Monday, May 31, 2010

She cultivates organic farming and healthy eating


And she's not just lofty talk. After her center hosted a series of meetings across the state in 2008 to hear from people interested in organic farming, Creamer brought together a broad-based group to take those ideas and write "From Farm to Fork: A Guide to Building North Carolina's Sustainable Local Food Economy."

The 97-page, bound document consists of nine recommendations - "game changers," Creamer calls them - including recruiting young farmers, expanding local market opportunities and getting the locally grown food into schools.

Now, Creamer is working to not only change the state's economic conditions, but also how people eat.

Next month, Creamer's center will launch a campaign to encourage all businesses, industries and individuals in this state to commit to spending 10 percent of their food money on locally grown products.

A successful campaign could create a $3.5 billion industry in this state.

Those already in the organic farming scene say if anyone can do this, it's Creamer.

"She's one of the most important champions on local, organic food and farms in the Southeast," said RolandMcReynolds, executive director of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, which promotes local and organic agriculture. "It's amazing to have someone with her knowledge and skill leading universities to make the progress they have."

The path to agriculture

Creamer, 52, grew up in Southern California on a poultry farm with 80,000 chickens. Her family sold the eggs. As a teenager, Creamer was determined not go to into agriculture, so she headed to the coast to attend the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she majored in psychology. After graduation in 1979, Creamer lived for nine months in India, where she saw people starving. It got her thinking about food and how to grow more of it for the hungry.

"I thought the answer was more food production," Creamer said.

She was inspired to study international agriculture development. In 1995, she came to N.C. State as a horticulture professor and worked in an outpost in Plymouth studying potatoes. By 2000, she was named director of the newly created environmental farming center.

For the last decade, she's procured grants from the likes of the Z. Smith Reynolds and Golden Leaf foundations.

Now, she's focused on carrying out the farm-to-fork initiative.

The problem, Creamer says, is "we've lost a lot of infrastructure."

For example, she said, a small-scale organic pig farmer can raise the pigs, but there are not small-scale slaughter facilities nearby. Often these farmers have to travel out of state to other facilities. In addition, these farmers need a way to package their produce. Creating this type of "infrastructure" in this state, she said, would create jobs and keep money here.

"People want to grow, and people want to buy," she said.

Organic food sales up

As proof, the Farm to Fork guide says national sales of organic foods are about $25 billion and continue to increase, despite the economic downturn. And local food sales are expected to reach $7 billion by 2011.

In 2009, North Carolinians spent roughly $35 billion on food.

If all the state's residents spent 10 percent of food dollars on local foods, the report says, about $3.5 billion would be available in the local economy every year, and part of that would flow back to farmers and food businesses.

People who work with Creamer say she has the gift of bringing different parties to the table to get this done. "She is so passionate and fearless," said Debbie Roos, Chatham County's extension agent, who focuses on organic farming and is an ex-officio member of the center's board.

Roos, who says Creamer helped her find her job in Chatham, says Creamer is humble, too, which enables her to work well with everyone. Roos laughed as she spoke about Creamer recently sending e-mail to the center's board, and at the end Creamer essentially wrote "oh by the way," NCSU named her a distinguished professor of sustainable and community-based food systems, Roos said. So Roos sent the announcement to her e-mail list of 2,000 because Creamer never would, Roos said. But that's Creamer, Roos said, never taking the spotlight.

The Farm to Fork initiative touches not only those growing and buying the food, but also so many others, including health officials.

After all, 64 percent of North Carolinians are considered overweight or obese. One reason, Creamer said, is people don't eat as many vegetables as they should. That could be because vegetables are manufactured not for taste, but for surviving cross-country trips in trucks. ,

"We say kids won't eat vegetables, but if we remember what a good peach tastes like, we will gobble it up," she said. "People will eat vegetables if the taste explodes in their mouths."

As part of the initiative, Creamer hopes to get all schools in the state serving locally grown organic food.

She's 'a visionary'

In addition to the Farm to Fork initiative, the center runs myriad programs, including an annual lecture from prominent sustainable agriculture experts.

