Category: Olivia Kubaska

What I learned- Jessica Vooris

I did not previously know about the connection between food history and its link to feminist and lesbian movements. I was unaware of the fact that there was such a strong link between vegan/vegetarianism and lesbian identity that stemmed from the time that the comic was published. However, now that I think about it it makes sense that feminist, lesbian and environmental movements developed in tandem in relation to food as they did. Part of the activism surrounding vegan/vegetarianism was/is linked to feminist and equity values as it is usually women who are most affected by environmental externalities and therefore might be more inclined to want to make more environmentally conscientious decisions when it comes to the food that they consume.

A Perspective on Home Gardening With Prof. Douglas

For this assignment, I interviewed Professor Maggie Douglas on her perspective and experience as a home gardener. I already knew about Prof. Douglas’s opinions on large scale agricultural production from taking her agroecology course last semester, however, I was interested to learn more about her connection to food and food production.

In this blog post, I will discuss what I learned from my interview with Prof. Douglas and will use a combination of my own photos as well as ones I have found to visually support the interview.

 

Question 1: When did you start home gardening? Was there always a garden at your property or did you have to create one?

Home Garden

Prof. Douglas explained to me that she, like many students in the agroecology class had experience gardening and farming growing up, and had worked on several smaller farms before and during college. After school, when she was living in D.C., she was able to use the roof of her apartment building to create a small garden. Prof. Douglas described these experiences as not only a good way to produce some of her own food but as a great way to connect with her neighbors and do something relaxing.

Fast-forward to her move to Carlisle, Prof. Douglas explained that her now home garden started as a simple flower bed, which she and her husband have turned into what I understand to be a pretty impressive and productive garden. Unfortunately, the weather was terrible on the day of the interview so we did not walk over to see it.

 

Question 2: How do you manage pests in your garden?

Example of a large pest that might plague a garden. This groundhog was captured after eating everything in my own garden.

I asked this question because as an entomologist, I was sure that she would have an interesting answer as to how she keeps bugs at bay. Sure enough, Prof. Douglas was able to delve into a rather scientific discussion about the different pests she experiences in her gardening. She said that for the most part, she will handpick the bugs off of the plants since she can very easily recognize them. She also discussed how sometimes she will just let the bugs eat the crop if she knows that she will have more than she can eat anyway.

For larger pests, Prof. Douglas has installed a chicken wire fence to keep out groundhogs and rabbits. Apparently, rabbits run rampant in her neighborhood and will eat pretty much anything and everything.

Question 3: What do you consider to be the benefits of home gardening?

Happy agroecology students post-seed planting!

 In response to this question, Prof. Douglas said that she enjoys home gardening as a creative outlet that allows for a lot of stress relief for her, describing the act of gardening as almost a meditative activity. She also discussed how she loves the fact that with home gardening, you can grow exactly what you want, especially hybrid varieties that you couldn’t even find at a farmer’s market. To this response, she gave the example of the green seed pods that you get from letting cilantro go to seed. You cannot find this anywhere in Carlisle but she described that she likes to add them to her dishes, especially when cooking Southeast Asian dishes. The final benefit of home gardening that she described was that it is the best way to get to know your neighbors. She said that her neighbors will stop her and say hello whenever they see her out gardening and have developed a comradery between other neighbor gardeners by exchanging tips and tools.

Question 4: Do you save your seeds?

Coriander seed pods

This question I asked purely out of curiosity. In our agroecology class, we discussed seed saving a lot and I was interested to see how it was done on a smaller scale. To this question, Prof. Douglas responded yes, but only ones that are easy to save, usually dried beans, lettuce, and melons. As mentioned previously, she likes to experiment with hybrid crop varieties and seed saving is a great way to do that. She also discussed how their garden gets a lot of volunteer crops anyway, so most of the time she will just let some plants go to seed and see if they come up again the following year. Sometimes she will even find volunteer crops growing out of her compost pile.

 

Question 5: How much of your diet are you able to supplement when your garden is in peak season?

Peak season harvest

To this question, Prof. Douglas answered probably not a lot in terms of calories because they are not growing any grains, but they are pretty much able to supplement all of their vitamins and minerals during peak season. She also discussed how one year she decided to weigh all of the food that she and her husband produced just out of curiosity and it ended up being a significant amount. She also discussed that most of the time they can’t even eat all of the food that they produce so they will either give it away or preserve it for later use. According to Prof. Douglas, they produce about a half-year supply of potatoes and are able to can enough tomatoes and peppers to last them year-round.

