OCTOBER COOKING CHALLENGE : Week 1, Meal 1 – Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Calzones

These are easier than you think, and quite delicious! I decided to do the calzones first because I didn’t want to keep the pizza dough too long. This recipe uses a bunch of the greens, and it is a good idea to prioritise use of greens first.

I asked my driver to deliver my order to my home on Friday, and I brought it inside later in the day when I got home. I did this because I wanted ‘the customer experience’. These greens have been sitting in my fridge since Friday. One of the reasons they keep their freshness is because they are stored in Vejibags. Greens in plastic bags never work, but wrapped in soft, organic, wet cotton toweling they will keep for at least ten days.


1lb sweet potatoes

1 bunch swiss chard

1 head lettuce

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes

1 lemon

1 green pepper

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1lb pizza dough

4oz Atwells Gold cheese

8oz Poblano Farm pasta sauce

4 tablespoons olive oil

Step 1 – Prepare Vegetables (10 minutes)



Before you begin, preheat oven to 475 degrees


Peel and dice sweet potatoes

De-stem and chop up chard

Slice cherry tomatoes in half

Shred lettuce by hand

Cut half a lemon into wedges

Mince garlic

Core and dice pepper

Dice cheese

Step 2 – Sauté (15 minutes)



Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large pan over medium heat

Add sweet potato and garlic, sauté for ten minutes

Add swiss chard, keep over heat until wilted

Add 1/5 the jar of pasta sauce and remove from heat






Step 3 – Assemble Calzones (10 minutes)



Dust flat surface with flour, divide dough into four balls

Roll ball out flat until it is about the size of a side plate

Dust baking sheet with flour, lay out flat dough

Spoon sweet potato and chard onto one side, add blocks of diced cheese

Fold over, and press edges closed with a fork

Tip: I assembled these on the baking sheet so that I wouldn’t have to move them once assembled because they are soft

Step 4 – Bake Calzones, Assemble Salad (18 minutes)


Bake calzones in heated oven for 16 to 18 minutes

Add tomatoes and green peppers to lettuce (I had some left over cheese, so added that as well)

For the dressing, mix 3 tablespoons of olive oil with juice from lemon wedges and season with salt and pepper

I had enough time to clean up, stack the dishwasher and wipe down the counters once the salad was made so the kitchen was clean before plating the food



Step 5 – Plating The Food (2 minutes)



Four plates – each get their own calzone and dressed salad

Divide the remaining pasta sauce between the four plates for dipping








Quick Analysis

Assessment: Terrific Meatless Monday meal. It was very filling, everybody cleaned their plate. The dipping sauce was nice to have because the parts of the calzone without filling were very dry. I barely tasted the chard which is a plus if you have fussy kids like me. I loved the salad dressing, but then lemon, olive oil, and pepper are one my go-to favorites.

Total time: 55 minutes

Mess factor: one large pan and a baking sheet (and lots of bowls if you are photographing the process LOL)


Waste: I saved the chard stems, garlic peels, pepper core and stem, and the sweet potato peels for a veggie stock later in the week.

I composted the cardboard pint container, lemon tips, and outer lettuce leaves.

I put the elastics from the chard and the tomatoes in my office drawer to reuse.

Not featured is the glass jar from the pasta sauce – it was in the dishwasher!

It was just the plastic the cheese was wrapped in, and the bag the dough came in that needed to be recycled.

 What’s Left Over for the Week?

1 spaghetti squash

4 ears corn

1 bunch radishes

2lb sweet potatoes  1lb sweet potatoes

1 bunch brussel sprout leaves

1lb sweet peppers 2 sweet peppers

1lb green beans

1 fennel bulb

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes

1 green leaf lettuce 1/2 a green leaf lettuce

1 bunch swiss chard

1.2lb chicken thighs from Feather Brook Farm

8oz Atwells Gold cheese from Narragansett Creamery 4oz cheese

16oz pasta sauce from Poblano Farms

1 lemon 1/2 a lemon

8oz of garlic 6oz garlic

1 bunch of cilantro

1lb pizza dough

1 can organic garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

10oz GMO-free lo mein egg noodles

1 can organic coconut milk

Nearly two decades of data reinforce concerns that pesticides are really bad for bees.

beesAdapted from article by Chelsea Harvey, Washington Post

New research has provided some of the strongest evidence yet that pesticides can do serious, long-term damage to bee populations. The new study examines the question of whether the use of a common (and highly controversial) class of pesticides called neonicotinoids can be linked to wild bee declines in England. The results suggest that this could be the case.

