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January 11, 2011 / robertstockham

Fixing our broken food system:

Population explosion.  Drought.  Famine.  Politics.  These are all the reasons that people around the world go hungry every day, right?  Wrong.  The real reasons why we cannot feed the world’s population is waste.  We throw away too much food.  We overproduce foods that we will not be able to consume, and then we truck food all across the globe for no good reason.  And we are greedy.

It is always easy to point the finger at someone else and say it is their fault.  The truth of the matter is that we are all to blame.  We have all led to the current mass production of food and the need for mechanized farms.  At one time, most of the food that we consumed was grown on small family farms.  It was produced locally.  And farming was a career to be proud of.  When did things change?  Slowly, the family farm was replaced by large scale corporate giants.  These conglomerates began squeezing out the family farm in pursuit of the almighty dollar.  And consumers loved it.  Let’s face it, how much will you really pay for a tomato?  Will you pay $5 a pound if it means that it was grown on a small farm, provided living wages to all employees without exploiting them, and used farming practices that were less harmful to the environment?  While we like to all think we would, the lack of these tomatoes in the local grocery says quite simply that the majority of Americans will not.  Furthermore, most cannot.  If you can, well more power to you, but how many of the stocks or mutual funds in that IRA of yours are drawing their profits from the likes ofMonsanto (in my opinion the anti-christ of the farming world) or Dole (the devil of worker mistreatment)?  I live on a budget and thus am guilty as anyone else.  And I like pineapple, on occasion (so you know of another brand besides Dole?)  As we are slowly squeezing out the family farm, we are dumping more food onto the American marketplace so fast that we have to find new ways to use it.  We are sweetening everything with corn, feeding it to cattle and other livestock, and now trying to make biofuels and dishes out of it.  Corn is not really a sustainable product, it just makes massive farms a lot of profit.

The result of all this cheap food on the market?  Stamping out starvation?  No.  Instead, we Americans are simply throwing it away.  I have heard it said that we already produce enough food to feed every person on the planet.  So why aren’t we?  Americans are wasteful gluttons.  First off, we throw out a lot of food.  It is estimated that we throw out 50% more now than we did in the 70s.  Studies say that amounts to between 30 and 40 percent of all the food produced in this country.  A lot is lost at the production and manufacturing level, but at least half of this wasted food is tossed out at home by consumers.  I was sure that this was over estimated, until I really took a hard look at our own household.  Two people living in one house find it hard to eat the food we buy, and it is even worse for someone who lives alone.  Packages of food are too large for small households, and shopping is often inconvenient.  It has become harder and harder to shop more often and buy less things.  I am watching our consumption very closely, but we still have leftovers that do not always get eaten, produce that goes bad before it really ripens or foods that get freezer burn.  The results are probably right on the mark.

Besides the waste in food itself, there are more ramifications to these studies.  More wasted food means more wasted fossil fuels in their production and transport.  Growing excess foods means we use more and more water-a growingly scarce commodity.  To top it all off, our supply chains no longer make sense.  We import apples to Ohio from Washington state, new Zealand, etc. while we have plenty of farms right here to supply our local apple needs.  In fact, I have been told that only 1% of all food produced in Ohio actually is consumed here.  Michael Polin (Deep Agriculture) told how we import butter cookies from Denmark, and export butter cookies to Denmark when we could just exchange recipes.  If we could fix some of these inequities in the supply chain, we could use the saving to transport excess foods to those places where it is needed to feed those who are starving.  But then there is no profit in that.

Then there is the health problems in this country.  Diabetes is on the rise, as well as heart disease and obesity.  Many contribute the excess of food production as  contributing factor to these problems.  Manufacture and marketing of food products is big business in America, and we will work extra long hours to avoid cooking our own food and to provide Twinkies to our family.  We wold rather drive through a McDonald’s than buy and prepare our own food.

The lack of clean water and steady food supplies has lead to starvation, instability, and unrest in many parts of the world.  At the same time, we are tossing out tons of food every year (more than $48 billion worth).  The rest of the world is suffering and we sit back and gorge ourselves.  No wonder so many other countries hate us.  At the same time, envy of our lifestyle has led to the desire to add more meat to the diets in other countries.  This leads to more conversion of global rain forests to grazing lands to support cattle.

So in the scheme of things, war, famine, drought population have less to do with our ability to feed the world’s population than our own wasteful ways.


January 6, 2011 / robertstockham


Who doesn’t love Chilean Sea Bass?  Most people do, and it is delicious-but you shouldn’t eat it.  It’s because this fish, like so many others, have been hauled up in fishing nets by the millions for years and has now become threatened as a species. Fishermen have noticed huge declining numbers of this particular fish for over a decade. On another BBC television show’s episode, a Last Restaurant Standing chef had to cater a dinner party and served the endangered sea bass and not only failed the challenge but recieved quite a stern tongue-lashing from host and judge Raymond LeBlanc.

