Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What We Believe, Part 1

The idea of this blog is to keep the conversation going all the time, not just at our monthly meetings. Using this method and the new media and technology that supports it, is the only way that our ideas and the movement that we promote to achieve its goals more quickly than past movements. Folks in Glasgow have come together in support of a cause in the past. For example the Glasgow EPB was created by just such a group of people who came together to form a movement.

That group first started meeting in 1958. They had a simple belief, just like we do, that low cost and ubiquitous electric power was too important to the life of a community to allow it to be provided to Glasgow by a distant, privately owned corporation. That belief became a movement and the movement became a political force that finally resulted in the creation of the EPB in 1962. Thus, it is possible for a group of folks, who share a strong belief in a community and the things that can make the community stronger and a better place to live, to make very big things happen. In 2008 it is possible to accomplish big things in a much shorter time.

The founders of our group believe that our community should have a sustainable economy. More particularly, we believe that our sustainable economy should start with the creation of a sustainable food economy. We think our need for food is too important to allow that need to be met exclusively by three distant corporations: Wal Mart, Houchens, and Food Lion (Delhaize America, Inc.). We think that, since Glasgow is surrounded by productive farm land, we can figure out a way to get local producers and local consumers together to exchange goods for money in a sustainable fashion. We think that encouraging local producers to produce for local folks and hire local folks as part of that process makes infinitely more sense than using our tax dollars to build buildings and other infrastructure for distant corporations who have no interest in Glasgow other than using our citizens for cheap labor in support of profits for distant stockholders.

If any of this rings true with you, join in the conversation and help us figure out how to move from great idea to working infrastructure. Invite others to join in this conversation and movement. Come on along and we will get this done quickly. We can solve this problem for ourselves. Obviously, as evidenced by our present economic situation and the foolishness of our political leaders on the national scene, no one else is going to solve our problems for us.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mission Statement

One of the things we agreed upon last night was for us all to jointly craft a mission statement via this website. So, here goes my first shot at getting the conversation going. This is largely plaigerized from another web site, but it certainly seems to touch everything I have in mind...so, how do you like this:

Sustainable Glasgow is dedicated to contributing to the development of the theory and practice of sustainable living in the Barren County area. We seek to provide the ideas, information, education, infrastructure, and political will, that inspires and facilitates community members to bring about systemic changes in all of our institutions that are necessary to create a sustainable economy for the region surrounding Glasgow, Kentucky.

Minutes of September 25, 2008 Meeting of Sustainable Glasgow Board

The second regular meeting of the group seeking to promote localism and a sustainable local economy convened at 7:30 p.m. at the home of William Ray, 107 Brookdale Drive, Glasgow, KY, on September 25 2008. Those present were William Ray, Rhonda Trautman, William Travis, Joe Trigg, and Jerry Ralston.

The first item of business considered was a name for the group. Many ideas were discussed but finally everyone agreed upon using the original working name, Sustainable Glasgow, as the name for the group, and the movement.

The next item of business was the consideration of an offer from John Rogers to go ahead and file articles of incorporation for the group and to establish it as a registered corporation. The group agreed to ask John Rogers to accomplish this and also agreed to exchange ideas on a mission statement and other information needed to incorporate via the Sustainable Glasgow blog site. There was also consensus that the fourth Thursday of each month should be the regular meeting time for Sustainable Glasgow.

The next item of business was the discussion of a list of desired outcomes for the movement. Lengthy discussion ensued and the consensus was that the short-term goals should be:
1. Establishment of a physical retail market facility where local food producers could rely upon access to a retail sales environment so they can concentrate on production of food and not have to also be responsible for manning a retail presence.
2. Establishment of trade relationships between local producers and local institutional facilities as well as local restaurants.
3. Establishment of databases and a web site which collects information about local producers, local consumers and local consumer desires, the benefits of localism, and other methods to educate the local citizenry about the values and benefits of shopping, eating, and living local.
The discussion of the desired outcomes continued and the discussion of dates and methods to achieve the goals within the desired time frames was discussed. The general consensus was that the retail marketplace should be in place by May 2009 and there was also general agreement that South Central Bank should be approached because the parking lot area in front of their new Operations Center at the corner of L. Rogers Wells Blvd. and Cleveland Avenue is a very attractive site for such a facility. It was agreed that a couple of the members of Sustainable Glasgow should ask for a meeting with Owen Lambert to open the discussion.

Other business was discussed as well as longer range goals and ambitions for Sustainable Glasgow. Another consensus developed that both Mayor Pickett and Judge-Executive Greer should be briefed on the development of Sustainable Glasgow such that they are not blind sided by the existence of the movement. William Ray agreed to attempt to schedule these briefings.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

First the Economy Melts Down, Now This...

Check out the scariest story you will read today at this link.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Good NYT Article...

This article says a mouthful about the insanity of the way we ship food to and fro around the globe. It is a great read. Then this article gives some great background on the demand for local produce and how the big supermarkets are trying to supply it. Of course, they are not trying at all around here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another reason why we need a local dairy facility...

This article was in today's New York Times and it is indicative of the problems we have with a global food supply. As the study posted by Joe Trigg indicates, most folks are not too concerned with where there food comes from as long as it is cheap. However, food contamination scare after food contamination scare would seem to be changing that feeling. I bet these mothers in China don't feel that way anymore.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Discouraging Study sent in by Joe Trigg

This link takes you to a study Joe sent me. It is a bit discouraging.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I just got this email...

Anyone want to go?

