Sunday, September 29, 2013

An American and Cheese in Bra



This year, the ninth edition of Slow Food Cheese Festival in Bra had a timely theme. As the signs for the festival said, the “Ark of Taste docks at Cheese,” and what a dock it was indeed. 



At first glance, the festival seemed to be a gastronomic lacto paradise. There were, at best probably several hundred different varieties of cheeses from all over Europe, the Balkans, Africa, the Americas and some parts of Asia. I never knew there were so many different, distinct ways to make my personal favorite food group, but here in Bra, for the 250,000 attendees from all over the globe, we got to taste, smell, see and pair with wines, beers and ciders the worlds finest artisan and heirloom cheeses for a glorious long warm weekend in September. After I attended workshops and networked with the representatives of the Balkan Cheese Presidia’s and American artisan producers, my appreciation for the global importance of Cheese has, well, transformed.



For me personally, the trip to Bra is the closest thing to a Slow Food Pilgrimage that I could think of, to come to the city where our global headquarters is located. As with other Terra Madres and International Slow Food events, the truly international scope of the Slow Food Movement becomes very apparent at this gathering for Cheese 2013. Because of my heritage, I have an affinity with the Macedonian Slow Food Chapters and have been documenting their progress since I met them at Terra Madre 2008. My Baba made many of the cheeses that have been featured in the Macedonian Ark of Taste, and I have enjoyed them on my visits to Macedonia, as I have family that lives within the Cheese Making Mavrovo Reka Mountain Pasture Cheese region where the delicious Sharplanska White Cheese, Kashkaval and Bieno Sirenje Cheeses are made.




This year, a featured initiative for Cheese 2013 was a truly revolutionary project for Slow Food; the project is called ESSEDRA. The name is short for Environmentally Sustainable Socio Economic Development of Rural Areas, and is a joint project between Slow Food International, the European Union, and the UN Farm and Agriculture Organization among others. ESSEDRA works with local Slow Food Chapters in the Balkans and Turkey to help map culinary and agricultural products insuring their protection as these nations strive to meet and compete with modern food production standards. 




I asked Slow Food ESSEDRA Financial Management officer Matteo Pizzi, why the Balkans as the first ever project of ESSEDRA? He replied that these nations, (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey) are most at risk of losing their agricultural and culinary treasures through globalization. In these regions for various historical and political reasons, many food way traditions date back to Roman times, and it would be a catastrophe for biodiversity as well as local economies if they were lost due to the drive for standardization. I was blessed to accompany the Macedonian delegation, and got to hear their reflections on the events of the festival. One of the Macedonian Cheese Delegation members, Professor Sonja Srbinovska of the Agricultural Faculty at the University of Skopje told me of the difficulties for her nation of mostly independent rural dairy farmers. She stated that nearly 72% of all dairy farms in Macedonia have five or less cows, and if forced to compete with large EU nations and their subsidized big dairies could spell the end of the traditional way of life (a delicious one I might add,) in her nation. 

Small Dairy Farmer outside of Prilep Macedonia, taking his cows to Pasture

Dr. Srbinovska said her tiny Republic of 2 million people did not have the money to lobby for allowances for the traditional cheese making traditions at The Hague. ESSEDRA provided for the joining of forces of many nations, formerly bitter enemies, to keep their shared but unique traditions and economic opportunities alive. Through what seemed endless meetings on standardizations and best practices, to the delight of both Srbinovska and Pizzi, it seems that cheese makers in Spain are also having the same difficulties, and the efforts of Slow Food and ESSEDRA are helping to bridge nations and rural peoples throughout Europe to share strategies to meet standards and maintain traditional cheeses.

Traditional Romanian Sheep Cheese Fermented in Pine Bark

I learned in Bra through numerous Biodiversity of Milk workshops, the natural regional microbes of a geographic area are what gives the unique taste to their fermented products. The biologically active agents that create fermentation of dairy products into the incredible diversity of cheeses of the world are filled with what fermentation experts call the “symphony of milk background qualities.” This “symphony” by the way is destroyed by pasteurization, and is enhanced by allowing animals to eat local grasses, herbs and hay. Such bioactive compounds also allow for the successful interaction of human physiology with the external environment, protecting from allergies and asthma, and enhancing immunity.

