Monday, April 27, 2009


They took all the trees
and put them in a tree museum
and they charged the people
a dollar and a half just to see em
don't it always seem to go
you don't know what you've got
till it's gone
they paved paradise
and put up a parking lot

Hey farmer farmer
put away that DDT now
give me spots on my apples
but leave me the birds and the bees

Joni Mitchell
- Big Yellow Taxi

Something is a foot, a tipping point of sorts. Yesterday I was talking to a dairy farmer from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy at the Avenue A market. She was telling me about why they choose not to have organic certification, it costs $35,000 to get (yikes, why are we penalizing farmers for wanting to be come organic and making it so out of reach?) and there are lots of ways around it. She suggested that if for example you had an orchard that was certified organic yet you had three other orchards that were not you could easily mix and match your fruit so the consumer would see your organic certification, but you would not necessarily be getting an organic apple or grape or whatever. So I thought I would write an post today called Talking to Farmers, something I do a lot of these days. Then this morning I was reading Ann Saxelby's wonderful weekly newsletter where she talks about all the wonderful things that are happening in the world of food and sustainability, she mentions my favorite then goes on to talk about a site by the radio show host Majora Carter She talks to "inspiring people from around the world" and has a ton of great interviews, I'd never heard of her or the site before and I can just tell from my brief visit I'm going to be spending a lot of time there! Finally the site that I most was excited about is the brainchild of a local couple I love this site, it's all beige and brown and very Williamsburg retro funky in it's aesthetic so it's no surprise that there slogan is: The Future is in the Pasture. So you see where this is all going? Just yesterday I was talking to a farmer and a few days before that I wrote a posting here that started: let us begin on a journey backwards that is all about slowing down and re-evaluating our ideas about food, cooking and time well spent. Retrovore is a great site and low and behold what is on their home page, audio clips of interviews with farmers talking about their products.

It reminds me of the Tom Waits song I Never Talk to Strangers from his album Small Change, it's a duet with Bette Midler and at one point after she has just perfectly nailed him and his wayward ways he exclaims: "you must be reading my mail!" It always makes me laugh and today it just seems downright prescient. Not that what I do here is at all unique or that I ever thought I was the only person that was doing it, but look their is a lot of people thinking the same things and feeling passionate enough about it to start writing about it bad talking about these issue so important to the way we live now. Or more to the point the ways in which we need to change how we live in order to maintain our health and the health of the planet. Very exciting.

The interview that peeked Anne's interest on The Promised Land was with a guy named Andy Lipkis who is the founder of an organization called certainly you need to take a moment and listen to this inspiring interview. The real nugget of what he suggests is that about schools, he has the really amazing idea, he convinced the school board of LA to tear up asphalt in school yards and plant trees instead. How amazing is that? I grew up going to public schools in Hamilton, Canada. Every school in this 6th largest city in Canada is surround by large swaths of asphalt, just think what it would do to the landscape of the city if these graveyards of asphalt where we expect our children to play was a forest, filled with shade, birds and soft moss and wild grass patches to play in? Creating better air and cooling the schools in the summer time and cutting down on air conditioning costs. Now I have to wonder where did the idea that asphalt was a good thing? That this hard dead fossil fuel based substance that needs constant maintenance at great expense was better then nature? That's a rhetorical question because I think we all know the answer. The good news is thanks to Tree People and Andy Lipkis we know what the future of school yards should look like.

As an urban guy I find it very exciting to see how people are working towards making the city a place that isn't just about concrete, asphalt and the occasional park. For years I have walked up and down the streets of New York and gotten angry because you could walk for blocks and blocks and never see a tree on a street. Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg's commitment to planting tress and Andy Lipkis's visionary ideas I feel like the whole concept of what a city is and can be is changing and greening for the future.


Joni Mitchell is a Goddess and in re-reading those lyrics above I realize what a profound influence she has made on my life, an influence and an inspiration that has been, well as constant as a northern star.

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