Saturday, December 27, 2008

Women in Farming

When I was younger, I thought farming was primarily a male profession. Fortunately as an adult, and as I educate myself about the industry, I am encountering amazing women in the field such as Cheryl Rogowski. A graduate of LEAD-New York class in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell and a recipient of the MacArthur award (she is the first farmer to received a MacArthur Fellowship), Cheryl has used her experience as a farmer to promote sustainable agricultural practices in the New York.

Her family farm (2nd generation) is located in the town of Warwick in Orange County, NY. It is150 acres, grows over 250 varieties of fruits and vegetables, and is famous for its black dirt. The farm strives to maintain an ethnic market and provides produce to local and city residents through CSAs and farmers markets. In addition to managing her family farm with her brother, Cheryl has helped to start progressive agricultural programs for low-income families and seniors in her community, along with serving as a mentor and supporting literacy programs for immigrant farmers.

Even though I have not met Cheryl, I had an opportunity to talk with her five years ago and coordinated a visit to her farm for a group of youth. We were greeted with warmth, were able to harvest currents that day, and learned about the value of organic farming. For more information on Cheryl Rogowski or W. Rogowski Farm go to:

Friday, December 19, 2008

15th Annual
Bronx Parks
Speak Up

Parks, Environment and Politics
Presentations: Working with Community Boards, Green Jobs
Workshops: Starting Seeds, Grant Writing, Building Alliances and Morrisania Tree Project

When: February 28, 2009
Where: Lehman College, Faculty Dining Room
Time: 11:30am registration, refreshments & net-working 12:30pm – 5pm
Transportation: Bx10 or Bx26 bus, D or 4 train to Bedford Park Blvd.

For more info please send an email to and to sign up to table please send an email to

The Bronx Parks Speak Up gives its attendees the chance to learn about government and non-government resources and participate in face-to-face discussions with city and local elected and appointed officials. It is also an excellent opportunity to network with others active in the Bronx environmental movement.

Sponsored by The Bronx Coalition for Parks & Green Spaces

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tom Vilsack: The Best Pick for Secretary of Agriculture?

As President-elect Obama chooses his cabinet, more specifically the Secretary of Agriculture, I have to ask myself what does his choice for one of the most important national positions mean to folks that are advocating for better food policies? Will the new Secretary of Agriculture support the efforts of local farmers, work create a fair market for grain, and get the agriculture sector to move away from biofuel?In The Nation’s blog, on December 17th, John Nicholas describes the many responsibilities of this position and gives us an insight on how much money goes into the Department of Agriculture. He writes,

With a $97 billion annual budget and roughly 110,000 employees -- more than the departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Energy combined – the [Department of Agriculture] is one of the largest non-defense agencies in the federal government. And its hand is everywhere, with thousands of county extension offices spread across every state.

I encourage folks to read the article. Nicholas gives a history of past candidates and picks and compares Vilsack to other candidates considered for the position. Go to:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Cost of Food and the Holidays

During this holiday season, I often think about how fortunate my family and I are to be able to afford food and share a holiday dinner together. Because a lot of my research and work involves thinking about food security, it is sometimes hard for me to relax, eat, and celebrate without sharing some food facts with relatives, especially over the holiday. This Christmas, I hope to talk a little about our global food crisis and social responsibility. Timing is important, a little bit of humor helps, and using any advantage you have is also useful. Often I get asked to say grace. I will seize the moment to bring attention to the high food prices and its affects on people around the world. A good resource for quick information on this topic is World Vision (Canada) website. Some alarming facts posted on the site include the rising cost of grain since 2007 (wheat has risen by more that 100%), people in developing countries are spending as much as 75% of their income on food leading to food riots in countries like Haiti, and most importantly the site gives reasons for why this is happening listing the rise in the cost of grain, low grain reserves, rise in the price of oil, and the demand of ethanol. Though my family and I are not struggling to buy food, we (and all Americans) are being affected by the food crisis. If we are not buying are produce from local farmers, the quality of our fruits and vegetables is questionable. If meat is a big part of our diet we have to wonder where it comes from (just think of chickens in feedlots). If we aren’t supporting sustainable agriculture practices, we are supporting to the use of oil and ethanol to produce food. I think what I want to express most to my family is the need for them to be more involved in understanding food policies and how to advocate for ones that ensure the growing, production, transportation, and exportation of high quality affordable food around the world because the economic issues that affects one country soon affects all. I will enjoy this Christmas with my family, be grateful for our holiday dinner, say grace with information on food security, and spend a lot of time with my younger cousins who are curious about the world and why things happen.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Turf has a new partner and program space
Beginning in January 2009, Turf will be working with St. Raymond Community Outreach (SRCO) to secure a healthier food system in Parkchester. SRCO, a community-based organization in Parkchester that helps residents build a better neighborhood, is an ideal partner for Turf. Located on Metropolitan Avenue in the hub of Parkchester, SRCO has a long history of serving the community through its program for youth. Turf looks forward to holding community workshops at SRCO and working with teens in their afterschool program!

Turf Brunch

Today Turf had its first brunch! Turf Dinners and Brunches are times for Turf Volunteers to discuss upcoming projects, delegate tasks, explore fundraising ideas, and cook together. For our first brunch we made a vegetable lasagna that was packed with organic vegetables from Union Square’s Farmers Market. The lasagna took less than an hour to make and was delicious! This brunch was also important because it helped volunteer fine tune their cooking skills which they will apply to upcoming Turf cooking workshops for youth and families in the community. These workshops will give residents information on where they can buy farm fresh produce and involve residents in hands on cooking activities designed to encourage using more fruits and vegetables in meals at home. Below is lasagna recipe which can be substituted with fat free or soy cheeses.