This year, Creamer is working along the same lines as first lady Michelle Obama, who had an organic garden planted at the White House and is working to stamp out childhood obesity.

And today, you'll find Creamer at the Farm to Fork picnic, which pairs local farmers with local chefs, who create spectacular dishes from the farmers' food. Bon App├ętit magazine calls it the best "All you can eat buffet" in the country, and the 500 tickets are sold out.

The event raises money for farmer apprentice programs, one of which the center runs at its 2,000-acre farm in Goldsboro.

Among the participating chefs is Andrea Reusing, chef and owner of Lantern, a restaurant in Chapel Hill. She also serves on the center's board.

"Nancy is a visionary," Reusing said. "She is totally a force of nature and had the vision that lots of people with many differences can be brought together around issues of access to local food."

The value of Creamer's work, Reusing said, will be felt by North Carolinians for "100 years into the future.

article from the News Observer

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus, & Vegetable Insect Control - a good idea?!?

Dear Friends,
Whether you are a gardener or horticultural professional you need to be aware of the dangers associated with a new garden pesticide on the market.

Our environmental/pesticide regulators have approved a pesticide for home garden use that works by the pesticide being absorbed by the plant. So every bit you take from the vegetable you get to eat some of the pesticide in it. There are label restrictions and recommendations but they are in tiny print and how many home owners are going to take the time to read the pages upon pages of tiny print on the label and then follow those instructions. Who has eyes good enough to read that stuff.

A friend/associate of mine who operates a local nursery wrote a great article about the issue. Know that he is not organic but does believe in using least toxic IPM strategies. If someone in the nursery industry can come out and say what he did in his blog, I don't think I need to say any more.

Please go to <> and read his short article. And then be sure not to buy this dangerous product and be sure to tell all your friends that they too must avoid using this product on food crops!

Naturally Yours,
Living Resources Company
Steven Zien
Steven M. Zien

Join the Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns today!
This is the article referred to above:
Posted by Don Shor
Friday, May 21, 2010

Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus, & Vegetable Insect Control -- a good idea?!?

“I’ve heard there is a new systemic insecticide for vegetables and fruit trees.”
Yes, indeed: Bayer CropScience has introduced Bayer Advanced™ Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control, which you pour on the ground around edible crops. It goes up into the plant and kills insects that are feeding on the plant.
My god, what a terrible idea!
“Keeping your plants protected from listed damaging insects has never been easier.”
Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should!
The active ingredient imidacloprid (Merit) is a widely used neo-nicotinoid systemic insecticide. We recommend it for control of some pests on ornamentals, in situations where you and bees won’t be exposed to it, and it is useful on houseplants. It is the active ingredient in a popular flea control product on pets. It is heavily used on some agricultural crops in California, including head and leaf lettuces and citrus, as well as on turf and ornamentals.

I understand the basic principle of toxicology: the dose makes the poison. How toxic a material is depends on how much you ingest. There are doses that are considered safe for humans. Neonicotinoids are especially toxic to insects and much less so to humans. But the regulatory agencies base their safe dosage on assumptions about our current intake of the product by other sources. You are ingesting imidacloprid regularly when you eat conventional produce, walk across commercially-maintained turf, pet a cat that has been treated with Advantage®, etc.

Ok, so you put this insecticide on the ground, it is taken up by the roots, goes up into the plant and kills anything that sucks or chews on the plant. Then it breaks down steadily in the plant over time. Apparently Bayer and various regulatory agencies believe that it’s ok for you to eat whatever the plant produces because it has diminished to less harmful levels in the plant.

This all assumes you follow the label instructions for the rate per square foot, that you only apply it once a year, and that you wait the specified interval before harvest. Why, one wonders, is it a 21 day waiting period for lettuce, but a 45 day waiting period for Swiss chard?

