Archive for June, 2012


The Looming Crisis In Mass Transit

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Article by James McCommons, author of Waiting on a Train. Originally published in the Saturday Evening Post.

Over the past 50 years America made massive public investments in its highways—hundreds of billions of dollars in the interstate system alone. And largely because of that investment, cities and suburbs have grown into sprawling, disconnected clusters, largely dependent on the automobile. But America is changing, and it’s time to rethink the way we travel. “We have to change that and give people more options,” says John Robert Smith, president of Reconnecting America, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that advises local leaders on transportation planning.

What’s the problem with car travel? Not to put too fine a point on it, but our current network of roads and more roads (with a piddling number of trains and buses along the margins) is not sustainable. Today, 91 percent of Americans commute to work in a car, usually alone. The daily cost of fuel for cars is a staggering $1 billion-plus. Then there is conservation: All told, American drivers burn roughly one-quarter of the world’s oil. [See also What Government Needs to Do by Jim Oberstar, former chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.]

Demographic trends also reflect a country reconsidering its settlement patterns and transportation networks, particularly in light of an expected population increase of more than 100 million new citizens over the next 40 years. Much of the population—from retiring boomers and young people alike—will be closer to city centers where mass transit is available.

Petra Todorovich, director of America 2050, a national urban planning organization in New York City, says when you look ahead a few years, better mass transit will be sorely needed. “We can’t just keep building more highways and creating more sprawl,” Todorovich says.What is essential for the success of mass transit is not just building the infrastructure itself, but connectivity. Travelers need to get from point A to point B quickly and efficiently. But for mass transit to work well, those same travelers also need to be able to switch easily from a taxi, a bus, a ferry, an airplane, or a train in a matter of a few steps to continue on to point C. In Europe, trolleys and high-speed trains run into the airports and the switch is accomplished in a short escalator ride. It’s seamless, even intuitive.

In America, not so much. “We are 30 to 40 years behind Europe and Asia,” said Smith, who adds that the big push for mass transit will have to come from state, city, and county governments and filter up to the federal level.

Despite the obstacles to rebuilding America’s mass transit system—and there are quite a few obstacles—there are also a few bright lights. A few months ago, I went to California to write a piece about the proposed bullet train that would run between San Francisco and Los Angeles. There’d been a storm of political fighting over funding—the cost of the train may exceed $50 billion—and battles over where to put the right of ways, but it appears California will start laying track in late 2012. The 220-mph train would be one of the largest public works projects ever attempted in the United States, but California has a history of doing big and gutsy infrastructure projects.

While the complete bullet train is at least a decade off, California is moving ahead on mass transit. In 10 days of traveling between its major cities, I avoided renting a car, even calling a cab. For such a supposedly car-centric state, the connectivity was remarkable. For example, beginning in Oakland, I traveled to Sacramento on the Capitol Corridor, a train operated by Amtrak but subsidized by the state.

From there, I caught another corridor train, the San Joaquin to Bakersfield where I easily stepped on an express bus to downtown L.A. On the city’s metro system, I rode the Blue Line light rail out to Long Beach, the Red Line to Hollywood, and then city buses to see friends in Wilshire and Silver Lake.

To reach San Diego, I took the Pacific Surfliner which runs hourly out of L.A.’s Union Station, and then a trolley to my hotel in Old Town. Over the next few days, I was on Sprinter, Coaster, and Metrolink—all commuter trains—and the Surfliner again. And when it was time to fly home, I caught an express FlyAway bus from Union Station to LAX.

Outstripping ridership projections, light rail systems in Houston (top) and Charlotte (bottom) also attracted millions in transit-oriented development (TOD).

Outstripping ridership projections, light rail systems in Houston (top) and Charlotte (bottom) also attracted millions in transit-oriented development (TOD).

What is happening on the West Coast is being repeated around the country. New light rail systems are being built or expanded in Salt Lake City, Denver, Dallas, Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Charlotte. Cities, such as L.A., are actually restoring service where decades ago they literally ripped out street car tracks to make room for cars. But it’s not just trains. Buses operating on natural gas, hybrid engines, and even overhead electrical wires are redefining city bus service. And in rural America, counties and other entities are finding ways to bring mass transit—typically bus or van service—to people who can’t afford cars or are unable to drive.

Mass transit is very much in the public eye, which is not surprising when one considers rising gas prices, highway congestion, unsustainable suburban sprawl, and an aging population. In 2011, Americans took 10.4 billion trips on public transportation, the second-highest annual ridership since 1957.

“For a long time, most transit riders were captive riders. They couldn’t afford a car and had to use the bus,” says Todorovich. “Now we are seeing more people using it as a lifestyle choice.”

Lifestyles matter, too. Many experts see America’s embrace of handheld devices and the desire to be connected electronically as another factor favoring mass transit over driving. Drive a car and you can’t or, at least, shouldn’t text. “If you are on a train or bus, you can stay on your iPad or smartphone,” adds Todorovich. And buses and trains that are Wi-Fi equipped make connecting that much easier.

It’s a big step from wanting or needing mass transit, to actually building it. With little clear direction from the feds, the solutions will be different for different localities. Which brings us to the bus-versus-train argument. Many urban areas are choosing to build light rail—even though improved bus service can be just as effective and would be a ton cheaper, says Professor G. Scott Rutherford, director of the TransNow Regional Center at the University of Washington in Seattle. That’s because buses run on infrastructure already in place—namely roads—and they are able to easily go off that right of way into neighborhoods, such as suburbs. Building new right of ways for trains is difficult and expensive, especially when trying to retrofit rail into highly urbanized environments.

