Category Archives: Farms

Another Reason to Eat Organic

img_3732A friend of mine worked for a financial PR firm for an organic fruits and vegetables company based on the Mainland China called Chaoda. They were experiencing explosive business growth in 2004.

Traditionally, the Chinese who were wealthy would import all of their fruits and vegetables from Japan and other SE Asian countries. Chaoda was one of the only native players in the organic farm business providing a local alternative to this necessary practice, hence their profitability.

Why do you ask do the affluent native Chinese import?

Because their own commercially grown produce is so laden with pesticides as to be deemed by the educated class as being toxic and haphzardous to one’s health.

Where do you ask that many of those state farm grown veggies wind up?

Answer: As marinated and canned vegetables in private label grocery store chains in the US, often manufactured by middle men so as to make the country of origin of this food impossible to track.

Very little transparency here. Scary and even more convoluted when the foodstuffs are finished products that have several ingredients such as infants formula or dog food, by way of example.

Another great reason to support your local farmer’s markets,  grow and can your own food.

Be discerning with what you feed yourself and your family!

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The Future of Food – Vertical Farming

vert-farmWith 85% of the human population living in urban settings by 2050 – there is not doubt that a new way of raising our food, must be underway.  Lucky for us, a genius by the name of Dickson Despommier, has already created the solution for us – vertical farming.

Despommier  is a professor of Environmental Health at Columbia University, and coined the term, Vertical Farming.  It offers the idea of using hydroponic greenhouse methods to grow upward, rather than out.

As our needs continue  to grow over the next several decades, we are going to need to solve this issues, before they become problems.  The idea of a controlled environment, may be counter intuitive to us, naturalists, but the reality is that the use of Agri Business, has not been able to solve our food issues.

The method of vertical farming, forgoes the use of fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, mono cropping and a variety of other common used practices in conventional farming.

I had the honor of speaking with Despommier, at a TED conference after party.  It was one of the most fascinating conversations I have had.  He is, without a doubt, a pioneer in the movement of alternative food production.  I was able to inquire on a variety of issues, that only propelled his thinking, and was not able to give me a response.  Only affirming that we are in the mere inception of these ground breaking ideas, and innovation is abound, and an open field!

We need to continue to develop individuals’ relationship with food – where it comes from, the energy trail associated with it, and of course, whether it is organic or not.  Understand the intended principals of food, and how energy is put into food – and how it translates to nutrition and taste.

Mankind has lost its spiritual place within the natural world, and awareness of one’s humanity – issues that have transmitted to other areas of our life.  Clearly, our mainstream society is missing the dynamic balance between people, place and community.  Perhaps, this is also a problem that has created a dissonance with all aspects of our life – in turn the natural world.

With an increase in consciousness and awareness, this discord will begin to heal, and harmony amongst people will return.  Individually, we must step up and begin with ourselves, and that will transcend out.   Supporting our local farmer’s market through direct purchase or through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in addition to, growing our own food, we can begin to grow our food within our region, and in accordance to the seasons.

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Calender of Events in The World Of Green – Winter 2009

January 15 Green Building Workshop (Brooklyn, NY)

Time: 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Location: LC 400, Dibner Library Building   5 MetroTech Center, Brooklyn, NY
A workshop that brings industry researchers and developers of green buildings technologies, entrepreneurs, investors, representatives from green buildings and sustainability initiatives, regulators, architects and building designers.

I will be speaking on ‘Integrating Green Building in the Urban Environment’

at 9:55 a.m. – 10:20 a.m.

January 24  – Green Living Workshop  – Part 1  (Santa Monica, CA)

Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Santa Monica Public Library (Ocean Park Branch)

2601 Main Street   Santa Monica, CA 90405
This workshop on Green Living, will help lay the foundation to create your green abode – whether you own or not.  Learn the simple ways to make your home energy and water efficient while eliminating toxins and drastically improving indoor air quality!

The workshop will cover a DIY cleaning product demo, lecture, and interaction with the audience.

I will provide all attendees with an E-Book on all material covered as well as local resources!