Sustainable Communities Network

Bluegrass Partnership for a Green Community

*Closing the Food____Gap*
A Regional Conference, October 16-18 2008
Exploring New Ways to Grow Food, Eat Locally, Strengthen Community and Support the Local Economy in Kentucky
Go to www.sustainlex.org or click SustainLex.org

Closing the Food__Gap, a
regional conference will engage participants in discussions of how and why our food system works as it does, whether it is secure, just, and sustainable, and how it might be reshaped for the future. The conference will provide an interactive forum that enables attendees to make new connections and share information around the common goal of developing innovative and practical solutions to local and national food-related challenges.

Featured speakers:
Closing the Food Gap book cover
Mark Winne, author of Closing the Food Gap, Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty,
is coming to Kentucky

also ....Anthony Flaccavento, Executive Director of Appalachian Sustainable Development

Featured workshop
*Food Policy Council Development Workshop w/Mark Winne*
This workshop is designed to assist individuals and organizations in Kentucky interested in the development of local, regional or state food policy councils.The training will emphasize the organizational development of coalitions and networks that may precede the actual establishment of a food policy council, the operation of food policy councils, and the development of effective local and state food policy strategies. As such, the workshop is suitable for beginners as well as those with more experience.

Other workshops include:
The 2008 Farm Bill &KY Legislation* Achieving Agricultural Justice and Domestic Fair Trade*Ecological Basis of Food Systems* Worker Justice as an Element of Sustainable Food* Food Banks and the Food Crisis* Urban Homesteading*Lexington Food Assessment-More Than the Corner Store* Impact of Organic Agriculture* Global Perspective on Agricultural Policy* Community Gardening*

October 16-18 2008
Thursday October 16 Closing the Food Gap Dinner with awards/recognitions 6:00pm-8:30pm Reception, book signing, dinner and speaker (Mark Winne)
Friday October 17 Closing The Food Gap Workshops 8am-4pm speakers, panel, workshops
Saturday October 18 Closing the Food Gap community garden workshops 9am-12noon


UK Cooperative Extension Service, 1140 Red Mile Rd., Lexington, KY (Thursday &Friday)
Community Action Center, 1169 Winburn Dr (Saturday).

COST: Thursday dinner $25; Friday sessions $45.00; Saturday workshop $10; $70.00 all 3 days

Co-sponsors: Heifer International, Community Farm Alliance, University of Kentucky Sociology Department, Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice, Central Christian Church, Sustainable Communities Network, UK Green Thumb, Bluegrass Partnership for a Green Community, Community Action Council

jim embry
Sustainable Communities Network

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." ~Arundhati Roy

"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable ... It comes only through the tireless efforts and passionate concern of dedicated individuals ... This is no time for apathy nor complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action."~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Just in case you missed this on the EPB Blog, I am reposting it here.

In the last few days it seems like the news is more ominous than ever before. Hurricane Ike came to Galveston Texas and continued up through Louisville and beyond. In Ike’s wake are over two million homes without electric power in Texas and Louisiana. Today’s Courier-Journal says that 275,000 homes and businesses are without power in the greater Louisville area. Our supply of oil, gasoline, and natural gas has been destabilized and crippled as well and it only took a few hours for the impact to be felt right here in Glasgow. At the same time, our currency is being threatened by the failure of massive investment banks like Lehman Brothers, and let’s not forget the dramatic effect that TVA’s electric rate increase (which takes effect October 1) will have when it takes another $4 million per year out of our local economy right here in Glasgow.

No matter how you look at it, no matter what your political leaning, one thing is certain; we can no longer count on our state or federal governments to protect us and care for us. Over the last several years, the government institutions that we counted upon to regulate, and protect us from raging greed, have become best friends with those they were supposed to tame. It is happening in Washington and it is happening in Frankfort. As a result, no one is really looking out for us anymore. It seems that the forces of greed overwhelmed our government's ability to look after us. So, let’s do it ourselves! If we want safety, security, and the comfort that comes from a stable local economy and low crime rates, it is becoming more clear every day that we are going to have to take care of ourselves. There is a philosophy that we need to embrace and pursue and that philosophy has a name . . . localism.

While not simple to define, my definition of localism is the desire to make the place where we live better by reinforcing our local economy. We can do that a lot of different ways, including: identifying, and bending over backwards to patronize, locally owned businesses, encouraging local entrepreneurs and the jobs they can create, identifying holes where money leaks out of our local economy through the purchase of goods and services from non-locally owned businesses, focusing tax dollars on the provision of infrastructure that is needed to support local businesses and a durable local economy, and so forth. All of these ideas, and many more, are at the very center of the EPB’s mission and you will be hearing a lot more in the future about our efforts to support and encourage localism, but here are a few initial ideas.

There is an ocean of information on the web about the concept of localism and why we are actually paying ourselves when we purchase goods from a locally owned business. One such web site, local harvest, has an outstanding narrative about the virtues of buying locally:

Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold. And this is when taking into account only US grown products! Those distances are substantially longer when we take into consideration produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other places.

We can only afford to do this now because of the artificially low energy prices that we currently enjoy, and by externalizing the environmental costs of such a wasteful food system. We do this also to the detriment of small farmers by subsidizing large scale, agribusiness-oriented agriculture with government handouts and artificially cheap energy.

Cheap oil will not last forever though. World oil production has already peaked, according to some estimates, and while demand for energy continues to grow, supply will soon start dwindling, sending the price of energy through the roof. We'll be forced then to reevaluate our food systems and place more emphasis on energy efficient agricultural methods, like smaller-scale organic agriculture, and on local production wherever possible.