You can download the 10-page label from Read about imidacloprid at the cooperative-extension maintained site

Here’s what anybody selling, buying, or using this product needs to know:
• You must carefully follow the rate of application per square foot of garden space.
The product is in the plant, including the part you consume. If it provides “Season-Long Protection!” then it is in the plant all season. Including when you harvest.
• It is important to check the interval before harvest for a particular crop, which ranges from 14 to 45 days after application.
You cannot use this product more than once a year. In California we have two full vegetable growing seasons.
• Imidacloprid is very toxic to bees of all kinds. Bees are exposed to it through pollen.
• You should not apply it when trees are blooming or bees are foraging nearby. It can be taken up by the roots of nearby flowering plants. Your garden needs to be entirely separated from plants that bees might visit. Sub-lethal doses to bees have unknown effects. It is one possible factor being reviewed in Colony Collapse Disorder, but has neither been ruled in or out as a cause.
• It is very toxic to earthworms.
I am concerned that the manufacturer and the regulatory agencies have not considered California’s unique gardening climate.
I don’t know if the baseline for acceptable “average” intake from other approved uses has been updated since the mid-1990’s (that is the only data I could find online). There have been many new approved uses of imidacloprid in the last decade, including urgency permits for new pests. Imidacloprid is the pesticide of choice for many of the new pests that arrive in California, so I would guess that we are consuming more and more of it.
I personally would not use it or sell it for edible crops, and urge nursery professionals, Master Gardeners, and landscape gardeners to discourage its use.

Friday, May 21, 2010

American Heart: Wisconsin Man Starts 'Good Food' Revolution

One Man's Passion for Urban Farming Has the White House Taking Note
By Chris Bury and Jessica Hopper   from abc World News with Diane Sawyer
May 18, 2010

Will Allen's 'Good Food' Revolution. His urban farms provide fresh fruits and vegetables to inner city neighborhoods.

Will Allen is a towering figure in his Milwaukee, Wisconsin, field. Working as a farmer, missionary and coach, he preaches the gospel of good food grown in the heart of the city.

"Our new farmers will not come from rural America," Allen said.

As president of the nonprofit organization Growing Power, Allen promotes urban farming among diverse groups in the inner city.

Farming Is in His Blood

Farming is in Allen's blood. Allen's parents worked as sharecroppers in South Carolina. Allen, 61, grew up on a small farm in Maryland. He played pro basketball in his 20s and then toiled in the corporate world. Then, 18 years ago, he spotted a tiny 5-acre farm, the last one left in Milwaukee.

"There was a sign, 'for sale,' for this place and something made me stop," Allen said.

Now, Allen and 40 farmhands grow 160 different crops in solar-powered greenhouses. They also raise fish and house a full barnyard of animals.

"We grow enough food to feed 10,000 people," Allen said.

Food Deserts

The idea is to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to inner city neighborhoods that the big grocery chains have abandoned. "Food Deserts" is what Allen calls the parts of the inner city where food is so scarce.

"The only place they can access good food is right here [at the farm] because we grow it and we bring it in from other farms that are in our co-op," Allen said.

Allen and Growing Power pack up fresh, home-grown food and deliver it to where the need is greatest, such as the local Boys and Girls Club. A week's supply costs $16.

"It's fantastic," Amanda Levoe, program manager of the Boys and Girls Club, said. "It provides them with the groceries for the week that a lot of times they might otherwise not get." 

A 'Good Food' Revolution

To make ends meet, Allen also supplies some of the city's finest kitchens. Chef Jan Kelly of the Meritage restaurant spends up to $400 a week on spinach, sprouts and beans.

"It's like plucking it out of your yard," Kelly said. "It's just delicious."

Allen's passion for urban farming has people flocking to his farm to learn how it's done. Even the White House has noticed. Allen will soon be attending a state dinner there.

Mission Bigger Than a Greenhouse

"It is a revolution," Allen said. "I've kind of coined the phrase, 'a good food revolution.'"

Now, Allen grows wherever he can, from school yards to graveyards.

His next project is a greenhouse five stories high. His mission is even bigger: to plant the seed that cities are a fine place to farm.

