Cleveland County Conservation District
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Helping People Reconnect To Our Environment

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New Workshop Series!

Posted on April 3, 2015 at 12:10 PM Comments comments (0)

We are pleased to announce that we will be kicking off a new workshop series called, Fields of Dreams on April 23rd at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Norman.  

This FREE series will help you develop your dream farm operation.  The next workshop in this series will address; loans, grants, business plans, location and licenses.  Some of our other future workshops will concern; Beekeeping, Soil Health, Composting, Marketing, Aquaponic Systems, Hoop Houses, No till, Goats, chickens and so much more!

If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected] 





Herb Appeal

Posted on April 1, 2015 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (1)



I recently had the opportunity to ride along with the District Conservationist for the Norman Field Office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service,(NRCS).  It turns out we were visiting Betty Leggiero from Kudo's Medicinal Herb Farm.  I know Betty, she has attended several workshops that the District has conducted.  But, today we were visiting her to check out her brand spankin new Hoop House.

                                                                       

Betty had received Cost Share Funds through the NRCS to build the Hoop House and it was time for a spot check. Betty also received some Technical Assistance concerning Grassed Waterways and Diversions to handle soil erosion.  While they were busy discussing business, I took a walk around and what I saw impressed me! 



Betty has a green roof!  And rain barrels are everywhere! 



And she tells me that she couldn't have built her roof without the help of these guys.  OU Sustainability Department Students came in droves to work on this project.  They added Cottonseed Hulls, Vermiculite and Coconut hulls, then topped it with mulch.  The whole project took 3 hours. 




She uses solar! 



Then, there was the chickens and chickens coops, her composting, and the HERBS!  I can't tell you how much I enjoyed visiting Betty and brushing up against herbs.  She didn't even say anything when she caught me snipping a sprig of Rosemary to tuck into my pocket.  When was the last time that you were able to visit one of Cleveland County's local producers????  Well, you're in luck because Betty's Kudos Farms will be at Norman's Farmers Market beginning April 4th, go by and say HI! 







The Quiet Garden

Posted on July 9, 2013 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (1)

  I am a big fan of finding some peace and quiet, that is one of the reasons why I love my garden.  I go into the garden to calm my nerves, relieve my stress, find some inner peace and focus my energy.  WHAT?  Ok, gardening could give me all those things, but so far they have never happened at the same time, but it gives fruit, so I'm happy.  Plus, I have had several epiphanies while holding a hand rake, funny how all my moments of budding genius involve garden tools.

Several weeks ago, I was enjoying a fantasy of being the next Joel Salatin when something struck me as odd; it was quiet.....too quiet, spooky quiet.  The kind of quiet that freaked me out as a young mother with a two year hell bent on destruction, more mine than hers as it turned out.  Anyway, for me quiet isn't about total silence or lack of movement.  It is the sound that a gentle breeze makes moving through my willow tree, the muffled tinkle of wind chimes, the gurgle of my stream, birds chirping and bees buzzing.....AND that was it!!  I hadn't heard or seen any bees.

Isn't it strange how you never notice the, "behind the scene" things?  You don't think about them, they're just there.  They exist and function without your interference or attention, things like; water pressure, electricity, postal service, the internet and our pollinators.  If any of the other systems were to break down, I would like to think that I would notice immediately, but the bees took a while longer.  My first clue....?  I didn't have any tomatoes develop on the best looking plants I have ever grown.  My second clue should have been the obvious absence of my daughter's annual performance of her version of Swan Lake while simultaneously screeching out a German Opera every time a bee flew anywhere near her.  I didn't notice because I was enjoying the peace and quiet. 

What happened?  I know that I have been discussing the bee problem here and on our Facebook page, but those were occurrences in other states happening to other people.  What could have happened recently that would affect the bee population here?  I live in the middle of Suburban Nirvana; quiet streets filled with lovely law abiding citizens, a beautiful neighborhood surrounded by the damage path of the most destructive tornado in our state's history.  Could it be?  Could the tornado and subsequent storms have caused a bee decline?  Was it our wet spring and late freezes?  Did someone spray the open field behind my house?  I didn't know the answers; I just knew that my backyard could be compared to a Las Vegas for bees, the cool Vegas of Elvis and Rat Pack days, not today's Amusement Park Vegas.  I have multiple bee friendly native perennials, shrubs and trees.  I have water, sand and enough housing to accommodate the largest bee convention.  It's a 24-hour buffet out there for goodness sake!  But my Bee Vegas resembles Norman during the OU/Texas weekend.......deserted.