Slow Food USA members have much to learn from the ESSEDRA project. While not the first, it is the most ambitious cooperation Slow Food International has had with a government body to promote and protect culinary biodiversity via the Ark of Taste. While we US Slow Foodies love our cheese, wine, heirloom vegetables and fruits, what truly inspires us is the desire to change our industrial food system. We want current and future generations to have access to the foods we treasure, and we want those who produce these gems to be compensated fairly for their labor. ESSEDRA is a practical model for how this can be done, and we in the States need to pay attention as to how it is progressing in the Balkans and adapt these efforts for our own food system

I came away with a new appreciation for the “Terroir of Milk” from this amazing festival. I learned that regional taste means more than excellent qualifiers, it means a true relationship to an ecology between humans and the earth. Preserving the worlds best and most endangered cheeses seems to be actually the doorway to global peace, economic prosperity, environmental integrity, and a whole lot of fantastically good eating. Really, who could ask for anything more?


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cheese, Place and Community


Now that the stalls are all gone, and Citta de Bra is back to it's lovely state of normal after 250,000 visitors came to experience the Eighth biannual Slow Food Festival of Cheese, my thoughts have been, well, fermenting.



My initial reason for coming was to see how the ESSEDRA project was going, particularly for Macedonia and Bulgaria since I have family and friends in both of those Balkan nations. ESSEDRA stands for Environmentally Sustainable Socio-Economic Development of Rural Areas. In my estimation this project is the most tangible development in the realm of sustainable economics I have ever witnessed. A unique partnership between Slow Food International, the United Nations Farm and Agriculture Organization and the European Union has come together to help developing nations in the Balkans maintain their unique cultural and culinary heritage, as well as protect the local economies in those areas as they strive to meet the demands of globalization and modernization.

Panelists for the ESSEDRA presentation at Cheese 2013 in Bra, Italy

As I listened to lectures, presentations and the conversations of my fellow Macedonian travel companions, a consistent theme was presented: hygienic safety. I learned much about milk, fermentation and cheese throughout my experience, but the concept of safety and the integrity of the peoples in the Balkans literally kept me up at night.

As a health care provider with 25 years of experience, health and hygiene have been drilled into me through my education, continuing education and licensing requirements. What I have also witnessed is an increase in auto immune diseases, bacterial resistance and food allergies that send my patients scrambling to find something they can actually eat that does not make them sick. Helping my patients figure out what to eat is why I am so passionately informed on food. And yet, in all the handouts and classes I produce to help people who can not tolerate a myriad of food items have some sort of pleasure in eating, I still keep wondering. I keep coming back to this concept of ecology, the inter relatedness of all creation. How could wheat and dairy be so deadly for a large portion of the population? How could tomatoes send others reeling in pain, and simple carbohydrates put others into a coma if not managed properly? Was it always like this? Did nature make food poison for some, and if so, why?

When I was in Naturopathic School, one of my deepest aha moments, which actually initiated a life long sense of gratitude towards creation, was the realization that nature provided all we needed to heal. Since my first semester in graduate school, when I look out of the window or walk in a forest or meadow, I see food and medicine. In school, we were taught about elements in plants that had very little to do with the life cycle of the plant, but had very much to do with initiating healing in humans. We also learned about all the nutrients provided by nature to sustain our lives and prevent disease. These gifts from nature were beyond evolutionary biology, because actually in many ways it is against the interest of plants to promote the human species, and yet they do so. I learned through subsequent studies how indigenous populations learned a song for each plant, that would be sung by the healer and the patient during it's application to heal an ailment. What also struck me was that plants in a certain geographical area or from a certain season were perfect for the disease states of that time and place. How did this happen, and why? For me personally, it was a grand and elegant gesture that we humans were planned and generously provided for through the natural world. While I am a person of deep spiritual and religious conviction, what has ever delighted me since is how science keeps confirming my beliefs. I had no idea that Cheese would be the next step in confirmation of my beliefs of a generous and gracious world.

Obviously, Cheese involves fermentation. My modern ignorance thought that such processes came out of a packet of pre-mixed inoculating agents. These agents in turn would curdle the milk and make the delicious creamy solid, (that I just can not cut out of my diet at any other time than Lent.) But apparently this process of inoculation has not always been so, the packets have been part of cheese making only in modern industrial times. Since evidence that cheese making has been part of human culinary ways for nearly 10,000 years, predating beer actually, the standardization of inoculating cheese is a very recent development.

