Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Soil Not Oil: Part II

Lisa Bunin, PhD, of the Center for Food Safety explains, “When you eat organic, 
you can feel confident that you are contributing to a better world by supporting farmers 
and farming practices that steward the fertile land upon which a secure food future depends.” 
The organic policy director explains that the impact of choosing to purchase and eat organic foods
 not only benefits our bodies, but also nourishes soil, conserves water, restores ecologic diversity, 
and protects the health of farm workers and communities. 
As such, Lisa supports the take-home message of 
Maria Rodale’s book Organic Manifesto: 
“If you do just one thing—make one conscious choice—
that can change the world, go organic.”
from The Cultivator, September 15, 2015

NonGMO Top Hat corn pollinated by Anasazi corn.
Pimento peppers from MuRefuge seeds.
Not only stunning, but tasty too,  Anasazi corn.
Relish made with Pimento peppers and Anasazi corn
When one grows the food one eats, one does not need to question what is in the food. Food
grown at MuRefuge is grown in soil that has been regenerating for some 20+ years now. The vegetable beds get compost from our compost bins on a regular basis as well as comfrey tea made right here at MuRefuge. 

When one eats out or buys one's food, what is in the food is often unclear and the source of the food often a mystery. We are so fortunate here in Sonoma County to have not one but two places to eat out where the source of the food is clearly identified. Peter Lowell's in Sebastopol has been open since October, 2007 serving organic food which is sourced from local farms. I simply love their Italian like pizza cooked in their brick oven. The second restaurant has been more recently opened a few years ago and is located in Forestville, a short jaunt North on Highway 116 from MuRefuge. The Backyard is unique in that it sources its food from farms West of Highway 101, totally in The West County (of Northern California's Sonoma County). For brunch they offer duck eggs as an alternative to chicken eggs which my body is unhappy to have ingested. My latest anti-agribusiness stance: we not be consuming feedlot meat nor sludge fed vegetables. 

Shopping for food at the Sebastopol Farmers Market is a delightfully social event for me. Talking to the farmers about their practices is always fun and enlightening. The two vendors I buy most regularly from are Singing Frogs Farm and The Patch that is owned and farmed by a knowledgeable Mexican man. Not only are the vegetables grown at these farms more tasty, the qi is obvious. What vegetables I choose to buy to augment the abundance from right here at MuRefuge is informed by moderation and seasonality. I do not buy kale every week and with good reason if you check out the information now available about kale and her relatives.

From my point of view, Americans have become passive about food, accepting the new and latest fade and/or "the spin" put on what is good for us. Often what passes as food is not real food but rather processed beyond recognition. During a visit to an organic vegetable garden the children were asked to name a vegetable they liked and one child answered, "spaghetti." "Yikes!" I thought when I heard this.

So I was ever so delighted while attending the Soil Not Oil conference in Richmond, to hear from so many of the young adults sharing their "work" to bring attention not only  to
regeneration of the soil but also to the nutrient deficient food produced from our depleted soil (not to mention the lack of life giving qi).  Others shared their concern for the masses consuming processed food created by the megacorporations that support agribusiness in their toxic approach to soil depletion and offered examples of solutions practiced by this energetic, focused 20's and 30's generation. These young people are acting to reverse the time bomb (climate change) created by their forefathers. 

One of the Plenary II speakers was a young woman from Mexico, Adelita San Vicente Tello,  who is protecting Mexican corn against GMO manipulation. She shared that corn is an "invention of ours and corn invented us" since corn has been grown in her native country for over 8000 years. Using Dr. Vandana Shiva's mentorship, in 2009, she organized legal action to halt corporate ownership of corn and asked for respect of our right to what is ours. Of course, the big corporations pushed to stop the legal action. Mexico's opposition to GMO corn is the biggest effort of any country worldwide.

