Are You Buying Less To Get More?

I got an interesting e-mail the other day from a graduate student at the City University of New York. Kirsten Firminger is enrolled in CUNY’s Social Psychology program and she’s looking for volunteers in the New York metro area to participate in an online research survey about buying less. Rather than focus on people who are buying less because of the recession, she is looking for people who have voluntarily chosen to reduce how much they buy.

Kirsten says the purpose of her research is to get a better understanding of how people learn to buy less and what barriers and supports people have encountered while trying to voluntarily buy less. She also says:

It does not matter how long you have been buying less or how successful you have been — I am interested in learning about all the different experiences people have had. Similarly, I would like to hear from people who have chosen to buy less for a variety of reasons. You could be buying less because you are:

  • Concerned about the environment
  • Looking to save money or be financially independent
  • Want to live a simpler, less materialistic lifestyle
  • Unhappy with the influence and conduct of corporations or businesses
  • Whatever the reason you choose to voluntarily buy less, I am interested in what you have to say.

In order to participate, you need to:

  • be currently living in the New York City Metro area,
  • have voluntarily chosen to buy less, and
  • be over the age of 18.

For more information and to participate, please click here.

Kirsten says the survey takes around 15 – 25 minutes to fill out. Participation is voluntary and all information provided will be treated as confidential. She can be reached at kfirminger[AT] or 718-238-1803.

Vote ‘Yes’ Tuesday on Public Question 1

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey is calling on voters to go to the polls tomorrow and vote YES on Public Question #1. This is the ballot question that will assure continued funding for Green Acres, farmland preservation and historic preservation, and yes, you have been asked to support this initiative many times over the last four decades. And it has worked: According to NOFA-NJ, more than 1,800 farms totaling 176,500 acres have been preserved since the first open space ballot in 1961.

More remains to be done. As David and Michelle Glenn, NOFA-NJ’s co-executive directors, wrote in an email to me this morning:

On Election Day, Nov. 3, voters can decide whether we will remain the Garden State or be doomed to the Strip Mall State. Now is truly the time to “choose it or lose it!”

Greens, Greens, Greens

The last distribution for the 2009 season of Upper Meadows Farm’s CSA is loaded with greens. There’s arugula, Hon Tsai Tai, lettuce, Pak Choi, Mizspoona, Yokata-Na, and Green Wave mustard. And there are even more ways to eat them, from soups and salads to main-dish stir-frys and sides. Here are some of my favorites:

Arugula salad with pears. Epicurious gives you several options to combine two of the items in this week’s share, from a salad that combines arugula and pears with Stilton cheese, to an option with the ingredient that I would need on a deserted island, pancetta. The extra ingredient in this latter salad is ricotta salata, which, just like regular ricotta, you can easily make at home. And I think either of these salads would be lovely with a dusting of hickory nuts.

Chinese chicken soup with greens. The Web sites of my favorite Asian cookbooks, “A Spoonful of Ginger” and “Hot Sour Salty Sweet”, are limited and hard to navigate. But both books have excellent chicken soups with greens that can be summed up as follows: Make a big pot of chicken stock, add the coarsely chopped greens of your choice, cooked noodles (I like the thin, mung bean kind), a bit of cooked chicken and a dash of fish sauce. You can build on the pungency of your greens by adding ginger or chile paste, or tamp it down a bit with Chinese black vinegar. Vegetarian? “Washoku”, a Japanese home-style cookbook I have on my shelves, uses a dashi broth with a bit of miso in place of the chicken stock.

Asian greens as a side dish: Cook up more substantial Asian noodles (soba and chow fun are good, as is a noodle I recently discovered that is made from sweet potato starch). Saute the greens lightly in a neutral oil and toss with the noodles and a bit of soy sauce. If you absolutely need a recipe, here’s one from a CSA in Tucson. You could stir fry the greens with gingery sauce.  Easier still: Mark Bittman of the New York Times paired bok choi (Pak Choi in our list) with oyster sauce.

Asian greens in the main course: Take the above, and add protein. Green Your Plate is a wonderful food blog written by a woman who belongs to a midwestern CSA. Earlier this year, she put up a very complete post on Asian greens, and it included several ideas on using them in main courses.

Enough. I’m getting hungry.

Bill Gates Sets His Sights On Small Farms

Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates has had lots to say on technology, and a growing amount to say on malaria and other health problems in Africa. But last week, he made his first major address on agriculture, a field in which he has been quietly building up his investments.

Gates spoke at the 2009 World Food Prize, an award created two decades ago to honor work like that of Nobel laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug. This year, the award went to Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, an Ethiopia native and now a professor at Purdue University who was recognized for developing drought-resistant hybrids of sorghum, a key grain in sub-Saharan Africa.

That’s important work, to be sure, but there is much more to be done to achieve food security in the Third World. So Gates, through his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced that he is awarding $120 million to nine institutions around the world for agricultural research aimed at helping small farms grow more food. Just as with Borlaug’s work, not everybody is going to like the projects that Gates is sponsoring because they involve some tinkering with plant biology to improve yields. But when Gates starts targeting money at an issue, it pays to pay attention.

Gates says in his address, which I’ve excerpted below, that productivity and sustainability are not incompatible. For the full video, and a transcript, go to the Web site of the Gates Foundation.

Week 22, Final Distribution 2009

Individual Shares, Select 6



Hon Tsai Tai


Mixed Leaf Lettuce

Pak Choi

Baby Leaf Lettuce


Stir-fry mix (baby Kale, Yokata-Na)


EXTRAS: Hickory nuts, Green Wave mustard

Thank you all for participating this year in our CSA!

Please stock up on animal protein. We will have available for purchase, seafood, chicken, and beef all on a first-come, first-served basis. Place your order by clicking on the appropriate link.

Your Brain On Kale

kaleWe were more than a little discombobulated unloading the truck yesterday in Verona. We couldn’t seem to remember which greens were which, or figure out what ordered they belonged in on the tables. Very odd. This was Week 21, after all, and we ought to have the CSA distribution down to a science.

And then someone figured out what the problem was: no kale. “We can’t function without it,” somebody quipped.

Yes, 2009 has been The Year of Kale. The software behind the “What we’re writing about” box to the left of this page renders the blog’s most frequent post tags in the largest type, and the largest of the large is … drumroll, please …. kale. For those of you keeping score, we have had kale–WhiteRussian, Red, Curly, Siberian or Lacinato–in weeks 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20.

And yes, there does seem to be a connection between kale and cognitive function. Take a look at this article (headline: “Brain Food”) from Rodale’s Men’s Health magazine.

The last distribution for Upper Meadows’ 2009 CSA is just days away. I’ve got some kale stockpiled in the freezer, but not nearly enough for the winter. So I guess the bottom line is this: Don’t ask me to do any serious thinking until next spring.

Week 21 Shares

Individual shares, select 6



Mixed Baby Lettuce




Pak Choi

Green Wave Mustard

Purple & Red Mustard