The Fermentation of Milk under a Microscope

How did humans make cheese before those sceptic plastic packs came on the market in health food stores? What I learned through my Cheese experience in Bra, the agent of transformation that has resulted in over 2000 cheeses world wide is actually the place where they are made. It seems that the Terroir of Cheese is actually what the name implies, the Earth or Place where it is made and the tiny microbes associated with the soil and air of a region. Tom Baars representing the Research Institute for Organic Agriculture in Germany illustrated during his presentation on milk,  showed that agents of fermentation actually alter the pH of the milk, making it inhospitable to unhealthy bacteria. He had the graphs, double blind study statistics and pictures to prove it.

The regulations for milk we are told are to keep us safe. Heaven forbid a child innocently drinking milk with their cookies would die of e coli or listeria. The only solution is to boil, pasteurise and standardize cultures for fermented dairy products. But what does this do actually? Baars went on with his magnificent graphs and statistics calling for a new language of Milk; a language of the Terroir of milk.

As a health care provider presented with children covered in eczema, the first step is to remove all milk from the diet. This usually clears the condition up in a week or so. Some desperate parents have turned to raw milk, finding that their children are healed and actually protected from recurrences of eczema. Baar also provided statistics to back up what I had witnessed in my practice. His research came to the conclusion that the consumption of local raw milk was the best preventative predictor for atopic and allergic diseases, meaning raw milk was the best way to prevent eczema, allergies and asthma. 

Lactobacillus Acidophilus a fermenting agent of Milk

But how is this so? What Baar and his colleagues involved in fermentation were discovering under their microscopes and research is that in addition to natural cultures, there are bio active contents in milk beyond protein, fats and carbohydrates. He calls them the "symphony of background" in milk. What was more astonishing to me, was comparing all of these background components between conventional, organic and biodynamic milks. The research suggests that when a milk producing animal is raised on grass in it's natural environment, not only are levels of nutrients higher in the milk, but these background element levels are higher. Another discovery with pasteurization; these elements are destroyed. There seems to be an intricate interaction between the elements in the air and soil that when they meet these background elements in local milk, that create the perfect opportunity for cheese. This can not be replicated en mass or in industrial settings.

Baar went on to site studies on Farm Children exposed to all the dirt and bacteria common to living with animals and working with soil, versus children who do not live this way. The studies showed that Farm children were sick less often and had healthier immune systems. He sited other research that showed a little dirt is actually good for humans, in some ways it helps to spark our immune systems to be stronger. What I was understanding from all of this, was that these microbes that are specific to place, that ferment the milk into yogurt and cheese, these microbes help humans interact in a healthy and balanced way with the outside world. When these microbes are absent, we become sick or over run with toxic bacteria. These agents allow for the transformation of food stuffs specific to place to be hospitable to human existence. Talk about elegant design, Cheese as an agent of co-existence between humans and the land, now that is what I call excellent planning!

I revisit my training as a Naturopath and Acupuncturist. We are taught lots of philosophy in these trainings. The key in Naturopathic School is the Hippocratic Oath, first do no harm, and then heal with nature. In Acupuncture School, we are taught about the five element correspondence in terms of diagnosing and treatment. The Earth Element is related to the stomach and digestion. It's purpose is the "transformation and transportation" of nutrition throughout the body. When I think of Terroir, particularly of Cheese, this all has a new meaning for me now. The Chinese were meticulous observers of correspondences in all things. Could it be that the arcane and artistic language of Traditional Chinese Medical philosophy, of the Earth Element and Nutrition was the simplistic way to comprehend what Baars was showing with his graphs? A deeper question is can we be nourished when food does not have the natural Terroir in it, but a prepackaged pasturized standard level of "stuff" we like to call food?

A boon to natural medical practitioners is the explosion in Auto Immune disease. Put simply, the person is literally allergic to themselves, they have anti bodies to their own tissue, and there is ample evidence that certain food stuffs stimulate this reaction. The other boon to our practices is the explosion in asthma and allergies. People are literally reacting to everything around them with inflammation, grass, pollen, dust, food, water, air, everything makes them react by either swelling up like a balloon or almost suffocating. These people, most often children, have to live in sterile environments eating about 5 different non-alleric foods to simply exist. What is going on? How can people be allergic to their own body tissues and organs? How can food stuffs that have been eaten for over 10,000 years send people to the emergency room? How can this be?

