Monday, December 31, 2012

Always Learning: Telling Stories About Food and Agriculture

Hello Everyone, on the last day of 2012!  

I hope you are well and that the coming year will be a happy one and you and your family and friends have good health.

I'm not going to put in writing any resolutions. However ... I did run across something recently that I'll try to make my way through. (I've already listened to the first two parts.)

You can imagine how easily this blurb caught my attention!

“As the costs of our industrialized food system—to the environment, public health, farmers and food workers, and to our social life—become impossible to ignore, a national debate over the future of food and farming has begun. Telling stories about where food comes from, how it is produced—and how it might be produced differently—plays a critical role in bringing attention to the issue and shifting politics. Each week, a prominent figure in the debate explores: What can be done to make the food system healthier, more equitable, more sustainable? What is the role of storytelling in the process?”

Edible Education 103: Telling Stories About Food and Agriculture is a Fall 2012 course which took place at  UC Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism and College of Letters and Science. The course was  moderated by Michael Pollan, a Knight Journalism Professor at UC Berkeley and author of books about the food system. All 15 lectures are available online!  Free!
The "telling stories" part of this particularly appeals to me.  I know profoundly that everyone not only has a story to tell, but needs places to tell their stories ... whether those stories are detailed accounts of particular types of gardens or food activism, or a short funny story about meeting a dog while walking through the park and having it lean its warm body into your legs.
If you follow up on any of the lectures, I hope you enjoy them.  Write a comment to me!  
I hope we all have great stories ahead in 2013. Actually, I'm sure we do!

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Recorded Lectures:
Eating Oil, Eating Sunshine, By Michael Pollan
Social Practice, By Peter Sellars
The Psychology Of Food, By Paul Rozin
The Farm Bill, By Chellie Pingree, Dan Imhoff, And Ken Cook
Documenting Food Stories, By The Kitchen Sisters
On The Farm, By Bob Cannard
A Bee’s Eye View, By Claire Kremen
The Politics And Economics Of Meat, By Mike Callicrate And Bob Martin
Farming As Dance –The Choreography Of Polyculture, By Joel Salatin
On Cooking, By Jerome Waag, Samin Nosrat, Charlie Hallowell, And Harold Mcgee
Food Movement Rising, By Michael Pollan
Food, Race, And Labor, By Nikki Henderson And Saru Jayaraman
The Green Revolution, By Raj Patel
Edible Education, By Alice Waters
Food Marketing And Childhood Obesity, By Kelly Brownell

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Let us not "forfeit the power of the question"

Good morning,

I hope you are well and have had a low stress Christmas (as much as is possible!)

A couple of weeks ago - for the most part - I stopped listening beyond headlines to news on the t.v., radio, or in print.  It was just easier to cope.  I needed a rest from the relentless focus on just a few situations ... while there was a complete lack of major media covering anything hopeful during what is supposed to be a season of goodwill and hope.

I think I'd been feeling particularly unable to be helpful or hopeful ... and media negativity made those feelings stronger.

The funny thing is that, while feeling negative, I worked and did household stuff, lent an ear to several friends, helped one with quite a few errands, continued to post notices on the website I maintain for Community Gardens London (, answered two inquiries about community garden  policy, and followed enough City political goings-on to send in comment about several planning issues.

So there I'd been, doing all sorts of stuff, and feeling like I'd not done enough and full of questions that generally start "Why is it that...?"

Checking today's London Free Press online, I happened to read a column I don't usually read and found this statement:
"The person who carts answers around, eager to dispense them at a moment's notice, forfeits the power of the question."
              Rev. (retired) Robert Ripley, United Church of Canada

I really like this phrase. Even though I don't even know exactly what it means! 

I think what it means is that as long as we are asking questions, and looking around to find answers - especially asking our questions of other people - there are chances that we will see the many things that go into an answer ... or, rather, find that there are many parts to an answer.  From there, there are many paths to solutions and many possibilities for including other people in the path and the future. 

Just the idea that there is power in questions appeals to me.

The possibility that more questions leads to more possibilities for solutions has me feeling better.

It looks like I remain ... and as always wishing you well!

Why's Woman

p.s.  Reverend Ripley's entire article includes comment on several aspects of the quotation, including that it is far too simple - and is wrong - to excuse horrific, violent actions by saying things like God "wanted" the children (who died at the hands of a crazy gunman).  That's my interpretation.  Ripley's entire article is at (

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cynicism - what the heck is going on? Things could be better.

"As for being cynical, I'd be proud of that: the cynics are always the greatest optimists - they see things as they COULD be, then they see things as they ARE, and they wonder 'what the heck is going on around here?' Hence, cynicism." 
                    Patrick Maloney, London Free Press political reporter, London Ontario

Hi everyone,

Hope you are well.

The above was part of a bit of correspondence I had recently with a local reporter who is keeping in the public eye the bad behaviour of some of London Ontario's city councillors. 

