Some experts say federal farm subsidies contribute to the nation's obesity crisis, reports Marni Jameson in the Chicago Tribune. They argue that corn and wheat, the most heavily subsidized crops, are also staples in a variety of common, fattening, nutrition-deficient foods. But UC agricultural economist Julian Alston says farm subsidies are unrelated to obesity. "I get annoyed because everyone points to farm subsidies as one of the top two reasons for the obesity epidemic, but it's irrelevant," Alston said. He believes the elimination of farm subsidies would have a negligible effect on obesity rates.
Master Gardeners ready to help
Karen Rifkin, The Willits News
In a general feature story about the Mendocino County Master Gardener program, volunteer Wendy Roberts was quoted: "Master gardeners are trained volunteer staff of the University of California Cooperative Extension. They are members of the local community who share a common interest in and love of the growth and care of plants and provide practical, scientific horticulture and gardening information to the citizens of Mendocino County."
In addition, plans are in place to make the organic planting and composting operation a demonstration garden with a monthly curriculum and teaching cycles for anyone who wants to learn about gardening, the story said.
The pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church, Chuck Johnstone, suggested last year that open land behind the church could be used to grow food for the hungry. In August, Alameda County Master Gardeners Bruce Campbell and Mark Brunell and a team of volunteers prepared the soil for planting by digging down 18 inches by hand, screen-sifting the soil to remove the pebbles and rocks, and forming five 80-foot-long raised beds. In December they held a four-hour planting party.
"We're doing all this on a shoestring. We replaced a large cash outlay with a lot of (volunteer) labor," Campbell was quoted in the article.
Reporter Thomas Petty said the Master Gardeners have two simple goals for the garden:
- Use an organic market garden model. Food scraps from the food kitchen are composted and put back into the garden for fertilizer. No artificial fertilizers or pesticides are used and the group is working toward "bio-intensive" beds.
- Have a closed system in which proper crop rotation increases soil fertility. Nothing goes into the system except sun, water and compost.
The Garden of Grace blog reported that 50 heads lettuce - romaine, green and red salad bowl, red sails lettuce, and some Russian red kale leaves - 12 broccoli heads, 6 Bull's Blood beets, and 6 turnips were harvested from the garden on Easter Sunday.
At the end of a lengthy list of hoity-toity restaurants and upscale events published in the Los Angeles Daily News this week, the writer slipped in a road trip to the Great Park Farm and Food Lab in Orange County, where educational gardens are maintained by UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners.
After dishing about the five-spice braised pork belly with star anise served at Rama, seitan meatballs with tomato ginger curry at Mana's on Maple, and a $150 per person fundraiser at the Ritz-Carlton, food editor Natalie Haughton plugs the lab's pizza and spaghetti garden, where people can see vegetables growing before they are chopped into marinara sauce.
The Farm and Food Lab features planters brimming with fruits, flowers, vegetables and herbs. There are 12 themed garden beds - including an ethnic garden, fruit salad garden, herb garden and sensory garden - that introduce kids and adults to new and interesting produce and plant life.
The lab is only a small part of the Great Park's venture into urban agriculture. Planners have set aside 114 acres of the former El Toro Marine Corps. Air Station to be cultivated with food crops for the first time since James Irvine sold his lima bean fields to the U.S. government 70 years ago.
Los Angeles County's UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener coordinator, Yvonne Savio, has coined a term to describe the her horticultural style: "circus gardening."
"If it's green and it grows after I've put it in, it stays," she told Pasadena Star-News reporter Michelle Mills. "You water it once or twice, and it's on its own. I tell my Master Gardeners that I've killed many more plants than they ever knew existed because I'm always playing with everything."
Mills developed a feature story about Savio, highlighting the fact that the UCCE employee, who is in charge of LA County UCCE's urban garden program, was named the 2010 Horticulturist of the Year by the Southern California Horticulture Society.
The article also ran in the Redlands Daily Facts.
Savio shared her passion for plants at her Pasadena home, which her father designed and built when Savio was 3. A backyard hillside is terraced for vegetable beds, and perennials grow on the down side of each of the terraces as a living mulch. Savio grows vegetables, fruits, annuals and drought-tolerant perennials, cactus plants, succulents, bromeliads, ground covers and roses.
At work, Savio's newest program is the Grow L.A. Victory Gardens Initiative, in which 10 Master Gardeners throughout Los Angeles County have established dozens of locations where beginning gardeners attend classes and receive a space to practice their lessons, the article said. "It isn't just a class session," Savio was quoted. "They form a neighborhood garden circle." Savio said her Horticulturist of the Year award vindicates her work to help more people grow their own food. "We're talking reality, people and food and becoming more involved with our own world," she was quoted.
At work, Savio's newest program is the Grow L.A. Victory Gardens Initiative, in which 10 Master Gardeners throughout Los Angeles County have established dozens of locations where beginning gardeners attend classes and receive a space to practice their lessons, the article said.
"It isn't just a class session," Savio was quoted. "They form a neighborhood garden circle."
Savio said her Horticulturist of the Year award vindicates her work to help more people grow their own food.
"We're talking reality, people and food and becoming more involved with our own world," she was quoted.
The UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program won't give advice about growing marijuana, even if it is grown legally, according to a Los Angeles Times blog post by Jeff Spurrier.
Spurrier, who is himself a volunteer Master Gardener, reported that UC Master Gardener academic coordinator Pam Geisel recently passed along word from the UC Regents general counsel that Master Gardeners cannot offer assistance on marijuana growing, propagation or problem diagnosis.
To be sure, the new edict doesn't require dramatic changes in Master Gardener programs. Inquiries about marijuana production are rare.
The UC Cooperative Extension horticulture advisor in Los Angeles County, Yvonne Savio, told the blogger she knew of only one call to the Master Gardener office about marijuana.
"The caller asked about growing a ‘grass,’ but when our MG suggested growing a drought-tolerant variety, the caller specified, ‘No, I mean marijuana’ to which our MG replied, 'No, I’m sorry, I can’t respond to that,'" Savio was quoted in the post.