Copyright © 2010 ABC News Internet Ventures

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Breaking the Bottle: The Dangers of Perfume

posted by: Stef McDonald
May 13, 2010

Breaking the Bottle: The Dangers of Perfume
I've been a lover of perfume since I was a small child. I loved to examine my mom's collection of pretty perfume bottles, neatly arranged on top of her dresser. Like the scarves in her closet, they were lovely and mysterious. When I was old enough, my mother would spritz my wrist with whatever scent she was wearing at the time. Then, like many girls of my generation, I got my very own perfume: Love's Baby Soft. Oh, how I loved to spray myself with that sweet scent.

That was then. Today, I wouldn't dare use any of those commercially made perfumes. You pick your poison and I've decided that perfume ain't the one for me. One of the tougher lessons I've learned since becoming aware of the dangers of personal care products is that most perfumes contain chemical toxins I don't want on or anywhere near my body. Worst of all: you don't really know what those toxins are because of old laws protecting perfume makers from revealing their trade secrets. And this applies to all products, not only perfumes. When you see the word "fragrance" on a label, you're being hoodwinked. "Fragrance" can include numerous chemicals that are not good for you (or the environment).

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics just released a report on a study of the health risks of fragrance: "Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance." Put simply: the news stinks. Perfume lovers who are unaware of what's in their bottles will have a hard time with the findings--just as I was shocked and more than a little saddened when I consulted the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website a few years ago to learn about what's found in personal care products. How bad can a little perfume be, right? Wrong--unless you're okay with using chemicals classified as hormone disruptors that can increase your risk of cancer, or harm a developing fetus, or contribute to thyroid and other problems. It's even worse when you consider how many other products we use regularly and how many other environmental toxins we're exposed to. It's black and white for me: if I know it could be bad for me, I'm not gonna use it.

After my enlightenment a few years ago--feeling like I was a graduate of the beauty school of hard knocks--I was faced with my own dresser of pretty perfume bottles I had collected over the years. They had to go. But what I discovered was more delightful than I could have imagined: there are pure and safe and stunningly beautiful perfumes being made that are far superior to the ones I had used. Now, I am a lover of perfumes made from pure essential oils--nothing artificial, nothing toxic. My dresser is now filled with small bottles of non-toxic oils and perfume blends I've found to satisfy my love of scent without sacrificing my well-being. You can begin your own search by finding a list of safe makers of perfume and other personal care products on the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics site and the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

All About DIRT!

Dirt the Movie is truly "All about dirt."

Dirt the Movie

DIRT! The Movie, tells the amazing and little known story of the relationship between humans and living dirt.

Why Dirt?

Dirt feeds us and gives us shelter. Dirt holds and cleans our water. Dirt heals us and makes us beautiful. Dirt regulates the earth's climate. Dirt is the ultimate natural resource for all life on earth.
Yet most humans ignore, abuse, and destroy our most precious living natural resource.Consider the results of such behavior: mass starvation, drought, floods, and global warming, and wars. If we continue on our current path, Dirt might find another use for humans, as compost for future life forms.
It doesn't have to be that way. Another world, in which we treat dirt with the respect it deserves, is possible and we'll show you how.
The film offers a vision of a sustainable relationship between Humans and Dirt through profiles of the global visionaries who are determined to repair the damage we've done before it's too late. There are many ways we can preserve the living skin of the earth for future generations. If you care about your food, water, the air you breathe, your
 health and happiness...

it's time to see DIRT! the Movie, roll up your sleeves for action and Get Dirty.

This is an incredible film and I wanted to make sure you knew about it.

DIRT! The Movie brings to life the environmental, economic, social and political impacts of soil.

If you take anything away from this film, know that we’re all in it together. The benefits of fertile soil are available for all of us to enjoy and the responsibility rests on all of us to take care of it.

Check out the trailer below.

and sign up to find out how to see DIRT! The Movie in your community.
You may also purchase the movie,
as well as great T-shirts, hats, and dirt bags.

For Educational Materials About Dirt & Soil
Please See the Educational Study Guide, Links and Other Resources
on the website.

and you can click here to get a pdf. of the Resources