Monday, March 30, 2009

The Resurgence of Native Foods

The increasing awareness of the shortcoming of the modern diet and its health impacts has been welcome. Flexible as we are in our choice of foods, nevertheless, when you take bodies that have evolved over thousands of years on whole grain, relatively-low-carb foods, and feed them refined sugars and flours, one might expect problems.

This is particularly acute in native communities, where colonial diets can be vastly different than the indigenous staple foods, and cause diabetes and other problems. 2.6 times more acute, if you believe the CDC

The growing awareness is finally beginning to benefit native communities, with a smattering of initiatives over the past seven years:
- First Nations Development Institute held two Native Food Summits in 2002 and 2004 and even created an assessment tool to guide food system development and sovereignty
- Similarly, Menonimee College held a forum through their Sustainable Development Institute
- Renewing America's Food Traditions is launched, to map out the traditional diets of North America and highlight foods at risk, including many indigenous foods.
- Native Seeds/SEARCH continues its quest to preserve heirloom seeds, and even offers discounts to Native Communities.
- Honor the Earth and the White Earth Land Recovery Project produces Food Is Medicine (unfortunately now out of print), highlighting the healing power of food. To provide Anishinaabe foods, the Land Recovery Project is still going strong with Native Harvest

The time is coming where as a society we will honor and value health and quality over expedience and quantity, and sooner rather than later. It is the indigenous way we return to, after all.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Local Food Systems

Those of you in the NE might put "Enhancing Local and Regional Food Systems" on your calendar, for May 19-20, 2009. It's research-focused, so potentially less interesting to we practitioners, but it looks very promising:

Small Farms - Yours or Others

Check out Chuck Burr's "Small Farm Renaissance" article, explaining
how "our economic crisis has a bright side; it will be the catalyst
for the rebirth of the local small farm."

And, if you can't grow your own food, you can look for your local
CSAs. PANNA makes it easy:

Other links that they've collected include:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere (hopefully)

(with thanks to Lil Milagro Martinez-Cornejo for the article from which this is excerpted)

Studies by Japanese scientist Masaro Emoto have proven what many of our traditional knowledges knew all along, that water is life, it is a sacred element that must be respected . . . And it is that sacredness, that right to enjoy clean water that is increasingly coming under attack from privatization and human induced global warming and drought.

The average United States citizen uses roughly 60 gallons of water a day at a typical residence, significantly more than is necessary to sustain life. Those in what we consider to be ‘developing’ countries are struggling to find five gallons a day and are often times surviving on 3 gallons per day. (Sterling and Vintinner, 2008).

The United States is also leading the world in drinking bottled water. “Three out of four Americans drink bottled water, and one out of five Americans drink only bottled
water” (Louaillier, 2008). Drinking bottled water sends the message to corporations that not only is it okay to privatize water but that we will often pay 100 times more for bottled water than for tap water, even though in a recent CBS News poll 2/3rds of participants in a blind taste test either preferred tap to the battled water brand names
or couldn’t tell the difference. And the real irony: Up to 40% of bottled water, including Aquafina and Dasani, come from the same source of tap water.

Privatization of our waters doesn’t necessarily mean that the water is any cleaner, any freer of natural containments. The only difference is that tap water falls under national governmental standards designed to protect public health.

In the drive to privatize and commodify all natural ‘resources’, we have forgotten that water is a common right for all, not just those who can afford to pay.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Traditional Native American Farmers Association

TNAFA, the New Mexico Food and Seed Alliance, and the NM Acequia Association are sponsoring the 4th annual Land, Water, and Culture Gathering (Ówîngeh Tá: Pueblos y Semillas: Celebrating Communities and Seeds) on the equinox in Española, NM

While you're at that, you may as well prep by listening to Shirley Romero-Otero, Don Bustos, and Paula Garcia discuss the struggles of land-based people to defend traditional rights to local resources (land & water) and revitalization of and land-based livelihoods.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Garden Crusader

Congratulations to Guillermo Vasquez, awarded a 2008 Feeding the Hungry award by Gardener's Catalog.

Food Security Video Links

As an example of food issues facing low-income peoples, Closer to Home portrays a Latino community in Oregon and their work with a community garden

Another is the story of Marra Farm in Seattle

Pine Ridge Field Report

Two acres of garden now grace the hilltop and floodplain, at this site near the heart of the Pine Ridge reservation. Work has included everything from construction of a greenhouse; installation of a drip irrigation system; providing natural fertilizers, plants, soil amendments and pest controls, and sharing information on traditional agricultural practices.

The 2008 harvest turned out to be quite good. There was not only excess to give to elders and individuals in the community, but also enough to take to an elders gathering in Montana, and several community members come to the site to get produce now. Wilmer Mesteth, our project manger, doesn't care to sell produce and would rather give it away. He'd like to get recipients to garden themselves and help teach them how to successfully garden

This good year is in the face of the fact that nearly all other gardens were eaten by grasshoppers. This garden is one of the few that survived. We speculate that it survived either because a zone was mowed around the garden, and/or possibly because marigolds and other flowers were intercropped into the garden to attract beneficial insects.

We even entered a harvest contest at Oglala Lakota College, and a very large squash received first place! As an educational tool, we have a Lakota agricultural display of dried roasted corn, chokecherries, squash, and beans.

There have been several lessons from this year:
• The greater garden size puts a strain on the available compost. Since the site is essentially a sustainable organic farm, quality compost is critical. We will be exploring ways to increase the supply without purchasing fertilizers or store compost
• The amount of water required is creating excess load on the one well that serves both gardens and the extended family home on the site. The plan is to excavate an additional well.