In recent weeks, I have witnessed the return of some of the bees, not as many as in the past, but it's a start although I still don't have any tomatoes. My perspective had been changed for me, I had to pull back the curtain and expose the Wizard.  He isn't the magical being I expected and OZ is just a town like any other.  Tomatoes don't just appear out of thin air, the water pressure fairy that sprinkles happy dust over my faucets doesn't exist, and it turns out that mail service can be interrupted.  Those behind the scene things usually have the biggest impact on our lives when they are not working, because that is when we notice them.  This time we have had an advanced warning, we can't leave it for someone else to deal with for us.  The usual outcome of situations where each person assumes someone else it taking the responsibility, commonly results in the electricity being shut off because no one paid the bill!  We are in this together, the bees won't wait forever for us to decide to take action and paying the bill is going to take more than individual action.  We need to do something soon, because a garden without bees is not peaceful, but it is all too quiet!  And the peace and quiet thing.....?  I'm over it already....Let's make some noise!!

-Chris Ward

Red, White, Blue and GREEN!

Posted on July 1, 2013 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

  Americans love a party, and what better reason to celebrate than our nation's independence!  The 4th of July is a favorite holiday in our house, America celebrates our official birthday, and we get a day of free shots at my husband!  No, not due to his BBQ skills, although those too have been a source of some great one-liners. My husband Mark is English, so you can imagine the grief that gets laid at his door every year from every breathing member of my family.  Some people celebrate the 4th with sparklers, hot dogs and parades, we spend the day slamming my husband's heritage.  Don't get me wrong, we can party with the best of them; food, games and enjoying the City of Moore's Fireworks from my backyard, but we have the added benefit of gloating......a lot of gloating! 

If you are hosting a Fab 4th Party this year, I have a few suggestions to help you make your Red, White and Blue a little bit greener.

  • Keep it Local! - Buy your food, beer, wine from local Farmers Markets or business who cater using local food producers.
  • Learn to Love Mason Jars! - Mason jars are a wonderful thing, and not just for canning.  Serve your drinks in these little beauties.  They are also perfect for buffet spread as they serve a multi purpose.  Put the silverware and a cloth napkin in each jar so that your guests can pick up their drinking glass and utensils all in one! Mason jars can hold; candles, candy, flowers, ice cream, whatever!
  • Dump the Disposables! - Use your own dishes for your party, get red, white and blue handkerchiefs to use as napkins.  If you don't have enough tableware, use bamboo dishes.
  • Propane isn't totally Evil! - Propane has half the emission than charcoal.  If you prefer charcoal, find a greener choice, they are lots out there!
  • Offer your guests a recycling bin!
  • Let the Games Begin! - Make some yard games using recycled materials.  Yard Bowling using 1 liter bottles and a ball.  Yard Scrabble using rocks or orange juice lids with letters painted on them.  You can also use this to make a Tic Tac Toe Board.  Play Yahtzee with dice made from scrap lumber.  Have a potato sack race with burlap bags that can be reused.  Pull the large bulk size cans out of recycling as  containers for a bean bag toss.  Remove the bottom of those large cans and you have the perfect stencil for making a Twister board on your grass, anyway....you get the idea!
  • Fireworks are not entirely eco-friendly.  They contain heavy metals, sulfur/coal compounds and noxious chemicals, besides that, they are very dangerous to handle, and dare I mention the word FIRE.  The greener option is to enjoy a fireworks display hosted by your local city!

Have a Fabulous 4th of July!  If you happen to run across any English people, give them a hug, they're having a hard day, my husband in particular because his birthday is also this week. So on a personal note, I want to say, "Happy Birthday, Honey".  I'm sorry that you can't find any descent tea and biscuits in this Country, but that would be because, WE WON AND YOU LOST.  May I suggest that you learn to love iced tea?  Love You!