I go back to the entire safety argument. We must boil, sterilize and standardize in order to be safe. But are we safer actually? It seems that nature provided all that is necessary to  successfully interact with the outside world. It is called Terroir, place, region, (I would also say Earth) and all the microbes that transform juice into wine, flour into bread and milk into cheese. These elements have proven to increase and adapt human physiology to be in harmony and relationship with the Earth, mainly through digestion. Not only that, but these agents of place, give incredible pleasure and nourishment at the same time. We often think of medicine as painful and tasting bad, but when we understand the mechanisms that have been going on for 10,000 years, it really causes one to reconsider what is healing and what is actually safe.

What I am seeing now is an imbalance between the human and natural world, the delicate balance is being over run all in the interests of safety. When I watch parents who have been up all night in the emergency room with an asthmatic child gasping for breath because of contact with pasteurized milk, I wonder how safe they all feel? Nature has designed herself with very consistent processes, with the ultimate purpose of promoting life. We see this in fermentation of all kinds, how the simple act of fermentation kills toxic bacteria, enables humans to interact with the outside world. When these processes are overtaken for the sole purpose of convenience of a market driven industry, this is the true risk for humanity.

Swedish Raw Milk Cheese, Cheese Festival Marketplace, Bra Italy 

I enjoy my raw milk Gorgonzola with new gratitude, and am more dedicated to helping those who are working to preserve these ancient practices. Our lives and the lives of our children, our health and the economic health of our communities actually depend on the preservation of naturally fermented cheese. More on the people involved in the next post.

Cheese Monger offering Red Hawk from Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes 
California, a truly Californian Terroir Cheese. Don't you feel safe now?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Resist with Cheese

While the Cheese Festival 2013 in Bra is a gastronomic paradise, there is a deeper meaning to all of the festivities. One of the more unique events was the awarding of Cheese Resistance recognition to outstanding Cheese Makers from around the world.


While I was waiting for the opening ceremonies to begin, the Piazza where the Palco Stage had a feeling of a rock concert. There where police and squad cars everywhere, an ambulance on hand and scores of press ready with cameras for the  much anticipated maestro of Slow Food, Carlo Petrini. While I admire Petrini, and will be forever grateful for his vision and passion, to me what makes Slow Food so special is the members and producers that make up the organization.

When I was at my first Terra Madre, what I took away from the experience was how Slow Food is the recognition and celebration of the common man. What culture deems as the lowliest of it's members, Slow Food elevates to the status they deserve. As modern culture isolates, one of the greatest disconnects lies between the eater and the one who provides the food. With Slow Food, the main issue is to re-humanize the food system, to reconnect the eater with the land, the animals and the people who make their daily bread possible. We take so much for granted in the West, and the availability of food just for the asking is the biggest assumption we have.



Watching these humble cheese makers, dairymen and herders get an award for their endurance was very moving. From cheese makers to educators, these humble men simply keep working to make their products. I had been following one of the recipients since 2010 when I first had met him at Terra Madre that year. Sider Sedefchev is a breeder and leader of the Slow Food Karakachan Sheep Presidium in the Pirin Mountains of Bulgaria. Culinary and Agriculture traditions had been all but destroyed under the communist regime. Before collectivization, the Karakachan sheep numbered above 500,000. The local herders said no to the relocation of their herd, and their horses, dogs and sheep were slaughtered as a result. The herd of sheep now numbers in the hundreds. Thanks to Sedefchev, the breed is now starting to renew itself, making the special milk for the Presidium Green Cheese for Bulgaria.



Sedefchev is working to save the karakachan horses and dogs, as well ad reintroduce the indigenous Kalofer goat. Recently his center suffered a devastating fire, and Slow Food International hopes the award will help him rebuild this vital center that is preserving biodiversity in the Balkans.

Aside from all the awards and efforts, one thing remains, the cheese is amazingly delicious. For the uncultivated palate, it tastes like a cross between feta and blue cheese, but what makes it possible is the Karakachan sheep that forages on the mountain grasses and herbs, and the local air that mellows and ages the cheese in a special way that no other method can reproduce.

Sedefchev is what I consider a modern super hero, someone who against all odds is trying to undo the grave damage of modern political power games, to preserve a rich environmental and ecological heritage for future generations. All with cheese! Now this is a true star, I long for the day when he will be the norm for celebrity news, until then, I am glad for his work and wish him well.

