Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What can I do to avoid mental decline?

While your regular "poster" is by the ocean (with sunscreen on), a fellow gardener Alison authored a couple of posts. Read and heed! Thanks, Alison.

You’ve heard the stories: An elderly woman at home accidentally starts a house fire when she forgets she is cooking something on the stove. Dementia is nobody’s fault, but there are things that can be done to help avoid it or slow its progress.

One thing that can be done – and that is related to this blog – is to EAT YOUR VEGETABLES (and fruits).

Imagine a little tin box, set out in a hailstorm. One piece of hail might give it a little dent, but lots of hail will leave it looking pretty beat up. “Free radicals” are like pieces of hail in our brain – they beat up our brain cells, and those cells may not get replaced.

The nutrients from fruits and vegetables provide something like an armor shield for our brain cells. Actually, what they do is keep free radicals from even forming – they are “antioxidants,”  and “oxidization” is what produces free radicals.

The problem is, it seems nobody really likes to eat vegetables. It’s no wonder – vegetables these days are selectively grown for their ability to hold up during long shipping trips and still look good. Major vegetable producers don’t seem to care how the product tastes at the end of its journey. And to add insult to injury, they cost a lot.

Growing your own vegetables is an eye-opening (or should I say taste-bud-opening?) experience. For cost of a couple of bell peppers at the store, you can plant a row of them – plus tomatoes – in a garden.

It’s not until you’ve tasted home-grown and vine-ripened produce that you realize what you’ve been missing from the veggies at the store.

Become a home-grown fruit and vegetable addict – and save your brain!

Monday, July 18, 2011

YMCA today

I'm away for a couple of weeks so posting will be less than daily, but I'll still post here and there and even have a couple of guest bloggers contributing. Keep checking back!

As FunFest begins in Kingsport, there's good stuff going on in the garden. Today a middle school group from the YMCA will be visiting the Harvest of Hope Community Garden to learn about growing vegetables and to help with a service project.  WCYB plans to also visit and cover the visit. A WCYB local news segment on Harvest of Hope was broadcast between 5:30 and 6:15 a week ago and it was good; this should be, too!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rural Resources

Today I'm in a race against the kid-wake-up clock, but I have a couple of things to share.

One: Yesterday I went to a meeting at which the presenter was Sally Causey, executive director of Rural Resources in Greene County. I wish I could show you her Powerpoint so you could see all the awesome things they have going. A mobile farmer's market. A farm-to-hospital program that gives the local hospital access to purchasing farm-fresh produce for the cafeteria, and for employees there to buy. A farm-to-school program. Way cool stuff. Here's the Rural Resources mission statement, at least per Facebook:

We are a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the community in the preservation and improvement of agricultural land, preserving our rural heritage, and developing a locally sustainable system of producing and marketing agricultural products.
Looks to me like they're in the process of building a new, robust website, and that maybe the best way to find out more about what they have going on day-to-day is to "like" them on Facebook. 

Two: Something else you might like: Appalachian Sustainable Development is putting on a "Farm to Fork" dinner at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Link to info here. You need to get a ticket to go -- but please do if you can! It looks like a super gig to me. 

Three: A cool quote I saw yesterday when peeking my head in at Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee: "We're put here not to see through each other but to see each other through."

Happy day!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Go garden!

I am gearing up for the introduction of kindergarten to my family life, so I am limited in what I can pursue in terms of Harvest of Hope. But. Let it be said that there is SO MUCH growing and going on at our garden! Give me a few weeks and I think I might be able to let myself loose a little more to follow these ideas I have! I still do have one at home once the twins start the big K, but maybe -- just maybe ...

The garden is flourishing. Here are Larry and new volunteer Carol checking out the massive forest of tomatoes in one bed:

And a wider-angle look at some of the garden beds:

Pole beans:

Future fall beds (tentatively expected to be ready by August 15):

Little eggplants:

Baby tomatoes:

Some of our gardeners -- William, who moved to Kingsport from Kenya eight years ago, and his beautiful girls:

Some of our group, directing the garden. From left to right: Susan, Shirlene, Carol, Alison, Larry and Nancy. Not necessarily pictured but hugely influential: God.

As hard as it is to schedule, it makes me excited to meet again with our group. So much is, and so many are, at work in our community garden.