Chilean Sea Bass is not the only over-harvested fish. There are dozens of fish out there who have been culled to the brink of extinction. How does one keep up on the latest statistics? Monterey Bay Aquarium in California has come to the rescue. A person can download handy cards which list the endangered fish, as well as give suggestions for which fish to choose instead. Their website at: shows a host of different downloadable cards based on geographic location, or you can download the “national” card option. They suggest you put the card in your wallet or purse and then refer to it when you’re dining out. How clever!
Monterey Bay Aquarium SeafoodWatch Card

January 3, 2011 / robertstockham

Is “Green” your mantra, mindset, or buzzword?

A guest post from Robert Stockham at Great Lakes Green Pages:

I know I am the oddball in the room.  That is fine.  I accept it.  I am that weird guy who has his own name tag, tries to bring his own cup, and often will not take your business card, because I don’t want more paper.   That’s fine.  I don’t mind being different from everyone else, and I don’t mind being the weird one in a group.  I also don’t expect others to be like me.  That being said, I have been to 2 separate sustainability events that were hosted by the local chapter of the USGBC, and it amazes me that people do not even think about their trash or their transportation.  I am that crazy person that drinks draft beer if a location doesn’t recycle, or who takes his juice bottle home.  But when I go to an industry event promoting sustainability, I at least expect people to recycle.

When I last went to Greenbuild, the entire event recycled.  They even had most of the garbage stations manned on the first day to instruct people that their coffee cups are compostable and go in one can, their water bottle is recyclable and that very little actually goes into the garbage.  Care was taken to provide cups made from sugar cane and water was available by the glass, not by the bottle.  At local events, though there is often not even a recycling bin.  We went to an event where a new park was being dedicated.  A building was being taken down and a new green space was going to be created along the towpath.  They provided refreshments, but there was no place to recycle the pop cans or water bottles that we being given out.  Funny, when the whole point was to support new green space and land re use.  So they were a little short sighted.  At least this was not a sustainability event.

So, two events hosted by the NE Ohio chapter of the USGBC.  Both attended by building industry professionals.  Both had recycling bins stationed near the garbage.  Both were well attended.  Both had piles of recyclables in the trash.  I get it when the food is served with plastic forks and you don’t know if they are recyclable or not, or if the plates can be recycled because there are food remnants attached.  But for pete’s sake, if you are going to a “green” event why would you not take the care to toss you glass bottle into the bin on the right that is inches away?

Sustainability and green are not new concepts.  In fact, most of the basic ideas that we are promoting these days were big in the 1970s.  Remember driving less, cause you could only get gas on certain days of the week?  Remember the push for the bottle deposit?  Carter put solar panels on the White House.  Even the “Give a hoot, don’t pollute” campaign is decades old.  But much of the progress that we made in the 60s & 70s was replaced by consumption and consumerism of the end of the 20th century.  Now everyone seems to be on board again.  While the USGBC has been around for nearly a decade, and the building concepts that were behind its formation even older, it has only been the last couple of years that we are seeing the idea of building more sustainable becoming mainstream.  As was said in a presentation today, if  Wal-Mart is doing it, then everybody better be doing it.  But in a room full of building professionals who aspire to do better, why is there obvious recyclables in the trash?  It makes me wonder if this is more about business as usual.

Since buildings account for nearly half of all CO2 emissions,  any reason to build greener is a good reason.  That being said, when we are most concerned about just ourselves, the results are often fleeting.  Are we doing the right thing, because it is important, or because we are trying to find a “leg up” in a tough economic time?  Are we creating real lasting change, or like the fuel efficient cars of the past, are we just waiting for our chance to start buying Hummers again?  As a business, as a  household, as an individual are you using ‘green” as your buzzword, or is it a way of life?  These are the things I wander when I see the parking lot of a green event filled with SUVs and the trash full of aluminum cans.


December 22, 2010 / robertstockham

Culinary Vegetable Institute Events

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The “Chef for a Day” Experience
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An experience like no other…

Join us for a unique and fun culinary experience like no other! Spend the day in the Culinary Vegetable Institute’s state-of-the-art kitchen working along side award- winning chefs.

Help to prep and prepare an Earth to Table Dinner for that night’s guests using locally sourced and sustainable products. Learn new skills and “tricks of the trade” to take home and add to your culinary repertoire.

After a long day of learning and assisting in the kitchen, you will be able to relax and enjoy dinner along with a guest of your choice with the chefs. Basic kitchen skills are required.

$350 per day per person. Only 2 spots per dinner are available.

For more information and to reserve your space call 419-499-7500.

Culinary Vegetable Institute
12304 State Route 13
Milan, Ohio 44846
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Culinary Vegetable Institute | 12304 State Route 13 | Milan | OH | 44846