Monday, January 28, 2013

Dog Mountain Farm

For spring quarter 2012 I chose to yet again step outside the easy boundaries of my project and look further than alternative learning environments and food.  I chose to take a class on Tourism as Global Culture and chose to focus my work in this class on the rapidly rising agritourist form of literally consuming the tourist experience.

I began searching for an agritourist site in the Seattle area and discovered Dog Mountain Farm.  I sent an e-mail to Cindy Krepky explaining my project and asking for an opportunity to visit the farm and experience the space as an agritourist destination.  From the very beginning, David and Cindy, were wonderfully receptive to having my husband and I out to visit and experience all that Dog Mountain Farm had to offer.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Wilderness Awareness School


...Continued from here...

When Sarah informed me I would be able to conduct my summer research at Oxbow Farm, I was over the moon!  She then explained I would need to attend the volunteer training day at Wilderness Awareness School (WAS, pronounced 'wahz') to prepare for summer camp.  Oxbow and WAS developed a partnership using Oxbow's land and the farm as a summer camp site teaching about food and farming, while also applying WAS' principles.  I had never heard of wilderness school, let alone knew that such a place existed essentially in my backyard!

The Journey (Part 3)

One of the best revelations which has happened to me throughout this journey is recognizing how important activism is to me.  Specifically, food activism.  Through the internships I have completed, the projects I have created, the people I have met and the spaces I have seen I have begun to realize that policy changes and social action is where the majority of change will occur in the food system.  How to become involved though?

A food movement is sweeping this country and people are ready for a change in our food system.  This was never more clear than during this past year's election when California added Proposition 37 (Prop 37) to the ballot in the hopes of passing a law requiring all products containing GMOs (genetically modified organism) be labeled, allowing customers the right to make an informed decision regarding the type of food they purchase.  Specifically whether said food contains genetically modified materials.  Sadly, Prop 37 was defeated after major corporations such as Monsanto, DuPont and Hershey threw millions of dollars (grand total of $44 million) at 'No to Prop 37'.  To me this raises huge red flags; if companies are throwing millions of dollars for an initiative to fail, especially an initiative asking for consumers to be provided with knowledge and information, I want to believe that the public would be even more concerned with understanding why companies would not want them to know what is in their food!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Oxbow and finding my serenity

I first met Sarah Cassidy via e-mail and I remember she 'signed' the e-mail with 'Peas, Sarah' and said I should come to their first spring SowDown at Oxbow Farm and we could chat.  Wendy Haakenson from Jubilee Farm (read about them here) had told me about Sarah and said I should be in touch with her as Oxbow Farm had an education center incorporated into their learning model.  At the time my project was focused on looking at farming as an education medium for kids.

The SowDown was so much fun and brought together several farms and organizations in the valley to share their information, knowledge and resources.  Dog Mountain Farm brought sweet baby animals to show off their meat and dairy production; Camp Korey came to share their passion for kids with medical conditions participating in summer camp; several local artists had come to help with painting, building fairy houses, creating banners and making flower head wreaths; and there was a chef demonstration by Greg Johnson the chef and father behind the wonderful blog:  Best part:  finally being able to speak with Sarah for a few brief moments and her agreeing to meet and hear me out for the possibility of using Oxbow Farm as my primary research site for my Capstone Project.

Oxbow Sowdown - flash slideshow

I met Sarah several weeks later and she agreed to allow me to participate as a summer camp volunteer at Oxbow Farm, however, her stipulation was I had to attend the volunteer training offered by Wilderness Awareness School (WAS).  WAS is the partner group helping with the summer camps at Oxbow.

To be continued...

Sunday, January 20, 2013


I first heard of Jubilee Farm from my friend Lindsay, when she joined their CSA workshare program.  She invited us to pick up their share while they were on vacation and we enjoyed a day on this beautiful property picking beans, raspberries and flowers to round out the standard box of produce we picked up.  There was so much bounty!!  This was the first time I had ever heard of working on a farm to 'earn' your veggies and in payment for your sweat equity you received a box of delectable produce.  I was entranced!  Our next visit to Jubilee was several months later for the October festival which included a trebuchet slinging pumpkins, roasted corn on the cob, planting seeds, a hayride out to the pumpkin patch and choosing a pumpkin.  We had a blast!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Journey (Part 2)

During my second quarter of grad school I was able to take a class entitled Environmental Politics, taught by UWB Professor Ben Gardner.  While the class was focusing primarily on the environment, we had a moderate size section devoted to food as well.  Towards the end of my first quarter I had begun to realize I wanted to focus my research on food and markets; therefore, I developed a project looking at, and comparing farmers markets to a local, high end grocery market.

