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MLT Newsletter

January, 1988

With the first week of January comes a landslide of seed and nursery catalogs: Mellingers, Miller Nursery, Johnny's, Harris and Stokes Seed Companies. With my usual good intentions I make a New Year's resolution to organize left-over seeds, plan my '88 garden, and make my seed and plant order.

Anyone who is undecided about the wisdom of making a garden should borrow the 1987 January/February Harrowsmith magazine and read "The Freshness Illusion".  Pictures of brightly waxed fruit, huge vats of grass green tomatoes, Mexican workers in the field with bandannnas over their faces, catch one's attention.

American shoppers have drastically shifted their buying patterns in the last ten years away from frozen and canned food to fresh produce. The average grocery stocks five times more produce than ten years ago. We like fresh fruits and vegetables-but are they fresh?  Here are a couple passages from Stocking Up, one of my food processing books:  "although the actual growth of fruits and vegetables stops when they are plucked from the ground and cut off from their food supply, respiration and activity of enzymes continue. . .Not only will there be a deterioration of appearance and flavor as the freshness of food fades, there will also be a loss of nutrients particularly of vitamin C." The average distance food travels before it reaches our tables is 1300 miles.  Testing has been done on this "fresh"produce.  Again from Harrowsmith: broccoli tested lost 19% of vitamin C in 24 hours, 34% in 48 hours; a University of California food scientist tested a cup of Brussel sprouts (which should have more vitamin C than a cup of orange juice) and found no measurable C.  When the melons, squash, and other vegetables and fruits are cut in pieces "enzymes begin to cause oxidation and a rather rapid loss of vitamin B, follic acid, vitamin C and some vitamin A."

How about the waxy green peppers and cucumbers, the pink-cheeked peach, the bright red tomato?  Stocking Up mentions deterioration of appearance in aging produce.  Waxes, sometimes combined with sprout inhibitors and fungicides are used to prevent losy of moisture and to stop decay.  Many fruits and vegetables are coated-from apples, melons,sguash, parsnips, sweet potatoes and peaches to the familiar peppers and cucumbers, to name a few!  In addition varieties have been developed which give the appearance of ripeness when they are not; some are treated with ethylene gas to make them look ripe, but neither will develop the sugars ripe produce has.

I mentioned fungicides and sprout inhibitors: the fresh produce we eat in winter comes chiefly from Mexico, Central and South American countries, as well as Florida.  The fungicides that come north on produce from these humid places where there is a greater incidence of mold and fungus, are formidable.  But surely samples of these products are tested?  True.  Small samples are tested by the PDA, but these tests take an  average of 28 days (as disclosed by the General Accounting Office), and at the end of that period where do you think the remainder is?

So-why not choose another alternative—buy frozen foods instead of fresh?  One problem is the growing number of companies who have begun processing food in Mexico.  For example, 1/3 of Pillsbury's Green Giant cauliflower and broccoli are grown and frozen in Mexico.  In addition frozen foods need great care to prevent deterioration.  Again from Stocking Up "Freezing is not a method of sterilization as is heat processing in canning.  While many microorganisms are destroyed by freezing temperatures, there are some, most notably molds, that continue to live even though their growth is retarded and their activity rate is slowed down.  When foods are removed from freezer storage, their temperatures rise and the dormant microorganisms begin to multiply."  Waiting on the loading dock, in the trunk of the car-for every 5 degrees above zero the frozen food is stored it loses half its nutritive life.  The example of spinach is given: at 0 degrees it loses 80% of vitamin C in a year? at 15 degrees it loses 80% in 6 weeks!

This factor is applicable to home processed foods-namely, the importance of a freezer that stays at zero or below.  The food we grow ourselves is clean of pesticides, wax and other unhealthy materials.  We can move it guickly from the garden through processing to the freezer or the canner, and the flavor is superior because we have left it in the garden/orchard until ripe.  But what about the fresh greens we have become accustomed to?  You can at least minimize their use by raising cabbages and storing them in a cold basement or in a pit in the garden and there are all kinds of sprouts to be grown in your kitchen.

And last, but not least, are the delightful hours in the January gloom leafing through the catalogs and dreaming of the perfect garden to be enjoyed come spring!  Like to borrow my pen?

--Sally Kaufman, Editor

-Maynard Kaufman

Michigan Land Trustees was organized to promote agrarian reform and a more ecological agriculture. We felt that large specialized mono-culture farming was the most ecologically disruptive because it was so dependent on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. And we thought that agrarian reform, with more small farms and more household food production, was needed if there was to be a more ecological agriculture. Perhaps we were right, but it may be the other way around: that the growing opposition to pesticides will lead to agrarian reform.

It is increasingly clear that there is a groundswell of distrust of and opposition to the use of pesticides. Some of this is reinforced by a growing body of scientific data about the effects of pesticides, but it is the distrust on a popular level which translates into political action. Evidence for this is all around us. A conference sponsored by Michigan Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources on December 3-4 at Kellogg Center reviewed benefits, risks, and alternatives to pesticides. The current edition of The Furrow, a trade magazine published by the John Deere Company, contains an article, “Ag Chemicals Under Fire,” which in itself reflects this distrust as it reports on the various reasons why pesticides are questioned. And as consumers become more anxious about the possibility of pesticide residues on food, companies like H. J. Heinz respond to consumer concern by refusing to buy from growers who apply any of 13 widely-used pesticides.

