Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Humane Slaughter: an Oxymoron?

One aspect missing from my research has been a truly critical look at the meat industry in the United States.  Therefore I signed up for an undergraduate class Fall quarter 2012 taught by Katie Gillespie through the Comparative History of Ideas (CHID) program at the UW.  I was very excited to take this class from the moment I read the syllabus description: Students enrolled in this course should gain a better understanding of the workings of the U.S. food system (at both an industrial and small scale) and the experience of animals within this system. Using animals in the food system as a case study, this course will explore notions of power and difference, ethics and responsibility, and creativity in reimagining the status quo. This course will push the boundaries of how we think about difference and discrimination and recognize the intersections between human and animal oppression.

I knew this class would fit perfectly into my research as I am looking at food spaces and one of these food spaces was that of the production of meat and dairy products.  One of the first books we read in class was 1984 by George Orwell and I wrote a think piece looking at how I practiced the concept of 'doublethink' and 'doublespeak' in my life.

For the kiddos

I have been following a lovely blog for a bit now (Serenity in the Storm) and there has been much conversation about having, or not having, children.  While my husband and I, at this point, have decided not to add children to our lives (we do have the four-legged variety) I work with children on a regular basis and am very passionate about these little humans on our planet.

What I have begun to notice as I have progressed through my food journey is I am beginning to reach a place where I want to pass this information on to others, specifically little ones.  While I am still not ready to enter the realm of motherhood, I have some pretty amazing tools I am continually adding to my repertoire and would like to share those with you all.

I believe children are the greatest promise of our future so why not start when they are very young by introducing them to some amazing products, thoughts, ideas and beliefs?!?  Raising children is not only about feeding bodies, but also feeding minds and I hope this list offers some ideas to feed the little ones growing in your lives.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Always bringing it back to food... (The Journey Part 5)

I started my final year in the MACS program in September 2012 with a core/required class revisiting the work of Stuart Hall and diving deeper into the layers of cultural studies.  Every chapter of the book we read, Representation, I attempted to find ties to my research within food activism and food spaces.  For some of the assignments it was nearly impossible to find pieces of cultural criticism where someone (or some people) is (are) questioning the politics of representation in the way that the authors do in the Hall book.  It was extremely easy to find data to critique, but the reverse was much more difficult.

I have included here the assignments I was able to relate to food with some critiques of my own work.

Potato or Tomato?
Seacrest, R., Oliver, J., Norris, R., Smith, B., Fresh One Productions., Ryan Seacrest Productions.,
      Channel Ten (Television station), ... American Broadcasting Company. (2010). Jamie Oliver's food 


As summer camp came to a close at Oxbow Farm I will admit I was desperate to find a way to stick around through the fall harvest season.  I applied for several positions on the farm, but none were quite the right fit and then Megan asked if I would be interested in being the on-site farm stand manager/coordinator during the pumpkin craze of October (or Oxtober as it is referred to!).  I jumped at the chance to spend more time on this amazing land, gain more farming experience, see behind the scenes a bit more and sling some produce!

I gained great farm stand input from Sarah and Luke and channeled the Oxbow personality through farmers market stand guru, Alice.  They were so incredibly helpful in showing me the ropes, teaching me Oxbow's trick's of the trade and generous with my lack of experience!  I prepped for Oxtober by helping out at several farmers market days with Oxbow's team extraordinaire, Amy and Alice, and was even able to co-work a farmer's market with one of Oxbow's super talented interns.  This is when my project began to morph and look more critically at food spaces as I observed the differences between the farm stand on the farm versus the farmers markets and even between different farmers market spaces.  Plus looking at the spaces and places surrounding the farmers markets we were working at and how those influenced these spaces as well.  But back to Oxtober madness!...

