Sustainable Food and Land
To learn about workshops and other opportunities, email Kit Canright.
We work to address the issue of climate change by:
sharing info on food preservation, gardening, and responsible buying
encouraging landscaping and gardening practices that nurture soil and pollinators
studying food issues and land stewardship
connecting people who want to can together, share tools, garden space,
cooking expertise, and the like
raising awareness of our daily choices; learning to make use of everything so as to live sustainably
Some recent projects:
A cider-pressing festival hosted with Hampden Park Co-op (slides, right)
Canning and food-preserving workshops
Workshops on seed-starting, composting, and growing microgreens indoors
In a workshop, agronomist Lois Braun shared tip sheets on composting and the pros and cons of tilling. Download them here:
Where and How to Compost by Lois Braun
Compost Happens!....in Your Backyard by Margot Monson
To Till or Not to Till by Lois Braun
Canning and pickling
Whether we grow our own foods or buy at farmer's markets, the co-op, or the grocery store, learning to preserve for the winter helps us to eat local, sustainably grown food longer each year. Produce is cheaper in season (and in bulk). Canning and pickling together can reduce carbon use, shares the workload, builds community relations and is a lot of fun!
Lois (left) shows how to identify quackgrass by its branching roots. Avoid it in your compost bin!
Protect our pollinators:
an action guide
"The little things that run the world"
Pollinator slide show by Margot Monson
As we plant our gardens, let's act on behalf of the pollinating insects we all depend on. More than just honeybees and butterflies, pollinators include many types of beetles, flies, moths, ants, bees, and wasps. They're crucial to our ecosystems and our food supply, and they've been in decline lately. How can we help? Read Margot Monson's Pollinator Action Guide in Transition Times ASAP (and a later update). And use these tips, with links to downloadable guides:
Ask questions and take a stand when shopping for plants: show that buyers know about the dangers of pesticides.
Biologist E.O. Wilson called insects "the little
things that run the
world." We need
them, and now they
Monson lives in
St. Anthony Park.
Diet for a Changing Planet
by Kit Canright
Kit coordinates sustainable food projects for Transition Town ASAP, like the canning workshop shown here. She's also a math teacher and choral singer. A shorter version of this article appeared in the May Park Bugle.
Buy less. Eat less meat. Use what you have. These three rules, if widely followed, could substantially reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Of the 100 solutions in Paul Hawken’s book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, eliminating food waste and switching to a plant-rich diet rank third and fourth in carbon-cutting effectiveness. Better yet, they’re steps we can take personally.
Reduce food waste
A third of the food raised in the U.S. goes to waste, mostly after it gets to market, thrown away by stores or in our homes. (By contrast, in developing countries most waste occurs before food gets to market, due to infrastructure issues.) So how can we reduce our food waste at home?
Buy less. Be realistic about what you’ll actually get around to cooking and eating.
Buy a smaller refrigerator next time. How many things perish at the back of the fridge because they’re out of sight?
Keep a list on the fridge door of foods that need to be used. Leftover bits can often be transformed into full meals by using them in an omelet, putting them over a starch of your choice, or using as filling in a wrap. My odd invention of the year came from heating leftover green bean casserole (yes, the traditional canned mushroom soup variety) with a bit of leftover chicken and wrapping it in a warm tortilla shell – surprisingly good!
Plan the week’s meals ahead. This allows you to think about how leftovers will be used, including that extra half bunch of green onions/cilantro/spinach, etc. If your plans change, freeze what you can and focus on eating the perishables. You can squeeze a few extra days out of about-to-go-bad veggies by roasting them in a little olive oil, giving you the base for a quick dinner later in the week.
Explore simple recipes that let you easily process the summer’s abundance.
Zucchini garlic soup base, roasted red peppers, blanched leeks, and dill or
basil pesto can quickly transform the garden’s overproduction into already-
prepped ingredients ready to throw into winter meals.
Find ways to use foods that are past their prime. Slightly soured milk may
not taste good on cereal but can be used in cooking and baking. (My grand-
mother’s gingerbread recipe calls for sour milk.) Mold on cheese can be cut
off and the rest eaten. Caveat: Be sensible; throw out food when you need
to and swear to be a better food steward in the future.
Freeze the extra. Baked goods freeze well. Most vegetables freeze easily
with a quick blanching. Those annoying half-cans of tomato paste can be
frozen in dollops on a pan then put in a Ziploc bag.
Use as much of each food as you can. Many vegetable skins are edible
(carrots, potatoes, some squashes), containing both nutrients and fiber.