Using 18 years of data collected on more than 60 bee species in England, the researchers found that species foraging on pesticide-treated crops have experienced much more severe losses than species foraging on other plants. The study provides some of the first evidence that the effects of neonicotinoid exposure can cause major damage to bees. “It’s nice to see the use of long-term data to look at trends in pesticide impacts over longer time scales,” said Dara Stanley, a plant ecology lecturer at the National University of Ireland Galway, by email. (Stanley has previously conducted research on the effects of neonicotinoids in bees, but was not involved with the new study.) “That is something that has been missing in the debate on bees and pesticides so far, and there have been many calls to look at effects over time.”

In 2013, the European Union placed a ban on the use of multiple neonicotinoid pesticides, citing their potential danger to bees, although a few exemptions have since been allowed in the United Kingdom. Neonicotinoids are still widely used in many other places around the world, including in the United States. They’re produced by a number of different manufacturers and include household names such as Bayer’s Admire Pro insecticide, which includes a neonicotinoid called imidacloprid, or Syngenta’s Actara insecticide, which contains thiamethoxam. Until now, most of the research on their effects has been limited to short-term, small-scale studies, many of them performed in laboratory settings, said Ben Woodcock, an ecological entomologist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in the U.K. and the paper’s lead author. They’ve also tended to focus on just a few species. The new study, on the other hand, relies on field data collected on many species over nearly two decades.

The researchers focused on the different responses between bee species that forage on pesticide-treated oilseed rape crops — the same plants commonly used to make canola oil — and bees that forage on other plants. Oilseed rape crops are widely treated with neonicotinoids around the world, and the practice began on a wide scale in the U.K. starting in 2002.  It’s the biggest mass flowering crop in the U.K. where neonicotinoids have been widely applied, according to Woodcock, making it an ideal subject for the study.

The researchers were interested in finding out whether bee species that forage on oilseed rape plants have experienced greater declines than bee species that don’t. So they gathered nearly 20 years’ worth of data, mostly collected in surveys by citizen scientists between 1994 and 2011, on where bee species have been spotted and what plants they foraged on. Different species often prefer to snack on different plants, and some of the included species visited oilseed rape plants while others didn’t do so at all. The researchers incorporated all the data, along with information on oilseed rape cover and pesticide use in the U.K., into a model that helped them analyze all the information.

The findings support the previous research which indicates that neonicotinoids can have damaging effects on bees — and they also suggest that these effects could result in serious population declines on a large scale in the long term.

In the meantime, scientists from Bayer Crop Science, a major manufacturer of neonicotinoid pesticides, took issue with the study’s correlational findings, which they’ve pointed out cannot be used to argue with certainty that pesticides cause declines in bees. A statement from the company, sent to The Washington Post by Bayer spokesperson Jeffrey Donald, summarized their complaint.

“The authors chose to investigate only one potential factor, namely neonicotinoid insecticides,” the statement said. “This was chosen out of many different factors which may have an influence on the development of wild bees, for example landscape structures, climatic conditions, availability of specific foraging plants and nesting habitats. It is a well-known fact that the structure of agricultural landscapes in large parts of Europe has changed substantially in the last decades. The area of landscape structures available for nesting or foraging, especially for specialized species, has significantly declined, resulting in fewer habitats for pollinators.”

“Bees have been undergoing declines for a long time and it’s been linked to a number of things — habitat fragmentation, climate change,” Woodcock said. “This is a contributing factor to bee declines, it’s not the sole cause. If you stop using neonicotinoids tomorrow, you wouldn’t solve the problem.” But many experts feel that limiting their use would certainly help. Krupke, the Purdue entomologist said “But I think in areas where pesticides are used extensively…that pesticides are high on the list of concern.”

