Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Urban Village Farmers' Market Association

Did you know that there is a farmer's market every Sunday less than a block away from campus?
Ever wonder who runs it?

Urban Village Farmers' Market Association is a non-profit Mutual Benefit Corporation whose goal is to promote the family farm, help conserve and sustain surrounding greenbelt areas, and foster community by promoting soical and economic ties between producers and consumer.

The market is sponsored by the California Avenue Area Development Association (CAADA) and operates year round every sunday on California Avenue. However, this is not the only market that Urban Village Farmers
' Market Association operates. Check out some of the other markets below if you are interested:

Year 'round Certified Farmers' Markets:
- Oakland (Old Oakland – Friday, 8:00am-2:00pm)
- Downtown Sunnyvale (Saturday, 9:00am-1:00pm)
- Downtown Santa Clara (Saturday, 9:00am-1:00pm)
- Downtown California Avenue, Palo Alto (Sunday 9-1)
- Downtown Campbell (Sunday, 9:00-1:00pm)
- Montclair Village, Oakland (Sunday, 9:00am-1:00pm)
- Temescal District, Oakland (Sunday, 9:00am-1:00pm)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

This website has a lot of great information about keeping out pests from your garden! It's an all-natural approach, because pesticides:
-kill helpful insects
-hurt the environment
-collect in human and animal tissues (especially dangerous for children)

The site suggests attracting natural predators and using harmless deterrants, such as oil sprays or an ant repellant made out of cayenne pepper.

Looks helpful!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review Finds: Health Not Improved By Organic Foods

Two review articles, one published by the American Jounral of clinical Nutrition, and another by the London School of Hygene and Topical Medicine concluded that a review of literature from over the past 50 years shows no difference in health outcomes between organic and conventionally produced food.

The review concluded that the studies which showed health benefits to organic eating only focused on short-term benefits like antioxidant activity rather than long-term health outcomes. In general, the antioxidants studies did not find any differences between organic and conventional foods. The studies were also limited in scale have small sample groups and lasting over a short period of time. The US based review found that there was no difference in nutrient content between organic and conventional foods.

The reviews, however, are completely focused on pure evidence-based outcome that show biologically measurable changes. In this way, they are limited and cannot account for the social benefits of locally produced good and their benefit they may have on other areas of the environment. It also did not address possible consequence of eliminating pesticide usage on farm workers and other side products of organically grown food. In this way, their definition of "health" is extremely narrow and does not consider more broad yet equally important aspects.

Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review
July 29, 2009
May 25, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Soda Tax

A current push to add a "penny-per-ounce" tax on soda is seen as a way to decrease the amount of soda consumption in the US. Its funding would go toward improving school lunches and toward health care as well.
Increases in soda consumption are the most correlated with increases in obesity rates. What's more, this habit has also increased diabetes and cardiovascular disease rates among Americans.
The goal of this tax is to reduce the gallon-of-soda-a-week habit that the average American has, however CocaCola and PepsiCo have strong lobbyists that are working to reduce the tax or do away with it all together.

I think its about time we start taxing soda, because its negative effects are clear and disproportionately affect the poor. Considering all of the behavioral campaigns that have attempted to curve soda consumption, we now need something more substantial to lessen the consumption and effects of this sugary drink.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A New Way to Use Herbicides: To Sterilize, Not Kill Weeds

ScienceDaily (May 7, 2010) — Using herbicides to sterilize rather than to kill weedy grasses might be a more economical and environmentally sound weed control strategy, according to a study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and a cooperator.

Rangeland ecologist Matt Rinella at the ARS Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory in Miles City, Mont., conducted the study with colleagues at Miles City and Robert Masters with Dow AgroSciences LLC, in Indianapolis, Ind.

Exotic annual grasses such as Japanese brome, cheatgrass and medusahead are harming millions of acres of grassland in the western United States. Currently, the herbicides used to control these invasive grasses also sometimes damage desirable perennial grasses.

In contrast, when used properly, growth regulators typically do not greatly harm desirable perennial grasses. Growth regulator herbicides are used to control broadleaf weeds in wheat and other crop grasses, as well as on rangelands. Rinella and his colleagues knew that when dicamba and other growth regulator herbicides were applied to cereal crops late in their growth stage, just before seed formation, the plants produced far fewer seeds.

