Monday, September 24, 2007

Behavioral Changes Journal Blog

My environmental goal was to try to grow some of my own food. My idea was to try to promote my own access to fresh food, and to gain a deeper respect for local produce. Having just moved to Ithaca, I have been very impressed with the overall availability of local food. I have rarely seen a community so dedicated to this cause through amazing farmers markets, great grocery stores (GreenStar & Wegman’s) and with local products sold in cafes and restaurants. This being said, what better way to reduce the trip from grower to your table than to actually grow and make nourishing food yourself.

My initial plan was to grow vegetables and herbs in my garden, and then inside when it starts to get colder. I found some basil seedlings at the farmer’s market and planted them in my garden (with permission and encouragement from my wonderful, green-thumbed landlady). After overcoming some lack of rain, the plants are doing great. I am planning to sow some more greens and herbs, but I have been having a very hard time finding seeds to buy at this time of the year. It is strange that they are not available because this (along with the cool springtime) is the best time to plant many delicious greens. Other local gardeners I have talked to have been complaining about this lack of seasonal seed availability too. After searching for a few weeks, I just bit the bullet and ordered seeds through Thompson and Morgan seed company over the internet. I ordered packages of mesclun mix, spinach, rocket, basil, thyme, sprouts (for indoor growing) and a few flowers for good measure (I couldn’t resist). I hope they arrive in time for me to plant them out. If they don’t, I will have to grow them under lights inside the house. I’m not sure if growing food under lights in the winter is considered sustainable, but I think the pros outweigh the cons.

Since I have been bent on growing some of my own food, I have been lucky to have been given lots of fresh food by my landlady, who also has a vegetable garden nearby. While I didn’t grow it myself, I know that the food did not have to travel far to get to me. I have also been trying to bake my own bread (which I have done twice so far) and make my own food as much as possible (which is always a challenge when you are a busy person). I really enjoy cooking and baking, but I also enjoy eating out. Ithaca seems to have great restaurants that support local food producers, but I need to try to be mindful of where my food comes from. While I love nothing more than a freshly-picked, home-grown tomato, I also have exotic tastes for sushi, mangos, avocados, foreign wine and many other products that may travel thousands of miles to get to me. I’m not sure that Northern communities would be able to sustain themselves on their own products at this point, but I believe that we have to support our own local food producers as much as possible or else they won’t be able to survive for long. While I am not quite ready to start the 100-mile challenge, I need to be aware of how far my food has travelled, and how it was produced.

I mentioned in my journal entry for September 4th that I also wanted to get some worms to make a worm-composter. I have yet to do this because I have to find the worms. I just got a pamphlet from Cornell Cooperative Extension that has a “rotline” that you can call to get more info on vermicomposting and worm sourcing. I’ll have to call to inquire about where to procure some red wigglers to poop out some great fertilizer!

My social sustainability goal was initially difficult to come up with, but once we had discussed some options in class, I decided to join the Greenstar Cooperative and try to become a working member. I thought that this would be a great way to get involved in a community-based business, and I am very interested in learning more about the management of a successful cooperative. This organization also relates to my interest in sourcing local food and products because they offer more local supplies than any other store around, and at reasonable prices.

It was easy enough to join the cooperative: I just had to pay around $4 to round out the $9 membership fee for the remainder of the year. This gave me bona-fide membership to the cooperative and entitled me to a 2% discount on all my purchases in the stores. However, aside from helping to support a local, sustainable business using purchasing power, this was not the type of “cooperating” that truly promotes social sustainability. I was more interested in becoming a working member (or “member-owner”) that works weekly (a super-worker, entitled to a 17% discount) or monthly (entitled to a 10% discount) in order to get more involved with the cooperative. I thought this would give me an inside perspective on how cooperatives work, expose me to interesting new people, and help out the business itself. Getting purchasing discounts is a bonus as well.

I was a little disappointed to learn that just because I offer my services as a worker doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be a place for me to work right away. After debating on whether or not to try to work weekly or monthly, I realized that I could only make a serious commitment over the long term on a monthly basis. I finally handed in my application with my availability, so now I have to wait for them to call me and offer me a work position. It is a lot more like applying to a job than I thought it would be. This makes sense because it is a real business and not a charity group, but I somehow had the conceited misconception that I would be welcomed into the fold as a prized volunteer. I guess being a little bit selective about who you allow to work in your cooperative is a very smart business practice for an organization that operates so democratically. I am also impressed with how many solid workers they must already have at the cooperative because finding a worker time slot is not all that easy -we must be a dime a dozen in Ithaca!

While I wait to be called in for work, I intend to go to the Greenstar Council meeting on October 11th to see how the democratic process works in this organization.

1 comment:

justsust said...

Hi Squonk
Your food growing determination is very inspiring, wish I knew of your seedquest earlier. I have many seeds to share that I will bring in today. I hope we can use the blog to make other resource sharing requests.