Glyphosate: Not So Easy to Escape

From Berkshire Organics

First releasedround up commercially in 1974, glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, as well as DuPont’s Abundit and BASF’s Extreme brands.  After the introduction of “Roundup Ready” soybean crops in 1996, other glyphosate-resistant crops soon emerged—and its corresponding use increased dramatically. Over 20 years later, glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in commercial agriculture, and the second most widely used in home gardens—in part due to the misinformation provided by its producers, who have touted their products for years as being rapidly biodegradable and safe for humans and wildlife.  In fact, it was this very promise of safety that kept it from being monitored by the USDA or the FDA. In March 2015, however,  the  World  Health  Organization’s  International  Agency  for  Research  on  Cancer classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. Perhaps in response to this information, the FDA plans to begin testing corn and soybeans within the food supply for glyphosate residue—for the first time ever.

It’s safe to say that these “Roundup Ready” crops will contain glyphosate; however, given the extensive use of the herbicide, it’s also likely to be found in other foods as well. In an effort to get a jump start on this process, the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) USA used an accredited independent laboratory to test both organic and conventional versions of 12 popular breakfast foods and ingredients for glyphosate residue: flour, corn flakes, instant oatmeal, bagels, yogurt, bread, frozen hash browns, potatoes, cream of wheat, eggs, non-dairy creamer, and dairy-based creamer. The testing showed that 10 of the sample ingredients (instant oatmeal, conventional and organic bagels and bread, whole grain oatmeal, conventional and organic eggs, organic dairy and organic soy coffee creamer) contained detectable levels of glyphosate, although most were well under the EPA allowable daily intake (ADI) of 1.75 mg per kg of bodyweight.

However most critics are quick to point out that the EPA’s ADI for glyphosate is almost 6 times higher than that of the European Union. Surprisingly, the highest levels of glyphosate residue were found on foods that have no direct contact with the herbicide, including both organic and conventional eggs and dairy-based coffee creamer.  Gretchen DuBeau, executive and legal director for the ANH-USA states that this is likely evidence “…that it’s being passed on by animals who ingest [glyphosate] in their feed.”

Based on the fact that producers have long touted the chemical as being highly biodegradable, she goes on to state that “This is contrary to everything that regulators and industry scientists have been telling the public.” Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that all of the wheat products tested (including those labeled organic) showed detectable levels of the herbicide.  The ANH said that these findings indicate that glyphosate is being sprayed on crops which are not designed to withstand it—but which for some reason are.

It’s also worth noting that glyphosate was up for its 15-year toxicity reassessment by the EPA in the summer of 2015, but action was postponed for one year.  Furthermore, the FDA has stayed conspicuously silent when questioned by the press about the WHO report released last year, and is dragging its heels on the testing of corn and soy products. Meanwhile Roundup, Abundit, and Extreme are being sprayed on a multitude of crops…and subsequently finding their way into every corner of our nation’s food supply. After reporting on the ANH-USA’s findings, naturopathic medical doctor Alan Kavish at the Center of Health recommends the following: “Continue to eat organic foods, and petition the EPA and your government officials to take an interest—not a donation from Monsanto—in reducing our maximum levels of exposures to EU standards.” To this, South Shore Organics would like to add how important it is to know where your food comes from. Supporting local farms and pushing for non-GMO ingredients allows us to continually strive to offer foods that we can all trust are clean.

Gillam, Carey. “Private Tests Show Cancer-Linked Herbicide in Breakfast Foods; FDA Mum on its Assessments.”
The Huffington Post. 19 April 2016.
“Glyphosate Levels in Breakfast Foods: What is Safe?” The Alliance for Natural Health USA. 19 April 2016.
Kadish, Alan. M.D. “Herbicide (Glyphosate) in Your Organic Eggs and Creamer and More.” Center of Health. 20 April 2016


right to knowBy Pamela Denholm

To get everybody up to speed, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are food products, mostly crops and recently salmon, that have been genetically modified to produce certain traits. Genetic intervention was undertaken because scientists are crossing the species barrier, and inserting genes from an entirely different organism and this cannot be achieved through selective breeding. These foods are in our mainstream food system.