-Chris Ward

picture is from www.detroitmommies.com

A Love Letter to Our Great State

Posted on May 28, 2013 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)

  Oklahomans don't understand the meaning of small talk, I have had some of my most informative conversations with total strangers while waiting around somewhere.  Being held hostage in a waiting room with 5-6 other people, you find that within 5 minutes of saying, "How bout them Sooners", that you are amongst other college football experts engaging in a debate that would rival anything seen on ESPN.  Saying, "Wow, its been a great year for tomatoes", while in the check-out line will soon have you looking at garden pictures on smart phones and exchanging Facebook links.  And, the weather is NEVER to be confused with a safe opening line, we take it very seriously here.  Every 5 year old native Okie is raised to read radar, know the precautions to take in 110 degree heat, and understands that their own town can suffer both floods and drought in the same year.  Saying something about the weather to an Oklahoman will never be a short conversation, especially now.

On May 20th, the most destructive tornado in our history struck Moore.  And although I live in Moore my family and home survived, but I can't say that I was not affected.  My city was crippled and 24 of my fellow residents lost their lives.  We were not alone; Shawnee, Newcastle, LIttle Axe, Carney and Dale were also struck during those two days last week.  Being a 4th generation Oklahoman I know that natural disasters and challenges are a way of life here; however I can't imagine ever leaving Oklahoma for two simple reasons. This is home, and Okies have an inherent talent for ignoring the path of least resistance. 

We belong to this land, we would never give it up without a fight, nor could we allow so many of our neighbors to carry this burden alone, it is the Oklahoma Spirit.  Within 10 minutes of the tornado leaving Moore, people who had lost everything themselves were helping their neighbors dig out from under the rubble.  Within an hour, the first of the responders were on site; firefighters, police, medical personnel and those equipped to look for survivors.  Within 24 hours, donations of food, water, shelter, clothing, and money were flooding into the area.  Businesses, churches, state and federal agencies as well as individuals by the thousands donated everything that they could.  Fellow Okies gave their blood, sweat and shared their tears.

Within 48 hours, water and electric services were restored to most of the areas of Moore outside the damage path.  A week has passed now and all but two major streets are open again and clean-up has begun.  The sheer volume of the destruction is mind boggling, it is estimated in Moore alone that over 13,000 homes were destroyed.  We lost 4 schools, numerous businesses, our hospital and post office.  We were driven to our knees, but we took that opportunity to ask God for the strength to do what must be done now.  Then with the compassionate outreaching hand of our Fellow Oklahomans, we got back up and took the first steps on the long hard road to recovery.

We will rebuild, no one doubts it.  Oklahomans have  patience, passion and perseverance, it's in our nature.  You can see it whether we are talking about football or facing adversity.  We are a state of diverse individuals that stand together during times of crisis because together we are strong.  Together we are Oklahoma, and we are going to be ok.

-Chris Ward

Picture is from New York AP.

LESSONS FROM THE FARM MA'AM

Posted on April 5, 2013 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

  Do you ever wish that gardeners had a Bat Signal?  Something that could alert a farm superhero that you are in trouble?  Gardeners deserve a hero, a FarmMan or in my case The Farm Ma'am!  Someone to help us battle; Two Blight, Mr. Freeze, Killer Grasshoppers, DROUGHT and The Thrips.  But who do you turn to in the dark days of Gardening Season?  Then before despair could totally swamp me, I had a V8 moment, my BFF IS AN ORGANIC FARMER! Okay, it was more like my husband saying to me, "Chris stop being a drama queen and call Jen".  And being my BFF, she won't kill me for a 5:45 am call about my next post, she will totally understand the panic.

Although I consider myself to be a cute and somewhat savvy organic gardener, I too suffer from clueless garden issues. Jen is my hero, and a major source of information for keeping my backyard garden productive and environmentally friendly.  Most farming techniques can be adapted to a scaled down operation, like raised beds or a small plot, so I called Jen and asked her what advise she would pass on to a helpless backyard vegetable growing public.  I am pleased to announce that most of it I knew already and have implemented it into my garden and public speaking engagements, but it is worth mentioning again.....and again. 