A new consumer-advocate group called “Americans for Safe Food” is working through hundreds of volunteer organizations around the country to demand pesticide-free food. And hundreds of citizen’s groups, such as a new group in Southwest Michigan called “Michigan Pesticide Network,” are working to call attention to the threats which pesticides pose to environmental and human health and to lobby against their use. The danger of various pesticides, such as chlordane which has been used in homes to control termites, to human health, has been given wide publicity recently. On a local level we had the series of articles in the Kalamazoo Gazette in mid-October which reported several incidents in which people were poisoned by pesticides. Farm workers are also at risk when they are in fields when pesticides are being sprayed. An article in Harrowsmith magazine focussed especially on farm workers in Mexico where regulation of pesticide use is more relaxed than in the U.S. Other studies, such as Circle of Poison by David Weir and Mark Schapiro, describe how pesticides which are banned as too dangerous in the U.S. are sold to Mexican growers who ship it back to the U.S. consumer on the produce our “global supermarket” imports.

The article in The Furrow suggests that citizens will be even more opposed to pesticides in groundwater than on food when the extent of groundwater pollution becomes known. The entire Winter 1987 issue of a new scholarly quarterly called American Journal of Alternative Agriculture contains articles summarizing the extent of groundwater pollution by agricultural chemicals. The fact that nitrates from fertilizer have been polluting groundwater has been known for quite some time. As the extent of pesticides gradually leaching into groundwaters is becoming more widely known) agricultural states such as Iowa, Wisconsin, and California are developing legislation to control pesticide pollution. It is generally acknowledged that the solution is to limit pesticide use. In Ontario the Ministry of Agriculture wants a 50% reduction in pesticide use by 2005. Some of us might say that is too little too late!

The opposition to pesticide use has a very broad base of support: people concerned about risks to human health through direct exposure or through ingesting pesticide residues on food or in groundwater, people concerned about environmental quality, and people concerned about wildlife. Hunting and fishing groups also have a stake in preventing the poisoning of wildlife by pesticides. And the article in The Furrow points out that “the fastest gun against pesticides may be fired when regulations of the Endangered Species Act go into effect this year in the U.S.” The pesticide industry will face increasing constraint as pending legislation would force the EPA to be more prompt in banning the sale of older chemicals known to be hazardous. But the most effective constraint will surely come from the demand side as consumers, prompted by organizations such as “Americans for Safe Food” refuse to take risks with food products which have been exposed to pesticides. Pressure from the market place could help to change the grower’s dependence on pesticides.

Environmental activists have known about the dangers of pesticides since Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, and there has been some regulation of pesticides since the Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970. But the regulation is weakened and frustrated by lobbying from the chemical companies. When a specific chemical is banned the manufacturer is usually allowed to sell off its stock.

We must therefore keep up the fight against pesticide use. The chemical companies have made addicts of many farmers who fear the trauma of withdrawal and plead for their pesticide fix. Moreover, the chemical companies are rich, powerful and unscrupulous. As public pressure against pesticides increases we can expect a counter-attack of scare tactics by the chemical industries as they warn of food shortages. Consumers who know food only through the supermarket are a fickle lot and easily manipulated by propaganda and advertising. In this context the long range solution does require some measure of agrarian reform and much greater local food production on the small farms and backyards of America

The following are some of the organizations concerned with environmental contamination:

Pesticide Action Network, North America, P0 Box 610, San Francisco, CA 94101

National Coalition Against The Misuse of Pesticides, 530 7th St. SE Washington DC 20003

Michigan Pesticide Network, 1432 Wealthy St., Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, 9496 School St., Lake, MI 48632

Americans for Safe Food, Center for Science in the Public Interest, 1501 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20036

Organic Growers of Michigan, Len Preslesnik, Executive Secretary, 7113 128th Ave., Holland, MI 49423

West Michigan Environmental Action Council, 1432 Wealthy Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Kalamazoo River Protection Association, Suite 202, 132 N. Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo, MI 49006

The following is a letter from the South Haven Tribune:

Dear Editor:

On Monday, Nov. 23, our roadside under power lines was sprayed by a contractor for Indiana and Michigan Electric Company. Unfortunately, the workers trespassed and sprayed 13 planted filbert shrubs and were continuing to do so when I stopped them. I can understand that a mistake like that can happen and I fully expect to be compensated.

What I don’t understand is the rationale for spraying roadsides in the first place. Is it economics? I expect that with a small chain— saw and a weed wacker I could keep up with those two guys that were doing the spraying--enough to compensate for possibly having to do it more often.

Anyway, this is short-term economics and I’m perfectly willing to shell out a few pennies more for my electric bill and have a cleaner environment with roadsides teeming with wildflowers, not barrenness teaming with dead sticks. Don’t others feel this way? Is this technology “progress”? Killing all broadleaf plants (probably dozens of species) to get those four or five weed trees capable of reaching the wire (mainly sassafrass, elm and black cherry), is arrogance at best and insanity at worst. It’s gross inefficiency to me and we should not let the big guys put that over on us.