I chose Carlsen as my farm stand sidekick after our epic summer camp time working together and we started the farm stand on Oxtober 5th with a bang!  We held the farm stand every weekend, Friday through Sunday, during the entire month of October with record turnouts; weight in pumpkins sold; earnings; pumpkins slung from our kick-butt slingshot; school tours and of course the Oxtober Hoedown Festival!  It was an amazing experience with a few miscommunications, misunderstandings, heavy rainfall, crazy windstorm and wicked mudpit.  Several highlights - the morning when six to eight Black Tail deer does and young fawns ran within mere feet of the farm stand seeking shelter from local hunters; slinging mini pumpkins like crazy; trying to hold down the farm stand as a HUGE windstorm picked it up and attempted to use it as a sail; the Hoedown festival; the delicious harvest party; the mornings I drove across the valley through the dense fog as the sun broke through - breathtaking!; and our closing party where we enjoyed soggy s'mores, a fire, beers and slinging pumpkins in the rain and dark.

Some of the amazing happenings at the Hoedown included:
If you are looking for an amazing place to take your school for a farm tour, show your kids/family around a local farm, find a new pumpkin patch and check out some impressive fall events I hope to see you at Oxbow next Oxtober!!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

For my next question...

At the end of each week of summer camp I composed a letter to three different parents, for a grand total of nine parents, in the hopes of speaking with them about their kids' experience at camp and other questions related to food topics.

I heard from four parents and over the last part of the summer journeyed to coffee shops and homes to conduct my interviews.  I also spoke with three stakeholders involved in the work WAS (Wilderness Awareness School) and Oxbow are doing.  The point of the interviews was to gain a greater perspective of how the relationship between WAS and Oxbow was formed, what the goals of the partnership were and what they hoped the future of the partnership would look like.  From the parents I wanted to understand why sending their kids to 'farm camp' was so important, how they felt their kids had benefited from attending the camp and what they would potentially change about the camp.  In every interview I asked several key questions regarding food and the interviewee's feelings about different food issues.

Summer Camp!!

When I first began my project my focus was on using the land as an education medium for teaching children about where their food comes from and how it is produced.  For three weeks during June and July I was a volunteer at Oxbow Farm through their partnership with Wilderness Awareness School (WAS).  We started the morning at 9 a.m. with a team meeting to prepare for the day.  My favorite part of this time was the 'bringing our minds together' portion - we would each share something we were grateful for or someone would share a list of things they were grateful for and we would agree and confirm.  At the end of this short time the person leading would say, "And with that our minds are one".  For me this portion was almost as powerful, and in some ways, more powerful than a prayer.  It was collective, community and gratefulness to the earth and the people around us and a way to bring ourselves together for the day.  Next the kiddos would arrive - thirty-two, four to six year olds filled with boundless energy, excitement and nerves!!  We spent five days together and on the fifth day we celebrated with a hay ride, community games and having parents onto the farm for the kiddos to show them around.  The kids learned about the farm; tending the land; where their food came from; how much fun it was to pull and eat a carrot straight from the ground; how to be quiet and still and in their bodies; what was safe to eat and an appreciation for the vast world around them.  It was my first time ever being at a summer camp and I think I had as much fun as the kids!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Farmers Markets and CSA's


Living in the Pacific Northwest has its many advantages and one of those is the wealth of farmers markets and CSA (community supported agriculture) we have in the Seattle area and around the state.  Many farmers markets are seasonal and only occur for a limited amount of months, however, some markets are open year-round.  The same is true for farms offering CSA memberships; some offer them for a limited amount of months during peak season times and a limited winter season and others offer CSA membership year round.

These are in no order of preference, but offer some ideas of where you can find alternative market spaces around Washington state.

This Little Piggy... (The Journey - Part 4)

For some reason this nursery rhyme ran through my head the other day and I started really thinking about the words in a critical sense as it relates to my project.

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none,
And this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home.

An innocently read or spoken verse, but when looked at critically describes the unfairness of the food system in our country and around the world.

"This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home". Why did the pig stay home? Was it because he/she could not afford to travel to the market? Was it because there was no market near enough to his/her home to find food at? Was it because there was no money to buy food from the market?