January 25 –   Go Green Expo –  (Los Angeles, CA)

Time –  10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Location: The Los Angeles Convention Center
1201 South Figueroa Street   Los Angeles, CA 90015

Go Green Expo is a showcase for earth-friendly products and services – a trade show that wholly focused on green living.

I will be on the panel for Green Building and Design on the tradeshow floor on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

January 31  – Green Decor Workshop  – Part 2 (Santa Monica, CA)

Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Santa Monica Public Library (Ocean Park Branch)

2601 Main Street   Santa Monica, CA 90405

Few people are aware, that just as in our homes as our workplace, there is an opportunity to choose objects and products that do not pollute our homes and are harmful to us and the environment.

Learn how to decorate your home in a way that improves your indoor air quality, and your overall state of being, by pairing down on clutter and waste, eliminating toxins, and breathing in a new breathe of fresh air into your home!

I will provide a basis of information that will help guide you in a direction of knowing what questions to ask from your suppliers and manufacturers to insure that the materials and finishes you choose for your home are environmentally sound.

There will be samples and materials incorporated, to provide a better understanding for greening your decor!

February 07 – Green Landscaping Workshop  – Part 3  (Santa Monica, CA)

Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Santa Monica Public Library (Ocean Park Branch)

2601 Main Street Santa Monica, CA 90405

A basic introduction, offering everything you wanted to know about greening your garden and landscaping!

This workshop will provide an introduction to Permaculture and good gardening practices, that you can begin implementing in your green space today!  Learn simple tools that will help you save time, money, water and energy in your garden!

Information will be provided on local programs, through Santa Monica, on sustainable gardening and landscaping.

Its all in the Soil

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Did you know that soil was alive?   Many people do not realize this……

Soil is a critical and dependent element to our survival.  Healthy soil goes hand in hand with a healthy environment.

“The nation that destroys its soil – destroys itself” (Roosevelt 1937)

The first and most important step in improving soil health is to recognize that soil is a living organism, and all parts of our ecosystem depend on it –   it is vital to our survival!

There are billions of microorganisms that make up a whole network below ground.  In one spoonful there are 600 million bacteria!    Imagine that – there is an entire network of life below the ground.  A network that works together to sustain life above ground for us.

Something that on the surface may look look dead, but upon closer inspection is bustling with life!  Many people have misconceived notions about compost.  The reality is that it is a free resource of nutrients for our plants.

It doesn’t smell, but mainly, it reduces the amount of waste going to a landfill, all are creating the fertile ground for a microcosm universe to exist and for soil sustainability to flourish!

Remember we are all organisms working within one larger organism – called Planet Earth.  Seeing on the micro and macro level.  The actions of humans, all over the world, effect every single one of us.

Biodiversity is the product of nearly 3.5 billion years of evolution  –  An element to be taken into consideration when people want to replant entire eco systems such as the rainforest, and it is a natural process that has taken many a millennia to happen.

Soil, for example, is the measure of the health of biological systems – In other words, soil is the metaphor of our environment – If we have healthy soil we have a healthy environment.

Annually, we are losing 1 percent of our topsoil per year, due to industrial  agriculture, the process of mono cropping, heavy chemical use, and erosions of our soils.  Just to put things into perspective –  it takes thousands of years to form one inch of topsoil.

Life in the soil provides the structure for more life, and the formation of more soil.  Soil is equated to food and food is equated to life.  The fertility and the quality of soil will determine the health and stability of all life that is relying on it  – just as the health of each human being will determine fertility and the quality of their life.

Viva Permaculture!

img_3598So what is Permaculture?

Permaculture, stems from the two words:  Permanent Culture

I like to define it, is the design of human settlements in accordance to the laws of nature.

So what does that mean?

It uses the wisdom of learning from the self perfecting system of nature to build and provide in ways, that are regenerative to people and communities.

Permaculture, provides a philosophy, that establishes systems of highly productive and sustainable environments that provide water, food, energy, and shelter, in addition to, a reforming old systems, bioremediation, mycology, and nature awareness.

It stems from the natural theory, that nature is abundant – as is life!

There is an innate respect, for all things living within our eco system.  It is a way of thinking, based on cardinal indigenous cultures and ways of living, while integrating modern technology.