Farms the size of Jen's do several things that are highly beneficial to your produce garden.  So, here is our advice from Farm Ma'am and her youthful sidekick, Chicky.  Use plasticulture, drip irrigation, no till practices, compost, mulch, mulch, mulch.  Using BPA free plastic sheeting gives Jen an impenetrable weed control and provides moisture retention for her vegetable rows.  She also tells me that drip irrigation is the only way to grow!  It is the only method to prevent evaporation loss, it saves her money and time, and puts the water exactly where she needs it.  She generates her own compost, so she knows exactly what is in it, and it takes the place of fertilizers and pesticides.  And, BTW adding compost year after year and planting directly into it is what no-till is all about, and a good mulch will save hundreds of gallons of water, not to mention choosing the right one so that it will rot and allow you to dump compost on top of it the following planting season.  But my favorite tip that she passed on to me?  "Never come straight from work and go into the Chicken Coop without changing your shoes, they will never be the same".  Amen, sister!

Jen is also a big fan of Non-GMO seeds and plants.  Believe me, this is a subject that you don't want to talk to her about at 5:45 in the morning, cause by the time she starts to wind down, my husband is making noises about lunch.  One last thing for the Urban Farmer, give your farm a name, it makes you all tingly inside.  I called mine, "Peaceful Bunny Farms", and I have dibs on that one.  The farming techniques that Jen and I mentioned above are not new, as a matter of fact, they have been around for hundreds of years in one form or another, and in my opinion that tells you something.  They are still around because they work.

If you have read any of my previous posts it's not hard to figure out why Jen and I are Best Friends.  We both believe that we might have been separated at birth and are actually the kidnapped children of Mr. Green Jeans from Captain Kangaroo fame.  He was a farmer, an environmentalist and possibly the subject of a future post.  For all of you urban farmers who are lost wondering in the garden section of a local home improvement store and you don't have access to Jen's number, fear not....there is hope.  Find yourself a farm superhero and become their trusty ward (BFF), or....learn to make a beetle shaped shadow puppet using your fingers and a flashlight.  Barring that, you could just visit our website from time to time. Your choice.

-Chris Ward

*Forgive the 70's TV references, I am a fan.  Also, the picture above is Jen's Farm and this spring's plasticulture installation.

    

LET 'EM BEE

Posted on March 13, 2013 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

  Ahhh...pollen.  That powdery stuff that makes some of us miserable, but that we literally couldn't live without.  Every spring I share a divided mind about pollen, I love it, I hate it......I need it, I dread it.  Nature definitely loves a good oxymoron!  For instance, consider the low maintenance garden.  Ever seen one, ever worked one?  Exactly....but we garden because we love it, and we want to grow our own food for our families.  And some of us also enjoy the opportunity to post the pictures of our exceptionally large organic pumpkins on Facebook.  Then one day, you realize that you have lost some perspective when your FB album contains more pictures of your veggies than your kids.  You may not notice, but believe me, your children check.  But if you want Facebook worthy veggies, you need pollen and pollinators, and since I don't want to dwell on the evil side of pollen, (it will grab my attention soon enough), let's take a walk through the bright side.....the pollinators and in particular native bees.

I make a point to beefriend native bees.  There has been a lot of buzz lately and you may have wondered, "why should I care?".  Native bees are the match makers of the natural world.  To put it simply, bees introduce boy to girl, who promptly goes forth and becomes fruitful.  I love food and I assume that you do too, so whether you know it or not, you by association love bees.  Now that I have explained the true nature of the birds and bees, we have an important job to do.  Like Honey Bees, some Native Bees are suffering population decline through disease, loss of habitat and chemicals.  If you consider that bees work for you, don't we as employers owe them a safe and healthy working environment?

Here is how you can help.  Design a work space for them that will be the buzz of every hive in the world.  As every Queen Bee knows, if your workers are happy, porduction rates go up!  Put in a Pollinator's Playground using native plants, trees, shrubs and wildflowers.  Bee pesticide and herbicide free as much as possible, and if you can't avoid them for whatever reason, avoid applying them when bees are active, which is before dawn and just before sunset.  Provide nesting sites such as bare soil, dead trees, or drill holes into a stump or hang a bunch of hollow bamboo or elderberry sticks.  Put out a source of fresh water.  Bee proactive because here's the sting....if they decide to go on strike, most of our food will disappear along with them.