But many cities see light rail as the only way to lure people out of their cars, says Rutherford. “There’s a rail bias,” he says. “Hey, I love trains, too, but an honest analysis in many communities would show that trains are not as good as buses.”

He points out that the common image of the loud and smoky city bus is a thing of the past. Buses today are cleaner, quieter, and quite efficient compared to automobiles.

Just as important, despite my successful experiment in California, in most American cities, bus stations, train stations, and airports were not built with an eye toward connectivity. Most such travel hubs are separated by several miles—the only transport option is an expensive cab ride. Even where there are attempts at connectivity, they are often problematic. In Milwaukee, Amtrak’s commuter train stops near Mitchell Airport, but passengers have to board a shuttle bus and then be deposited at the front of the airport. At the Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) Airport, the new light rail train only gets within 1,200 feet of the baggage area. The train station is located in the parking garage.

The obstacles range from turf wars to simple lack of foresight: “You could put the bus right in the front of the terminal, but the airport doesn’t want to interfere with single passenger cars picking up passengers. And because it sells parking, it doesn’t want to sacrifice spaces to get the train closer,” Rutherford says. “A lot of problems are jurisdictional. Transit crosses regional and political boundaries and there are competing interests.”

Keep reading.

Watch the UVM Food Systems Summit

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

The summit is sold out, but you can join by watching live right here!

There are nearly seven billion people who need to eat and more being born every day. We have a global food system that degrades our land, our health and our humanity through short-sighted practices and policies that benefit a few at the top.

We believe that change must come both literally and figuratively from the ground up, through innovative regional food models that have proven workable, sustainable and inclusive to many.

This Summit flows from our conviction that the current global food system is ecologically, economically, and energetically unsustainable and that ambitious, knowledgeable and radical reform is necessary for a healthy food system that can feed a hungry planet.

At the core of our work is the question “How can we create regional food systems that are viable alternatives to the conventional one that exists now?”

The Food Systems Summit at the University of Vermont will convene a dynamic and diverse group of people through conferences, courses, and events this summer to discuss and plan strategies that address this issue.

There is no better place than Vermont (especially in the summertime) to bring together the people for this necessary revolution. Vermont’s human scale allows it to serve as a “living laboratory” for exploring new solutions to these chronic problems. Vermont’s tradition of positive deviance and cutting-edge innovation, in the face of adversity, is widely shared beyond its borders and makes it a rich site for the creation of sustainable models adaptable around the world.


Free live streaming by Ustream

Public Conference Thursday, June 28, 2012

Time:  1:00pm-6:30pm

The conference is full, so join us online right here! 

UVM Food Feed Blog

UVM Food Feed

Influential thinkers and positive change makers will exchange their best ideas to inspire, focus, and strengthen individual and collective action for a sustainable food system.

This one day event will shine a spotlight on and amplify the most important ideas, initiatives, and voices for the necessary food systems revolution. The power of this day and the hundreds gathered together will awaken some, re-energize others, help advance a shared vision for the future of food we desire, fortify the movement, and make clear specific ways each person can help transform the system.

Event Details
We will bring together influential and innovative voices from the sustainable food movement for this day of inspiration and call to action.  The goal is to connect people across disciplines around the urgent issue of our broken food system and inspire people to take their place in the necessary revolution.

When: June 28, 1pm-6:30pm

Your computer, your mobile device, a community space, a restaurant – anywhere that has Internet access! You can view the live-streamed conference from our blog (http://learn.uvm.edu/foodsystemsblog/) or our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/University-of-Vermont-Continuing-Education/143986912311328).

You can sit back and listen to our internationally renowned speakers, and participate in conversation using the #UVMsummit hashtag. (Post your comments and questions – and we will answer them on our blog after the conference).

What: Speakers will take the stage, give their 10-15 minute talk and then sit back down. The next speaker will immediately follow. There is not space for questions or comments or break-out sessions.  There will be two breaks during the talks and a reception at the end which are all great times to connect with fellow attendees and the speakers.

Speakers
Read the list of confirmed presenters here.

Select Topics for Conference

  • Resilient Farming Systems
  • Safe and Healthy Food
  • Strong Regional Food Systems
  • Food Security and Improved Access
  • Real Food Education
  • Businesses for a Hungry Planet
  • Policy Advocacy

Gardening With Resilience – Carole Deppe on “The Story”

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

If you’re a frequent visitor to our site, or buyer of our books, chances are good you’ve got at least a handful of organic (or beyond-organic) vegetables growing somewhere — a lettuce patch in a sunny corner, a tomato vine snaking out of a homemade self-watering planter. But did you know that beyond just salad stuff you can grow your own grain and other staples?

Carol Deppe, author of The Resilient Gardener, has bred a variety of corn perfect for grinding into flour — and other varieties for other uses like polenta or parching. Last week she was featured on Dick Gordon’s radio program “The Story,” and the host asked what corn bread made from freshly ground, specially bred corn is like.

“Well it’s delicious. I bred the corn myself. It doesn’t taste anything like ordinary corn. There’s no comparison at all, it tastes like a completely different grain.”