The Beginning of Cheese 2013



It is hard to believe, I am actually here. Firstly because I am still so jet lagged. (I am not as young as I used to be let me tell you) But also, it was so very dicey these past few weeks in terms of international events. I was weighing my chances that a nuclear theater might happen in Syria or that retaliations might take place against US citizens on airplanes. Thanks to the Russians, in this respite of nervous peace, some of the world's finest Cheese mongers and makers are gathered in Bra, Italy to celebrate the true art of transforming milk into thousands of different incredible foods. This is also called Slow Food Cheese Festival and happens every two years in this lovely small city in the Piedmont region of Italy.

 As I was wandering the streets of Turin last night in search of fiber, I found a wonderful fruit and vegetable mart. They had a nice selection of regional cheeses, so I splurged on a small slice of runny Gorgonzola to accompany my pear and grapes. The only thing I could think of what how sad vegans and the lactose intolerant must miss out on this pungent gooey magnificence. After a very confusing and circuitous trip from Milan to Turin, I met up with my Macedonian Slow Food Friends. 




I am always struck by the warmth and basic loveliness of these people, and am looking forward to knowing them better as the event progresses. We are staying at the Olympic Village and catching a train each day to the festival. It is hard to describe this event in words other than amazing. I got a lay of the land today, so much to see, there are even cows here, and cheeses from all over the world. Education workshops, tastings, biodiversity information. From what I was observing, it seems as if, how to say this without a groan, at the risk of being cheesy,  that the preservation of traditional methods  of making cheese will actually help save the world. So much is involved in the creation of these delicious wheels of fermented dairy. It all ties into culture, tradition, the environment and the husbandry of animals. For now, I am just literally drinking in the atmosphere, enjoying Bra and chatting with people from all over the world. By preserving these methods, the environment can be improved, economies stabilized and human health enhanced. All the problems that seem to confound experts in what the rest of us see as the collapse of the global merchant economy, can actually be solved by making cheese in the traditional way.



Some initial observations

I enjoyed some ash yogurt from Kenya, this centuries old tradition mixes a keifer like yogurt with a plant ash, to create a grey drink that was actually quite good and actually the most healthy thing here, mixing acidophillus and charcoal together, could not help but tame the tummy with so many different foods and waters.

Cheeses from along the Camino de Compestela de Santiago. Now I can enjoy cheese when I walk the pilgrim way next year.

I learned that the first cheeses in America were transplant methods from England, but back then it was more lucrative to make butter with what milk was available. The Americans started to make cheese and export to England who was making mostly butter at that time. In order to extend the cheese and make it fatter, the Americans started mixing lard into the cheese, so much so, and at such a great cost to the taste, that the English stopped importing the stuff. I thought to myself, wow, there is a tradition for tasteless fatty stuff called American Cheese.

There was a resistance cheese award given out at the opening ceremonies. This award was given to cheese makers whose tradition was preserved under incredible odds. I thought to myself, all the awards that are given out for cheese, food and what not, and here we are watching a herder from Bulgaria whose sheep stock was obliterated by the communists because the family refused to be relocated. The authorities at the time reduced a 500,000 herd to a few hundred to teach them a lesson, and yet the family remains, their small herd remains and they continue to make cheese to this day.

What we value as a modern culture is a constant intrigue to me. As I come out of a culture that rewards a disgruntled teen who rides naked on a wrecking ball and calls it art, whose government can not work together for the good of her people, and I see these shepherds, cheese makers, vintners and bakers, preserving century old traditions of transforming the gifts of their agriculture into the most delicious foods. I look forward to hearing more from these people, who in spite of all that swirls around them in terms of regulations, revolutions, climate change and collapsing economies, continue to make their cheeses, one wheel at a time. I am on a different computer and can not seem to make it do what I want but the picture below is the Macedonian Slow Food Cheese Delegation. More later!

Monday, September 9, 2013

OSGATA vs Monsanto



It is a challenging time currently in the United States. Since the passage of Citizens United, many here feel as if our democracy has been bought and sold to the highest bidder. A recent interview with the director of Gas Land, Josh Fox gave an amazing picture of the people of the United States of America. He said that the issue of fraking would transform our democracy and show what kind of people we were as to how we would respond. I would add the GMO issue as well, as both fraking and GMO's are unifying the electorate in ways we never thought possible. We all eat, and anything that threatens to take our food away can dismantle even the staunchest opponents to do what is necessary to maintain our freedom to consume food.