There is a lot of controversy around these genetically modified foods. Many have called into question their safety, and the environmental impact of using GMO’s is of grave concern – evident by the recent discovery that GMO Canola plants, which are wind pollinated, are already mutating. GMO’s are also banned in twenty-six other countries, including Japan, Russia, Germany, France, and Italy. In the U.S. they are now so widely distributed they are hard to avoid. A very public and grassroots movement across California and New England states called ‘Right to Know’, is fighting to have GMO foods in our grocery stores labeled as such (as they are in other countries – England for one). The movement has been gaining momentum, with Vermont to be the first state to actually pass laws around the labeling of GMO products.

However, on July 29th, 2016 President Obama signed bill S.764 into law. This law, called the DARK Act, supersedes Vermont’s GMO labeling law, and it has created a lot of confusion amongst the general public because it is being paraded as a broader, Federal solution to the cry for labeling primarily because it gives the USDA two years to come up with labeling criteria for GMO’s that will be nationally implemented. Sounds like a solution right? Wrong. I’d like to clear up any confusion, and share with you why it’s NOT the solution we fought for and I’ll be concise:

  • DARK Act literally stands for Deny Americans the Right to Know.
  • It excludes most processed foods from the label (most processed foods that contain GMO’s)
  • Companies will not have to declare on the package that the product contains GMO’s, consumers will be required to use phones to scan barcodes and then visit a website, or call a number.
  • There will be no enforcement or penalty if products are not labeled

Looks like they a window dressing solution, doesn’t it? What is upsetting was that a grass roots movement driven by individuals with no hidden agenda was undermined by corporations. Here is how the bill got enacted:

  • 764 began life as “A bill to reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act”
  • That original bill, which had nothing to do with food labeling, was initially passed by the Senate, but since it never made it any further, Sen. McConnell then hollowed out S. 764 and replaced it with a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Then that text was gutted and replaced with the first attempt at outlawing state-level GMO labeling laws by creating a voluntary national labeling standard.
  • When that bill failed – and with the July 1 launch of the Vermont labels approaching – two of the Senate’s biggest recipients of agribusiness money, Sen. Pat Roberts (KS) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI) rushed out a “compromise” bill that would eventually create a national standard while outlawing any state-level labeling rules

Because McConnell fast-tracked that bill, it never saw a day in committee, where there would have been hearings involving stakeholders, followed by proposed amendments. Instead, it went straight to the Senate floor, where members from both sides of the political spectrum okayed it with minimal consideration. Call me naïve and idealistic, but fair and equitable process was denied to anybody who fought for their right to know when this bill was enacted last Friday, and it has become more important than ever for anybody who wants the right to know, to vote with their dollar and let their voice be heard.

Resources: Institute for Responsible Technology “President Signs a Law…With Barcodes”, July 29, 2016

Regenerative Landcare

biocharAdapted from Dan Bensonhoff’s article in the NOFA July 2016 Newsletter

Doing less damage is no longer good enough when it comes to addressing cascading challenges like climate change, habitat loss and soil loss. To address these issues, many ecological farming practitioners have been touting the idea of “regenerative agriculture.” But what does it really mean? It stands in clear juxtaposition to the more widely used term, sustainable agriculture. There’s no question that the land and water we are now working with has been massively degraded through decades of unscrupulous industrial practices, ignorance of basic ecological principles, and human folly.

Specifically, in New England, we have inherited numerous overgrazed pastures, polluted rivers, and de-mineralized hay fields. So, as North Dakota farmer Gabe Brown asks: “Why would we want to sustain a degraded land and soil?” and the answer is, we don’t. We want to restore it. But how?

Roughly 6,000 years ago the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin developed a technique that allowed them to sustain intensive agriculture on soils generally considered to be extremely nutrient-poor. By applying biochar made from excess vegetation in an oxygen-less burn, they were able to continuously plant crops on the same land year after year, whereas those that weren’t using biochar generally had to allow land to lie fallow for a decade or more before it was considered ready for agriculture again.