Listen to the interview with Carol here (just drag the slider on the media player to the half way mark and wait for her segment to start).

And if you’ve already heard enough to get your mouth watering, skip on ahead and read Carol’s corn bread recipe here.

Claim Your Independence!

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Independence Day is just around the corner—July 4th—and in celebration we’ve put together a wide selection of inspired books on sale from some of our very independent-minded authors. There’s never been a better time to speak out against injustices, stand up together for our rights and take action to preserve sovereignty, community and democracy.

ForeWord magazine just named Chelsea Green its Independent Publisher of the Year for 2011, recognizing us for our many groundbreaking books that help people be more independent, and help communities become more resilient. This has been our commitment for almost 28 years, and the need for these books has never been greater as our planet faces huge challenges.

Get the tools you need to organize in your community by taking advantage of our Independence Day Book Sale, now through July 15th.

As always, we’d love to hear from you with any thoughts about our work here at Chelsea Green. Please join the conversation with us and our authors on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for everything you do for your community and our planet. Happy reading from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing.

P.S. Make sure to sign up for our June Book Giveaway. We are giving away a book a day for the whole month of June and each entry goes toward the Grand Prize drawing for a selection of our 10 most recent releases. Click here to enter.

 

 

Occupy World Street: A Global Roadmap for Radical Economic and Political Reform

Occupy World Street Cover Image
Retail Price: $19.95
Sale Price: $12.97

As demonstrators worldwide demand change, Occupy World Street offers a sweeping vision of how to reform our global economic and political structures, break away from empire, and build a world of self-determining sovereign states that respect the need for ecological sustainability and uphold human rights.

In this refreshingly detailed plan, Ross Jackson shows how a handful of small nations could take on a leadership role; create new alliances, new governance, and new global institutions; and, in cooperation with grassroots activists, pave the way for other nations to follow suit.

“Ross Jackson presents us with an extraordinary global plan to tackle the multiple crises of our times—awesome in conception, sensitive in detail, and realistic enough to succeed.”—Richard Register, author of Ecocities—Rebuilding Cities in Balance with Nature.

Take a peak and browse the preview of the book. READ IT HERE…

2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years

2052 Cover Image
Retail Price: 24.95
Sale Price: $16.22

Commemorating the fortieth Anniversary of The Limits to Growth, 2052 asks, what will happen to humanity over the next forty years?

We know that much needs to change to make our future more sustainable. But will we rise to the occasion? How much change is likely to occur? And how do we prepare to live good lives in the world that is likely to emerge?

These are the questions that propelled Jorgen Randers, a renowned analyst of global trends, to ask dozens of leading experts around the globe to weigh in with their best predictions on how our economies, energy supplies, natural resources, climate, food, fisheries, militaries, political divisions, cities, psyches, and more will take shape in the coming decades.

Chapter 1: Worrying About the Future, An Excerpt from 2052. READ IT HERE…

The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family

The New Feminist Agenda Cover Image
Retail Price: $26.95
Sale Price: $17.52

Feminists opened up thousands of doors in the 1960s and 1970s, but decades later, are U.S. women where they thought they’d be? The answer, it turns out, is a resounding no.

Looking back over five decades of advocacy, Madeleine Kunin (Vermont’s first female governor and the nation’s third) analyzes where progress stalled, looks at the successes of other countries, and charts the course for the next feminist revolution—one that mobilizes women, and men, to call for the kind of government and workplace policies that can improve the lives of women and strengthen their families.

Chapter Two: Back to the Family After All. READ IT HERE…

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Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity

Retail Price: $17.95
Sale Price: $11.67

Local economy pioneer Michael Shuman shows investors how to put their money into building local businesses and resilient regional economies—and profit in the process.

 

Shuman demystifies the growing realm of local investment choices—from institutional lending to investment clubs and networks, local investment funds, community ownership, direct public offerings, local stock exchanges, crowdfunding, and more. He also guides readers through the lucrative opportunities to invest locally in their homes, energy efficiency, and themselves.

In this article, Michael Shuman offers “Ten Reasons for Financial Optimism (if you invest locally).” FIND OUT WHAT THEY ARE…

DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education

DIY U Cover Image
Retail Price: $14.95 
Sale Price: $9.72

What we need to know is changing more quickly than ever, and a rising tide of information threatens to swamp knowledge and wisdom. America cannot regain its economic and cultural leadership with an increasingly ignorant population. Our choice is clear: Radically change the way higher education is delivered, or resign ourselves to never having enough of it.

The future lies in personal learning networks and paths, learning that blends experiential and digital approaches, and free and open-source educational models. Increasingly, you will decide what, when, where, and with whom you want to learn, and you will learn by doing.

Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

Don't Think of an Elephant Cover Image
Retail Price: $10.00 
Sale Price: $6.50

Don’t Think of an Elephant! is the definitive handbook for understanding what happened in the 2004 election and communicating effectively about key issues facing America today.

In this book Lakoff explains how conservatives think, and how to counter their arguments. He outlines in detail the traditional American values that progressives hold, but are often unable to articulate.

Lakoff also breaks down the ways in which conservatives have framed the issues, and provides examples of how progressives can reframe the debate.

