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Archive for the ‘agriculture’ Category

Last Thursday, August 4, 2011, the harvest began at the Golan Heights Winery.  The first varietal to be plucked from the vine?  Pinot Noir.  This is so exciting for me.  I’m going to be going up to the Golan this week for a harvest party, and I may be going a few times, hopefully to the Golan and Galil,  before it’s over.  Here’s a short video taken a couple days ago – the first pressing of the first grapes of 2011:

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No joke.  Someone sent me these two videos recently.  They’re TED, so they’re 20 minutes long.  Dan Barber is a chef, food writer, and an important voice on raising people’s consciousness about what they eat.  If you have the time, they are riveting.  This is rather “old news,” but it was new news to me, and fascinating nonetheless.

Dan Barber’s foie gras parable

Dan Barber: How I fell in love with a fish

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The Organized Crime Winery of Ontario

Being an adult, scheduling, taking care of oneself, isn’t easy – but having 3 jobs, being in grad school, having family visit from the States, and Passover sales season descending – makes it that much harder.  Here are some fun, fantastic things to help us all through, I hope:

The Assassin in the Vineyard: a MUST READ.  I’ve mentioned the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti here before.  Here is a real-life crime-drama, the likes of which you’d find in a Dan Brown novel or the silver screen.  AND it happened just last year! Ancient French history, royalty, revolution, blackmail, suicide, and the finest wine in the world – you have GOT to read this story.  Excellent writing from  Maximillian Potter in Vanity Fair.

There is a food exhibition next week, the 5-7 of April called “Mevashlim” (google translation to English).  My winery (Golan Heights and Galil Mountain) will have a booth with several wines to taste there, and I will be working on Wednesday.  It should be a lot of fun, as you get to taste the food of many many different restaurants, and I’m sure that we will not be the only winery there.

Food and Wine Pairings: A load of hooey? Yes and no.  Always yes and no.  I don’t have the energy to go into it.  Drink wine with your meal if it makes you happy, why dontcha!  But it’s been in the news lately, so check these out:

The lies, lies, lies of food and wine pairings - Washington Post
Are Food and Wine Pairings Completely Bogus? – Huffington Post
The Albatross That is Food and Wine Pairing - Vinography: a wine blog

Just for fun: 7 Wacky Wine Labels

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I am absolutely fascinated by Rolf Potts.  He is traveling the world with no luggage at all.  Everything he is carrying is on his person, in a vest and cargo trousers.  He calls it “The No Baggage Challenge.” Check this out:

Here is his route, and also the rules he is going to live by on this 42-day 12-country tour.

I’m posting this A) because it’s totally awesome; B) because I adore travel; and C) I have realistic aspirations of doing something similar, albeit different (I know that makes no sense).  I’ve done lots of research on “round-the-world” trips.  Dozens of countries, varying routes, varying modes of transportation to get to it all.  When I was 20, I challenged myself to make it across Europe and finish in Israel without leaving the ground…or water, I should say.  And I did it.  Buses, ferries, trains, an occasional taxi, and my good old two feet helped me accomplish this.  Now I’d like to see if I can do it on foot.  I’d also like to broaden my scope and do a world tour without any money (or a very set specific budget, with rules, ala Mr Potts).

Here is my fascinating discovery week:

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms

Working my way around the world and getting free room and board by gardening, plowing, cooking, cleaning, milking, teaching, etc, etc, etc… sounds absolutely amazing.  Now that’s an idea for a challenge, a blog, a book (although I’m pretty sure it’s been done).  1 year, dozens of countries, set max budget, and an incredible way to learn about and teach people worldwide about organic agriculture, its history, cultural differences, and future.  From the ground.

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The image of a 7 year-old wearing a bra is disturbing to me. Not only is childhood being cut short in the West driven by many factors including media of all sorts, an obsession with the body, with sexualizing everything, the glamorization of violence, etc, etc – you know the deal.  Now childhood is being cut short even earlier by means of biology.

As someone who matured early, I can tell you personally that it’s not a pleasant experience.  You don’t fit.  You look different.  You are treated differently.  It takes years for people to catch up, and by then, it’s “too late.”  You’ve been different, often ostracized socially, or at least placed in a different category for so long.  You are treated as more of an adult.  You think of yourself as more of an adult.  There is a vast effect on self-esteem.  The list goes on.  For a long time people have also talked about the health risks that these resulting women are afflicted by, including earlier-onset menopause and a much greater risk for breast cancer and osteoporosis.  Recent studies also suggest that these girls become sexually active much earlier, exposing them to potential disease, pregnancy, and all of the psychological issues that are involved in such behavior.  And the earlier a girl develops, the higher the risks for all of these things, physically, mentally, emotionally, and with the future of her health and lifespan.

A tough break.  Nobody asks for it.  And throughout all time it was something over which we thought we had no control.

Until recently.

My mother forwarded me this article published in Reuters citing a definitive study that concluded that girls are entering puberty earlier at quite alarming rates.  The main cause that they focused on was childhood obesity.  Fat girls were more likely to develop earlier.  OK.  I drew a connection to why much earlier than the article did.  As I read I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for the article to mention it.  Come on now.  What are people eating that makes them obese?  The moment I was waiting for came at the end and wasn’t explored much: HORMONES in our FOOD.