What's possible

"I've made an odd discovery. Every time I talk to a savant I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk to my gardener, I'm convinced of the opposite."
-- Bertrand Russell

I ganked this quote from From Dirt to Dinner: The Art and Science of Producing a Garden. And then I also Googled "Bertrand Russell" + garden. I liked the other quotes I found.

Tonight, a garden meeting. Expect more pictures!

Happy day.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Some more hunger stats

Friday I called Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, headquartered in Gray, to see if I could drill down further to statistics specific to Kingsport. I talked to Quinne Bryant in development and she was kind and helpful. Amid much chaos on my end (you know how kids are happily entertaining themselves till the moment when you pick up the phone?), I managed to get a bit closer to what hunger looks like in numbers, at least in our area.

In Sullivan County, 14.1% of the population lives below the poverty level. This is low for our area, which consists of an eight-county group that makes up Northeast Tennessee. Together in these eight counties, 15.7% live below the poverty level. (This data is from 2009, the most recent year it's available, per Ms. Bryant. The established levels I've linked to, however, are for 2011.)

Per the Tennessee State Report Card for 2010, 50.2% of all students classified as economically disadvantaged are eligible for federal reduced and free lunch program. In Sullivan County, this equals 3,255 students in grades K through 12.

According to the Food Research and Action Center, which is a leading national nonprofit organization "working to improve public policy and public-private partnerships to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the U.S.," there are 22 states in which 1/4 or more of the households reported food hardship. Tennessee is one of those states.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hunger stats

I pulled these statistics from the Second Harvest Food Bank of NE Tennessee website. There's more information there. I'll try to find some more drilled-down info specific to Kingsport in days to come. The long and the short of it is that more people in our town are hungry than we probably realize or think about on a day-to-day basis.

Many of the people who are most at risk for "food insecurity" are not in a position to attain what we'd consider to be healthy food. Many are at the mercy of others to provide; they are children or seniors who can't get to the grocery store or farmer's market -- or anywhere -- alone. Or they may be adults who are homeless or otherwise without means to attain good food.

We're blessed in Kingsport to have many food pantries and people willing to help, and that's the good news. But the starker picture is that most of us aren't aware of the measure of the problem or how it affects our neighbors.

HOW MANY CLIENTS RECEIVE EMERGENCY FOOD FROM SECOND HARVEST FOOD BANK OF NORTHEAST TENNESSEE?Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee provides emergency food for an estimated 70,500 different people annually. About 10,900 different people receive emergency food assistance in any given week.
WHO RECEIVES EMERGENCY FOOD ASSISTANCE?34% of households have children under 18 years old, 8% of households have children age 0 to 5 years, 5% of households include the elderly, about 88% of clients are non-Hispanic white, 7% are non-Hispanic black, 4% are Hispanic, the rest are from other racial groups, 21% of households include at least one employed adult, 84% had incomes below the federal poverty level during the previous month, 11% are homeless.
MANY CLIENTS ARE FOOD INSECURE WITH LOW OR VERY LOW FOOD SECURITYAmong all client households served by emergency food programs of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee 81% are food insecure, according to the U.S. government’s food security scale 44% of the clients have very low food security, among households with children 80% are food insecure and 34% are food insecure with very low food security.
MANY CLIENTS REPORT HAVING TO CHOOSE BETWEEN FOOD AND OTHER NECESSITIES42% of clients had to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities or heating fuel, 27% had to choose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage, 39% had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care, 32% had to choose between paying for food and paying for transportation, 43% had to choose between paying for food and paying for gas for a car.
DO CLIENTS ALSO RECEIVE FOOD ASSISTANCE FROM THE GOVERNMENT?63% of client households receive (SNAP) Benefits; it is likely that many more are eligible. Among households with school-age children 67% and 69% participate in the federal school lunch and breakfast programs, among households with school-age children 12% participate in the summer food program.
MANY CLIENTS ARE IN POOR HEALTH42% of households served has at least one household member in poor health.
WHAT KINDS OF ORGANIZATIONS OPERATE EMERGENCY FOOD PROGRAMS OF THE SECOND HARVEST FOOD BANK OF NORTHEAST TENNESSEE?83% of pantries, 75% of kitchens, and 65% of shelters are run by faith-based agencies. Private nonprofit organizations with no religious affiliation make up a large share of other types of agencies.
HAVE AGENCIES WITH EMERGENCY FOOD PROVIDERS REPORTED CHANGES IN THE NUMBER OF CLIENTS SEEKING SERVICES?Among programs that existed in 2006, 80% of pantries, 82% of kitchens, and 75% of shelters of The Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee reported there had been an increase since 2006 in the number of clients who come to their emergency food program sites.
WHERE DO AGENCIES WITH EMERGENCY FOOD PROVIDERS OBTAIN THEIR FOOD?Food banks are by far the single most important source of food for agencies with emergency food providers.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Before I post hunger stats (later today, maybe?) -- I'm doing a roll call. Is there anybody out there?