Young radish tops are delicious in spring salads or stir-fried. Did you know
that the green parts of leeks are edible? Most recipes call for only the
white part. But simmering transforms those tough greens into something
delicious; try adding them to broths and stews. Check the internet for food “discard” recipes and info on edibility and safety. (Caution! Rhubarb leaves, green patches on potatoes, and raw red kidney beans are all poisonous.)
Once you’ve wrung the most you can out of the food, compost the remains to nurture next year’s crops, either in your own bin or through organics recycling. Take vegetable and animal scraps, including bones, to Ramsey County’s Pierce Butler yard waste site or the 24-hour organics bin by the Humane Society on Beulah Lane.
The “Food-print” Pyramid
In a switch from the USDA food pyramid, this one shows the ecological impact of our food choices. Foods lower on this pyramid have a smaller "carbon food-print." They represent less fossil fuel burned in growing and distribution, less water used, and generally more sustainable agricultural practices
(that is, the earth is better able to regenerate resources and absorb emissions).
Use this guide to consider carbon when choosing what to eat.
Graphic by Pat Thompson, adapted from the Double Pyramid created by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition
Eat a plant-rich diet
Beef has a massive footprint: a weekly five-ounce steak, over the course of a year, adds 736 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. By contrast, equivalent servings of beans would generate just 6.6 pounds of carbon. Look at it this way: substituting beans for weekly steaks is equivalent to saving 38 gallons of gas annually. But even switching from beef to chicken (141 pounds) or pork (150 pounds) is a big carbon savings. (Data from a 2017 Washington Post article based on work at the University of Minnesota.)
So do we all need to go vegan, live in solar-heated yurts, and walk to school through the snow in our Birkenstocks? No, but we can be more mindful of our impact on the earth. Use meat sparingly, mostly as a condiment: try roasted cauliflower tossed with sautéed bacon and rosemary, served over whole grains. When you do cook meat, use all of it. Simmer leftover chicken bones and skin with chopped onions, carrots, and celery for a couple hours. Voilà! A rich broth that beats anything you can buy at the store—intense flavor without any salt. Bonus: dogs love the carrots from the broth!
Don’t have time to make broth that night? It can easily be done in small increments. Chop up the vegetables when carving the chicken remains and toss in the fridge for up to 2 days or put in the freezer for later use. Even the bones from a grocery store rotisserie chicken work fine for broth.
During World War II, the government promoted victory gardens and waste-free habits to meet a war goal (here, a poster from that time). We have a new battle today. If we all do our part, we can have a major impact.
References and links
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken (Penguin, 2017) and compiled from the work of 70 scientists and public-policy specialists from 22 countries.
The Double Pyramid comparing the USDA food pyramid with an ecological footprint food pyramid may be found at http://barillacfn.com/en/
Here’s how much giving up beef helps — or doesn’t help — the planet, by Tamar Haspel (Washington Post, 2017): 2056e768a7e5_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1aa5fd1a262c
The Lancet Commission’s report on a “planetary health diet”:
Transition your yard: There's life after lawn
Why move from mostly lawn to more diverse plantings?
Less lawn = less mowing = less pollution. Lawn mowing in the US produces 5 percent of the nation's air pollution, more in metropolitan areas, says the EPA.
More productive land: we can grow food instead of grass.
Water stewardship. In the US, 36 states predict a freshwater shortage within a decade. It is estimated that 30 to 60 percent of urban water is used on lawns.
How can we be better stewards of our land and water?
Minimize pollution by reducing or eliminating fertilizers, pesticides, and salt. Gravel works well on icy sidewalks and can be swept up and reused.
Landscape to reduce erosion and keep sediment pollution out of waterways.
If you mow, switch to an electric or reel lawn mower.
Capture stormwater in barrels, rain gardens, or bioswales: this also reduces water pollution from runoff. Permeable pavers let rainwater filter into the earth; they're also less toxic than blacktop.
When roofing, consider using wood or slate: they release fewer pollutants.
Use a rain gauge and water only when plants need it. Water in the morning to minimize evaporation and reduce plant diseases. Let grass turn brown in midsummer; it will green up in the fall.
Use native plantings with deep roots. They hold the soil better, need less water, and require less work!
Thanks to Kit Canright, who gathered these tips at a Mississippi Watershed Management Organization workshop.
A lawn-turned-vegetable-garden on Hillside Avenue in St. Anthony Park.
Resources for water stewardship
More about rain gardens
A rain garden is a low-lying area designed for gradual drainage, boosting ecosystem resilience by stabilizing the water table. Every rain garden helps, even a small one in a backyard or on a boulevard.