In 2005 Americans 185 lbs meat per capita

Puberty results from hormone changes within the brain which signal the reproductive organs.  They in turn send more hormone signals to other parts of the body, initiating growth and change.  I’m not going to get into science.  I’m not a scientist and I’m not going to bother with citations up the wazoo.  Everyone reading this blog is capable of doing the same google searches that I do.  But here are the main things I gleaned:

  • Two-thirds of American cattle raised for slaughter today are injected with hormones to make them grow faster, and America’s dairy cows are given a genetically-engineered hormone called rBGH to increase milk production.
  • European Union’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health questioned whether hormone residues in the meat of “growth enhanced” animals and can disrupt human hormone balance, causing developmental problems, interfering with the reproductive system, and even leading to the development of breast, prostate or colon cancer.
  • Children, pregnant women and the unborn are thought to be most susceptible to these negative health effects.
  • Hormones are also present in animals’ excrement which remains in the soil for months, can seep into the groundwater supply, and also move into bodies of water where they affect fish reproduction.

Hormones and Puberty

Why are hormones used on cattle?  To make them bigger and to produce more milk.  More, more, more, cheaper, cheaper, cheaper.   Having read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, as well as Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats, years ago, I have become very concerned about the amount of hormones we’re consuming.  When you think about it, hormones of every sort are simply chemical signals.  Each hormone triggers actions that different systems in our bodies take.  We have hormones that control metabolism, growth, mood swings, immune system, reproduction, and more.   Can you imagine what we’re doing by adding (or flooding) wrong signals into our bodies?  Depression, hyperactivity, metabolic issues, goodness, everything can be affected adversely.  In the macro world, messed up signals and messages can cause airplanes to crash, cars to crash, wars to start, for goodness sake.  What systems are crashing, wars are being fought inside our bodies?

So, here’s one of the most obvious examples: little girls sprouting breasts at 7 and 8 years-old.  It’s easy to see because it’s the hardest to ignore.  Breasts are out there.  And little girls aren’t supposed to have them, poor things.  I can’t imagine what’s going on inside all of us that we can’t see.  And although I’m not eating meat right now (thankfully so, until I make up my mind about some issues, and if/until I find organic meat and humane slaughtering that I think are acceptable), I’m drinking English Breakfast tea with milk right now.  Milk.  You go on thinking, a little drop of milk won’t hurt.  I’m not drinking gallons.  But it might add up.  And as a good American child, I did drink gallons.  Every week.  I had a minimum of 3-5 glasses a day, (not counting what I added to my cereal), and with two sisters and a dad who liked milk too, we went through a gallon almost every day.  We would buy 2+ 2-gallon bottles every week.  Perhaps it’s not so shocking I went through puberty early.

As far as I can see, this is another strong strong and scary argument for forgoing non-organic meats and milk (and eggs, now that I’m thinking about it, although that’s more for antibiotics, also a related scary issue).   So scary that although I am so swamped with work, it’s not funny, I stopped everything to blog about this.  I leave you with this: think hard about what you put into your body. It becomes you.  I need to start thinking harder, too.

Links on the topic:

Scary UK National Obesity Ad Campaign (worth a look)

3 year-olds getting their period

Artificial hormones

EU scientists confirm health risks of hormones in meat

Puberty coming earlier for girls

Childhood obesity brings early puberty for girls

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You’ve probably never heard of the Pavlovsk agricultural station.  I hadn’t until this morning, but thank the high heavens I did.

Located near St Petersburg, Russia, this institution is one of the world’s leading seedbanks.  During WWII, 12 scientists starved to death rather than eat its contents, in order to protect it.  A place like that has really got to be worth it, don’t you think?  Alas, no.  Pavlovsk is in a court battle today, at risk of being destroyed in order to build a private housing complex.  Right.  An institution so important to the world, to history, to our future survival, and so undervalued (or rather completely unvalued) by its country, is really really scary.

(Sign the petition, it takes less than a minute)

Here’s the story

Nikolai Vavilov (perhaps the creator of the idea of banking seeds to protect plant diversity if food production was ever threatened) established Pavlovsk in 1926, and over 85 years the collection has become staggering in its amount and diversity of species.

  • Over 90% of the collection cannot be found anywhere else in the world
  • There are over 5,000 varieties of seeds from countries all over the world, including:
  • over 100 varieties each of raspberries and gooseberries, and
  • It houses the world’s largest collection of strawberries, blackcurrants, cherries, and apples

It is quite simply, a living, breathing priceless piece of history, and it’s a repository that ensures the foods of tomorrow.  Destroying Pavlovsk would be the single greatest act against crop diversity, ever.  The irony: modern seed-banking was invented and spearheaded by Russia.

Even if some salvage operation was attempted, according to the campaigners to protect Pavlovsk:

It is virtually impossible, however, to carry out such a transfer within three months or even in a three-year period.

The problem is that these lots harbor in vivo unique fruit and berry plants as well as perennial fodder crop samples (about 10,000 accessions) belonging to Vavilov’s global collection of plant genetic resources. This part of the collection was founded as long ago as in 1926 by Nikolai Vavilov himself and his closest associates.

Translation: most of the plants are plants – growing in the ground – because they don’t procreate easily or traditionally with seeds.  And there’s acres and acres and even more acres of them.  Priceless, I told you.

WE CAN HELP

1) Sign this petition.  It takes less than a minute.  Their goal is 500 signatures, and they’re at 386.  Let’s get that number up.

2) Tweet President Medvedev:

English: @KremlinRussia_E Mr. President, protect the future of food – save #Pavlovsk Station! http://bit.ly/d2H96s

Russian: @KremlinRussia Господин президент, защитите будущее сельского хозяйства – спасите Павловскую станцию! http://bit.ly/d2H96s

3) Post this on Facebook.  Tell you friends. Etc, etc.

More information about crop diversity.

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