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Food Sunday: Food Fairy Tales You Can Use

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

Once Upon A Time, there was this organization in Los Angeles which wanted to promote kids’ growing organic gardens at their schools. Let us call this Organization A and it has people such as Rosario Dawson and Ed Begley Jr. working with it to promote this worthy cause. And because there is Organization A, there must, per force, be an Organization B, which is a company which produces fertilizers and compost products which are labeled as organic and which are described as “products you can trust.” A high level manager (and it would seem family member) of Organization B is on the Board of Directors of Organization A (you’re hearing the scary “Jaws” music too, right? Me, too.).

Organization A is: Environmental Media Association. Organization B is Kellogg Garden Products, the chief sustainability officer of which is Kathy Kellogg Johnson, who sits on EMA’s Board. The problem is that 70% of their fertilizer mixes contain (cue scary organ riff) UNLISTED treated sewage sludge from city of Los Angeles and as we all know by now, this is toxic stuff filled with heavy metals, chemicals, broken down plastics and so on. Now, Kellogg has the right to put anything they want into their products, but you can’t call something with heavy metals ‘organic’ and you can’t call something with heavy metals in it ‘safe’ or ‘products you can trust’, especially if you don’t list it as an ingredient.

And the reason this has come out is that Organizations C and D, The Food Rights Network and The Center for Media and Democracy, blew the whistle on Organization B to Organization A. EMA 1

This is making Organization A extremely uncomfortable and the saga rolls out here. EMA 2

Now, the interesting thing is that I can’t find a thing in the LA Times covering this story and the other thing is – it is not just that growing veggies in this stuff will have the result that the kids will be eating veggies that have taken up such ‘healthy’ items as chromium and arsenic and other heavy metal contamination. It’s that the kids will be having direct physical contact with this stuff and we all know that kids are not exactly surgeons when it comes to washing their hands and so on. So, the chances of their ingesting this stuff is also pretty good too. Sounds like some people need to start calling not only the EMA but also the school district and get the kids out of the gardens before someone gets sick.

Fairy Tale Numero Due: Goldman Sachs Controls This Too. Want to know why food prices have gone through the roof over the past couple of years? There’s a lot of talk about Russian wheat crop failures and weather and climate issues but a large part of the truth is that Goldman Sachs devised (I know you guys are getting GS Guilt Fatigue but) a product that, along with the deregulation of the Futures Markets, changed everything.

“In 1991, Goldman bankers, led by their prescient president Gary Cohn, came up with a new kind of investment product, a derivative that tracked 24 raw materials, from precious metals and energy to coffee, cocoa, cattle, corn, hogs, soy, and wheat. They weighted the investment value of each element, blended and commingled the parts into sums, then reduced what had been a complicated collection of real things into a mathematical formula that could be expressed as a single manifestation, to be known henceforth as the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI).
For just under a decade, the GSCI remained a relatively static investment vehicle, as bankers remained more interested in risk and collateralized debt than in anything that could be literally sowed or reaped. Then, in 1999, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission deregulated futures markets. All of a sudden, bankers could take as large a position in grains as they liked, an opportunity that had, since the Great Depression, only been available to those who actually had something to do with the production of our food….Goldman’s index perverted the symmetry of [the old grain markets] system. The structure of the GSCI paid no heed to the centuries-old buy-sell/sell-buy patterns. This newfangled derivative product was “long only,” which meant the product was constructed to buy commodities, and only buy. At the bottom of this “long-only” strategy lay an intent to transform an investment in commodities (previously the purview of specialists) into something that looked a great deal like an investment in a stock — the kind of asset class wherein anyone could park their money and let it accrue for decades (along the lines of General Electric or Apple). Once the commodity market had been made to look more like the stock market, bankers could expect new influxes of ready cash. But the long-only strategy possessed a flaw, at least for those of us who eat. The GSCI did not include a mechanism to sell or “short” a commodity. This imbalance undermined the innate structure of the commodities markets, requiring bankers to buy and keep buying — no matter what the price. “ Goldman Sachs and the ever growing food crisis

Garden Tales: Well, the rain finally stopped (but not before washing out a bunch of roads and undermining (in the most literal sense) a big section of I81 right…across….the…valley from Chez Siberia, so all the traffic (and we’re talking thousands of cars and tractor trailers) going southbound is now moving in the ‘semi-parked’ position on the secondary road right…in…front..of…Chez Siberia (if you notice a trend here, you’re not missing anything). And because the rain stopped and the sun came out, the grass took off and some things came back up in the garden that we had not noticed that we’d forgotten last fall.
Like this: this is the fennel from last year coming up again. Now Florence fennel is a biennial (actually there are a lot of veggies that a biennials, which means that the plant grows the first year, and then blossoms and sets seed the second year. Carrots are a good example. We eat the first year roots so we never get to see it come back in year two and blossom and set carrot seed), so we ate fennel in salads and cooked last summer and this summer what will happen is that it will send up a flower spike and set fennel seeds. So, when the flower heads get started, I will put them in paper bags, tie the ends closed, and harvest the seeds (instead of the seeds getting scattered all over the garden and our having more fennel plants than we know what to do with the year afterwards – trust me, with all the security measures, we’ll still end up with seeds on the ground). What can we use fennel seeds for ? Indian, Italian and other Mediterranean dishes use fennel seeds.

And, in the ‘put my money where my mouth is’, we are going to grow celery at Chez Siberia this year. These are the seedlings, which came up with no fuss or bother in a plastic salad box filled with growing mix. Celery seeds are teeny, so I just ‘drew’ indentations on the moist soil, taped them in and then scattered some pearlite™ over the top so that they’d get some light too. I put the salad box top on top, left it on a sunny table in the living room and ten days later – wa la. Now to find out how to grow the veggie in the garden. This is not something we have ever grown before but given the amount of chemical contamination residues that this vegetable can have, according to the USDA, I figure it’s worth a shot.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend. Until the next time…

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Snarky housewife from Upstate New York. Into gardening, fiber arts, smallholder farming.