Since the discovery of this Amazonian “Terra Prata” (literally, “dark earth”), research on biochar has found that when biochar is carefully made and integrated into farm systems, the resulting farm system can actually be carbon-positive, meaning that the system captures more carbon that it emits (on a farm, carbon is emitted through tillage, motorized equipment, plastics, etc.). Biochar is reported to have a half-life ranging from decades to millennia, depending on the feedstock used to make it, meaning that once it’s in your soil it will stay in a stable form much longer than other plant material.

Even more impressive, biochar can be made using cheap agricultural or forestry by-products. These materials, which include wood chips, nut shells, manure, bones, and much more, would otherwise be burned or left to oxidize, thus adding carbon to the atmosphere. Through pyrolysis (oxygen-less burning), those by-products become much harder for soil microorganisms to break down, hence why they have a longer half-life.

The pyrolysis process also imbues a spongy, porous structure to the biochar. Those pores then become ideal habitat for bacteria, fungi, and nematodes, which in turn mineralize (make available) the nutrients that crops feed on. Other major advantages that biochar offers farmers and gardeners include…

enhanced water retention

moderation of soil acidity

increased cation exchange capacity

less leaching of nitrogen and other water-soluble nutrients

Biochar is not the only way we can restore soils, we can also restore soil by planting cover crops, or, where you have ground cover, increasing the diversity of grasses you plant. By seeding diversified stands of cover crops or ground cover, your soil will reap benefits that a monoculture stands of rye, fescue, or oats cannot achieve. This technique, often known as cocktail cover cropping, combines the services of a number of different types of cover crops simultaneously. By mixing together grasses, legumes, and other broadleaf plants, the cover crop will produce more overall biomass and nitrogen, tolerate adverse conditions, increase winter survival, provide ground cover, improve weed control, attract a wider range of beneficial insects and pollinators, and provide more options for use as forage. Essentially, this technique mimics natural grasslands, which are never composed of one plant family, much less one or two species.

Rain, Rain – Please Don’t Go Away

mass mapJust in the last few weeks I have looked with dismay as my lovely green lawn slowly turned into patches of brown. A lot of the beautiful lawns I drive by seem to be suffering a similar fate, despite desperate attempts to reverse the situation with sprinklers and hoses. Unfortunately nothing can replace a good downpour that goes deep into the soil giving life to the roots of a plant. While reading about the current rainfall pattern I found the following interesting information. Drought is a temporary hazard of nature occurring from a lack of precipitation over an extended period of time. Drought differs from aridity, a permanent feature of climate restricted to regions of low rainfall. Rainfall deficiencies caused by a drought create a severe hydrologic imbalance resulting in considerable water shortages.

The beginning of a drought is typically determined by comparing the current meteorological situation to an average based on a 30-year period of record. This “operational” definition of drought allows meteorologists to analyze the frequency, severity, and duration of the aberration for any given historical period and aides in the development of response and mitigation strategies.

The wet weather of the last several months has significantly improved long-term drought conditions. But long-term drought is lingering in some areas, and short-term dry conditions have developed in others. Massachusetts has seen less rainfall than usual this month, leading to moderate drought conditions in several areas, officials said.

Though a place is not officially suffering a drought until the state declares one, the National Drought Mitigation Center rated the conditions in Essex County, most of Middlesex County, and parts of Worcester County as “D1 intensity,” the least-intense type of drought.

The center considers the rest of the state “abnormally dry.” This month, Boston has received 1.69 fewer inches of rain than normal.

