F.A. Farm

  (Ferndale, Washington)
Postmodern Agriculture - Food With Full Attention
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Dining With Michael Pollan

Toni and I regularly eat a late supper. She works long hours as a social worker and I am always "on" with farmwork, housework, computer work, etc. I also get stronger as twilight comes on, what the Old Norse called "kveldulfur" or "evening wolf." This is nothing to sneeze at, as I am nearing 60 and being tired in the middle of the day is a common occurrence. Anyway, last night KUOW, one of the Seattle radio stations, had a replay of Michael Pollan's talk in Seattle on January 12, 2009. Since I read his last three books and Toni and I are actively involved in the same proselytizing, we made supper and ate while listening to his talk. Our menu hit several points he made in his speech (basically a recap of his latest book, In Defense of Food). There was the red wine (the French paradox), fresh Brussels sprouts and boiled potatoes (eat mostly plants), grass-fed hamburgers (stay away from corn-fed beef), homemade whole wheat bread (do for yourself), and pumpkin pie (take a cue from the Native Americans and adapt it to your needs). A wonderful repast - the conversation and background were sparkling.

Okay, now to a single crux point. One of Pollan's rhetorical flourishes was to ask, "How do we change the western diet without changing western civilization?" The answer is, "We can't. Nor should we." Western civilization is one of the major problems in the world. Over the last 40 years, as a "dirty hippie," street radical, homeless ragamuffin, ski bum, circus ringmaster, medieval armor-maker, archaeologist, word processor, law school student, grad student, anthropology instructor and now sustainable farmer, there have been several constants in my worldview. One of these is that state-level societies are the real problem. Clan-based societies never really marshall enough resources to change the world in such a dramatic fashion as we have witnessed in the last 150 years. Only civilization could produce industrialism. A return to tribalism is now being identified as a key to the conflict in the Mideast and the greater Arab world. Obviously, there is a pushback against western civilization, as well as an implosion since it just doesn't work. Ancient civilizations required slaves and our modern civilizations are built upon the energy slave of petroleum products. This will not last and civilization itself seems doomed. So . . . Is this a bad thing? I didn't think so in the 60's and I don't think so now. We can hasten the demise of western civilization by not eating a western civilization diet. The idea of eating as a political act has been hammered to death over the years, but it still survives. Like tribal and clan culture, eating food (not food-like products) will survive the collapse of western civilization. Many people look for a seamless transition from our current troubles to a localized community. It's not likely, so amongst the joy of eating good food, we should keep our wits about us and try not to get hit by the debris of the crumbling western empires.


Sustainability at the Stein

Last night we had our first Sustainability at the Stein group night. The Frank N Stein is a local brewpub (smallest brewpub in America!) owned by Lloyd Zimmerman and located in Ferndale, Washington. They are open Wednesdays - Saturdays, starting at 5 pm. This is my regular hangout on Wednesday nights, so Lloyd and I decided to do an informal casual meeting on Wednesdays at 6 pm (approximately - this is Ferndale). Last night was our first night and there were 6 of us, including my significant other and myself. Three of the other people were backyard gardeners wanting to increase production and the other person is doing a startup business based on selling local products, featuring both crafts and agricultural produce. I also got my Fedco seed order yesterday, so I delivered the seeds to one person who had ordered cooperatively with me. The idea was to bring at least one topic to the table and let the talk flow. This worked quite well. As most of my friends know, I hate meetings and corporate mindsets, so the informal atmosphere, availability of beer and comfy chairs was conducive to good discussion. The topic I brought last night was sprouts, since I am currently flogging sprouts as a cheap, easy alternative to storebought winter greens. We usually have greens in the garden all winter up here in the rain belt, but this winter was colder than usual and my broccoli, chard, mustard mix, collards, mache, etc. are all frozen out. (I don't have a greenhouse or hoop tunnel.) For those of you who read my blogs, I did a blog on sprouts earlier on this forum. At last night's meeting, I brought several jars with sprouts in various stages of growth and the radish sprouts were the most popular. The discussion also spread to bio-charcoal, late blight in tomatoes and the local farmers market. We want to continue this informal group night into the indefinite future and I invite anyone in the area to stop by. The beer is good and also cheap by Bellingham standards. I like this concept of maximum flexibility with people just showing up but having something to contribrute. What I don't want to see is someone coming by with a product to sell and a polished pitch. I really dislike branding and other aspects of the corporate playbook. In fact, I am starting to read Naomi Klein's No Logo (2000), which is all about the rise of branding and problems created by mega-corporations who buy outsourced products, slap a brand on them and market the brand, not the product. But . . . that is fuel for another blog. 

Don't Forget the Sprouts

In your desire to eat healthy on a budget, don't forget the sprouts. Right now, I have alfalfa, mung, radish and aduki sprouts going in quart jars. I use a canning ring and a piece of nylon window screen trimmed to fit inside the ring. You can use the actual lid for a template and draw a circle, then cut out the screen. It fits good. I soak the seeds overnight, pour off the water and rinse twice a day. I set them on a towel on top of the refrigerator. I eat the radish and alfalfa sprouts raw and steam the mung, lentil, aduki and even pea sprouts. You can do soy sprouts and onion sprouts too. Your local co-op has all kinds of sprouting seeds and lentils can be had anywhere. Sprouts are cheap, even if you have to pay a lot for the seeds, since you get so many pounds of sprouts from a single pound of seeds. Don't buy too much at the store the first time, as they go a long way. I usually cover the bottom of the jar by way of measuring. You will be amazed at how fast they grow and how much they increase. Even though we have fresh vegetables year-round on the farm, I still have to have my sprouts in the winter.
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