Diary of an Eco-Outlaw: An Unreasonable Woman Breaks the Law for Mother Earth

 

List Price: $17.95 
Sale Price: $11.67

As George Bernard Shaw once said, “All progress depends on unreasonable women.” And in Diary of an Eco-Outlaw, the eminently unreasonable Wilson delivers a no-holds-barred account of how she—a fourth-generation shrimper, former boat captain, and mother of five—took a turn at midlife, unable to stand by quietly as she witnessed abuses of people and the environment.

“An unstoppable tale of true bravery . . . This book will shake the ground beneath your feet.” —Janisse Ray, author of Pinhook

Chapter One – Made In Texas, An Accidental Activist. READ IT HERE…

The Looting of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity

The Looting of America Cover Image
Retail Price: $14.95Sale Price: $9.72

How could the best and brightest (and most highly paid) in finance crash the global economy and then get us to bail them out as well? What caused this mess in the first place? What can Main Street do about it?

In The Looting of America, Leopold debunks the prevailing media myths that blame low-income home buyers who got in over their heads, people who ran up too much credit card debt, and government interference with free markets.

“Les Leopold’s account of the economic crisis is the clearest and most accessible that I have seen. It gives a reader with little economics or financial background a riveting description of how Wall Street tore down our economy and what we can do about it. It’s a page turner we all should read.” —Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers

The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot

The End of America Cover Image
Retail Price: $13.95 
Sale Price: $9.07

In a stunning indictment of the Bush administration and Congress, bestselling author Naomi Wolf lays out her case for saving American democracy.

In authoritative research and documentation Wolf explains how events of the last six years parallel steps taken in the early years of the 20th century’s worst dictatorships such as Germany, Russia, China, and Chile.

You will be shocked and disturbed by this book….Wolf explores the underlying ‘ten steps’ that allow dictatorships to emerge and crush dissent and democracy. By the end of this ‘Letter to a Patriot’ you will be driven to action.”—Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights

America, Fascism, and God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher

America, Fascism, and God Cover Image
Retail Price: $12.00 
Sale Price: $7.80

Religion and politics have always been a potent mix. History is littered with times when that combination caused sweeping death and destruction, when it fueled aggression and oppression—and when it gave fascism a religious and diplomatic face.


In this series of incisive and inspired sermons, Reverend Davidson Loehr takes aim at the unholy alliance of corporate money, political power, and religious fundamentalism that is threatening both our political and our economic democracy. But Loehr’s words provide little comfort to liberals and progressives who have stubbornly clung to a radical individualism and an amoral secularism.

America, Fascism, and God is a call—first to understand that religion has been hijacked and debased. And then to take it back.

 

More New and Noteworthy Titles On Sale

 

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* Books on sale until July 15th*

Edible Fermentables: Wine, Beer, Cheese, Meat

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Listen to part two of Sandor Katz’s Fresh Air interview, reposted from NPR.org

In the beginning, the self-described “fermentation fetishist” Sandor Katz loved sour pickles.

“For whatever reason, I was drawn to that flavor as a child,” he tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “And then when I was in my 20s, I did quite a bit of dietary experimentation and … I started noticing that whenever I ate sauerkraut or pickles, even the smell of it would make my salivary glands start secreting.”

After Katz moved from New York City to a rural community in Tennessee, his fascination with all things fermented increased.

“I got involved in keeping a garden,” he says. “And what motivated me [to ferment] was the practical desire to make use of the bounty of the garden. It came as a little bit of a surprise to me that all of the cabbages were ready at the same time and all of the radishes were ready at the same time. And this is the practical dilemma that gardeners have always faced. … Really, agriculture makes no sense without fermentation, and that’s what got me into the joy of cooking and making sauerkraut for the first time.”

Katz expanded from sauerkraut into anything and everything pickled, malted and brined. He has spent the past decades traveling around the country, demonstrating the wonders of sauerkraut, sour pickles and other food items transformed at some point during their production process by microscopic bacteria.

Last week, Katz spoke to Terry Gross about how fermentation works and shared his favorite recipes for yogurt and sauerkraut. Now, Katz returns to Fresh Air for a lively discussion about cured meats, cheeses — and some fermented beverages (notably wine and beer).

Katz is the author of several books about fermentation, including Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved. His latest, The Art of Fermentation, collects many of his recipes and tricks for do-it-yourself, at-home fermenting.


Interview Highlights

On why cheese is stable

“We could really think of a chunk of cheddar or Parmesan cheese as a form of preserved milk. Think how stable that is, the cheese compared to the milk. And one reason for this is the removal of liquid. Another is the acidification. Just as with sauerkraut, the acidification makes it impossible for bacteria we regard as pathogenic or threatening to us to develop, because they can’t tolerate an acidic environment.”

On meat

“Meat is the most perishable of all the foods that people eat. So it’s imperative that we have a way of preserving meat. People use a range of techniques, including drying, salting and smoking. Sometimes it’s been elusive which cured and preserved meat products are products of fermentation … but I think the clearest example of a fermented meat process would be salami. Basically salami is ground meat that is mixed with salt and curing salts and spices and a little bit of sugar. And what the little bit of sugar does is support a lactic-acid fermentation. The nutrient for lactic-acid bacteria, which meat lacks, is carbohydrates. So by adding some carbohydrates, you promote lactic-acid development, and so the lactic acid becomes part of what enables that salami to just hang on a string in a deli for months and months.”