The scientists decided to see if these herbicides had the same harmful late-stage application effects on the invasive weed Japanese brome. In greenhouse experiments, they tested dicamba (Banvel/Clarity), 2,4-D, and picloram (Tordon) at typically used rates. They found that picloram reduced seed production nearly 100 percent when applied at the late growth stage of the weed. Dicamba was slightly less effective, but still nearly eliminated all seed production, while 2,4-D was much less effective.

Since annual grass seeds only survive in soil a year or two, it should only take one to three years of herbicide treatment at the right growth stage to greatly reduce the soil seed bank of annual weedy grasses without harming perennial grasses.

Rinella has recently finished field tests that support the greenhouse experiment results. He also tested the herbicide aminopyralid (Milestone) and found it was as effective as picloram. Next he will test much lower doses of the herbicides in an attempt to lower costs and reduce non-target damage to broadleaf plants.

The research was published in the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Concerns Up and Down the Food Chain

Since the recent oil spill from the Deepwater Horizion off the coast of Louisiana, there have been many concerns as to the overall well-being of creatures in the gulf coastal area. This article describes the consequences of this particular oil spill on the environment of the gulf area and further describes how the entire ecosystem is affected. For example, blue crab, one of the largest fishing crops out of Louisiana are being strongly affected by this oil spill. According to the article, the female blue crabs leave protection of the coast to breed at the sea. These crabs disperse fertilized eggs in the sea, hatching billions of tiny crabs invisible to the naked eye to drift for 40 days before ending back up in the marshes. In addition, spring is mating and spawning season for almost everything in the gulf and the components of crude oil can produce developmental deformities that are ultimately lethal to organisms in the wild.

- Richard

Vertical Gardens

A New York Times article this week highlights the increasing popularity of vertical gardens. This trend began in 1988 when French botanist Patrick Blanc intended to create a garden without dirt. Now urbanites are adopting this method of vertical gardens to make their city living spaces greener.

Even though vertical gardens allow city dwellers to develop their green thumb without having to worry about land space, this system of garden seems to take up a lot more resources than conventional gardening. In short, those who want to grow a vertical garden must recreate the outdoors within their confines of their walls. This includes, irrigation, humidity, and lighting, which ultimately leads to thousands of dollars in investment for a 12 by 12 foot wall of green.

Although vertical gardens are a good idea in theory, it is not practical, affordable or ecologically friendly in practice.

Pie Ranch--Barn Dance May 15

Pie Ranch is a sustainable farm in Pescadero and every
third Saturday the Ranch hosts a workday followed by a pot luck and a barn dance. During the work day, they teach Bay Area students about sustainable agriculture and volunteers roll up their sleeves to help with harvesting wheat and berries, weeding the hedgerows, collecting chickens’ eggs, and more. After, there is a barn dance from 7-10pm with a caller and all kinds of dancing.

Workday: 2 pm
Potluck: 6 pm
Barn Dance: 7-10pm

Background on Pie Ranch: Since 2005, Pie Ranch has operated as a working farm, hosting youth from regional high schools to participate in farm-based programs and activities. Pie Ranch also works with educators and community collaborators in diverse urban, suburban and rural settings to help students apply what they’ve learned at Pie Ranch in their daily lives. In addition, Pie Ranch mentors aspiring farmers as resident apprentices who spend a full year immersed in all aspects of farm operations and marketing.

If anyone is interested, I think I am going to be coming to this event this month!

Friday, April 30, 2010

"making organic food affordable"

5 ways to make eating organic foods affordable

Chemically-treated produce shipped cross-country happens to be affordable. For families on a budget, buying organically grown local fruit and vegetables is good in theory but in reality, these goods aren’t always priced low enough to make the decision easy.

“If it’s certified organic, it might be a little bit more because of supply and demand and because of the amount of work that goes into it and the quality of the product,” said Michael Wall of Georgia Organics.

image It’s not a lost cause, though. Preferring to prepare more wholesome ingredients doesn’t mean you have to be rich. There are ways to buy and eat reasonably-priced organic goods.

– Grow your own: This is the best time of year to plant summer vegetables like squash, as well as potatoes, tomatoes, lettuces and more. Seed sales have skyrocketed as backyard gardeners have put their hands in soil.