Cheap energy and agricultural subsidies facilitate a type of agriculture that is destroying and polluting our soils and water, weakening our communities, and concentrating wealth and power into a few hands. It is also threatening the security of our food systems, as demonstrated by the continued e-Coli, GMO-contamination, and other health scares that are often seen nowadays on the news.

These large-scale, agribusiness-oriented food systems are bound to fail on the long term, sunk by their own unsustainability. But why wait until we're forced by circumstance to abandon our destructive patterns of consumption? We can start now by buying locally grown food whenever possible. By doing so you'll be helping preserve the environment, and you'll be strengthening your community by investing your food dollar close to home. Only 18 cents of every dollar, when buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower. 82 cents go to various unnecessary middlemen. Cut them out of the picture and buy your food directly from your local farmer.

Even though the newspapers and television bring us tidal waves of bad news about our economy and our future, Glasgow is not helpless and totally dependent on the global economy for our daily bread and our ongoing happiness, but we still have a lot of work to do. Our forefathers built us a great foundation for sustainability when they established a locally owned water and sewer system, electric power and broadband network, as well as wonderful parks, roads, sidewalks, and even recent additions like The Plaza Theater and the EPB’s Jama M. Young Technology Center. But even those systems are not perfect. While the EPB is locally owned, the electric power we sell is not produced locally and thus we are subject to rampant cost increases. In addition to our technological assets, we are blessed with fertile land and folks who know how to use it. They have established cattle farms, dairy farms, and abundant crops of all sorts. We have a lot of assets going for us so we don’t have to start from scratch to focus on localism. But we do have to start looking at things differently. We are surrounded by rich farm land that produces large amounts of food, dairy, and beef, but practically none of it is sold and consumed here. We have a lot of work to do to make it possible for our local food economy to flourish and become sustainable.

The localism movement can flourish if we look at today’s headlines, not with fear, but with the resolve to create solutions that will allow Glasgow to thrive in the new world we have created. As we see news reports of the devastation of Galveston (and even Louisville) we should see ourselves as similarly vulnerable. We should assume that fuel supply will be interrupted more often and that it will become ever more expensive. In such a world we need to develop more ways to fuel and feed ourselves from our local resources and farms instead of just taking what TVA has at whatever the cost and waiting at the tailgate of a truck just coming in from afar with our food. We should learn how to use our local talent and infrastructure to entertain ourselves locally without having to drive to Bowling Green, Louisville or Nashville to take in a show. We can also assume that many national banking and investment houses will fail, but we can invest locally and expect the return on our investment in both dollars and in a better life for ourselves instead of distant bank executives. Instead of giving foreign companies our tax dollars to entice them to come to Glasgow, we need to use our tax dollars to pay for the things that make it easier for local farmers to sell their products locally and create a durable and more enjoyable place for us all to live. With a sustainable local economy, those outside businesses and industries will be attracted to Glasgow because it is a great place for their employees to enjoy their lives instead of just because we are willing to pay them for coming. In the long run, sustainable development will flourish more with those incentives than it has using our old formula.

The world is giving us every reason to embrace localism right here in Glasgow. The time has come and the movement is alive. Stay tuned to this blog for more and more information about how we can make Glasgow better without constantly asking for more and more.

Friday, September 12, 2008

An Existing Web Site

I just posted a link on the left side of the page to an existing web site that already does a lot of what we have discussed. The Local Harvest site even already has several of our local producers listed. Just go to the site and enter 42141 as your search criteria and you find several of our locals.

One of the best things on the site is this brief narrative:

Why Buy Local?

Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold. And this is when taking into account only US grown products! Those distances are substantially longer when we take into consideration produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other places.

We can only afford to do this now because of the artificially low energy prices that we currently enjoy, and by externalizing the environmental costs of such a wasteful food system. We do this also to the detriment of small farmers by subsidizing large scale, agribusiness-oriented agriculture with government handouts and artificially cheap energy.

Cheap oil will not last forever though. World oil production has already peaked, according to some estimates, and while demand for energy continues to grow, supply will soon start dwindling, sending the price of energy through the roof. We'll be forced then to reevaluate our food systems and place more emphasis on energy efficient agricultural methods, like smaller-scale organic agriculture, and on local production wherever possible.

Cheap energy and agricultural subsidies facilitate a type of agriculture that is destroying and polluting our soils and water, weakening our communities, and concentrating wealth and power into a few hands. It is also threatening the security of our food systems, as demonstrated by the continued e-Coli, GMO-contamination, and other health scares that are often seen nowadays on the news.

These large-scale, agribusiness-oriented food systems are bound to fail on the long term, sunk by their own unsustainability. But why wait until we're forced by circumstance to abandon our destructive patterns of consumption? We can start now by buying locally grown food whenever possible. By doing so you'll be helping preserve the environment, and you'll be strengthening your community by investing your food dollar close to home. Only 18 cents of every dollar, when buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower. 82 cents go to various unnecessary middlemen. Cut them out of the picture and buy your food directly from your local farmer.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sustainable resources

There are a many many great resources on the web. I ran across "Sustainable Tucson" website. A town I'm familiar with and love for their forward thinking policies.

http://www.sustainabletucson.org/affinity/economy/ Lots of interesting things on this site.

Still thinking about a group name....Copying from something on this website how about

"The Local First Initiative" with the subtitle: Buy Local, Live Local, Be Local. Just throwing out some ideas!