On wine

“Ferment it for two weeks, and already more than half the potential alcohol has been produced, and you can just have a party and enjoy your wine without ever bottling it or aging it. That would be a green or young wine. … If you want to ferment it to dryness — meaning to the point where all of the sugars are converted into alcohol — then once your bubbling peaks and begins to slow down, then you need to transfer it to a different type of vessel where it won’t be exposed to oxygen.

“Typically we move it into a vessel that’s known as a ‘carboy,’ which looks like a narrow-neck vessel. And then you put a device on it called an airlock, which allows carbon dioxide to escape but doesn’t allow oxygen from outside the vessel in to allow for vinegar formation. Then once the bubbling stops, typically people will siphon it into a second vessel, which can restart fermentation and get the last of the sugars to be fermented. And then, after it stops again, you would bottle it and cork it.”

On beer

“Fruit and honey will spontaneously ferment into alcohol, whereas grains, which are complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates, need to be predigested. They need to have those complex carbs broken down into simple carbs. In the Western tradition of beer-making, we do this through malting — which is germination, or sprouting. In the Asian tradition, molds are used. And really, the most ancient method of doing this is chewing — using our human saliva to break down starches into sugars, and then you brew the beer from the grains which have already been malted or otherwise enzymatically broken down into starches.”

On what he eats

“I don’t eat huge amounts of fermented foods. But I usually eat some kind of sauerkraut-fermented vegetable every day. I usually have some type of kefir or yogurt in the course of my day. And over the course of a week, I usually taste some more exotic types of fermented foods, because I’m constantly experimenting and playing in the kitchen. But I also eat everything. I don’t have a dogmatic all-fermented or most-fermented diet that I follow.”

The Necessary (r)Evolution for Sustainable Food Systems Conference at UVM

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

We’re fed up with the current state of the food system. From factory farming that strips the soil of its microflora and topsoil, to the deplorable conditions of food-industry workers, not to mention the rampant spread of obesity and diabetes in the richest country on Earth…it’s time for a revolution.

On that front, the University of Vermont is hosting a Food Systems Summit next week, and we will be hosting a viewing party right here on chelseagreen.com.

Here are the details, we hope you’ll join us!

You can follow the UVM Sustainable Food Systems blog here. Or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Public Conference Thursday, June 28, 2012

Time:  1:00pm-6:30pm

The conference is full, so join us online! Chelsea Green will be hosting a live stream from the conference. If you’re interested you can host your own live, online viewing party.

 

UVM Food Feed Blog
UVM Food Feed

Influential thinkers and positive change makers will exchange their best ideas to inspire, focus, and strengthen individual and collective action for a sustainable food system.

This one day event will shine a spotlight on and amplify the most important ideas, initiatives, and voices for the necessary food systems revolution. The power of this day and the hundreds gathered together will awaken some, re-energize others, help advance a shared vision for the future of food we desire, fortify the movement, and make clear specific ways each person can help transform the system.

Event Details
We will bring together influential and innovative voices from the sustainable food movement for this day of inspiration and call to action.  The goal is to connect people across disciplines around the urgent issue of our broken food system and inspire people to take their place in the necessary revolution.

When: June 28, 1pm-6:30pm

Your computer, your mobile device, a community space, a restaurant – anywhere that has Internet access! You can view the live-streamed conference from our blog (http://learn.uvm.edu/foodsystemsblog/) or our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/University-of-Vermont-Continuing-Education/143986912311328).

You can sit back and listen to our internationally renowned speakers, and participate in conversation using the #UVMsummit hashtag. (Post your comments and questions – and we will answer them on our blog after the conference).

What: Speakers will take the stage, give their 10-15 minute talk and then sit back down. The next speaker will immediately follow. There is not space for questions or comments or break-out sessions.  There will be two breaks during the talks and a reception at the end which are all great times to connect with fellow attendees and the speakers.

Speakers
Read the list of confirmed presenters here.

Select Topics for Conference

  • Resilient Farming Systems
  • Safe and Healthy Food
  • Strong Regional Food Systems
  • Food Security and Improved Access
  • Real Food Education
  • Businesses for a Hungry Planet
  • Policy Advocacy

When Food Goes Good – Sandor Katz on Fresh Air

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Last week Sandor Katz appeared on Fresh Air with Terry Gross to talk about this new book The Art of Fermentation. In case you missed it, you can listen to the show here. The second half of that interview aired this week, which you can listen to here. Huzzah! Curious about the difference between food that’s gone bad and food that’s gone good? Listen up, and Sandor will explain how to find that “flavorful place between fresh and rotten” where all fermented foods reside, and talk about the basics of fermenting vegetables, dairy, as well as ferementing beer, wine, cheese, bread and meats.

Below are the articles NPR published along with Sandor’s appearances. Thanks to these interviews, and additional media attention to his glorious new book, Sandor remains in the top 100 – if not top 50 at times – books on Amazon.com.

The list of fermented food in our lives is staggering: bread, coffee, pickles, beer, cheese, yogurt and soy sauce are all transformed at some point during their production process by microscopic organisms that extend their usefulness and enhance their flavors.

The process of fermenting our food isn’t a new one: Evidence indicates that early civilizations were making wine and beer between 7,000 and 8,000 years ago — and bread even before that.

But was exactly is fermentation? And how does it work? Those were the questions that fascinated Sandor Katz for years. Katz calls himself a “fermentation revivalist” and has spent the past decade teaching workshops around the country on the ancient practice of fermenting food.

