Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Local Foods and Farmers Markets - Interview with Michael Pollan

Here is a link to an newly published interview with Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and The Botany of Desire) regarding several food issues including local food production and farmers markets. Worthwhile reading with local implications.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


The foundation of Sustainable Glasgow’s goals and objectives can be summed up in two words: LIVE LOCAL.  Living local is a concept that has been whisked into the national spotlight as a result of our current economic situation and the realization that our national economy is not as sustainable as most of us would like to believe.  As large corporations go under, towns and cities across America are affected when they pull out of town taking their jobs with them.  As the cost of fueling our habits of seeking our entertainment and lifestyle across a large geographic area spirals upward, we need to rediscover the simple pleasures of this place we call home.

All of this makes us see that, if we merely supported the small, local mom and pop shops instead of Mega-Mart, we wouldn’t have to worry about what kind of corruption may be happening at corporate headquarters a thousand miles away. And just imagine the possibilities if we spent the amount of time and money usually spent on travelling to Nashville to a concert or to Bowling Green for dinner on making our own backyards more enjoyable.  Living local is power.

Living local means knowing that the bacon you have on your breakfast table was not transported hundreds of miles, multiplying the risk of contamination all along the way.  In fact, local operations can easily track that product back to the very animal it came from.  This knowledge would be nice to have when the national media starts warning of contaminated meat products or, for that matter, peanut butter, tomatoes, lettuce…living local is peace of mind.

Another element of living local is the feeling you have from knowing the person who produces and/or sells a certain product.  Whether you are buying from your neighbor the pharmacist or your neighbor the farmer, there is something to be said for that and the trust we put in each other.  Not only does it give you a peace of mind, but also forms a sense of camaraderie between producer and consumer that cannot be replicated by a big box retailer.  Granted, there is a cost for everything.

Buying locally may not always be the most convenient way to do your shopping but, in the future, it pays off in ways that will keep Glasgow a strong, unique community.  In these hard economic times, people are beginning to realize the need for a strong local economy, a job, and a livable community.  Living local addresses all of these issues and Sustainable Glasgow is here to advance these goals.  I hope that you will join us, both in the group and in the community by LIVING LOCAL and becoming what we call a Locavore.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On a Lighter Note (no pun intended)

I have been very interested, as part of SG's localism mission, in providing a stage and audience for local and area musicians. We have numerous talented people here but no "music scene."

One of my favorite music-related programs on TV is KET's WoodSongs. It originates from the Kentucky Theater in Lexington and is broadcast also on radio around the world. The host, Michael Jonathan, brings in a wide variety of musical talents, most of the roots variety, who sing and play acoustic instruments. They have bluegrass, folk, blues, rock, country,and some that do not easily fit into a category.

On the last episode, Jonathan described a program they sponsor called WoodSongs Coffeehouse. This is a community-based local program that spins off the national program. Sponsors are allowed to use the WoodSongs logo and name and get recognition on the program and website. It can be a once a month gathering/performance or more frequent if desired.

I think that starting a WoodSongs Coffeehouse in Glasgow would be a great way to introduce this idea and test the waters for this type of entertainment. One need only have an existing facility (restaurant,cafe, building,theater) to host this. It need not be large - seat at least 50 people but they recommend it not be TOO large. A PA system is needed, but could be rented if necessary. A small cover fee can be charged, but some are happy with just proceeds from concessions. I can think of some locations here that would be great as venues.

At SG, we first and foremost wish to enhance local commerce; but we also want to enhance otherwise the quality of life in our community. The support of local entertainment is a project in that respect.
I will include a link to the Woodsongs Coffeehouse website below. Check it out. Watch the program on KET or watch some archived programs on their website.
If anybody is interested in pursuing this project or knows somebody who would, please let me know.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Be Careful What You Ask For...You Might Get It

Perhaps the Sustainable Glasgow members are guilty of not heeding this ages old advice. We have asked the City of Glasgow for their support of our announced projects for 2009, and we got it. At a recent meeting of the Glasgow Common Council, Dr. Travis did a great job explaining who we are and what we are and just what we want to accomplish for our neighbors this year. After his presentation, the Council voted unanimously to back our movement.