In severe drought conditions, which are expected to increase with climate change, organic farms have the potential to produce high yields because of the higher water-holding capacity of organically farmed soils. Organic farmers can’t rely on synthetic fertilizer to enrich their soils so they use other methods, like mixing in compost, manure and plant debris to fertilize soil. That added organic material locks in moisture and nutrients more effectively than soil that has been conventionally farmed and contains less organic material

The environmental benefits associated with organic agriculture are less contentious than the issue of yield. Studies have shown that organic agriculture, by trading synthetic fertilizers for a deeper dependence on crop management and organic materials, leads to healthier soils that store more carbon, retain more water and nutrients, and lead to less nutrient runoff and water pollution. Poor soil can decrease crop yields, meaning that conventional agriculture, if it damages the soil, could ultimately be less productive in the long-run than organic,

Overall, organic farms tend to store more soil carbon, have better soil quality, and reduce soil erosion. Organic agriculture also creates less soil and water pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions. And it is more energy efficient because it doesn’t rely on synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. It is also associated with greater biodiversity of plants, animals, insects and microbes as well as genetic diversity. Biodiversity increases the services that nature provides like pollination and improves the ability of farming systems to adapt to changing conditions.

By Hazel Bacigalupo

Chemical Load of our Environment

no bugsI am on some of the Facebook gardening groups, and there seems to be a buzz across the board about bees! Not about keeping bees, but about how few we are seeing in our gardens, and I see it my garden too. Bees love certain spots in my garden, they LOVE the sage and salvia flowers, bees simply can’t resist clover – which is starting to flower right now, and they go gaga for catmint. But in the last two weeks I have counted just three bees. And it is not just bees, my garden is quiet. I have not seen many bugs at all, especially flying bugs.

Who knows what the reason is, it could be the mild winter, the cool spring, the cold snap, the prolific amounts of pollen everywhere – maybe bees just don’t have to forage. Maybe all they have to do is dust the hive (or they could come dust my house, pollen has been everywhere this spring!) I did call our town to see if they had done any spraying, and they hadn’t – they sent me over to Plymouth County Mosquito control. I have not heard back from them yet, but in the meantime, I did my own research, and what I found, was staggering.

chart 2chart 1What I looked at was land use, specifically, how many acres in the U.S are committed to agricultural uses (cropland and pasture), and how many acres are committed to urban use. I then looked at average annual spend on herbicides, which includes fertilizers, per acre for each, and I found that the average home owner spends three times per acre more than our farmers for herbicides. Okay, so we are paying retail, and farmers are buying in bulk. But then, this article is not about the weeds, it’s about the bees. Right? So I did the same exercise for pesticides, and guess, what, we are bug-a-phoebes! Here the average spend of homeowners was nearly 15 times higher and although I didn’t give it a graph, when I included commercial and industrial spend, non-farmers spent 21 times more on pesticides than farmers did.

I think we come down on farmers because a) there is much more farmland than urban area – for each acre of urban area, there are 17 acres of farmland and grassland/pasture. That makes farmers the custodians of a large chunk of our land. And b) what farmers are growing, is the food we put in our bodies – so of course we care about what they are doing to it!

Those of you that have been with us a while know how I feel about agricultural monocultures and industrial farming, of course. I am not condoning these practices. But what about our responsibility? As custodians? We raise our children in urban areas, we visit recreational ponds which are the ultimate catchment areas for our garden run off during the rain. In my rational mind, I understand that I cannot dictate what my neighbors do in their homes and gardens, and I understand that mosquitos and ticks spread diseases that are no laughing matter – but the toxic load of our environment is no laughing matter either, and sacrificing one for the other will not prevent us from getting sick, just look at the out of control cancer statistics.

Ultimately, we have to be responsible too. Our communities cannot point fingers for the disappearance of the honey bee, or the large number of butterflies whose numbers are dwindling. We are a part of that problem, and as a community, we need to collaborate, educate, and make better, organic, and healthy choices for our gardens and open spaces.