Katz collects many of his recipes and techniques in a new book, The Art of Fermentation, in which he describes fermentation as “the flavorful space between fresh and rotten.”

“If you walk into a gourmet food store and start thinking about the nature of the foods that we elevate on the gourmet pedestal, almost all of them are the products of fermentation,” he tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “Fermentation creates strong flavors. But they’re not always flavors that everybody can agree on.”

 

 

Take cheese, for instance. Cheese exists in a variety of flavors, including the extra-stinky varieties Katz says he fancies. “But once in a while I’ll buy cheese and I’ve learned that some friends will smell the cheese and walk out of the room,” he says. “They’ll never think about putting that in their mouths. … So around the world, you find these iconic foods created by fermentation that create strong, strong flavors that become strong markers of cultural identity and in many cases, people who have not been raised within the culture find these foods very challenging.”

In addition to enhancing flavors, fermentation also allows food items to be preserved well past their shelf-life date, says Katz.

“It’s not forever like canned foods that you can put into a pantry or storm cellar and forget about for 10 years and still eat it,” he says. “These foods are alive, they’re dynamic, but they’re extremely effective strategies for preserving food through a few seasons, which is really the point.”

Starting With Sauerkraut

For fermentation newbies, Katz recommends starting with sauerkraut because it’s particularly easy to make. To begin, take a cabbage and any additional vegetables you want and chop it up. Put your chopped veggies in a large bowl and lightly salt them. (Katz notes that he never measures the salt because there’s really no “magic number for how much salt to use.”)

After salting the veggies, which helps get rid of excess water, Katz squeezes them for a few minutes to release their juices, so that they can be submerged under their own liquid. (Katz says he hardly ever adds water to his kraut, because the flavor is more concentrated if you use only the vegetable juice.) He then stuffs the veggies and the juices they’ve released into a jar.

 

Sandor Katz is the author of Wild Fermentation and lectures extensively on topics related to fermentation.

“You want to press really hard to force out any air bubbles,” he notes. “And you want to make sure that the vegetables are pressed down under their juices. And then just seal the jar — but be aware that pressure will be produced, so you don’t want to leave it for days and days.”

Katz recommends checking the jar on a daily basis to release the pressure — and then after maybe 3-5 days, enjoying your new creation.

“The flavors transform very quickly,” he says. “The bacteria proliferate, the texture changes, and what I recommend to people experimenting for the first time, is just to taste it at periodic intervals. And then you’re getting a sense of whether you’re liking it more and more as the flavor gets more acidic or whether it’s acidic enough and you want to move it into your fermentation-slowing device, which is your refrigerator.”

Once you’ve mastered the simple kraut, Katz says you can add spices and/or other items like apples or cranberries to your jar. “You can basically use any season you like,” he says.


Interview Highlights

On making yogurt

“The principle behind yogurt is almost the same as the principle behind sauerkraut. We’re using lactic acid bacteria to preserve food. The method for it is somewhat different. There are many different types of lactic acid bacteria. And the ones that are used in most yogurt traditions are the ones we would describe as thermophilic — meaning they are most active in an elevated temperature range. So usually when you make yogurt, you want to incubate the yogurt by creating an environment that stays in between 110 degrees and 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Yogurt is often the classic example of what is called a cultured food. And the cultures are the community of bacteria that you’re introducing and the act of introducing it is called culturing the food. So yes, to make yogurt, you always need a batch of mature yogurt and that’s what you introduce — a spoonful of mature yogurt that you want to turn into fresh yogurt.”

On probiotics

“Yogurt is a fermented food, and many different types of fermented food — particularly those fermented by lactic acid bacteria — can be thought of as probiotics. … [That can include] fermented vegetables and not only yogurt but kefir and many fermented dairy products and a large group of beverages that I really enjoy that I would group together as sour-tonic beverages. Right now the most famous example of that in the United States might be kombucha. … What’s probiotic about these foods is that the lactic acid in them can help to replenish and diversify the populations in our gut, which due to a number of factors in our contemporary lives — including antibiotic drugs, antibacterial cleansing products, chlorine in water — are subjected to more or less constant attack.”

On why good bacteria are beneficial

“Bacteria in our gut enable us to live. We could not survive without bacteria. … They allow us to digest food, to assimilate the nutrients in our food; and they play a huge role, just beginning to be understood, in our immune functioning and in many other processes in our bodies. All life has evolved from bacteria and no other form of life has lived without bacteria. … Our bacteria perform all sorts of essential functions for us, and because we are continually attacking them effectively with all of these chemicals in our lives, simply replenishing and diversifying these populations has a benefit for us.”

On making sour pickles

“To ferment sour pickles, you take small cucumbers and you mix up a brine, which is simply salty water. The strength of the brine has implications. Usually I’ll add grape leaves as a means to help keep the cucumbers crunchier longer. And then lots of dill and lots of garlic and then it’s just a matter of waiting a couple of days to a couple of weeks, depending on the temperature. The metabolism of all of these organisms speeds up in warmer weather, so in summer heat, the process goes faster. … A cellar is really best if you’re looking to preserve sour pickles for any length of time. Because the cucumbers will have a tendency to float to the surface, I’ll usually place a plate on them to keep them weighted down below the surface of the water.”