Garden Full of Goodness Lasagna


2 cups thinly sliced zucchini
2 cups thinly sliced yellow squash
1 cup thinly sliced carrot
1 cup thinly sliced fresh mushrooms
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 (14 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/4 cup sliced fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese softened
3/4 cups small cottage cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
8 oven-ready, "no cook," lasagna noodles
12 slices provolone cheese, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded mozzarella


Combine zucchini, squash, carrot, mushrooms, onion and peppers with water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Drain well, and reserve. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, cottage cheese, and eggs. Stir together.
Spread 1/3 of the sauce evenly over bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Place 4 uncooked lasagna noodles on top of sauce. Do not overlap noodles. Spread 1/2 of cream cheese mixture over noodles. Cover cheese mixture with 1/2 the vegetable mixture, more sauce, and top evenly with 6 slices provolone cheese and 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers with 4 noodles, rest of the cream cheese mixture, vegetables, sauce, and remaining cheeses. Place in oven for 35 minutes or until lasagna is hot and bubbling.

Let lasagna stand for 10 minutes before serving.

***This recipe is from the Food Network Channel

Friday, November 7, 2008

On Agriculture: What will Obama presidency mean to agriculture?

***From Agriculture Online (11-5-08). Go to link while active.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can

Turf’s mission is to empower and support community residents through the process of improving the health their neighborhood. In this work, there are several challenges around addressing social and economic issues affecting the community and with bringing people from various backgrounds and experiences together to make change.

Last night was a victory for many people who could not imagine a black man as president, but wanted to believe it could happen with Obama; saw that Obama beyond his racial identity brought a message of change and a different kind of government; and/or just thought Obama was the best candidate.

People voted and made it happen.

President-elect Obama drew from his experience as a community organizer and included people who are normally marginalized from or skeptical of the political process into his campaign. President-elect Obama is also just enough of a politician to understand that he needed the support of his opponents to win and therefore invited them along the way (to get to know him and his vision for the country) during his campaign.

So what is next? We have to keep the momentum and use the same vigor we used to elect President Obama to make changes around us. We can learn from his way of looking at social and economic issues from multiple perspectives to find solutions and begin to question and respond to challenges in our own communities. We can vote not only for presidents, but become more active in local politics to improve our schools, healthcare for families and the elderly, opportunities for housing and employment opportunities for the disadvantage, and the environmental health of our communities by voting for borough presidents, city council members, and mayors that will advocate for the issues important to us. We can become leaders of social change ourselves.

Yes we can. We did it. And there is so much that still needs to be done. Let’s keep going!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Farmers Markets in the Bronx
(Now through November)

La Familia Verde Farmers Market, East Tremont & LaFontaine Avenue,
East Tremont/Crotona, Tuesdays, 8am – 2pm

Learning Tree Farmers Market,
Barnes Avenue just south of East Gun Hill Road,
Williamsbridge, Wednesdays, 10am to 2pm

The Market at Bissel Gardens, Baychester Avenue just south of 241st Street, Wakefield, Saturdays, 9am – 4pm,Wednesdays, 8am – 4pm, Sundays, 8am – 4pm

South Bronx Community Garden Market, 139th Street at St. Ann's Avenue, Mott Haven,Wednesdays, 9am – 6pm

Taqwa Community Farm-stand, Ogden Avenue and 164th Street,HighbridgeSaturdays, 8am – 4pm

West Farmers Market, Just east of the intersection of East Tremont & Boston Road,West Farms, Wednesdays, 9am – 4pm

Poe Park, Grand Concourse and 192 Street, M, W, F, 8am—3pm

Bronx Borough Hall, Grand Concourse and 156 Street, Tuesdays, 8am—6pm

Lincoln Hospital, 149th St. and Morris, Tuesdays and Fridays, 8am—3pm

Farming, Stewardship, and Fresh Foods

Over the past five years I have been thinking a lot about how farming is so much about stewardship, especially organic farming. The amount of time and care organic farmers invest in their land to offer us healthy foods resembles a stewardship relationship involving human beings tending to the earth, having reverence for it, and understanding that the earth offers us life.

After visiting and volunteering on organic farms, I have a deeper appreciation for fertile healthy land that give us organic fruits and vegetables and for organic farmers. Their decision not to use pesticides or other toxic agents tells us they not only care for their land, but just as importantly care for our health and well being.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Welcome to Turf News, a space designed to highlight the work of Turf, a new environmental stewardship project located in the Parkchester neigborhood of south central Bronx. Turf's mission is to provide residents tools and resources to improve the health of their communities.

In many urban neighborhoods health issues are often link to the lack of fresh affordable foods and farmland that produce healthy foods. Unlike rural communities, many urban neighborhoods have few or no farmlands to offer residents fresh food daily. Instead, they depend heavily on small grocery stores, supermarkets, and restaurants for the food. In Parkchester these food systems are valuable to residents. However, if a resident buys fruits and vegetables from their neighborhood grocery store, there is no guarantee that the produce is fresh or has the same amount of nutrients as farm fresh produce.

Fortunately, there are groups throughout the city that are addressing the lack of farm fresh foods in urban communities by creating urban gardens, local greenmarkets and CSAs, but we need more.
From December 2008—June 2009, residents in Parkchester and Turf volunteers will make an assessment of the community’s current food system to begin the process of creating healthy sustainable food systems in Parkchester. Turf is inviting friends to describe their neighborhood's current food system and let us know if it is satisfactory (a healthy system). If not, still describe it and let us know if you would be interested in getting some help from Turf. Please make sure you mention your city and state. Thanks!