Wholesome Wave Foundation: Started to benefit low income households, Wholesome Wave doubles the cash value of purchases made with federal food stamps and WIC. So $2 gets you $4 worth of groceries. The East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, Morningside Farmers Market and the On-Site Market at Truly Living Well Urban Farm are all participants in the program.

“It’s a great safety net for Georgia’s most impoverished,” Wall said. “Often, they have the least amount of access to fresh vegetables…It’s an economic incentive to buy fresh, wholesome food.”

– Join a Community Supported Agriculture group: Commonly known as CSAs, a mixed box of produce is brought to you (either at central locations or delivery) each week. While not cheaper than what you’ll find at the average grocery store, it is less expensive than high-end stores like Whole Foods or Harry’s.

Charlotte Swancy from Riverview Farms went on a comparison shopping trip recently and spent about $8 more at Whole Foods than a CSA customer of her farm would pay for the same products. Patrica Gladney of Farmers Fresh CSA said co-ops, in which farms work together to provide even more variety year-round, said their prices are comparable as well. At Lynn Pugh’s Cane Creek Farm, customers can also pick all of the herbs they want.

“It can be cost effective if you eat everything you get and you cook,” Pugh said.

Work-share programs: You’ve seen the signs that read, ‘Will Work For Food.’ In this case, the workers mean it. Volunteer on a farm and in exchange, get a box of the food they sell.

Community Gardens: Neighbors are helping neighbors, banning together to grow community gardens.

“You know your food is fresh; it hasn’t traveled great distances or come from another country,” Swancy said. “And you’re supporting local farmers.”

(from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Are our kids too fat to fight?

Too Fat to Fight

Public school lunches in the United States are known for being unhealthy, but do they pose a national security risk? A recent report released by an officers' group, Mission: Readiness, has declared the lunches we feed our children just that: unsafe for the country's security. Around 27% of American youth aged 17-24 are too overweight to join our armed forces, making it the leading medical reason that recruits are rejected from the military. While military officials recognize that the rejection of these young people has not yet affected recruitment goals, they warn that it may make a bigger difference in the future. A major contributor to the problem is the National School Lunch Program, which provides funding for lunches to schools across the country. The nutritional standards for these lunches have come under fire many times throughout history. The school lunch bill is currently awaiting Senate vote, which would provide $4.5 billion more over ten years for nutrition programs in schools.

Check out the Time article:,8599,1983230,00.html

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How To Shop at a Farmer's Market

With the the growing popularity of farmer's markets, commercial growers are trying to cash in by bringing their goods to farmer's markets. This is diluting the quality of products available at farmer's markets, so it is important to know who you are buying from.

- Read certificates/banners displayed by each vendor
- Talk to the manager of the farmer's market
- Have personal contact with the growers

The article was published in Southern California, and I haven't noticed any of these commercial growers at the Palo Alto farmer's market, but be on the lookout for them.,0,2857261.story

(Also, I have done quite a bit of research on organic foods and recall that some growers actually forgo getting certified by the USDA due to the cost and the process. It is a hassle for some small growers and not worth their time and effort. So it is important to talk to the vendors, because their produce might actually be grown organically even if they don't have the official certification. Another interesting fact is that some growers also don't get certified because they think the guidelines for organic farming are too relaxed and are becoming even more so with time. Here are some responses from growers themselves regarding Local Certified Organic vs. Local Uncertified Organic)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Toys Banned from Happy Meals

Santa Clara County has decided to ban toys from accompanying meals if they do not meet certain nutritional standards. The driving idea behind this new law is to disassociate toys from the high fat, high caloric meals for children.

It was interesting that the McDonald's spokesperson stated that the happy meal provided "important nutrients that children need." I know that when I was a child I (unsuccessfully) begged my parents for Happy Meals *just* for the toys-- but my parents knew I could get more nutrients from home-made meals without the calories, sodium or fat.
I hope this is a new wave that will start to be implemented in other counties.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Want college students to eat better? Try appealing to their sense of the greater good


Well, not exactly us--but some other Stanford kids did. This article talks about a study that was done on the Stanford students who took the course "Food and Society" last quarter. Interestingly enough, the study shows that the best way to get students to actually eat better is to have them discuss the impact of eating local and healthily on society--without any actual nutrition information. According to the study, these students improved their eating habits but students enrolled in a nutrition class had no change in behavior.

