Thursday, July 19, 2012

Coffee, News, and Gleaning

Yesterday morning I got to listen to NPR at work - a Talk of the Nation piece about Land Grants and the Future of Agriculture - which mentions Cornell, Cooperative Extension Programs around the U.S. and the importance of these programs and the distinct lack of funding for them. It mentions that extension agents now wear many hats, which seems entirely true now as offices are closed down and everything is consolidated. These people do amazing work to help farmers, promote nutrition education, Master Gardening programs, and much much more. Last summer I worked with Laura McDermott from Cornell Cooperative Extension, and it was incredible to see how much work all over the Capital District she did and how wide the impact was. As a member of the Capitol Region Vegetable and Small Fruit team the work they do with farmers is integral in helping with IPM and ensuring that crops grow to their potential.

It is strange having no homework and really having time to do things like cook and read the news. It is nice to be informed about what is going on in Albany with Capitol Confidential - a blog that outlines everything that is happening in the political world here in Albany - and then reading and listening to news from NPR, the BBC, and the New York Times. In the office we always try to keep track of any news that mentions Cornell or Cooperative Extension or news that will impact the University in some way. 

I am also starting to develop a bit of a taste for coffee - I still only have it once a week or so, and mostly just on early early days or when I am extra tired. There are two really wonderful Cafe's right on Lark Street just a short walk from my house. The Daily Grind is totally great with delicious food, amazing baked goods, and good coffee, there is also Crisan Bakery that I want to go to all the time, but have restrained myself.

Today I went to SUNY for the New York State Council on Food Policy annual summer meeting. There were talks about Environmental Sustainability, the Farm bill, Regional Updates, and Emerging Issues. SUNY Albany is doing a lot of work to get more local food in their dining halls, and currently they have about 20% local food. They talked a lot about the definition of "local" as well, it really varies, for them it includes everything in a 250 mile radius, and generally anything from New York State is included. It sounds like what is key for these kinds of partnerships are the middle man - having a good wholesaler involved seemed to work really well for them. Another interesting idea that was brought up is how more complicated items like baked goods were identified because the eggs and butter may be local, but then there is the sugar, flour, etc. and do all of the items in the food need to be local? I also learned about gleaning - which is collecting leftover or unusable crops from farmers fields. Here is a cool NPR article about how its making a comeback and a good quote -

"In the Old Testament, farmers are told not to pick their fields and vineyards clean, but instead to leave the edges for orphans, widows and travelers. In the modern day, gleaning is more about preventing would-be waste. Food gets left in the field for all kinds of reasons. Two big ones are that mechanical harvesting misses a lot — and sometimes the crops aren't pretty enough for supermarket shelves." 

Walking to work is also a really lovely thing. After having to drive hundreds of miles a week last summer, it is really nice to not have a car and pretty much walk everywhere I need to go, or take the bus. I love seeing my neighborhood, the shops, the dogs, the parks, and the buildings, and its a also a good way to get exercise! Here are some pics from my walk to work...

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