I'm reading a new book, in between other things. Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food by Wendell Berry. You might like it. Also, I just finished Take This Bread by Sara Miles. It has a less apparent connection to our garden, but the woman who wrote it founded a food pantry to feed the hungry in San Francisco. It's another one you might like, though it's a challenge that may make you uncomfortable.

OK. Have to go parent now ...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Open house

Skipping back a bit again, here are a couple of photos from the garden open house back in May. I thought I had more pictures from this event, so if anyone's reading who has more, please email them my way! In the first photo, Jill Salyers from United Way is giving an overview of the garden and its mission to folks who stopped by:

And here's Larry telling visitors about his work in the garden:

Tomorrow (or the next day?): some surprising stats on hunger in Kingsport.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Our problems

While I continue to try to catch one last source for my interview, I'll post a few more things this week. One is from a book I finished a while back and have had sitting by my computer since then for the very purpose of sharing here.

It's called The Blueberry Years: A Memoir of Farm and Family and it's by Jim Minick, a local to our part of the world. I have a copy if anyone would like to borrow it; I enjoyed reading it and learning from it.

This "blue interlude" from his book is one I doggeared to exerpt as another layer of reasons "why" a community garden:

Our problems
Whether we farm blueberries or beans, deal with late freezes or drought, our country's problems with agriculture are amazing in their complexity and number. And because we all eat and thus are members of this culture, we all are also implicated in these many problems and necessary in their solutions.
Take our assault on the very elements that sustain us. Iowa, for example, is one of the flattest and, at one time, topsoil-riches places in the world. Now, though, it has become one of our most eroded and eroding states, all because of how we farm. Plus, all the tons of dirt that float down our rivers carry petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, which in turn create river-delta dead zones visible from the moon, yet too big to imagine.
So we mine the dirt, failing to replenish it with sound farming practices. Then we pollute the water and mine it as well. Irrigating desert lands to produce soybeans only will last as long as the freshwater in the ground and the petro to pump it. We're quickly running through both.
Other problems, of the many we face, include a loss of diversity in natural habitats and crop seed genetics, a loss of land to development (Virginia lost twelve acres an hour between 2002 and 2007); a loss of experienced farmers as the old retire and the young don't take their places; a loss of rightly scaled farms, replaced by factory 'farms' with their pigs, cattle, and chickens no longer creating fertilizer for fields, but now industrial 'waste,' something once unknown on a farm; and a loss of food security as fewer and fewer farms grow more and more of our food. The 2007 USDA Census, for example, states that though the total number of all farms increased since 2002, only 125,000 farms grew 75 percent of our food. And that number was down 21,000 from 2002.
On the other end of this agriculture table are all of our health problems related to how we eat: cancer, diabetes, and especially obesity. We live in a country where it is now normal to be sickly fat, and even Reader's Digest has noted this. There, Andy Simmons writes, 'Americans are a collective 7,223,637,522 pounds overweight (give or take a million).'
Though few see the connection, our treatment of the soil is not separate from our treatment of our own bodies. They are the same.
Organic agriculture and local food movements are great alternatives, but still they only account for a miniscule amount of all our food.
What to do? Value health over wealth. Push for legislative change. Eat less or even fast once a week. Help feed your neighbor. Grow your own.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Big stuff

Things are as they should be at Harvest of Hope: growing. This week Master Gardener Larry began staking out the spots for more beds and started building more tomato cages. In between that work, he took a breather to star in a movie. Here's Larry by the Harvest of Hope sign talking garden for a United Way fundraising video.

And the garden -- whoa! A little rain and a couple weeks of sunshine, and look at it:

I hope to get my interview with Ann put together shortly -- I'm trying to track down another source or two. In the meantime, Happy Fourth of July!