Pollen season is around the corner, it is beautiful, annoying, messy and necessary.  That's life, No I really mean it.....pollen is actual life.  So this season, take as deep a breath as you can wheeze, peer over the mountain of used tissues and with your blurry eyes, watch the bees doing their thing.  And if you can hear anything beyond the muffled sound of your own heartbeat, let their buzzing make you smile and fill you with gratitude because you don't have to pollinate every single one of those blossoms yourself.  Then do what I do, suck it up and go back to bed knowing that those bees got your back. 

-Chris Ward

THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR

Posted on March 7, 2013 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (2)

I thought that it was time to take you on a tour of the Cleveland Co. Conservation District.  Well, not the entire county, just the website.  There are a few rules however; please don't touch anything, hold all question until the end, and please Don't Feed The Staff.  Don't worry, this is going to be painless and since I have yet to complete my course on "Technical Names for Things I Use Everyday" I will be using layman's terms throughout the tour.

First up is our EcoLogue Page.  You are currently on that page, and here you will find our weekly posts.  On the right, you will find the range of catergories for the posts and on the bottom the handy dandy toolbar du-hickey to share the posts with your friends.   Currently our EcoLogue Page is very popular in France, England, the Netherlands, and finally the US, and a World Wide Tour is being planned for 2014.

Moving on to our Bio Page.  If you click the Bio tab you will find the history of our District.  Each of our pages are very interactive so, If you hover over the Bio tab you will see a drop down menu that tells you about our Board of Directors and our location.   See how easy this is going to be?  You hover and our website immediately responds! Think of it as Instant Information Gratification, what we call IIG.  Please note, you will be using this hovering thing a lot on this tour.

Next up is our Calendar.  This is pretty self explanatory, but as any good tour guide would do, I am going to spend time explaining it to you anyway. The Calendar is set up to give you information about not only our events, but other Conservation Events in the area.   Click on the event you choose and you will be taken to a page with more information.  We live to provide you with an IIG rush.

Now let's visit the Education Tab.  By clicking this tab you will find;  projects, grants, contests, science clips and available trunks for check out.  Once again doing the hover thingy will bring up a pull down menu that lists seperate educational opportunities:  The Blue Thumb Program, Green Schools, The Environmental Education Planning Committee and our volunteer team The TerraSquad.  

We are going to lump the next two pages together.  The How To Tutorials are posts that instruct you to: build a worm bin, stop junk mail, be energy efficient and build a rain barrel.  The Manuals page contains......our manuals.  I told you this would be easy. You can find manuals for Butterfly & Bird Gardening, How to Build an Outdoor Classroom, the ReGREENerate Your LIfe,  How to Conduct a Home Energy Audit, How to Conduct a Home Water Audit, A Garden Journal and a brochure concerning lawn fertilizer use.  These are all PDF format and ready for download.  

Our Agriculture Page is all about AG!  From Hoop Houses to plasticulture this page is for our local producers and lists some of the conservation practices that we can help them implement.  If you hover over the AG Page you will see our Cost Share Program.  By clicking on that tab you will be taken to a page that explains the program and allows you download the application form.

Rounding off the Main Menu Bar, you will find Members, Forums, Links, Pics and Videos,  These pages are all about you! Okay, mostly about us, but you are mentioned..briefly.  You don't have to be a member of our website to visit, download or leave a comment, but you do have to register if you want to ask a question or leave a comment on the Forum Page.  On these pages you will find great Links for other sites, Pics we have taken or that you sent to us and some of our favorite Videos.

I would like to complete our tour by pointing out some of our favorite highlights.  The Sidebar is located on the right hand and it contains links to our Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest Pages.  It also contains our Upcoming Events and the Recycling Directory.   You can contact us by using the conveniently named green, "Contact Us" button.  This button is a bit of a stalker as it follows you no matter what page you visit.  Think of it as a big slobbering puppy who just wants your attention, so throw it a bone now and then by sending us an email.