Chamber Meeting

I mentioned Sustainable Glasgow this morning to the Chamber Board. The response
was significant. Many positive comments were made. One individual has already called Billy R. The Chamber invited me to let them know when the next meeting will be. They want to share that with the rest of the Board.

I believe we are on to something.

So, this is a blog?????????

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

ABC News video story featuring Michael Pollan


From Recent Courier-Journal Article

Mountain group says Ky. needs to grow own businesses

By Bill Wolfe • bwolfe@courier-journal.com • August 25, 2008

Kentucky needs to offer stronger support for entrepreneurs and focus more on developing home-grown businesses rather than on recruiting businesses from outside, according to a report commissioned by the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.

The report, released today, said the state “faces serious challenges” in its small-business activity, lagging the national average in growth rates and income. Kentucky “has much work to do in expanding entrepreneurship across the state.”

“Kentucky as a whole has not made adequate economic progress over the last 30 years,” Jason Bailey, research and policy director for the association, said in an interview. “We are largely stuck in an old approach to economic development that’s really based on recruiting industry with the use of tax incentives.”

That approach is part of economic development, “but increasingly it’s not enough, and states need to turn more of their attention to promoting growth from within,” Bailey said.

The report said Kentucky has many of the tools needed to foster small businesses, such as programs of the state Cabinet for Economic Development and at state universities, community colleges and technical colleges. “Challenges remain in connecting the dots” between various programs, however, and there is a general lack of awareness and lack of appreciation of the potential of homegrown development, it said.

Recommendations included broad-based “entrepreneurship education,” more access to microlending, seed capital and angel investing and the creation of an Entrepreneurship and Small Business Commission

The report doesn’t make specific recommendations on the amount of money that would be needed or where it would come from, Bailey said.

The report was written by the Rural Policy Research Institute’s Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, a national research and policy center created in 2001. The Mountain Association is a 32-year-old community development organization that works in eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia.

If you are interested in reading the report, it is available at this link.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Another Reason Why We Could Do It Better

Today's GDT has an article entitled, "Web site helps agritourism business get online". I'm sure it is put together from a press release from the state, but it is all about local farm businesses being listed as tourism sites. Interesting until you note that the only reference to the actual URL of the site is after the article in very small print. It tells you to go to www.kyagr.com. Once there, you note that a link to finding local agritourism businesses is nowhere to be found! I think we could do better than that.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Speak Up!

Everyone is now signed up with the exception of Jerry Ralston and I will check with him to see to make sure he got the invitation. I posted this link a long time ago in my Red, Blue & Green Blog associated with the EPB. I wish everyone in Glasgow could see that video from the PBS show Now. It would certainly make it much easier for us to get our message across.

How about weighing in with some ideas for a name for our initiative. What about the proposed date for the next meeting?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Our National Eating Disorder

Remember that any of you can post! Just click on the post up in the upper right hand corner where it says "New Post" and have at it! This post is not authored by me. Rather, it is the work of our own William Travis. I think it is fantastic and forms the basis for why we should have a sustainable local food economy. Enjoy!

Our Great National Eating Disorder

Red Flags

Doctor enters exam room, patient sits expectantly on exam table.

“Hello, Mr. Marley. We need to talk about your test results.”

“Sure, Doc, tell me the good news.”

“You’re not going to like the news. Your blood sugar is 168, which means that you have diabetes. Your cholesterol is 245, your triglycerides are 220 and your HDL cholesterol is 32. Your blood pressure is 150/98. You are 30 pounds overweight. The chances are 80% that you will die of a heart attack or stroke and you will live 12 years less than you might otherwise. You will need to be on at least 5 or 6 medicines for the rest of your life. And your health care costs just went from $2,500 per year to $15,000 per year.”

“Okay, now tell me the bad news. Jesus, how can that be? I live and eat like everybody else that I know.”

“I understand. I hear the same thing all the time. Let’s talk about what you need to do.”

So goes a familiar story.

In my medical practice, I have recognized a change in the nature of the health problems of my patients. Diabetes and its complications of heart disease, stroke, vascular disease, and kidney disease have become the most prevalent disorders. That is not to say that these were not relatively common problems before. But these problems have now become epidemic. It has become clear that the primary cause of this epidemic is our “Western diet.” This led me to investigate what we know about our diet and its effects on health – and then to discover the other issues that make our current food production and eating habits not only dangerous to our health directly, but dangerous to us indirectly through the environmental effects, the social effects, the security effects, the moral issues and the lack of sustainability of the status quo of food production. Our food is cheap and easy up front but costly in the long calculation.

The Western Diet

The “Western diet” is characterized by an abundance of refined and processed grains, red and processed meats, fried foods, lots of cheap added calories of sugar and fat - lots of everything - except fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This dietary habitat has developed slowly through a process of industrialization of our food production and through the rise of fast and convenient foods. Not so many years ago, food was produced by small farmers growing diverse crops with multiple livestock populations. In the name of efficiency – of both production and profits - we have evolved a system of huge monocultures of grains (mainly corn, soybeans, and wheat) and large concentrated livestock operations (concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs), fueled by the aforementioned grains as feed for the animals. Goodbye Mr. and Mrs. Family Farmer; hello ADM, Cargill, National, and Tyson.

In our past and in other countries meals were eaten differently, also. They were prepared and cooked from whole foods and eaten at a table with others, usually family. Today, most meals are eaten in a rush, microwaved, from a drive through, in the car, alone, and anywhere but a table. Goodbye “Mom, what’s for dinner?” and hello McDonalds(supersize that?), Wendy’s (biggie fries?), and Pizza Hut (extra cheese in the crust?).