Claire Hope Cummings, an environmental/native land rights lawyer and journalist, encouraged everyone in the audience to consider "an inconvenient truth versus a reassuring lie." She talked of industrial agriculture creating both human and natural catastrophe in the not so distant future. Industrialized agriculture is dehumanizing, while the land is more productive when people "farm" as "family". She shared her view that storytelling that nurtures both humans and the land has great power to shift one away from the "reassuring lies" of industrial agriculture. Her most poignant example was the story of Skywoman appearing in Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass. Regenerative agriculture brings forth a commitment to nature as well as laughter she stressed. Also, she reassured the audience that "science" is on our side. Check out IAASTD for more on this. 

"We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity
belonging to us. When we see land as a community to
which we belong, we may begin to use it with love 
and respect."
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1949)

Anna Lappe, mother of a three year old and coauthor of report Spinning Food: How Food Industry Front Groups and Covert Communication are Shaping the Story of Food, succinctly shared how the megacorporations are using the growing social media networks with such themes as "trust us, we're the experts," "toxic sludge is good for you" and creating frontline presence with such organizations as US Farmers Ranchers Alliance, Alliance to Feed the Future, Protect the Harvest and Global Harvest Initiative. I would encourage any of you who frequently "google" to get information on the web to check out the entire report on Food MythBusters before accepting the information from whatever wbsite comes up first in your search.

And everyone sharing my table for Plenary III knew Vani Hari, aka Food Babe. Her story of moving from ill health to recovering her vibrancy struck a cord with me. This first generation Indian whose parents moved from India to this country so her father could continue his college studies ate from infancy processed American food as her father mandated. Reaching young adulthood in a very debilitated and robot like state, she set out to discover what exactly was in the food that everyday Americans ate. For example she discovered that the US Kraft's mac 'n cheese had toxic additives, but not so with that product sold and eaten in Britain. Through initiatives started on her blog she has successfully altered what big companies put in their food or what kind of food they buy. Did you hear that McDonald's, who uses one-third of all eggs produced in this country, is going with cage free eggs and Chipotle is going with organic meat? If we the people step out of our trance and speak up, we can make a difference. 

MuRefuge's pantry filled with the abundance from her three quarters of an acre.

As each of us consider "an inconvinient truth versus a reassuring lie" and commit to the regeneration of soil and health giving, nutrient dense food, may each of us 


  1. An email from Tempe, AZ: "Cathie-I always look forward to your postings, they are written with an intelligent voice and contain very useful information for everyone on a wide range of topics.
    I am also am impressed with the amount of time and talent you possess as you write each post and thank-you for sharing with your eager audience!

    Wow-the shelves at MuRefuge are definitely a picture of a bountiful harvest.

    Looking forward to the fall weather and a turning in more towards one’s self in solitude and reflection.


  2. From our British friend in Cotat: "Hi Cathie
    We went to Dr. Vandana Shiva's talk in the SR Heirloom Festival - and she mentioned she was also at the Soil not Oil conference
    Dr. Vandana Shiva told us about some of the more restrictive seed sale/propagation laws that came into effect in California this year - had you heard about them? We hadn't.

    The most obvious is not allowing any other county to do a GMO ban


  3. From Palm Springs came this email: "Wonderful Cathie! So informative. I really appreciate being able to access other information on foods through your blog.
    I must say, I'm pretty happy I never warmed up to kale much! Who needs thallium in their diet!?
    I wish we had access to the range of organics here in the desert that you have in Sonoma. You're very fortunate.
    Thank you for all the hard work researching all you do.
    Love, A"

  4. An email from the Ennneagram arena: "hi cathie,

    and thanks for this..

    we are stopping over at heathrow on our way to sweden for a couple of weeks.

    jimmy will be teaching about world food issues and i'll be teaching the enneagram (!) to a group of young people from all over the world.

    it promises to be really interesting.

    hope you and dwight are thriving!

    lots of love, louise"

  5. An email from a local friend: "once again, thanks for all you share with us. And the food photos are spectacular-- how could those foods NOT be good for you!

  6. An email from Shasta's inner species communication (and my dear long distant friend!) "We are living in a very pivitol place. Are we going to grow up and become responsibile people or are we going to continue to behave like very spoiled children stamping our feet when we don't get what we want. Not looking further then immediate gratification. Responsibility is really up. Much love, Sandy "