The councillors do not get along, at all.  Council is split along lines of urban-sprawl-and-development-reigns versus common sense and listening to what citizens in their neighbourhoods want.  They yell at each other at meetings.  They are beyond rude to each other.  If they were in kindergarden, half of them would be on "time outs" at any given time ... heck, there'd be parent-teacher meetings and child psychologists working with each of them.. Oh, and we have a mayor who is involved with (what may turn out to be) shady businesses and who has had some criminal charges laid against him ... and he's not going to step down until things are sorted out. (I wonder if London's chief financial officer would be coming in to work if he'd had charges laid against him by the tax office? Or if the mayor would want his grandchildren in a class where the teacher had been charged with, well, anything.)  

I like Maloney's explanation of cynicism.  

I certainly wonder what the heck is going on at City Hall these days, and wonder what the heck is going on with climate change talks, international take-overs of local resources, employment rates, seed manipulation, toxins in air, water and soil, dumbing down of just about everything, violence (the recent massacre of children in Connecticut), too much advertising, ... there are too many "what the hecks" to list.

And I know things could be different. People are capable of being compassionate and kind with each other, of making practical decision that are good for everyone involved, of sharing.  Just watch how this Christmas the last calls to local Sally Anns and food banks will meet the needs.

So why aren't we moving forward on the coulds?  

I don't have a definite, short answer.  Wish I did.  Sorry.

What I can give, right now, however, is mention that I just read a good interview with Vandana Shiva in Yes! Manazine.  I particularly loved this line:

The forest teaches us enoughness: as a principle of equity, how to enjoy the gifts of nature without exploitation and accumulation.

Yes! has in its description that it "reframes the biggest problems of our time in terms of their solutions ... [outlining] ... "a path forward with in-depth analysis, tools for citizen engagement, and stories about real people working for a better world."  A print edition is available by subscription, and some articles are available free on the website.

A good read to give a good example of  "could be" is worth a lot.

I hope you have your own examples, or have a few minutes to follow these.

... and thanks Patrick!

Very best regards, as always!

Why's Woman


Vandana Shiva: Evernything I need to know I learned in the forest.

Yes! magazine: 


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ten Thousand Villages - Living Gifts

Good morning everyone!

I hope you are well. 

Yesterday afternoon I was in London's Ten Thousand Villages store, had a great conversation with Tania, the manager. 

Ten Thousand Villages stores are a Fair Trade organization, selling hand-crafted items and food items made 'round the world.  TTV is a non-profit, fund-raising arm of the Mennonite Central Committee, a reputable, long-standing international assistance organization. Revenues from the TTV stores are ploughed right back into programs ... and since some are agricultural programs, plough is pun intended :-)

All year 'round, one can donate to MCC projects - give gifts of hope, peace, and food sovereignty.  At this time of year, special Living Gifts come right into the Ten Thousand Villages stores.  You get a card describing the gift and project being supported.  TTV can even arrange to send it on to someone for you. "Gifting" made simple and kind.

The selection of Living Gifts is described fully at:  

Highlights of the Living Gifts:
A Training program -  Creativity and technical skills unleashed!  This $35.00 gift sends one woman in Mymensingh, Bangladesh to a course where she learns about textiles' qualities and how to design fabrics.  Part of what happens in this town is that the materials for the textiles are grown right nearby, so supporting design training reinforced the agriculture!

In Haiti, a reforestation project is planting fruit trees in its tree mix, acknowledging the importance of healthy, local food alongside the land regeneration importance of trees.  Only $20.00 to purchase a tree.

In Ethiopia, sheep are a natural part of agriculture and local industry... sheep for fleece, fiber and clothing ... and of course their manure is part of soil health.  Give a sheep for $57.00 and help maintain the cycle of agriculture and production.

You can even "Fill a Farmyard" for $300.00.  This provides healthy stock for breeding more and for all the products: meat, milk, eggs, leathers, textiles.

There are two education gifts, which support 50 community-based education programs.  
$24 school supplies - Provide school uniforms and supplies to a child, giving them access to education.
$300 give education - Sponsor a Global Family program for one full year.

Education and training of one family member, or any one small enterprise run by a family, has its effects on the neighbourhood, and into the wider community. 

Just like your own creativity and care help in your community, you can help in another's community.

If you are wondering why I'm writing this post, it's because of my most worn cookbook - The More With Less Cookbook by the late Doris Janzen Longacre - which was the first cookbook published by the Mennonite Central Committee

If you were cooking in the late 1970s and early 1980s you probably have a copy.  It's been updated and had anniversary editions, and the The Mennonite Central Committee has published other great cookbooks over the years.  They all emphasize good food, health, care and social justice through frugal recipes and common sense.

More With Less was my kindergarten.  You know, as in "all I ever needed to know about ... I learned in kindergarten".  From The More With Less Cookbook I learned that recipes have stories and people alongside them, that sharing makes you feel good, that you don't have to have a lot of money to be generous, and that simple, healthy food nourishes your body and heals your mind and soul.

And here comes the pitch: check out your local Ten Thousand Villages store, or the website, or the projects of the Mennonite Central Committee.  The links are just below.  And as your budget allows, please consider a gift to match the interests of a friend or family member.

Best regards, as always!

Why's Woman

Ten Thousand Villages -630 Richmond Street, London, Ontario - ph. 519-433-0977
               ** they have beautiful, hand-crafted crĂȘches!! **
Mennonite Central Committee, Canada -