Post Interview:

 After the interview, Prof. Douglas and I chatted about our respective gardens. From what I concluded from this discussion is that her garden is much larger and more thought out than my own. That being said, I believe that we have many of the same values and struggles when it comes to home gardening. I too find gardening to be a great creative outlet where I can relax. In addition, we had a very lively discussion about our different pest stories, mine involving a recurring groundhog problem and hers rabbit overpopulation. I also found that there was a lot that I can learn from Prof. Douglas and her gardening endeavors in terms of using crops in new ways as well as how to manage a larger garden.

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My Food System

For this blog post, I started by researching the almond milk that I have in my fridge which happens to be the unsweetened, original almond milk from Trader Joe’s. I didn’t really think much about this product when I was purchasing it, I just picked it up when I went to Trader Joe’s in MA before I returned to campus.

The main ingredient in this almond milk is almonds, as it should be. When I set out to discover the origin of the almonds in this Trader Joe’s beverage, I was surprised that I really could not find the location anywhere. For I company that prides itself on its transparency, this seemed strange. The side of the carton reads “Dist. & Sold Exclusively By Trader Joe’s Monrovia, CA 91016” so I am going to assume that the almonds come from California. Additionally, in my research, I came across one petition against how Wholefoods and Trader Joe’s market their pasteurized almonds as raw almonds directed towards an issue of almonds being grown in California.

According to one article, published by Columbia University, almonds are unsurprisingly the biggest cash crop in California, attributing for over 80% of the World’s almond production in 2014. California’s Central Valley offers ideal growing conditions for almond trees, however, almond requires huge amounts of water, a resource that is quickly depleting in California. According to the article, the amount of water required for almond trees not only causes environmental concerns but is an economic burden on the farmer who has to sink more money into the expensive water.

Another product that I eat frequently is the Stonyfield organic probiotic yogurt made with plain whole milk. This product claims to contain BILLIONS of probiotics per serving and I purchased it at Weis in Carlisle. I wanted to research this product because it was one of the companies interviewed in Food Inc. and I have listened to the “How I Built This” podcast where Gary Hirshberg discussed how he built the company from the ground up. The first ingredient in this product is “cultured pasteurized organic whole milk” and the only other ingredients it contains (aside from its live active cultures) are pectin, and Vitamin D3.

The milk for this yogurt comes from a variety of farms. According to the Stonyfield website, in 2014 the company created a CROPP Cooperative with milk from a network of organic dairy farms existing of 1,800 family farms. The company promotes the humane treatment of animals in addition to their organic practices. Although there are no additives, hormones or synthetic fertilizers involved in the production processes, not all of the Stonyfield cows are 100% percent grass-fed as indicated by the fact that the company now sells “grass-fed Greek” yogurt, indicating that other cows are most likely fed a mixture of grass and other feed like oats, soy, grains, etc.

The origin of Stonyfield milk is unknown as it comes from a cooperative of farms. However, the Headquarters are in Londonderry, NH.

The third food that I analyzed was the eggs I eat pretty much every morning. I am always at a dilemma with eggs because either the responsibly produced eggs are double the price or they contain plastic packaging. On this trip to the grocery store, I decided to go with the cheaper option with the cardboard packaging. These eggs are distributed by Foodhold USA, LLC in Landover, MD which appears to be a partner of the Giant food company. From what I found on the internet this company produces/distributes a lot of different products and is not generally well-liked with an extensive list of customer complaints. According to the American Egg Board, the majority of the country’s eggs are produced in Iowa. I was not able to find exactly where the eggs I purchased were coming from but I am going they were produced in the Mid-West region.

I was also not able to find information on how these eggs were produced, but I am assuming that it was more of a factory environment rather than a cage-free, pasture environment, treating the hens more as cogs on a wheel than living creatures. That being said, I did read an article detailing that Giant Food Stores will be transitioning to 100% cage-free eggs by 2022.

From this exercise, I discovered that I ate roughly 62 foods/ingredients over the span of 3 days. However, even after this research, I have found that I still do not know where a lot of my food comes from. Being a college student makes this even more difficult because I do not have the access to find out where the food I am consuming in the cafeteria is coming from.

 

Olivia Kubaska

Hello! My name is Olivia Kubaska and I am from Ipswich, MA. In addition to the Food Studies Certificate, I will be graduating in May with a degree in Environmental Studies. Currently, I am interested in finding innovative ways to connect people with food, both geographically and emotionally. I am very excited about urban agriculture as a way of pushing the boundaries of how we view agriculture. I have also experienced first hand the power of local agricultural projects to connect and enforce communities and would like to find ways for that benefit to reach wider, more diverse groups of people.

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