I’ve just heard that over 1,200 toxic waste dumps have been identified in Michigan. We will find that non-point sources of pollution may have effects just as profound by polluting everyone’s groundwater, streams, lakes and oceans. Roadside ditches are nothing but intermittent streams.

We cannot afford to be a “frontier” society anymore. With nature we can win battles, but we cannot win the war.

C’mon, is this what we want? We have a very popular bottle law despite industries’ objections. Let’s stop roadside spraying and similar assaults on our environment. Our children will appreciate it.

Jonathan Towne, organic farmer
Land Trust Farm, Bangor

From the Land Trust Farm:

Since the letter of November 30 we have settled for a sum of $225 to cover the 13 shrubs ranging from 12 inches tall to multi-stemmed ones 5 feet tall. These were 13 out of 22 filberts donated by Elwood Holton, from Gobles, in 1984. Fortunately the nine best ones closer to the house were left. The others will be replaced in 1989 when the herbicide wears off.

Does anyone have the inclination, friends, and/or friend of a friend who could pursue the issue of roadside spraying and possibly take it to court? Mike Phillips, with his experience working for Legal Aid, thinks it may be possible as a class-action suit. This obviously would be an incredible undertaking. Comments, anyone?

On another subject--at the annual meeting in November, I did a slide show about Permaculture and the Land Trust Farm. The slide show can be used to promote MLT and direct the attention of more people to the advantages of Permaculture. To this end I am open for invitations to show it elsewhere. Any suggestions?

We also could use a good deal on a slide projector!

-Jonathan Towne, Farm Manager

MINUTES FROM MLT’s ANNUAL MEETING -Rhonda Sherman-Huntoon, Secretary

Summary of 1987 MLT Activities
Additions on the farm included new flooring in the farmhouse, a cement floor in the barn, several trees planted or replanted, new hen houses and fencing, and painting was completed on the house and barn.

MLT and Organic Growers of Michigan hosted hayride tours of the Land Trust Farm and the School of Homesteading. The Flounders, a rock band, entertained guests during the potluck afterwards.

MLT was offered several parcels of land in Southeastern Michigan. Phone checks by Swan Sherman-Huntoon revealed the parcels had extended back taxes.

An MLT Library was established by Lauri Logan and Bobbi Martindale.

Three Newsletters were produced by Sally Kaufman, with help from contributing writers and artists.

Nominating Committee Report
The following people were nominated to serve on the MLT Board of
1    year terms: Ken Dahlberg, Sally Kaufman, Mike Phillips, Swan Sherman-Huntoon
2    year terms: Maynard Kaufman, Lisa Johnson Phillips, Thorn Phillips, Wendy Romano, and Rhonda Sherman-Huntoon.
The slate was adopted unanimously.

Discussion of Future MLT Activities
MLT members expressed the desire to make land available to more people. It was suggested that ads be placed in newspapers and magazines stating our purpose, our interest in acquiring more land, and describing how the land would be used and the educational activities involved.

MLT Permaculture Presentation
Jonathan narrated a slide show which illustrates the permaculture design for the Land Trust Farm. He described the plants and trees that are located in five zones and elaborated on their uses.

Mike and Lisa Phillips used slides and illustrations to demonstrate the permaculture design for their 11.47 acre homestead. They discussed how their plan is laid according to the slope of the land, wind direction, etc.

Next Meeting: Sunday, January 17, 1988. 3 P.M. meeting, 5 P.M. potluck. Location is the home of Ken Dahlberg, 4326 Bronson Blvd., Kalamazoo. Phone 343-4748.

Planned activities: election of officers, distribution of by-laws, plan when and where our ne~ct permaculture presentation will be, and discuss expansion of MLT activities (acquiring more land and tenants.)

[Beginning in January MLT will meet the third Sunday on the odd-numbered months, locations to be determined. Ed.]

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A newly-formed citizens group in Kalamazoo, AFIRM (Alliance for Integrated Resource Management), is sponsoring a conference to explain methods of solid waste disposal which do not require incineration and would reduce landfill space to a minimum. The focus is on recycling and source reduction. The main speakers include three.outof-state experts.

AFIRM is a coalition of citizens groups and individuals in which Southwest Michigan Greens served a formative role.

The conference will take place in Room 3770 of Knauss Hall on the WMU campus from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. on February 6. A $10 registration fee includes lunch. For more information contact Rhonda Sherman— Huntoon at 383-3984 days, and 624-1381 evenings.


ago, Egyptian
insects would eat
just about anything. After
an unknown, specific amount of
time had passed they had devoured
the dirt down to a depth of some seven
hundred (700) feet. All that was left was
pyramids because that was the one thing they didn’t
like to eat. These bugs have since mostly died out, but
proof of their dramatic passage across our nice planet is marked
by a really short trail of pyramids that tourists in the area can plainly
see. “Such was the route of those bugs,” informed natives remark.    And