The Nutritionists

On the heels of these changes emerged the nutrition scientists, much hyped and now much maligned, who were on the hunt for the nutrient that was killing us or the nutrient that would save us – with little success. The only success of the nutrition scientists, unintended, has been to create mass confusion for American eaters. We read one day that fats are bad, and the next that they can be good, and then that some are good and some are bad. We have gone through the high carb craze, and now the low carb craze. Supplements of vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin A, and even yogurt enemas have had their day in the sun, only to be discredited.

We have been easily influenced by nutrition scientists in the U.S. since, as a nation of immigrants, we do not have a traditional, cultural diet. Rather than eating foods in combinations and quantities found to be healthful and culturally satisfying by our ancient ancestors, we have found ourselves confused and look to science to tell us what to eat. But nutrition science is reductionist and fatally flawed. Nutrients taken out of the context of the food, out of the context of the diet, and out of the context of the lifestyle do not have the same health effects as otherwise. The nutritionists cannot see into the soul of a carrot, to quote the author Michael Pollan. Single nutrient science misses the complexity involved in the most holy of processes in our bodies and in our world ; that is, our sustenance by the fruits of the soil of the earth.

But there is one fact that we and the scientists can state without reservation: the Western diet is a cause of the most deadly diseases that we suffer. These diseases are commonly called (appropriately) the “Western diseases.” They include the aforementioned diabetes, heart disease (mainly coronary artery disease), stroke, other obesity related diseases, and cancers. The fact of this relationship of diet and disease is observed by the fact that any person who moves from another country and culture and adopts this diet quickly develops the same (or greater) risk of these diseases, many of which are rare in his native country. It has been observed that a return to the country of origin and to previous dietary habits returns the immigrant to his native state of health.

Interesting is the so called “French Paradox.” The French eat foods that are high in fat content and calories. But they eat foods that are not so heavily processed, in smaller amounts, more slowly and socially, and they do not eat between meals. They don’t seem to worry too much about nutrients but are overall much slimmer and healthier than Americans. We have our own “American Paradox.” We are obsessed with nutrition science and follow the latest health diet fads, yet we are obese and sick as a nation. We are the most overfed and undernourished people in the world. And, unfortunately for the people of the world, more and more of them are migrating toward our dietary habits.

S-I-C-K in the USA

Two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese; a quarter of us have metabolic syndrome; 54 million have prediabetes; and the incidence of type 2 diabetes has risen 5% annually since 1990, going from 4% to 7.7% of the adult population- nearly 20 million Americans. Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke with 80% of diabetics dying of one of those diseases. Diabetes is now the #1 cause of both blindness and kidney failure in this country. A diagnosis of diabetes subtracts twelve years from a life and costs $15,000 a year in health care (compared to $2,500 in non-diabetics). Big numbers, which increasingly drive an already financially suffocating health care system over the proverbial cliff.

The incidence of diabetes and vascular disease is a serious problem for our adult population, but it is a potential disaster for our children. If current circumstances continue, one in three children born since 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime, with the attendant risks of cardiovascular and other diseases and premature death – caused mainly by the foods we provide them. This is the first generation who may expect to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

Added to the toxicity of the refined, concentrated calories in our diet are the pharmaceuticals used in livestock production. Because of the crowded, unhygienic living circumstances of livestock in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s), they must be given massive doses of antibiotics to keep them from getting sick and spreading contagion amongst their fellow feedlot mates before they reach slaughter weight and age – a bottom line issue for the industrial meat producers. 70 % of antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to animals in CAFOs – an alarming statistic. This practice is a major contributor to the development of resistant bacteria causing human disease. Many experts think that our current problem with MRSA (resistant Staph bacteria) is caused by this excessive use of antibiotics in food animals. Another concern is the unknown human effects of these antibiotics, as well as the synthetic growth hormone they are fed, in the flesh of the animals that we eat and the milk that we drink.

Why does this diet make us sick? There are many possibilities. The excessive calories (we take in at least 300 more a day than we did in 1980) contribute to obesity which then leads to the metabolic problems of excessive abdominal adipose (the metabolic syndrome). The refining of grains takes most of the nutrients out, leaving just empty calories. We simply refine all the nutrition out of food. These simple, refined carbohydrates are rapidly absorbed through the GI tract, have immediate effects on blood sugar and overwhelm the endocrine/insulin system of the body, ultimately leading to failure of that system and diabetes.

With the change from grass feeding of livestock to corn feeding (in CAFOs), the nature of the fats in the flesh of the animals has changed from a ratio of predominance of omega 3’s over omega 6 fatty acids in grass fed animals to a marked predominance of omega 6’s over omega 3’s in corn fed livestock. Even eggs follow this pattern of change in grass/natural vs. corn feeding of the laying hens. It is recognized that omega 3 fatty acids have beneficial, anti-inflammatory effects and other beneficial effects on cell membranes, while omega 6’s are believed to be pro-inflammatory. This may be the major change in the nutritional makeup of our industrialized food (if you believe in that sort of thing).If one is looking for a “theory of everything” in nutrition, this could be it.