By Pamela Denholm

My Goodness, We Are a Pig Headed Bunch!

pig headedMy husband and I have a little ritual in the morning. We wake up, make a cup of tea, rouse the children, and then pick up our phones and scroll through our respective headlines while sipping said tea. It’s the modern day version of reading the paper, only the paper is tailored to our specific interests – so he feeds me snippets of global news and politics, and I feed him all the human rights and environmental tidbits. We are usually done by the time our tea cups are empty, and we meet the kids at the breakfast table to get the day started. On this particular morning, here were some headlines that stood out:

  •  Bleaching kills a third of coral on Great Barrier Reef’s north pristine coast
    Warm sea temperatures are the cause
  • Iconic places under dire threat from climate change
  • Yellow stone national park, Venice’s iconic lagoon, Galapagos Islands, Ilullissat Icefjord – being damaged by onslaught of climate related effects
  • Doctors ‘drug of last resort’ falling prey to antibiotic resistance
    Antibiotic resistant diseases on the rise because we’ve allowed agribusiness to turn antibiotics into livestock feed

This last one is the one I would like to focus on. The first drug resistant bacteria was discovered half way around the world in China in November last year. A few weeks ago, a woman in Pennsylvania was diagnosed as the first American to carry the strain. An entirely separate investigation turned up a similar strain in tissue taken from a pig slaughtered here in the US. What is concerning, is this discovery ties the new resistance directly to the routine use of antibiotics in livestock.

Both the patient and the pig were infected with a strain of E.coli resistant to multiple antibiotics, including some potent versions considered ‘last resorts’. They did eventually manage to treat the patient, however, Christopher Braden, MD, deputy director of the agency’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, warned that the plasmid-borne colistin-resistance gene could transfer to CRE or any other superbug, making them deadlier. Essentially, other bacteria’s can potentially become harder to treat.

CDC Director Tom Frieden hardly minced words when he told The Washington Post, “It basically shows us that the end of the road isn’t very far away for antibiotics—that we may be in a situation where we have patients in our intensive care units or patients getting urinary-tract infections for which we do not have antibiotics. I’ve been there for TB patients. I’ve cared for patients for whom there are no drugs left. It is a feeling of such horror and helplessness. This is not where we need to be.”

However, despite these dire warnings, we still continue to use antibiotics routinely in large scale husbandry (factory farms), and the reason is twofold: one, it makes the animals grow bigger more quickly, and two, since these animals are kept in close quarters unlike their natural habitat, and fed foods unlike what they would choose to forage for, they are sicker and instead of isolating sick animals and treating them, it is easier to add antibiotics to their feed and treat them all routinely. It is estimated that 70-80% of the antibiotics used in the US, are given to livestock.

So, what can we do? Well, of course you can let your Representative know what your position on the matter is, whatever that may be. But you can also help change the face of food production by supporting smaller scale farmers in your area. Smaller farms, regionally located, that raise animals humanely, are the answer to so many problems, and this may just be one of the more important ones.

By Pam Denholm

Resources: – First Case of E-Coli Resistant to Last Resort Antibiotic, May 2016 – ‘Doctors Drug of Last Resort’ is Falling Prey to Antibiotic Resistance – May 2016
Photo courtesy of Brown Boar Farm

Carbon Sequestration

carbonIt’s that time of year again! As the weather warms, those of you who love to garden will feel the familiar tug of the outdoors, and the longing grows to put your hands in the dirt and breathe in its musty, earthy fragrance. Sigh. I know I can’t wait – I’m itching to get started on projects I’ve been dreaming up all winter!

We have spoken of many environmental topics as they relate to farming, gardening, and our food. One of them, was sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, and keeping carbon in the ground. We have written about biochar, and how its made (and how amazing it is in your garden), and how carbon in the atmosphere is contributing to the warming of our planet. Well, one of the most efficient carbon sequestering machines, are plants, but they can’t do it alone.  They need the community of microorganisms that live in the soil to help them. Most of these organisms live within the top three inches of soil and they help convert nitrogen from a gas, to something the plant can use, and in return the plant converts carbon from a gas, to something the microorganisms can use – and in using it, they sequester it to the soil. It’s pretty cool.

To help your garden do its bit, here is a question: to roto-till or not to roto-till? This is a contentious issue, but tilling does disrupt the environment and habitat of these organisms, because rototilling churns the top three inches of soil, where they live.  Roto-tilling also accelerates soil erosion and it compacts the soil. I’m not saying you should never roto-till, if you are breaking ground for the first time, or doing it intermittently to achieve a goal, it’s okay, the organisms will re-establish themselves eventually, it is just not a healthy practice to repeat too often.