There have been some stunning events in the realm of politics and law regarding GMO's. I got an update on my list serve about a law suit filed by 73 Organic and Conventional farmers to the Supreme Court of the United States. Through the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association http://www.osgata.org/ something truly revolutionary is afoot. 

Lawyers with the Public Patent Foundation http://www.pubpat.org/ are making petitions to the court to do two things. Number one, this trade association wants to argue before the Supreme Court of the United States that farmers who do not sign contracts with Monsanto should be legally protected against financial liability if their fields are contaminated with GMO seeds. Currently Monsanto has "promised" not to sue, but only if the contamination does not exceed 1%. But Monsanto refuses to sign a binding agreement that it wont sue. Isn't that amazing? Monsanto claims it has proprietary rights, and if it's seeds slip out of territory, it can and has successfully sued farmers who did not want the stuff in the first place for patent infringement.

But the big thing this OSGATA suit aims to do is invalidate the Monsanto patents. How? By using the "social use clause" of the patent law. As Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote in 1817, to be patentable, an invention must not be "injurious to the well-being, good policy, or sound morals of society," and "a new invention to poison people ... is not a patentable invention." Because transgenic seed, and in particular Monsanto's transgenic seed, is "injurious to the well-being, good policy, or sound morals of society" and threatens to "poison people," Monsanto's transgenic seed patents are all invalid. I just LOVE my system of justice here in the USA, our founding fathers and original court had a sense of morals and ethics I wish would rub off on certain people these days. What is truly amazing is if this gets heard, there is a good chance OSGATA will win, at the very least the realities of GMO's on humans, animals and the food system will get a VERY public airing.

This suit has global implications. While I have little faith in the corporatist court, it will be incredible if this case does get heard. Please follow this case through OSGATA. You can sign up for alerts, and they need money to help spread the word. 



I interviewed OSGATA President Jim Gerritsen for the July 10th program. It was so inspiring as well as educational, please listen and pass on the link, everyone needs to hear this example of food justice and democracy in action. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/real-food-empire/2013/09/10/organic-seed-growers-vs-monsanto

It is heart breaking that our farmers have to sue to keep our food system safe and accessible, but they are doing just that. Let's help them and make the public aware of what is really going on when it comes to who owns our food. As Jim so eloquently said in the interview, our seeds are part of the commons for public good. They should not be owned by anyone.

Queens of the Foothill Kitchen





One of the things that keeps me enthused about life during these really challenging times is my experiences as a food talk show host. The big secrets is I have more fun doing this than I should have, and actually need the programs more than you my adoring public does. It is my drug, to see that there is so much hope, creativity and greatness of human beings in my local, state, national and global community. As I have no outlet or addictions to numb the pain, I transform my sorrow by witnessing and documenting the emerging food movement all over the planet. Let me tell you, it is better than any drug or distraction because of the vision not only into the really great present time on the planet, but also into the bright future.


When I was doing my program in the Inland Empire, I was constantly amazed at the creativity and quality of all the different food initiatives I was witnessing. I had come back to the South land to help take care of my parents, and thought I was going to die from franchise-itis in terms of food. I had been living in the Bay Area and was involved with the food movement there, as well as being a docent at a food and wine museum in Napa, California. I quickly found a Slow Food Chapter and the rest is history.



While people in other parts of the state of California sort of snicker when it comes to the Inland Empire, what I was seeing was one of the most vibrant food communities I had ever encountered. The Inland Empire is a poster child of all that is wrong with American economic policy. The San Bernardino Valley has abundant sunshine, rich soil and access to fresh water from the local mountains. Once the jewel of California agriculture, people flocked to the area from all over the world to farm in the warm glow of the Southern California Sun. The Valley is home to the largest number of small family farms in the nation, with a rich history ranging from vineyards to citrus and dairy farming.



When Norton Air Force Base was established in 1942, the focus of the economic base for the San Bernardino area became the military. When the base closed in 1994, the economic cost to the area was devastating. Economic planners then focused on housing. Home prices in Orange County and Los Angeles were out of reach of most lower income workers, but cheaper land in Riverside and San Bernardino county coupled with not so high gas prices enabled people who were tired of renting in the areas of their work, to commute from inland homes to the coastal area jobs. With the economic collapse, outsourcing of jobs, many people started to do home based food businesses and made the Farmers Market circuit. I did a Farmers Market report every money on the KCAA Morning Show, which meant that I visited a different Farmers Market every week to make my segment. What I saw in my rounds all over the county, was the same food producers in most of the markets. From jams, to pastries, candies, spices and sauces, people in the Inland Empire were making yummy stuff with local ingredients and making a great living at the same time.