I thought I would just share this as we can all relate for sure, and according to the results we are all on the our way to eating healthier by the end of the quarter without even realizing it!

This is a pretty awesome website if you're interested in finding sources for organically-grown food. I used it to find vegan restaurants in the area, and you can search for a whole variety of descriptions. Since I like to be aware of what I'm eating and where food comes from, this is an awesome tool! And seeing that this course has discussed ideas such as the overuse of pesticides in farming and the benefits of sustainable farming, such as local gardens, it seems entirely relevant. Try it out to find restaurants, farmers markets, grocery stores, etc.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Shark Fin Soup

As an Asian American woman interested in journalism, I have always actively followed Lisa Ling's career. My favorite piece of hers was a documentary done on shark finning in 2008. This practice, most common in Asian countries, entails fishermen cutting the fins of sharks and leaving them in the ocean to die. Besides causing a steep decline in the shark population, shark finning is also detrimental to our ecosystem and the ocean's food chain. In the past two years since seeing the film, I haven't put much thought into the issue. This class has sparked me to look into the progress we've made (or haven't) on regulating the wasteful killing of animals for an expensive soup.

A KHON2 article I've linked to below explains the current ban on shark finning in US waters. The difficulty with this is, fishermen must be caught in the act. Otherwise, they can simply say they caught the fins in another country's waters. There is a current bill on the Senate floor proposing that the possession of shark fins be banned. This would make it extremely difficult to even make shark fin soup in the United States, as cooking or selling shark fins would be illegal. We will have to wait to see the fate of this bill.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Food To Waste

This is an interesting article about the waste built into the food distribution system and the lack of economic incentives for solving the problem. With millions of people having a difficult time making ends meet, it seems an injustice that so many grocery stores would be throwing away such a massive volume of food. The article does mention that the need for more food donation has to be balanced with the risk of donating contaminated food that could injure or kill many needy families. One easy way to lighten up some of the food need would be to give tax breaks to Mom and Pop restaurants that donate extra food through established program that links food service donors with hunger relief agencies. Right now most of the restaurants that donate food are big franchises like pizza hut and chipotle because these "C Corporations" currently receive tax donations for doing so.

Friday, April 23, 2010

corn subsidies

04/21/2010: Reuters reports that the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee , Minnesota Representative Collin Peterson, believes that major changes should be made in the next farm bill in 2012, which determines how crops are subsidized by the federal government (

In response to the first hearing on the overhaul, people have begun to examine more closely the shortcomings of the current farm bill and explore possibilities for the new bill. For example, Daniel Imhoff, author of Food Flight, was quoted today in the Huffington Post, as saying "We must put an end to commodity subsidy programs that simply encourage overproduction and insurance of cheap ingredients for industrial foods...What we subsidize should contribute to an all around healthier food system" ( 2012_b_549257.html).

I can't help but think of the current policy of the federal government to subsidize corn (corn is the highest subsidized crop, by far). A great study came out this month from Tufts that links these subsidies to the obesity epidemic: "While [subsidies] may not have caused the obesity epidemic by making corn cheap, U.S. agricultural policies raised the price of sugar and decreased the price of corn. Together, this drove the price of corn below its production costs, shied the sweetener industry over to HFCS, made HFCS artificially cheap, and served as an implicit subsidy to those using HFCS in large quantities, notably so drink makers." (

Thursday, April 22, 2010

California Rural Legal Assistance and other organizations are doing substantial work to fight what's in "Harvest of Shame," including monitoring water and shade where government enforcement agencies don't.

April 3rd: "California Rural Legal Assistance along with the Law Offices of Michael Freund have reached a settlement worth $135,000 for ten farm workers who filed a lawsuit against a Central Valley orchard owner after they were exposed to pesticide drift. While working in an adjacent field, the farm workers were exposed to a dangerous pesticide by the neighboring orchard owner that caused symptoms including vomiting, nausea, skin irritation and difficulty breathing."

for more:
Hi All,

This week we will be talking about farmworker health as a factor in the rippling effects of our food web and environmental web.

Check out this video to prep it!

California's Harvest of Shame from California Assembly Access on Vimeo.

Hello! Welcome to the blog for HumBio 8SI!