharpen your “eye” for good food.