Just to remind everyone, our two big initiatives for 2009 are the establishment of the Bounty of the Barrens Market at the South Central Kentucky Cultural Center, and the establishment of a Garden Plot Project on yet to be determined public property. Most of our efforts since the meeting have centered on the establishment of the market. Discussions with the folks who govern the South Central Kentucky Cultural Center are ongoing and we are quite optimistic that we will soon have a deal worked out with them which will allow us to use the outstanding facilities there to establish a Saturday market which should commence around the first week of June.

Of course, while we are dreaming, we decided to dream big. Of course we hope to convince a large number of local producers to populate our Bounty of the Barrens Market. We hope those producers will bring a wide variety of local foods to our market on Saturdays and we hope that some of them will hire some local people in that endeavor and we hope they will buy equipment, seeds, fertilizer, etc. at a local store. In this fashion we hope to bring hope and business to local establishments who have been rocked by the faulted economy through no fault of their own. But there is more.

We also want these Saturdays to be festive events. We want the BOTB market Saturdays to include great local food and also great local talent. We want to feature local musicians to entertain folks as they shop. We want to feature cooking demonstrations and cooking classes that will help locals understand how to prepare the bounty which will be available at the market. We want the market to become a destination which will give locals a reason to stay in Glasgow on those Saturdays and also give them a reason to spend the money they might otherwise spend on gasoline to drive to a neighboring community, right here at a local restaurant or retail store.

We want all of these things, and we should be able to provide all of this, if we get your help. Right now the Sustainable Glasgow team is a bit small for the dreams we have. Are you a dreamer too? If so, we certainly could use you and your friends to pitch in with us to achieve these things that we have asked for. It appears that local government is going to give us a great chance to start small and grow an asset for our community that may become a very big thing. IF you just sit back and watch, you might have a front row seat for our failure. IF you pitch in with us, together we can begin to build the resilient and sustainable economy we all dream of.

We need your help, your ideas, your membership, and your participation.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Should We Build Our Own Peanut Processing Facility?

Good grief! You just cannot make this stuff up! Can any food processed in a factory environment be trusted any more? Check out the following story from today's NYT.

ATLANTA (AP) -- Private lab tests show there may have been salmonella at a second plant operated by the peanut company at the center of a national outbreak, but the potentially tainted products were not sent to consumers, Texas health officials said Tuesday.

The Peanut Corp. of America temporarily closed its plant in Plainview, Texas, Monday night at the request of health officials after the tests found ''the possible presence of salmonella'' in some of its products, the Texas Department of Health said in a statement.

The Texas plant produces peanut meal, granulated peanuts and dry roasted peanuts. Texas state health officials said that possibly contaminated peanut meal and granulated peanuts had not been sent to customers. Potentially contaminated dry roasted peanuts were shipped to a distributor, but were caught before reaching the public, state officials said.

The company is being investigated in connection with an outbreak that has sickened 600 people and may have caused at least eight deaths. More than 1,840 possibly contaminated consumer products have been recalled.

Peanut Corp. closed its plant in Blakely, Ga., last month after federal investigators identified that facility as the source of the salmonella outbreak. Company spokeswoman Amy Rotenberg did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

The Texas closing came a day after the FBI raided the company's plant in Georgia, hauling off boxes and other material. Agents executed search warrants at both the plant and at Peanut Corp.'s headquarters in Lynchburg, Va., according to a senior congressional aide with knowledge of the raids. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

During their investigation at the Georgia plant, Food and Drug Administration inspectors found roaches, mold, a leaking roof and other sanitation problems. They also found two strains of salmonella. Though different from the outbreak strain, the discovery of the bacteria at the plant signalled a hole in food safety.

The FDA said last week the company knowingly shipped salmonella-laced products from the Georgia plant after tests showed the products were contaminated. Federal law forbids producing or shipping foods under conditions that could make it harmful to consumers' health.