On the space between rotten and fresh food

“We reject certain food because it is rotten. Certain food we can see is fresh. But there is this creative space between fresh food and rotten food where most of human culture’s most prized delicacies and culinary achievements exist.”

In the beginning, the self-described “fermentation fetishist” Sandor Katz loved sour pickles.

“For whatever reason, I was drawn to that flavor as a child,” he tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “And then when I was in my 20s, I did quite a bit of dietary experimentation and … I started noticing that whenever I ate sauerkraut or pickles, even the smell of it would make my salivary glands start secreting.”

After Katz moved from New York City to a rural community in Tennessee, his fascination with all things fermented increased.

“I got involved in keeping a garden,” he says. “And what motivated me [to ferment] was the practical desire to make use of the bounty of the garden. It came as a little bit of a surprise to me that all of the cabbages were ready at the same time and all of the radishes were ready at the same time. And this is the practical dilemma that gardeners have always faced. … Really, agriculture makes no sense without fermentation, and that’s what got me into the joy of cooking and making sauerkraut for the first time.”

Katz expanded from sauerkraut into anything and everything pickled, malted and brined. He has spent the past decades traveling around the country, demonstrating the wonders of sauerkraut, sour pickles and other food items transformed at some point during their production process by microscopic bacteria.

Last week, Katz spoke to Terry Gross about how fermentation works and shared his favorite recipes for yogurt and sauerkraut. Now, Katz returns to Fresh Air for a lively discussion about cured meats, cheeses — and some fermented beverages (notably wine and beer).

Katz is the author of several books about fermentation, including Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved. His latest, The Art of Fermentation, collects many of his recipes and tricks for do-it-yourself, at-home fermenting.

On why cheese is stable

“We could really think of a chunk of cheddar or Parmesan cheese as a form of preserved milk. Think how stable that is, the cheese compared to the milk. And one reason for this is the removal of liquid. Another is the acidification. Just as with sauerkraut, the acidification makes it impossible for bacteria we regard as pathogenic or threatening to us to develop, because they can’t tolerate an acidic environment.”

On meat

“Meat is the most perishable of all the foods that people eat. So it’s imperative that we have a way of preserving meat. People use a range of techniques, including drying, salting and smoking. Sometimes it’s been elusive which cured and preserved meat products are products of fermentation … but I think the clearest example of a fermented meat process would be salami. Basically salami is ground meat that is mixed with salt and curing salts and spices and a little bit of sugar. And what the little bit of sugar does is support a lactic-acid fermentation. The nutrient for lactic-acid bacteria, which meat lacks, is carbohydrates. So by adding some carbohydrates, you promote lactic-acid development, and so the lactic acid becomes part of what enables that salami to just hang on a string in a deli for months and months.”

On wine

“Ferment it for two weeks, and already more than half the potential alcohol has been produced, and you can just have a party and enjoy your wine without ever bottling it or aging it. That would be a green or young wine. … If you want to ferment it to dryness — meaning to the point where all of the sugars are converted into alcohol — then once your bubbling peaks and begins to slow down, then you need to transfer it to a different type of vessel where it won’t be exposed to oxygen.

“Typically we move it into a vessel that’s known as a ‘carboy,’ which looks like a narrow-neck vessel. And then you put a device on it called an airlock, which allows carbon dioxide to escape but doesn’t allow oxygen from outside the vessel in to allow for vinegar formation. Then once the bubbling stops, typically people will siphon it into a second vessel, which can restart fermentation and get the last of the sugars to be fermented. And then, after it stops again, you would bottle it and cork it.”

On beer

“Fruit and honey will spontaneously ferment into alcohol, whereas grains, which are complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates, need to be predigested. They need to have those complex carbs broken down into simple carbs. In the Western tradition of beer-making, we do this through malting — which is germination, or sprouting. In the Asian tradition, molds are used. And really, the most ancient method of doing this is chewing — using our human saliva to break down starches into sugars, and then you brew the beer from the grains which have already been malted or otherwise enzymatically broken down into starches.”

From New Composter to Poo Composter: A Green Garbage Guide

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

The following article was adapted for the web from Composting: An Easy Household Guide by Nicky Scott and The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins.

There are a bewildering amount of different composting systems and bins available on the market. This article will help you choose which bin or system suits your lifestyle, your family, your house, or apartment.

Composting systems broadly fall into two types:

  • THE FIRST TYPE deals with fresh, uncooked fruit and vegetable skins and peelings, cardboard and paper, as well as green garden waste materials—prunings, hedge clippings, etc.
  • THE SECOND TYPE deals with all but can also be used for other food wastes as well, such as cooked food, meat, fish, cheese, fats, and grease.

Level 1: COMPOSTING SYSTEMS FOR THE BEGINNER

DALEK-TYPE BIN
The compost bin that most people are familiar with is the plastic ‘Dalek’-type bin. Sizes vary from 50 gallons to over 175 gallons; some have access/inspection hatches, and they come in a variety of colors. These bins are available through some sanitation departments, water companies, garden centers, and on-line.

TUMBLERS
Because uncooked fruit and vegetable waste is dense and wet, one way to deal with it is to aerate it by putting it in a tumbler. A tumbler consists of a drum mounted on a stand; they either tumble end over end, or around on their axis. They are also useful for dealing with perennial weeds and for mixing materials. However, they take up a lot of space. The coarse compost they produce can be used directly on the garden or can be placed in a covered pile in your garden to enable it to mature to a finer product.