That's it, and I hope that you enjoyed your tour.   Please return your eyelids to their upright position, cause I'm finished.  We are sorry to see you go, but we hope you will visit often and send your friends.  We would love to see more local visits to our site, otherwise, I am going to have to learn to speak French.

-Chris Ward

AIM FOR THE MOON!

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

  This past Saturday, I attended the Growing In Tough Times Conference held in OKC.  I went to find out what more the District can do to help our local farmers reconnect with you, our local consumers, and I came away with a ton of new ideas and something else too.  I was amazed, in awe of and inspired by these people who want nothing more than to grow healthy food for our tables.

They each share the same passion, and an overwhelming attitude of gratefulness and optimism.  What a learning experience it was for me.  You can't help but to get caught up in their enthusiasum and the feeling of being connected to something magical.....Faith.

They have faith.  Faith that their crops will come in, faith that they will get enough water, faith that their products will sell, and that it will all turn out alright in the end.  They find the faith to do it all again the next year.  That's a lot of faith. They might bemoan the conditions, that's human nature, but they get together and share those problems and work toward a solution.   It was positive reinforcement in overdrive.  The weather is against them, so they seek ways to grow their crops in extreme heat, and then expressed gratitude that it wasn't worse.   Drought is against them, so they seek ways to bring their produce to market using less water, and are grateful that they had what they need.  They can't compete with larger venues, so they ban together and form Farmers Markets and Coops, and they are grateful that people are taking notice. 

They believe in their food and their chosen path, or did that path choose them?  I kept thinking about all the things that I could accomplish in my own life and here at the District with that much passion and optimism, enthusiasm and faith.  So, strap on your seats belts, I am aiming for the moon, and I'm taking you with me, cause even if we miss, we might hit some stars!

-Chris Ward

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD....AND FAMILY

Posted on November 19, 2012 at 8:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Usually during the week of Thanksgiving, I am in achievement overdrive.  I check out cookbooks from the library and scour the internet for the perfect pie recipe or a totally off the chain stuffing.  For me, it was all about the food....okay, it was a little bit about  beating my sisters in the original best dish category.  Turns out there are certain recipes you just don't mess with, I barely survived the family riot of 2008 when I served a stuffing that was not our granny's recipe.   

But in the last couple of years it truly developed into a focus on the food.  I wanted to serve dishes made from fresh locally sourced food that reflected the season.  While I was looking into this, I found out that in a weird twist of coincidences most of the side dishes that we served traditionally in our family were seasonal, including the turkey.  My eco ego puffed up with pride, until my mother reminded me that my great grandparents all grew their own food and those dishes were created because those were the veggies available to them at that time of the year.  Who knew that they were ahead of the game?  For me, it's harder, I don't grow as much, I don't have the room and Farmers Markets in my area close at the end of October.  In order to provide fresh ingredients for our family feast I discovered happily that we have several local sources for organic in-season produce, so I am back in the saddle, puffed pride and all.    

The possibilities are endless; butternut squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, green beans, celery, beets, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, spinach, onions, mushrooms, pumpkins, pecans and apples.  We have to have a holiday feast to enjoy this bounty of delicious food.  If you take a look at your traditional Thanksgiving menu, I'll bet you will find several of these veggies being used at your house too.

On Thursday, 16 people will descend on my house, each family bringing their assigned dishes; broccoli rice casserole, green bean casserole, candied yams, granny's stuffing, gravy, pecan pies, pumpkin pies and TWO organic Turkeys.  I cook the: cranberry sauce, yeast rolls, cream cheese & chive mashed potatoes and green beans.  This year, I will make an Apple Cranberry Pie, (sorry girls, but you are going down!). After lunch the domino tournament melee will begin, after all it's about family too.  Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

FINDING THE FOOD CONNECTION

Posted on July 31, 2012 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

   I'm sure I don't have to tell you the importance of fresh food produced locally, but when was the last time you had a meaningful relationship with a farmer?  If it's been awhile, you have to put yourself out there, they aren't going to come knocking on your door, at least it's never happened to me.  Not knowing your farmer is like accepting a blind food date.  You don't know where your food's been raised, how it was treated during it's early development, or even how old it is. So many unanswerable questions and you are already fully committed. How your food was raised is an indication of how it will perform for you later and what it will contribute to your health and happiness.