FDA spokeswoman Susan Cruzan said the agency is still investigating the Plainview facility. It was not immediately known if the discovery would lead to broader product recalls. Cruzan said the FDA is searching records to see where products from the Plainview plant may have been distributed.

''The FDA has collected its own samples and is awaiting lab results,'' Cruzan said. Initially, agency officials had indicated that the salmonella problems seemed to be limited to Peanut Corp.'s Georgia plant.

An Associated Press investigation last week revealed that the Texas plant, which opened in March 2005 and was run by a subsidiary, Plainview Peanut Co., operated uninspected and unlicensed by state health officials until after the company came under investigation last month by the Food and Drug Administration.

Doug McBride, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said Peanut Corp. agreed to shut the plant voluntarily as it works with the state agency.

Plainview Mayor John Anderson said Tuesday the Texas plant employed about 30 people. It was not immediately clear how they would be affected by the suspension.

''I'm just very sorry to hear that,'' Plainview Mayor John Anderson said Tuesday when a reporter called with news of the suspension. ''Hopefully it's just a temporary suspension. That'd be the best of all worlds.''

The company, which also operates a small plant under the name Tidewater Blanching in Suffolk, Va., sold its peanut butter to institutional clients, such as nursing homes, and its peanut paste to many other companies that used it as an ingredient in products ranging from cookies and ice cream to energy bars and pet treats. While the company initially said its products weren't sold directly to consumers, it said Sunday that some were sold directly to discount retailers.

Food safety attorney Bill Marler, one of several attorneys who have filed civil lawsuits against the company since the outbreak started, said it was the latest disturbing turn for Peanut Corp.

''It is clear that PCA is not a producer that companies could -- or can -- rely on for a safe product,'' he said.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

SG Membership

For anyone wanted to join SG, please print the following application and mail it to the address included!

Sustainable Glasgow, Inc.
2009 Membership Application

Personal Information

* First Name ___________________ * Last Name ____________________

* Contact E-mail __________________________

* Home Phone __________________ * Cell Phone _____________________

Mailing Address

* Street _________________________________

* City _____________ *State _____ * Zip _______


_____ Family Membership ($25)

List all family members (18+) (SG is looking for numbers!)
* Name _______________________________
Contact E-mail ________________________
Phone _______________________________

* Name _______________________________
Contact E-mail ________________________
Phone _______________________________

* Name _______________________________
Contact E-mail ________________________
Phone _______________________________

Committees (Please circle one you would like to be a part of)

Membership - This committee's task shall be to spread the word about SG and
try to steadily grow the membership toward 1,000 members.

Garden Plot Project - This committee's task shall be to gather the necessary information such that a project mimicking Bowling Green's initiative becomes active in Glasgow for this growing season...that means conceived, proposed, and accepted by the City by the end of March, 2009.

Year Round Marketplace - This committee's task shall be to gather the necessary information and do the work associated with the establishment of a year-round market facility where local producers and local consumers can conduct commerce.

Producer's Database - This committee's task will be to work on the central task of gathering information about all regional producers and gather enough information about each of them such that a simple web page could be established for each of them.

Political Action Committee - This committee will be responsible for developing relationships with local governments and other local boards such that SG is in a position to know what is being considered and be prepared to take positions on issues of interest to SG.

Return application along with $25 membership fee to:
Sustainable Glasgow, Inc.
PO Box 1654
Glasgow, KY 42142

Please make checks payable to “Sustainable Glasgow, Inc.”

Friday, February 6, 2009

Food Companies Have Great Lobbyists

Today's AP article on the ongoing discoveries relative the the peanut butter contamination are directly on point with what we are trying to save ourselves from in Glasgow. Just this week we have corresponded with our state legislators congratulating them for the HB 153 milk initiative and we emailed our congressional delegation in support of the appointment of Chuck Hassebrook, a Nebraskan ag expert who has long called for reforms and argued that the high limits on farm payments encourage consolidation in agriculture at the expense of the family farm, as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. We support him because he has the guts to bring real regulation and safety to our food system. It would be wonderful if 10,000 other "sustainable" movements would take hold in 10,000 other cities across the country, but, until then, we will continue the battle for Glasgow. Adding insult to injury, now we are having to tell the thousands of fellow Kentuckians who are still in shelters from the ice storm, that the peanut butter in their MRE's may be contaminated with salmonella. Now isn't that special?

