Community Supported Agriculture in Southwest Washington

As we try to find ways to eat more locally grown, organic produce, it’s always nice to know what are our available (and reasonable) options. Community supported agriculture is one of the ways we can support local farmers through purchasing a “share” from the farmer for the growing season.

Last year, through the Camas Farmer’s Market (yeah!) Emily and I made friends with Liz Nelson, the organic farmer behind “Heavenly Bounty” CSA (along with her mother) in the battleground area. We got lovely free range eggs and a bag of wonderful veggies every week through the fall (and then apples, and pumpkins, etc). Her prices for a share are reasonable, and she’s super nice, so I thought I would show our support by sending her info out in case anyone near us is interested in getting a share from her garden as well. When I first heard about CSA’s it sounded like a great idea but I had no idea how to find one or get connected to them, so here’s a little help.

Anyways, she delivers the produce weekly to the farmer’s market in Camas, and her prices are set up for about 22 weeks ($550 for a full share and $300 for a half). These are also great to share between families.

I am attaching a link to her brochure which gives all the info you need here (http://www.box.net/shared/ltigl04mln) and here is a link to her website.

If you are not local to us in Southwest Washington, you can use the website Local Harvest to find a CSA near you.

On Earth As it is in Heaven

This is the last week for peace month at Camas Friends even though January officially ended a couple days ago. I thought why not extend it just a little longer so we can focus on making peace with the earth? To get things started off properly I decided to take a couple walks today. First I strolled at a pace that I could breathe slowly, pray and take in the sites attentively. I find that some of my best times of prayer and thought are when I am outside walking. I walked through a neighbor in Camas I’ve yet to cross on foot. I tried to take in the beauty of nature, reflect on the state of the buildings (and imagine then as different things), and think through what it meant to be physically present as the church in that neighborhood. Then, after lunch, I walked back to the office taking in similar things with a different landscape. I spent the rest of the day looking in the the Scriptures about creation, skimming through some of my books, and looking online at a variety of Quaker testimonies on caring for the Earth. Continue reading On Earth As it is in Heaven

Food, Inc. Documentary on Where Our Food Comes From (Review)

Official Food IncThe tag line for FOOD, inc. is “You’ll never look at your dinner the same way again,” and well, they’re right. This for some of you may be the very reason why you decide in advance to not watch it, or to not read the rest of this post, but let me encourage you to a little bravery: what is happening in our food industry, what is going into our food, what is happening to the earth hosting the growth of this food, what is happening to both the animals and the people who are growing and raising this food, and what’s happening to the people eating this food, is something that concerns you, your family, and our children future. This is the kind of stuff you really want to know about. And far from being a scare-feast, this film is well documented (and yes, some of the details are disputed as in all documentaries) and the big picture it paints is one of needed change, rather than simply doom and destruction. This is the kind of film that motivates, and leaves you, or it at least left me, feeling like I can actually do things to respond (that don’t all include shopping more!).

Food, Inc. is a 2008 documentary by the filmmaker Robert Kenner, which came out this June. It gives us a look into America’s food industry, where our food comes from, the conditions for both the workers and  animals on those industrial farms, and some of the bi-partisan politics behind what is happening. It is also recieving a lot of rave reviews (see listing below) at such sites like Rotten Tomatoes which has given it a score of 97/100,  the consensus being that it is: “An eye-opening expose of the modern food industry, Food, Inc. is both fascinating and terrifying, and essential viewing for any health-conscious citizen.”

The film really is an unveiling of much of what is going on behind closed doors (complete with footage from hidden cameras, etc.). There was a day and age when humans were directly connected to the our food source, we knew where it came from, we knew the names of the people who grew it (or were the ones growing it), and all this organic, free-range, grass-fed blah, blah, blah, needed no labels because it was the expected and natural way of life. But as Michael Pollan has said:

“The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000, but the image that’s used to sell the food … you go into the supermarket and you see pictures of farmers. The picket fence and the silo and the 1930s farmhouse and the green grass. The reality is … it’s not a farm, it’s a factory. That meat is being processed by huge multi-national corporations that have very little to do with ranches and farmers.”

Food, Inc. brings us into the stark reality of the multi-national, uber-powerful, industrialized food factories. It confronts us with some really difficult facts, images, and stories. At times during the film I felt scared because it feels so big, at other times I found hope because there are many stories in the film about what individuals and families are doing to respond. I found the story-telling to be powerful, the voices and people interviewed to be true-to-life, and the overall narrative to be not simply doom-and-gloom filmmaking but left me with the feeling of a heavy burden that needs to be and CAN be responded to. This is a well made film and not just informational but entertaining to watch. It is, in the words of the NY Times, truly and activist film. That is, it calls for action around a variety of deeply important issues.