In my experience, the best place to hook up with a farmer is at a Farmers Market, the place is crawling with them. No matter what type you are looking for you will find him/her at the Market and hopefully find true food.  Think of yourself as a contestant in The Dating Game.  The goal is to find a farmer and possibly form a lasting partnership on your path to true food.   I am not saying you have to commit to the first farmer you meet, keep your options open, after all there are plenty of farms in Oklahoma.

If you are in a hurry, consider speed dating, have a carefully constructed list of questions ready, then go around and interview  each farmer to find your perfect fit, this can be done during one trip to the Market.  Or, if you are a dating service kinda person, shop at Native Roots Market, Forward Foods, The Earth, Natural Foods or Dodsons, they narrow the choices down for you, but most of it is still local food.  If you are too busy, get yourself a professional matchmaker and  join a CSA or the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. Speaking of the Food Coop, they are the perfect place for farmer trolling.  They have a list of their producers on the website and a brief bio so you can check out each farmer from the comfort of your computer without that first date awkwardness.  Find out if the farmer has a website or facebook page, then you take a look.  

Be bold and adventurous and pick several local producers.  I keep a stable of farmers, I have a bee guy, a produce guy, a chicken chick and my meat gal.  I truly love them all and couldn't pick one over the others.   I know their growing methods, where their fields are located, and the names of some of the chickens that lay my eggs.  I know that they are looking to grow true food and care as much about our relationship as I do.  

So dress up with your best reusable bag and head to a Farmers Market.  Get to know and support our local farmers, and relax, believe me they are just as interested in hooking up as you are. You have nothing to lose and great deal to gain. Just name your first meal after me.    

THE SPAGHETTI TREES HAVE ALL DIED

Posted on May 14, 2012 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (1)

When I was young, a well meaning if dysfunctional relative told me that spaghetti noodles grew on trees.  That began a yearlong dream of becoming Oklahoma's first spaghetti farmer.  It all came crashing down around me at the pasta aisle of our local Safeway when my mom felt that it was time that I was told the truth.  I stood there in horror and disbelief as she told me what ingredients made up pasta.  To give her credit all these years later, she did her research and was able to answer each of my hysterical questions.   But, if you couldn't trust that your spaghetti was grown on beautiful trees with purple, pink and orange flowers, what was next?  It was years before I ate pasta again.

As an adult, I was astonished to find out that my bell pepper could be imported from Mexico, that my seasoning could have ingredients in them that I couldn't even pronounce. And so another obsession was born.  I wanted to trace my food.  The more that I looked into it, the more I realized that I had totally given over my control of the food that I ate to someone else. To tell you the truth, I was naive about food, assuming that because I bought it locally at my neighborhood store that it must have come locally.  In my job I have met many farmers that grow produce, it made sense to me that they sold it to the store.  Then, I was enlightened even further by talking to children who had no idea that their beans came from an actual field instead of a can.  It was the spaghetti tree all over again.

Your food is probably one of the most important decisions that you make every day. Your health, well-being and energy are affected by those choices, and yet our food has become an afterthought.  Food has become something to get out of the way in order to move on with our busy lives...a convenience. With all those choices; drive-through, prepackaged, frozen meals, bags of precut salads, is it any wonder we are moving further and further away from our food and becoming a bit lazy about it. But what if we dig deeper behind the question, "What's for dinner"?   It has become important to me to know what is in my food, how it was grown and to know that nothing but food is present.  I wanted to take back control.

