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
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
THE ANTI-PESTICIDE BANDWAGON
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
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
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:
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
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
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,
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.
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.]
§ § § § § § § § § §
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
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.
AN INQUIRY INTO THE DIET OF OLD BUGS
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
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