Another way you can help is to put leafy plants (and as much diversity as possible) on every available surface. Reduce paving, stones, plant living path ways with ground cover and mosses, put plants up vertical surfaces too. Plants naturally add organic matter to the soil, they establish roots which die off and new roots go, they drop leaves and petals – although it is our instinct to pick them up, actually, we should just leave them where they are and add mulch over the top.

Finally, we think it is all up to us, we, who live on land, but did you know that kelp buries far more atmospheric carbon than anything on land? It’s an algae community and a habitat for many sea creatures. Sea urchins looove kelp. A bit too much, because when left to their own devices these spikey invertebrates turn lush kelp forests into sea urchin deserts.  And that’s where our furry friends the sea otters come in.

Sea otters looove sea urchins.  A hungry sea otter crew can dispatch a million pounds of sea urchins in a few months so the fast-growing, carbon-capturing kelp forest can reappear in short order.  Once again, nature proves that everything is connected to everything else . . . just in case we humans aren’t convinced yet.

By Pamela Denholm

Fair Trade

fair tradeWhen Pam asked me to do an article on fair trade my reaction was…. on What? Being naturally curious I started researching the subject and some interesting info emerged.
We know that buying locally from small farmer’s addresses environmental responsibility, agricultural sustainability, and fair wages as well as providing fresh food directly to our tables. But what about the items that don’t grow where we live? Have you ever given thought to where your coffee, tea, and spices come from and what happens between the growing and retailing of these products?

These items are grown in environmentally responsible ways by some small-scale growers mostly in the developing world. We can encourage these good practices by offering a fair wage for their efforts. This approach, termed fair trade, has grown into an impressive international effort to counter the growing exploitation of farmers in these same countries. Consumer support for conscientious small growers helps counter the corporate advantage and sustains their livelihoods, environments, and communities.

Bananas are one of the most popular and most consumed fruits in the world. Yet, large multinational corporations control a large percentage of the banana trade; Dole and Chiquita together control more than 50%. Most bananas are produced in the Caribbean and Central and South America, and reports of unfair labor conditions among the large corporate plantations abound. Fair Trade is cutting out the corporate influence by providing banana farmers a direct connection into the marketplace. The instinct to buy bananas is so automatic that we rarely think about where the fruit we cut up for our cereal or bake into banana bread comes from or who grows it. We head to the farmers’ markets and learn varieties of corn, or check whether meat or poultry is sustainably and ethically raised. But when it comes to bananas — which are cheap, available year-round, nutritious, and wrapped in their own pretty packages — the fruit gets taken for granted. That’s in spite of the fact that the average consumption in the United States is 26 pounds a year. Bananas have a long and tangled history, some of which includes very low wages to workers, political interference, and environmental dangers. But until now, consumers haven’t been able to do anything to show their support for oppressed farmers.
Fair Trade farmers and artisans respect the natural habitat and are encouraged to engage in sustainable production methods. Farmers implement integrated crop management and avoid the use of toxic agrochemicals for pest management. Nearly 85% of Fair Trade Certified™ coffee is also organic. Fair Trade Certified coffee directly supports a better life for farming families in the developing world through fair prices, community development and environmental stewardship. Fair Trade farmers market their own harvests through direct, long-term contracts with international buyers, learning how to manage their businesses and compete in the global marketplace. Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions and fair wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited.

More and more consumers are not only asking “Is this good for me?” but also “Is this good for others and the environment?” According to a recent study, 90% of Americans say it’s important for companies to be mindful of their impact on the environment and society, and 70% say they’re more likely to support companies that do.

There are thousands of online sites, and retail outlets where consumers can buy Fair Trade products. Since Fair Trade standards vary, educate yourself about the practices included in Fair Trade certifications, products, and vendors. Whenever possible, seek out companies that are 100% dedicated to producing Fair Trade products. With Fair Trade products so widely available, you can also use online search engines to find national and local outlets, especially with keywords “Fair Trade”, product type and your zip code or state.

By Hazel Bacigalupo