It was easier than I thought it would be, and I also found some wonderful side benefits.  My family slowed down for a few hours every day and spent time together preparing our meals.  I produced less trash and reduced my waste stream input.  My grocery budget hardly changed at all and we ate healthier.  We helped a local farmer live his dream of growing food and still make a living.  I know that our Chloe will never be confused about green beans growing in cans, because she will help pick them.  Chloe will know that a tomato doesn't have to be perfectly round, shiny and red in order to still be a tomato.  She will never be confused about why a bell pepper from my garden or from farmer's market doesn't taste the same as the one that was bought from a chain store, and that fresh bell peppers are not available all year long.  She will see her food develop from seed to peas.  She will learn to recognize okra, know its texture, color and smell. I want her to be able to pick it out of a line up.  Shopping for food has become fun and she loves finding new colors of string beans. We talk about food and I hope that she will have a relationship with hers.   

Today, there is so much information available and many venues to find local food. In a state that still has Agriculture as its number one industry, it's not hard to trip over a farmer's market, a roadside stand or a "pick your own".   There are local grocery stores that sell local produce only in season.  They know the farmer; they can answer your questions.   

Although I long ago gave up my dream of being a Spaghetti Tree farmer, I did grow up having a hand in my food.  Whether you are a vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, locavore or a take-outvore, if you eat, you are involved in agriculture.  And like any other relationship, you can get of it what you are willing to put into it.  Here is further food for thought, Ben Franklin said, "An investment in knowledge always pays interest".  Get to know your food and reap the benefits.

A RESOLUTION CRISIS

Posted on January 25, 2012 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Change is good; it is through change that we create opportunities for real progress.  It is with this thought circling my mind that I have made my New Year's Resolution; plugging the holes in my personal budget and being more earth friendly by getting fit and healthy.  Getting fit and healthy is NOT a new resolution, it has had star billing for at least the last 10 resolutions, however I think I have finally come up with a devious plan that just might work.

I believe in four things; my family, my faith, that the economy is out to get me and that I want to leave a healthier planet to my decedents.  So, Resolution 2012 has been crafted to encompass those ideals that I hold most dear in a brilliant attempt to trick myself into success.  Let me explain the master plan, try to stay with me - this one has several sharp turns.

1.  Plugging the holes in my budget by getting healthy - If I exercise more often, I will have less time to shop.  Now, as an environmentalist I try not to buy many new items, however, I do have an addiction to consignment and charity type shops as well as to Garage Sales. By spending more time at the Y, I have less time to shop, therefore, I am being greener, who knew?

I will stop picking up lunch.  I usually pack my lunch, however, my schedule and the many lunch meetings that I attend have badly influenced my budget.  I have purchased a bamboo utensil set and a set of palm leaf biodegradable plates to take with me to lunch meetings where lunch is provided using paper or plastic, and I will bring my lunch to meetings held in restaurants.  Packing my own lunch allows me to control the sugar, salt and preservatives that I am eating.  This will also save me a TON of money.

2.  Being more Earth Friendly by getting fit and healthy - I will be eating less pre-made and packaged foods, cooking more and eating more seasonal fruits and veggies.  I will buy local when I am able, supporting local producers at Farmer's Markets and the Food Coop.  I will stop producing lunch trash.  I will use the USDA's healthy living site; www.choosemyplate.gov to develop menus and make healthier choices.  I will plant more veggies in the spring and summer; the additional gardening will also help me to be more fit.

That is it, Resolution 2012!  I think that I have developed a plan that will fool even me into thinking that loosing weight and getting fit will save the world from itself.  You don't have to thank me, it's my job as an Environmentalist after all.  After I conquer this resolution, I can move on to the next one...... ruling the world. 

CHOOSE MY PLATE

Posted on January 25, 2012 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

The USDA has a website www.choosemyplate.gov .  This is quickly becoming on of my favorites.  With pages such as "Eating Healthy on a Budget", "Look up your Foods" and the ever popular, "Analyze my Diet". Choose my plate is another initiative of our USDA to help Americans make more nutritious and healthier choices.  The program emphasizes fruit, vegetable, whole grains, protein and dairy food groups.  These are often forgotten or get pushed aside for our busy schedules.  This website gives you the tools and the tips to adjust your intake of certain foods by telling you which foods to increase and which foods to decrease. 

This website has a dietary guideline, food & activity tracker and a daily food planner; it also breaks down the food groups for you.  This is a wonderful map to use on your road to healthier eating, and has become my new best friend.  Take a look at your plate and analyze your current diet, you will thank me later.