To start the class off though I wrote a paper looking at the idea of media saturation, especially when it comes to food messages.  Statistics blast from media sources stating that “because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits, and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents” (Surgeon General, 2004); we are inundated with photos of our morbidly obese population; new documentaries and books are released yearly on the health crisis of America; new reality shows surrounding weight loss and transformation are becoming more popular; and it seems as though a new diet comes on the market every time you turn around.  What is the effect of this constant bombardment of statistics as the media represents them?  Is the knowledge making a difference or falling on deaf ears?  These were the questions I hoped to address in my paper and looking back I feel that as a beginner I did not do to bad of a job.  However, I definitely skimmed the surface and were I to go back I would look further into how these spaces interpelate or “hail” certain subjects and how these spaces are outcomes of political practices rather than simply inert spaces to be transformed by planners, activists or business people.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Going Against the Grain

In early 2011, I was speaking with a co-worker about the food situation where we work at Seattle Children's Hospital and we began to formulate an idea of meeting to speak with leaders and management to propose several ideas for potentially creating a food change in our cafeteria.  We met with a group known as the Obesity Advocacy Team and they were so enthusiastic about our project and wanted to form a sub-group interested in creating change in the cafeteria and supported us in going to speak with leadership.  However, we found that once we went to speak with the leadership people the support began to wane; people would not answer our e-mails and questions any longer and we were told that Seattle Children's was not interested in devoting money to overhauling or creating change in the cafeteria at the time.  We were also told by one of the food coordinators, "We are not going to tell families what is healthy and what is not healthy.  These families are here under great amounts of stress and we are not going to tell them whether or not it is o.k. to eat a bag o M&M's.  We will offer more healthy options in our vending machines and in the cafeteria and hope that families choose those options over the other choices."

The Journey (Part 1)

I have come a long way since I began my grad school journey and in my food journey as well.  In a series of posts I want to describe the steps I have taken on this journey while also offering a critique of this process.

After watching Food, Inc. (read Here) my husband, Nick, and I decided to put in a garden and begin putting up our own food and buying from the local farmers market.  We had put in a garden previously - way too many tomatoes!, but not really devoted ourselves to gardening and actually putting up the produce.  I was raised in a home where my mom had a garden every year and every summer and fall was spent putting up fruits and veggies for the winter, tending the garden and picking vast quantities of blueberries and strawberries.  I felt I had the knowledge to can, preserve and put up my own fruits and veggies in a safe manner.  I bought Ball's Blue Book Guide to Preserving; several boxes of jars, lids, rings; a water bath canner with all the accessories and set to work putting up our own food.  I have been canning and freezing our own produce for the past two years and while it is a tremendous amount of work it is incredibly rewarding.  To open a freezer full of food throughout the winter or to open a pantry lined with rows of beautiful jars filled with fruit is a sight to behold.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Proposal

I started the Master of Arts in Cultural Studies (MACS) program at the University of Washington, Bothell (UWB), in September 2011 with several different ideas of what I wanted to research and my project to revolve around. During Winter Quarter 2011, we were told to write a project proposal detailing what our ideas were for our projects, including a literature review and timeline. I want to share this first proposal and in future posts will share more recent modifications to explain where I began my research journey and how far I have come in this process.

Who’s Invited to the Table?:  An Exploration of Food Security, Food Access and Programs Working to Create Food Change

The Beginning...

I honestly do not remember when we first watched Food, Inc. (2009), however, I do remember several things:
  • Watching with our dear friends, Tim and Lindsay
  • The ending song and statements brought tears to my eyes
  • The documentary was the first one I had watched that really opened my eyes to the corruptness of the food industry and how important supporting local businesses was.
  • I began to recognize the disparities in  the food system and question if the 'obesity crisis' was really about education and health or if it was more about capitalism and putting money in large corporations pockets.
I continued to watch Food, Inc. over the years and throughout our food journey; the ending song and statements still brought tears to my eyes, but I began to see things in the documentary that troubled me.  Most recently, a professor, Katie Gillespie, showed Food, Inc. on the first day of class for Animals, Ethics and Food: Deconstructing Dominant Discourse and I wrote a journal entry where I finally reflected on Food, Inc. and the portions that troubled me.