Another postulate is that the food that we eat, derived directly or indirectly from corn (through the flesh of animals fed corn) lacks many trace nutrients due to the depletion of micronutrients in the overused soil used to grow the corn. It may be that one or some of these trace nutrients are critical for health. Some even speculate that we may overeat because our bodies are trying in vain to get these nutrients from our food, prompting us to eat more in that craving for nutritional content. This could be tied to another theory: what we are eating is less important that what we are not eating – that is, vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Food production and the environment

Our current system of food production is energy intensive. No wonder, as the system was built on the foundation of cheap fossil fuels. But the days of bargain prices for fuels are finished and the hidden costs to our environment of the burning of those fuels are now being felt. Pay it forward is over – we now have to pay as we go, and also pay for our past “conveniences.”

The average distance that the food on your plate travelled is 1500 miles – a result of our centralized production of foods and our non-seasonal eating habits. Want strawberries and tomatoes at Christmas? No problem – just ship them in from Mexico, California – wherever it is warm. Charge to our children the freight (carbon emissions, wasted fuels, damage to infrastructure). The food industry burns a fifth of all the petroleum consumed in the United States. With this long distance transportation of foods, we put more fossil fuels in our refrigerators than we do in our cars.

The current “scientific” methods for industrial farming are to deplete the soil of its nutrients, growing vast monoculture crops of corn, soybeans, and wheat (heavily government subsidized) while replacing only nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium fertilizer and using excessive pesticides to make the plants grow next season. This leaves a soil depleted of all micronutrients and producing foods likewise depleted of nutrition. And where do these fertilizers and pesticides, produced from fossil fuels, go? They go “away.” But where is “away?” They poison the drainage system of the land, the underground water, waterways, and ultimately the streams and rivers and are dumped into the ocean. Likewise, the huge rivers of fecal waste from CAFOs ultimately meet other flowing waters. A result of this is “dead water” where nothing can grow due to high concentrations of nitrogen in the water. We have observed this phenomenon recently in the reported “dead zones” of river deltas and gulfs around the world, most intimately in the Gulf of Mexico. There is a huge area at the mouth of the Mississippi River where fish cannot grow due to the depletion of oxygen caused by industrial farming runoff.

Who wants to eat alone – or - one is the loneliest number

The act of eating should be a communal experience. It is historically a time for families and friends to gather together to share experience and conversation. Our meals have become more solitary. Twenty percent of our meals are eaten in a car. We eat as a means of sustenance, like the animals, and miss the intimacy of the shared experience. We eat in a hurry, standing, in front of a television, rarely at a table. Maybe our food is eaten quickly because it doesn’t warrant being savored in its current state - highly processed and with multiple foreign flavor additives and little true natural fresh taste or nutritional value.

Studies have shown that a result of families eating together at a table is better nutrition for children, less obesity and fewer drug and alcohol problems in the young. The table is where you can teach your children good eating habits and the art of conversation and civility. Does anyone notice that missing today?

The pleasures of the table consist of “the considered sensations born of the various circumstances of fact, things, and persons accompanying the meal” and comprise “one of the brightest fruits of civilization” quoting the British writer Brillat-Savarin. “Each meal that we share together at a table recapitulates the evolution from nature to culture, as we pass from satisfying our animal appetites in semi-silence to the lofting of conversational balloons,” as Michael Pollan states in his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

The Demise of the Farming Community

Once, this country was a great quilt of small farming communities. These were vibrant townships with vigorous trade in goods and services driven by the small farm economy. My own community of birth was one of these. The town square was a bustling place on Saturdays and a place of repose on Sundays. Townspeople had great civic spirit and pride. Now, that community, like many of its sister communities, is a shell of its former self, just hoping that some heavy industry will come in to take advantage of jobless desperation. The downtown is a commercial dead zone. Economic salvation is seen in the Trojan horse of Wal-Mart, locating a superstore on the edge of town and driving the final nail in the social and economic coffin of the community. This is a story duplicated ad nauseum across the U.S., and a great tragedy in this story is that our government has been an accessory to the devastation. By subsidizing corn (with most of the subsidy going to huge corporations) and subsidizing cheap fuels (through military excursions and payoffs to corrupt petrocracies), and by imposing ominous and economically ruinous regulations on our smaller farming operations (regulations aimed at controlling the unsanitary and dangerous practices of the huge corporate producers, and that should not apply to the small producers) they have undercut the economic viability of the smaller farmer and therefore helped destroy these small communities.

A visiting Op-Ed piece written by a small farmer in the New York Times recently described how he was being fined by the government for growing vegetables on land that had been designated as a subsidized soybean field. How much sense does that make?

Cynics will say that is just progress, the nature of free markets. I say that these communities and these people, the core of our country (and interestingly enough, fighting in wars for this country at the highest per capita rates) were sold out by our government to the more rewarding (for the politician) corporate interests. This is our great societal loss. Kentucky writer Wendell Berry has been telling us this for many years. Nobody was listening.


When food is so cheap and readily available, we feel that the party can never end. Eat, drink and be merry. But hidden behind the fa├žade of this bounty is the vulnerability of our food supply.

Any slowing of the flow of oil out of the Middle East leads to higher gas prices, which is then directly reflected in prices of food at the market. The fuel intensive nature of our production system would make a severe disruption of the oil flow (such as a terrorist attack on the Saudi oil fields or a wider Middle Eastern war) lead to our inability to produce and transport food around the country and an actual crisis of food availability. Obesity would likely not be our main concern in that situation; survival would. Local and regional production of food gives us security, as it is somewhat insulated from these oil price and availability problems.