Two initiatives that were prime examples of this trend : Queenie's Llc of Redlands and Foothill Kitchens of Upland. Rosie Ogden started at the Grove School Farmers Market in Redlands, where she had a loyal following for her spice and seasoning mixes based on her mothers recipes. 

Rosie Ogden of Queenie's Llc

Ogden would bring Southern specialties for sale at the market, and had her spices ready for thrilled customers. She started to go to other regional markets and decided to go full throttle, tapping Foothill Kitchens to expand her product line. She now has a permit from the USDA and is launching her seasoning lines in chain grocery stores. http://www.queeneskitchen.com/

Foothill Kitchens is an incubator kitchen in Upland that was founded by Judy Ott-Magoon. 

Judy and Doug Ott - Magoon of Foothill Kitchens

Incubator kitchens are key to helping launch small food based businesses in local communities. To build a certified kitchen can cost hundreds and thousands of dollars, beyond the capabilities of most start up food companies. An Incubator kitchen is sort of like a food making library, where patrons can rent the kitchen facilities to make their goods, and be able to meet strict public health standards and permits at the same time. Clients can rent for a few hours at a time or for an entire day, several days a week. Foothill Kitchen also is available for cooking classes and has a store in the front offering goods prepared by the Foothill Kitchen client family, lunch and takeaway items are also for sale. As Ott - Magoon had been in the catering business for years, she also brings to her clients mentoring skills and experience on how they can fast track their businesses legally to success. http://www.foothillkitchens.com/



Both Rosie and Judy are dedicated to giving back to their communities. Queenie's is donating part of her profits to help prevent domestic violence through the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. 


Ott-Magoon is using Foothill Kitchens to foster a project close to her heart: Fallen Fruit for Rising Women. The program pairs women from Claremont's Crossroads, a nonprofit providing housing, education, support and counseling for formerly incarcerated women with Scripps College students who teach them how to produce jams and jellies to be sold at farmers' markets.

What is particularly fun for me personally, is that both of these ladies were guests on my program while I was on KCAA and found each other because of the program.

These are difficult economic times, but the key to our economic transformation is creating sustainable local economies based on food and agriculture. What I was watching in the Inland Empire is going on all over the globe. As we can see with both Judy Ott- Magoon and Rosie Ogden is women creating their own economic opportunities, creating jobs and contributing to help solve community problems through their businesses.


Hysterical GMO Activists



It is so interesting to me how the New York Times keeps posting these types of articles, especially since this was the main newspaper that participated in lying the American people into a war with Iraq, remember "Weapons of Mass Destruction?" I am also very concerned that many so called pro atheist sites are equating climate change deniers to those of us who do not want our food sources to be patented and natural ecology's to be destroyed. Apparently we are all anti science, and the people who want access to food,  they are hysterical anti GMO activists. Thank goodness for the "hysterical" Filipino's who actually understand the evil potential of this global experiment. They stormed the lab and field where this experimental rice was being grown and burned everything. They understand that if there is any cross pollination with indigenous rice, then the strains will be forever contaminated, and they will be financially enslaved to the bio tech multinationals in order to eat. 

The article states that this rice which has genetically been manipulated with genes from other species to help prevent blindness in humans. We can help prevent blindness by stopping wars and conflicts that hamper food production, lets start there. GMO's are not the answer too illness and human misery, in fact, they are one of the greatest evils since the advent of the nuclear bomb, and rival fraking in terms of potential destruction of our food sources. If this makes me hysterical, well, how can you be "Calm" about forced corporate starvation of the masses of humanity?


There are at least four state ballot initiatives in the US for the Fall Elections, asking for labeling of GMO foods in their states. The fights are very expensive. Recently, a mutual fund investor has been recommending that his clients do not put their money into biotech agriculture multinationals. With the recent rejection and pulling out of GMO crop petitions from the European Union, to the state initiatives and house and senate bills being introduced for mandatory national labeling, the writing is on the wall. If anything good has come from the 12 years of war in the Middle East, it is that the American public is ever skeptical of any sort of experts telling us what we should and should not be afraid of. What is so astonishing is that the dislike of GMO's actually comes from a combination of science, legal attacks agains farmers and personal health experiences with the substances. There is more to come, stay tuned!