Here is the article I am talking about:

Lawmakers: Food safety fixes need push from Obama
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Fixing the nation’s food safety woes may not be possible this year unless President Barack Obama makes it a top priority, a senior lawmaker warned after a hearing Thursday exposed loopholes in government oversight that contributed to the ongoing national salmonella outbreak.
“I hope President Obama puts the weight of his office behind this,” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, DIowa, said. “It’s going to require them to be actively pushing on this. This is a matter that we can’t continue to put off.” The salmonella outbreak — blamed on a company that produces only about 1 percent of the nation’s peanut products — has sickened at least 575 people in 43 states. At least eight have died. More than 1,300 foods that used ingredients from Peanut Corp. of America’s peanut processing plant in Blakely, Ga., have been recalled. While the outbreak appears to be slowing down, new illnesses are still being reported.
As a precautionary measure, Kentucky stopped distributing FEMA emergency meal kits Thursday for victims of last week’s ice storm after authorities warned that the meals may include packets of recalled peanut butter. No illnesses have been reported there.
Obama said earlier this week he’s not satisfied with how the Food and Drug Administration is handling food safety and his administration is reviewing the agency’s operations. At a Senate hearing Thursday on the salmonella outbreak, lawmakers reacted angrily when told that food companies and state safety inspectors don’t have to report to the FDA when test results find pathogens in a processing plant.
That leaves federal officials in the dark.
“I’d like to see some people go to jail,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said. “A fine is a cost of doing business. When somebody thinks they’re going to go to jail if they don’t report something and clean it up, that’s an entirely different matter.” Dr. Stephen Sundlof, head of the FDA’s food safety program, said companies are required to inform the FDA if they discover contamination after they’ve shipped a product, but not if the food is still at the plant. States forward reports on inspections they conduct for the FDA, but are not required to send inspections performed under their own laws.
“That’s one of the very serious loopholes we need to plug,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
In the Peanut Corp. case, the company found salmonella in its products at least 12 times in the past two years. FDA officials say the company retested, got a negative reading and shipped the products. Peanut Corp. denies any wrongdoing, and says it has fully cooperated with the investigation. The government has opened a criminal probe.
Several lawmakers have introduced legislation to improve the food safety system.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

HB 153

Below is a copy of the letter that I sent Representative Johnny Bell and Senator David Givens today regarding HB 153.  HB 153 seeks to create a state milk commission within the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.  This commission would be very beneficial to our local milk producers.  Please take the time to write (or e-mail via Representative Bell and Senator Givens to show your support for HB 153 and to thank them for sponsoring this important legislation.  

On behalf of Sustainable Glasgow I would like to express our support for HB 153, which calls for the creation of a state milk commission within the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. 

This legislation is right on track with the goals that we are trying to accomplish in the Glasgow/Barren County area.  Regional milk production is one of the core principles that Sustainable Glasgow was founded upon and we will do all that is possible to support local producers.  In the wake of the recent peanut butter recalls, it is more and more evident that something similar could occur to our milk supply.  By producing milk regionally it will be easier to track the path of the milk we consume and ensure that suppliers are complying with health and safety standards. 

We believe that a state milk commission as proposed in HB 153 would be a positive force to aid local producers in producing milk for local markets.  Providing Kentucky milk to Kentucky residents will enable local dollars to remain in the state, resulting in a multiplier effect that will undoubtedly boost our troubled economy. 

Thank you for recognizing the need for a state dairy commission and your dedication to making it reality.



Lauren B. Ray

Sustainable Glasgow, Inc.


Monday, February 2, 2009

U.S. Department of Food

While we struggle locally to get Sustainable Glasgow moving and to establish a local market for local produce, this article tells the story of the latest occurrences in the national struggle. Just as we have said, Michael Pollan has said, and now, Nicholas Kristof is saying, our Department of Agriculture should be renamed the Department of Food and it should be dramatically redesigned.