The most authoritarian and antidemocratic governments in the world are in control of oil production and are corrupted by their oil revenue: Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Sudan. World instability is directly tied to oil. Some say that we could be in for perpetual resource wars. Our dependence on oil creates vast military costs, in blood and treasure, required for the defense of the continuous flow of the oil to this country. Like an addict, we ask for more, more, more; and our pushers accommodate us to their great financial and geopolitical benefit.

Our centralized food supply is vulnerable to direct adulteration by someone meaning to do harm to American citizens – specifically terrorists. Decentralized production and distribution of food is much more secure.

Contagion in the form of bacteria or viruses is much more likely in large concentrated animal operations. Mad Cow disease , E.Coli 0:157 and Salmonella are a result of large industrial farm practices. Just recently we have seen a massive withdrawal of beef from the market due to the neglectful practices of large beef producers. They were processing for ground beef “downed cattle,” cattle that had difficulty standing or walking, which could be a sign of Mad Cow Disease.

Feeling better about that cheeseburger now?

Don’t Look, Ethel

The practices of concentrated animal feeding operations are fairly well known, but little discussed. Most of us shut our eyes when the images of livestock treatment are displayed. We “can’t handle the truth” as Colonel Jessep so famously stated in “A Few Good Men.” And most of us cannot. But the truth is that if we look closely at the way livestock are raised and processed in this system, we would have a hard time accepting them as food: cattle kept in crowded feed lots, wading in their own feces, fed corn (to the point of illness) and antibiotics and hormones until they are prodded down a chute to slaughter ; spent dairy cattle (comprising 70% of your ground beef) too weak to walk and dragged off trucks, with ropes around their hooves, to the slaughterhouse; chickens raised five in a small cage, cages stacked several layers high with open bottoms and feces raining on the birds at lower levels, unable to move, their beaks cut off with a hot knife to prevent them pecking each other to death in these crowded, filthy conditions; hogs raised in similar crowded and unhygienic conditions and taken to slaughter, sometimes with ineffective killing methods resulting in the pigs being dumped alive and squealing into boiling water vats intended remove their hair by scalding. Enough, you say?

It need not be that way. There are methods of animal husbandry that are more natural and humane and that result in safer and higher quality food. The up- front increased cost of these methods would be recouped in the avoidance of the hidden costs of the industrial methods. These animals’ natural diet is not corn; in fact, corn makes them sick. If the animals were not slaughtered fairly youthfully, they would quickly die of internal diseases as a result of the corn diet.

Grasses are the natural diet for a cow. Chickens and pigs eat grass and other plants, insects, larvae, and pigs are omnivores, eating even animal flesh. They can be raised in circumstances with some respect for their natural being and the sacrifice they are making. And this can be done economically if regulators will differentiate a mass production industrial farm from a safer small operation.

I believe that there is no moral reason that we cannot eat other animals - It is their natural place in the food chain to be food - they are prey animals. But the way that we care for the animals in their lives and the methods of slaughter make all the difference. This is a moral imperative.

Escape from the Western Diet

So, you say, what do we eat? How do we change our habits?

Here, I borrow heavily from the writer Michael Pollan. In his excellent book, “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” Pollan states the following, very simply: EAT FOOD. NOT TOO MUCH. MOSTLY PLANTS. Simple wisdom. He further offers some of the following recommendations:

1) Don’t eat anything that your great-great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

She would recognize a carrot or an apple – she would not recognize Go-gurt or Hot Pockets.

2) Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a)unfamiliar, b)unpronounceable, c)more than five in number, or that include d)high fructose corn syrup.

3) Shop the periphery of the grocery store (produce, dairy, meats, whole grain breads). Avoid the center aisles of the store (refined grains, added fats and sugars, highly processed and packaged).

4) Avoid food products that make health claims.

First, they are boxed or packaged and therefore likely highly processed and nutritionally empty rather than a whole food; Second, the “nutrition” has likely been added as a solitary ingredient (recommended by the nutritionists, remember) and probably has no health value in that state.

5) Eat mostly plants. Especially leaves. Let colors be your guide. Nature gave foods multiple colors for a reason. Suffice it to say that if you eat a “multicolorful” diet of produce, you are going a long way toward good health. Eat more leaves and fewer seeds – likely the most beneficial nutrients are usually in the leaves.

6) Pay more, eat less. Americans spend less than 10% of our income on food. That is less than at any time in our history and less than any other country in the world. We have found room in our budgets for many new services and products that were not even available a few years ago –computers, cell phones, cable, internet service, ipods – so why can’t we find room for better food? In all other purchases we equate price with quality – why not food?

7) Buy locally produced foods. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. Shop the farmer’s market or local food co-op. You will eat foods that are in season and at the peak of their flavor and nutritional value. The only way that you can have some comfort in knowing the way that your food is grown and produced is to know personally who is producing it.

8) Prepare your own food. Eating a healthy diet means, generally, cooking your own food using whole ingredients. It doesn’t sound easy, but it is what it is. And there are many satisfactions in the process. TV cooking shows are very popular these days, but there is little cooking going on in homes. Cooking has become mainly a spectator sport.

9) Do all your eating at a table and try not to eat alone. You will eat less and enjoy it more.

10) You are what what you eat eats, too. Grass fed and finished livestock beats corn fed every time. More omega 3 fatty acids and fewer omega 6, more micronutrients.

11) Eat more like the Italians, or the French, or the Japanese, or the Indians, or the Greeks – but don’t look for a magic bullet in the traditional diets – we could fall into the same trap as the nutritionists. Eat moderate portions, don’t go for seconds, don’t eat snacks.