It uses these principals to mimic patterns in nature, while using energy sources at their peak potential to provide a balanced system.  This will allow for less work, zero waste, observation, and biodiversity, amongst just a few, of the many principals.

In essence, this is a practice that embodies such a vast amount of science,
technique and theory, all while being such a simple and logical way of living.

Permaculture is a process …. as life is.

Beyond green living and building buildings that work effectively and efficiently, it embodies an intention for life; it is a slow awakening of the subtleties in life that are around us all the time.

It is a philosophy, that has the ability, to be applied to every facet of our life.

Permaculture works on building relationships, with yourself, your neighbors, your community and of course with the natural world; remember it is a part if human NATURE!

Food For Thought



This is such an exhilarating time this is for the history of food!

Despite the fact that, 1 in 3 Americans is obese, and most food found in our super markets, that is not organic is genetically modified – there is a food revolution happening in the mist of all of this.

As we know, we began as hunters and gatherers. Eating and cooking solely what we could hunt and harvest. Through time, technology, and the advancements of the industrial revolution things changed dramatically. We began canning, preserving and freezing.

Today, most Americans take very little regard in what they eat, how it is processed, what is in, and most of all, how much of it they eat. The irony is how much our eating habits have changed in a mere 100 years – from our food supply, quantity and nutritional content, to the amount of imported goods we consume.

Perhaps a simple way of addressing this is we went from viewing food as a sacred commodity to a simplified convenience.

While most of America has accepted that we moved from an agricultural society to industrialized agriculture, and embracing the fact that most of our food travels 1500 miles – there is a huge subculture that has sprouted up globally.

This movement touts local, seasonal and organic – back yards being converted to food forests and front lawns are being torn up to make way for urban gardens.

The movement has taken root in all of America’s largest cities, while infiltrating small towns and growing communities. It is taking shape in the form of expanding farmers markets, community gardens, edible schoolyards and even homesteading.

There are several large installations of some of these applications found in places like NY MOMA’s infamous indie art museum in Queen’s known as PS1. Annually there is a competition of young architects at the opportunity to build an oasis during their summer installation. This year’s winners have built a full blown farm, producing food and raising chickens.

In the San Francisco Civic Center – the entire front lawn has been replaced with a garden, in time for the Slow Food festival – and the harvest will coincide with festivities all through Labor Day।

Just this past weekend I attended a Public Fruit Jam in Echo Park – where an art gallery was opened to the public to bring in your local fruit to make jars of fresh jam – I brought in green sour apples from my backyard and coupled it with figs, lemons and mint to create this outrageous homemade jam!

The irony out of all of this is that this food consciousness isn’t rising amongst rural farmers or a certain genre of people nor class – everyone is welcome and encouraged! Swapping recipes, seeds and gardening tips are no longer a thing of the past, but rather a really hip and obvious thing to be doing.

Not sure how many of you are aware, but in January of the year, the FDA approved the sale of cloned meat. Worst off its not going to be labeled.

What does that mean? No one really knows. These technologies have not been tested, and therefore are using the naivete of the public to take advantage. There are a lot of studies that show our farming subsidies are being used to over produce food, triggered to encourage over consumption.

When you compare the practices of our country in the production and marketing of food – we are the only ones with such laws that truly do not have the health and safety of their consumers in mind.


Which is a far cry from the days of WWII when our country touted Victory Gardens throughout and encouraged people to provide for themselves.

These days, we are beginning to take back our independence by growing our own food supply.

Don’t have a yard? Fret not …. food in pots grows incredible varieties! Don’t have time or the patience to grow your own? There are Community Supported Agriculture known as CSA’s – where you can have a box of beautiful organic fruits and veggies grown in a local farm delivered to your door weekly!

There is that classic adage that you are what you eat. The reality is that our habits around food have lost their value – and now more than ever, is a critical time to begin asking the right questions, and being aware of what you are consuming, and most of all, knowing where your food comes from.

So what are the advantages to eating local and seasonal? With local food there are much lower energy costs and the nutritional value of your food is much higher, since the crop was not harvested early। Most of all, you are supporting your local farmers, your community and a really incredible movement that is taking shape and coming soon to your community!

© Copyright and Property of Astrid Design Studio 2008