DIGESTERS
The most common digester is the Green Cone. It consists of a basket, rather like a washing basket, which is buried in the ground with a double-skin cone, which is all that is visible above ground. This makes it difficult for rats to get in. The material breaks down and is pulled into the surrounding soil by worms. A digester is more of a waste-disposal option, since you don’t harvest the compost.

Green Cones are available on-line and at some big garden centers. See Solarcone, Inc.

Level 2: COMPOSTING SYSTEMS FOR THE ENTHUSIAST
As your confidence and understanding of composting increases, you will want to increase the range and amount of materials you compost. Certain materials present us with challenges, and just about anything in large quantities can be a challenge. Once you feel more confident you can move away from making compost in a plastic container and make your own compost heap, or even a ‘hot heap.’

THE HOT HEAP
This system gives you the opportunity to make much larger quantities of excellent compost quickly to use on your garden. It’s also fascinating and fun.

  • Option 1: No box – a pile on the ground
    Assemble as much material as you can–ideally enough to make a 4’ x 4’ roughly cube-shaped pile. You can heap the materials up as high as you can reach–it will end up being conical.

  • Option 2: Put it in a box
    You can make a cheap simple box to contain your heap out of old pallets. These can simply be tied together, and you can easily insulate them if desired.

  • Option 3: Use two boxes
    twoboxes.pngThe ’Rolls-Royce’ design for this type of heap is the New Zealand box. You can buy one ready-made, or construct your own.

 

When the heap is built, cover it with some old plastic sacks to keep in the water vapor that will be given off and some old carpet that will help to keep the heat in.

Level 3: A CERTIFIED (AND CERTIFIABLE) COMPOSTER – Web Exclusive!

For those of you who want to climb to the top of the compost mountain, you will need to get there through humanure. Well…not through humanure…but by composting your—and your family’s—waste. This is the ultimate in compost creation and it has many benefits to boot. And yes, I mean more than just the poop jokes.

The Toilet

  • Option 1: A mobile bucket. Some people elect to cap an unfortunate bucket with a customized toilet seat and sealing lid. Then they simply use the bucket as their toilet. (See here.)
  • Option 2: A built-in. Some folks prefer to remove their old toilet in favor of a built-in installation of the new compost toilet. (See here.)
  • Option 3: The Hacienda. Serious humanure enthusiasts dedicate some square footage in their yard to a ‘humanure hacienda.’ This is essentially an out-house, and is most appropriate in warmer climates. (See here.)

The Humanure Pile
Composting humanure isn’t much different from the techniques above. The major difference is volume.. This means that you will need more than one (preferably three) sizable (about 5 ft tall by 4 ft square) compost bins. You should fill up each bin, each year, and then leave it to compost while you move on to the next bin. Start each bin by filling the bottom 18 inches or more with course, absorbant organic material. This will act as a biological sponge.

The humanure pile, like the contents of your toilet bucket, must always be covered with a clean organic material. On top of the clean organic top layer, you should place some sort of wire fencing to keep larger rodents out of the pile. This is especially necessary if you choose to combine your humanure and food compost.

Using the Compost
Once a compost bin is full and ready (after a year of aging), you can begin to use the compost for agricultural purposes.

References and Resources:

Happy composting!

Celebrate National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Each month of the year is full of special holidays and both official and unofficial designations for celebration.

June is no exception, and we’ve already celebrated its status as Perennial Gardening Month, as well as the temporal home of Father’s Day, with special selections of books from our catalog.

June is also National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, so we’ve put together a list of books that will help you grow, cook, and preserve your favorites.

From the eternally useful and pungent garlic, to the piquant and imperiled chile pepper, to wondrously tasty weeds, and succulent squashes, we’ve got the book for you. All these titles are on sale for 25% off until June 24th.

Wild Flavors: One Chef’s Transformative Year Cooking from Eva’s Farm by Didi Emmons

When creative chef Emmons meets eccentric and inspired farmer Eva Sommaripa, delicious recipes emerge from unusual plants.

Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail by Kurt Michael Friese, Kraig Kraft, Gary Nabhan

Over a year-long journey, an agroecologist, a chef, and an ethnobotanist set out to find the real stories of America’s rarest heirloom chile varieties.

Growing Great Garlic: The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers by Ron L. Engeland

The definitive grower’s guide written by a small scale farmer who makes his living growing over 200 strains of garlic. Commercial growers will want to consult this book regularly.

Whole Foods Companion: A Guide for Adventurous Cooks, Curious Shoppers, and Lovers of Natural Foods by Dianne Onstad

What if you could have information about more than 400 foods at your fingertips? You can find it all in the new edition of Whole Foods Companion.

The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times by Carol Deppe

Goes beyond traditional gardening guides, giving readers the tools to be self-reliant no matter what the world throws their way. Includes growing and cooking information on five key crops: corn, beans, squash, potatoes, and eggs.

Facing Peak Oil with Good Humor: Matt Harvey Visits Transition Town Totnes

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Matt Harvey is a well-known UK poet and comedian, and author of the upcoming book Where Earwigs Dare.

Rob Hopkins is the founder of the Transition Network and author of The Transition Companion, The Transition Handbook, and The Transition Timeline.

In this video from 2010 the two speak about the Transition Town Movement, and why we should prepare for a world without cheap energy.


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