12) Relax, eat slowly, enjoy and savor your food, your family, your friends. Eating can and should be one of the great pleasures in our lives; not a source of worry or guilt.

A New Paradigm

We are entering a post industrial phase in our society. We find that more and better are synonymous no longer. There was a time, in the not so distant past, when they were. But now we often find that more is actually harmful and unsustainable. And nowhere is that more apparent than in our food and eating habits.

The enabler of the centralized production of food and other products has been cheap and plentiful oil. That situation no longer exists. And even if it did, the other problems of our current arrangement make it imperative that we seek an alternative.

Changing our food system and eating habits is one of the few circumstances where a decision that improves our health also improves the environment, our society, our community, our security, and our satisfactions.

As Wendell Berry famously stated, eating is an agricultural act. When we choose what we eat, we are making a decision with multiple implications. We are making a personal health choice that affects not only us but our loved ones and our society at large. We are making a choice to support industrial agriculture, including the crimes and misdemeanors of that system, or we choose to support local and regional farmers and our local economy. We choose the methods and the dangers of CAFOs, or we choose safer meats and a clearer conscience. We choose a secure local and regional food economy or we choose to be hostage to the dictators of the oil supply.

I have discussed many negatives here. But there is great hope and possibility for change – and we can all participate. There is a movement now toward local, healthy, and sustainable food. Farmers Markets and local food co-ops are appearing in communities all over the country – and thriving.

Here in Glasgow and Barren County we have a wonderful opportunity arising. The Green Market Co-op is organizing and hoping to open a store here within the year. This will be a locally owned store selling locally and regionally produced foods. It will provide easy access to the most healthy foods that you can buy. And the farmer gets more profit as he avoids the corporate processors and middle men who siphon off much of the food dollar. Plus, a dollar spent in the Green Market gets circulated back into the local economy, rather than being sent to Bentonville, Arkansas at midnight.

Well grown and raised food with great nutritional value and taste with proceeds and profits circulating back into the local economy – win, win, win.

Many writers on the national scene, including Michael Pollan and Bill McKibben, suggest that Kentucky is perfectly situated to be a leader in regional food production. We have an infrastructure of existing small farms which previously grew tobacco and are now looking for alternative crops. The lay of the land in our state and the climate is excellent for growing produce and for grass farming cattle and other livestock. The abolition of disincentives for small farmers could put Kentucky in the forefront of this movement nationally.

I am not suggesting that we boycott or abandon existing supermarkets and products. I suggest that we make more informed choices in our purchases. The one thing that big box retailers and corporations understand is money; and if they are making less, they will adjust to the demands of the consumer. But I also suggest that we look deeper at the way that we approach food. Eating is a political act, also, and we should remain vigilant to what our government does in farm policy, specifically policies that are favorable to ADM, Cargill, Tyson, National Beef and other mega-corporations and harmful to our small farmers. Our government subsidizes high fructose corn syrup – they don’t subsidize carrots.

Eat well and live a long and happy life. Enjoy your food. Taste it again.

We vote with our forks. Make an informed vote.

See you at the polls.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Some follow up information...

Some of the things we talked about last night are further explained here. Joe was talking about websites that already exist and I have created links to them here. First this link takes you to a site which has already been created with our tax dollars. If you will go there and poke around a bit, you will see that Joe's operation, Trigg Enterprises, is listed as one of only four vegetable producers in Barren County. If you examine this site a bit more, you will find that it is powerful, a bit difficult to use, and practically devoid of the sort of information for Barren County that we talked about. Still, as Joe said, it might not make a lot of sense to pay again to rebuild this sort of site. Maybe we need to focus on getting it populated with information.

Another site Joe talked about is at this link. Again, it is certain that we already helped pay for this one, but, really, take a look at it. Exactly what good is it? Maybe I just haven't looked long and hard enough, but it only lists Cave City Farmers Market as the only one available in our area and, another site that it links to lists Dennisons as the only certified roadside market in the area. I wonder if we would do any good lobbying these folks to add more information to their site or if we would not be better off just ignoring this one and working on our own and/or modification of the first site linked above to make progress toward our goal of a Barren County specific directory of producers.

Finally, this link takes you to the web site I was talking about that would be something like I envision us developing for our mission.

Just some food for thought. No pun intended.

Minutes of 9.3.08 Meeting

The first meeting of a group interested in the promotion of localism and, in particular, the promotion of a sustainable local food economy, was held at the residence of Rhonda Trautman, 289 Winners Circle, Glasgow, Kentucky, at 7:00 p.m. on September 3 2008. Those in attendance were: William Ray, Jerry Ralston, Kimberly Page, Rhonda Trautman, William Travis, and Joe Trigg.

William Ray kicked off the meeting by explaining his interest in the creation of a group willing to create a plan, and promote the plan to all those in a position to effect the plan, for food production independence for Glasgow and Barren County citizens. Each attendee followed by explaining their interest in the subject. There was general agreement that this idea is worth pursuing and that the group should seek other like-minded individuals, both consumers and producers, to join the group at the next meeting.

Further discussion ensued about how the excitement and the conversation could continue. William Ray then volunteered to set up a simple blog and invite all attendees to be authors on the blog so that ideas and conversation could continue at all times such that a virtual meeting was constantly convened.

At about 9:20 p.m., the initial meeting of the unnamed group adjourned.

Okay guys and girls, that is my version of the minutes. Now, when and where do you want to meet again. Respond by clicking on the "comment" link below and following the directions from google blogger.