Here are some of the more astonishing statistics from the film:

  • In the 1970s, the top five beef packers controlled about 25% of the market. Today, the top four control more than 80% of the market.
  • In the 1970s, there were thousands of slaughterhouses producing the majority of beef sold. Today, we have only 13.
  • Prior to renaming itself an agribusiness company, Monsanto was a chemical company that produced, among other things, DDT and Agent Orange.
  • In 1996 when it introduced Round-Up Ready Soybeans, Monsanto controlled only 2% of the U.S. soybean market. Now, over 90% of soybeans in the U.S. contain Monsanto’s patented gene.
  • The average American eats over 200 lbs. of meat a year.
  • During the Bush administration, the chief of staff at the USDA was the former chief lobbyist for the beef industry in Washington (And Obama is making similarly poor choices).
  • 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 will contract early onset diabetes; Among minorities, the rate will be 1 in 2.
  • E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks have become more frequent in America, whether it be from spinach or jalapenos. In 2007, there were 73,000 people sickened from the E. coli virus.

My favorite part of the film was certainly Joel Salatin, a self-described “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist farmer” (who apparently loves Wendell Berry) and is well-known from Michael Pollan’s must read book, the Omnivore’s Dilema. In fact, my wife says Food, Inc. could be thought of the movie version of the book, so if you find yourself really interested in knowing more Pollan’s book would be a great next step after watching this. Anyways, Joel is kind of a super-hero when it comes to farming (see his webpage here). He’s growing everything as completely natural as possible, keeping a live the art of farming and gardening the way it was meant to be done. Joel’s approach is radically counter-cultural to the massive industrial sized meat-factories, and that’s the appeal. He’s actually making a living, loves his work, and enjoys educating others not on just what to eat, but how to really farm.

The film left me with lots of questions and a lot of energy to begin making even more concrete steps to eating well. We at the Daniels ranch at doubling our efforts to cut meat out of our diets (I ate meat at three meals this past week), supporting the local farmer we buy our eggs and most of our veggies from, and looking into ways that we can produce more of the things we want to eat. I find it really fulfilling to be more involved in these ways with our meals,  when we pray over dinner saying, “God, thank you for this food you’ve provided,” it feels more connected for me.

If you’re interested, here is a list of places where You can see the movie. Of course, you can always get it on Netflix and rent it (at the library for free) now that it’s out as well.

Here are some suggested responses.

Also, they recommend participating in Go Meatless on Mondays

A couple more reviews:

Dive! The Film: A Review of Jeremy Seifert's Documentary on Dumpster Diving

Dive!At Camas Friends Church, we’ve been doing a monthly film and discussion group we’re calling “Last Sundays for the Earth.” The purpose of the event is to watch a film, or have a person come in and facilitate a discussion, around issues in sustainable living (and what we can do about it as the church). The first film we watched was Al Gore’s documentary on Global Warming, “An Inconvenient Truth.” This last month we watched a film by a good friend of ours, Jeremy Seifert. Jeremy and I went to Fuller Seminary and church together. So I felt a personal connection to the film, plus most of the people in there are friends of ours!

Dive! is a documentary about dumpster diving, but it is about much more than that as well. It is about the hunger crisis in our nation, and world. It is about the amount of waste that we pile into our landfills at an alarming rate. It is about the realities of consumerism’s over-consumption and the impact this has in our day-to-day lives. But of course, this is all told while watching Jeremy and company dive in dumpsters.

As a documentary film it is well done. It is about 45 minutes long and not only holds the attention, it is both creative and provocative. There are a variety of statics drawn up using food items found in the dumpster, a great soundtrack (from Jeremy’s band Jubilee Singers), and lots of creative editing along the way. There are a number of intriguing interviews, and compelling research to go along with the issues this short film documents. The filmmaker obviously did his homework.

One thing that I find compelling about the film is that it is personal. Jeremy’s family and friends are involved, it is a glimpse into their actual lives. It is a personal film, a personal call from someone who is responding the best way he knows how. It’s not the kind of high brow morality that calls you to live a certain way while it’s obvious that the prophet isn’t doing it him or herself (and isn’t this one of the tensions in Gore’s film on global warming? All the audience knows that he flies all around the world piling up more carbon waste than many Americans will in a lifetime). There is no such thing in this film. So the film is close, it feels like something I can actually take part in, rather than something more abstract and distant like global warming. And surely, responding to the details of Dive! is in line with being conscious of the devastation of global warming.

Refreshingly, the film’s response doesn’t involve consumerism! Unlike so many “change the world” gimmicks, you don’t actually have to buy anything to respond to this film. In fact, there is no suggestion anywhere in this film that one should buy this or that in order to respond to hunger and waste, in fact, if there is a response it is to start buying less, scaling back, being careful of what it is you buy, what packaging it’s in, and making sure that you use what you have instead of throwing it away. Of course, another response is to become a freegan and start your own dumpster diving cohort.

Finally, one other thing I love about this film is that a genuine conversation takes place through the movie. It starts out with Jeremy and his friends dumpster diving, but over the course of the film you see that he is struck by the amount of waste they continue to find, this in conjunction with the growing food crisis that was all over the news last Autumn really woke Seifert up to what was happening in the world. He told me over the phone, “In the physical act of jumping in a dumpster and eating waste something happens, the reality strikes you of what is taking place.” This caused a kind of outrage for him. After quoting the answer to his question “What kind of society creates this much trash?” from Dr. Timothy Jones, “The kind of society that would waste this much food is one that doesn’t value the earth or the products it produces. It’s in our own personal detriment to continue the process,” Seifert told me that what needs to be regained is a sense of wonder and awe towards creation. Abraham  Joshua Heschel said, “Forfeit your sense of awe, let your conceit diminish your ability to revere, and the universe becomes a market place for you.”Getting that wonder back is essential. For Jeremy, “If you have that sense of awe and wonder and you see it being abused and mangled there’s that sense of outrage that leads to response.” And the rest of the film traces some of the personal response that he and his friends undertake.

Response? : Eat Trash

There are many things that can be done in response to what you learn in this film, but Here’s what he writes in his own words about response:

For me, an important first step to really caring about the issue of food waste was hopping in a dumpster, bringing home the food, and eating it. Eating trash is a subversive act. It goes against a culture of over-consumption and gratuitous wastefulness. Experience that initial rush, shame, fear, and exhilaration of “stealing” trash and eating it will change you in good ways.

Second, I think it’s important to go to your local grocery store and ask what they do with their food waste. They might not tell you. Or they’ll dodge the question by listing organizations to which they donate. Ask them about all the FRESH food–meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables. Ask them if they would be open to allowing you to pick this food up and bring it to a nonprofit that serves the needy. Do all of this with a pleasant tone, big smile, and servant’s heart.

Bring a copy of THE GOOD SAMARITAN ACT….download here.

Third, you’ll need a place to bring the food, so you’ll have to locate a shelter or food bank in your area that could use the food. This is where logistics comes into play. They’ll need to be able to immediately use or temporarily store fresh food….shelving space, refrigerators, freezers. This step actually happens at the same time as visiting your local grocery stores. You will probably need a letter from the shelter or food bank stating their needs, requesting donations, and naming you or your family/friends/organization/church as the volunteer designated to pick up the food.

The feedback from the film showing was tremendous. People seemed to love it. There was great conversation afterwards and a number of people felt like this is the kind of thing a lot of people can relate to and connect with.

I highly encourage you to find a screening near you or pick up the film for yourself and show it to your faith community, it will be well worth every minute.

Michael Pollan's NY Times Food Rules

Michael Pollan of the “In Defense of Food” fame has compiled a list of 20 do’s and don’ts for food on the NY Times. It’s not only a great list with some provocative thoughts, but it’s also just kind of fun to flip through. Here are my favorites.

Emily and I are really into eating well and we try our best to follow some of our own rules we’ve picked up along the way (from folks like Pollan and others). Some of ours are: eat fresh organic foods when possible, the more veggies and the more colors the better, foods bought at the store with lesser ingredients (and ingredients you can actually pronounce or know what they are) are best, local foods farmed by people you know the names of are ideal, whole grains are good, and meat is a treat not a necessity.

Anyways, we recommend reading Pollan. You can see more of his the list here.

Quakerism and Sustainability: Camas Friends Practice A New "Plainness"

I’ve posted about this already on Twitter and Facebook so excuse the repetition, but it seems like it should be here on my blog as well. Plus, I’m really pleased with our church. Camas Friends are doing some pretty cool stuff, and it’s all stuff I cannot take any credit for! (This just shows how cool this place is). They’ve been up to some really awesome practices around caring for God’s creation: things such as, teaching classes on eating in ways that healthy and local, learning how to de-clutter our lives, planting raised bed gardens – we’ve got one at the meetinghouse right now, and reflecting on how this is all tied it to our Quaker testimony of plainness and other similar sensibilities. Camas Friends are showing their faith by how they live out their lives in very practical ways.

The other day our local newspaper got wind of it and interviewed some of us about what we’re doing. The reporter initially sent me, and a couple other folks emails, about how we see sustainability all tied into being Quakers. I wrote out some of my thoughts on the issue and then invited the rest of the church to dialogue about it over email. We got some really great responses, which I sent to the reporter.

The paper featured our church in a Sustainability section last week. Here’s a scanned .pdf version of the article because they didn’t make the essay available online:  Spiritual Sustainability

GiL Video: Resistance and Simplicity: Reflections On Swimming Upstream

Resistance and Simplicity from wess on Vimeo.

In this video I discuss some of the questions I have around using words like “simplicity” when it comes to living out the Gospel in a consumer culture. With a nod to early Friends history, John Woolman, and some contemporary examples of the greening of capitalism, I argue that we need to form practices of resistance to these influences rather than assume there is any neutral space we can stand outside its influence. This is a call to swim upstream, rather than get out of the water. At the end I share one practice my wife and I have been working to do this year, we have decided to not buy new things. I’d love to hear your ideas and your own practices of resistance.

Other posts in this series: