Archive for April, 2013

barred rock henIf all your food was coming from plant sources, as it is in a vegan diet, you would still be missing vitamin B12, which is only available in significant quantities in animal products. You could consume B12 supplements, but in a sustainable diet, you need to get all your nutrients from natural sources. Our bodies can store B12, so if you had plenty of it in your diet for years, you would have extra that would carry over for quite some time if you stopped ingesting it. Eventually, though, you would run out. According to Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include “pernicious anemia, impaired eyesight, panic attacks, schizophrenia, hallucinations and nervous disorders, such as weakness, loss of balance and numbness in the hands and feet.” To quote from the Nutrition Almanac by John Kirschmann, “the brain and nervous system are first affected by vitamin B12 deficiency, which results in faulty formation of nerve cells.” This book also suggests that burning of the mouth could be a sign of deficiency and in the elderly, “symptoms of impaired mental function can mimic Alzheimer’s disease.” I’ve heard that irrational anger is an early symptom of B12 deficiency. In order for B12 to be used efficiently by your body, you need to eat foods that contain folic acid in balanced proportions and you need calcium, so make sure leafy greens, such as kale and collards are a part of your diet.

I wondered just what it would take to get a day’s supply of B12, so I consulted the Estimated Average Requirements (EAR) which meet the requirements of 50% of the healthy individuals in the population and found that the EAR for B12 is 2 mcg. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), the amount sufficient to meet the need of 97-98% of the healthy population, is 2.4 mcg. These figures were updated in 1997 and are part of USDA’s Dietary Reference Intakes. I’ve used 2 mcg as the target amount for B12 in the following considerations. You would have to eat 2.6 large chicken eggs to get 2 mcg of B12. Surprisingly, if you were eating duck eggs, one duck egg supplies 190% of the B12 requirement. Duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs, but comparing the same weight of duck to chicken eggs, duck eggs contain 3.7 times the B12 as chicken eggs. These figures are assuming that you are eating eggs from chickens that get out to scratch in the grass. I have reason to believe that the eggs from confined hens would contain considerably less B12. I have heard of people avoiding eggs because of the cholesterol content. In 1971, before cholesterol was an issue, I learned in a nutrition class at Ohio State University that the egg yolk contains cholesterol, a nutrient that is necessary for our body to function properly, and the egg white contains lecithin, which helps the body use cholesterol the way it is meant to be used. Nature provides food for us in complete packages. When we separate those packages, thinking we know better, is when we get into trouble.

egg and 1 1/2 cups milkYou could meet your B12 requirement with 1 large chicken egg and 1½ cups whole cows milk. Ideally the cow would get most, if not all, her food from pasture. I found that goats milk doesn’t have as much B12 as cows milk. It would take 2 eggs and 2.8 cups of goats milk to get a day’s requirement. A vegetarian diet generally includes eggs and milk. However, if eggs and milk are part of your diet, you also have to recognize that the young males and old females need to be part of your diet as well, if you are really going for sustainability. If not, what would become of them? You could keep feeding them and let them live out their days, but that would really increase your ecological footprint to bring you eggs and milk. We need to raise these animals with the least environmental impact and in a way that brings them into the circle of our food system. Rather than being the steward who manages things from outside that circle, we need to become part of the circle. We are nourished by the energy of the plants and animals in the circle. Reverence for all of it is part of this sustainable diet.

It might be that pigs are part of your food system. They would love the whey and buttermilk from cheese and butter making. A 3 oz. serving of pork is 40% of your daily B12 requirement. You could raise rabbits, including alfalfa and other crops in your garden to feed them. A 3 oz. serving of rabbit meat contains three times the daily need for B12. Rabbit manure can feed redworms that become feed for your chickens. The resulting compost would feed the garden. The Integral Urban House suggests a system for raising rabbits and chickens in your backyard. Maybe you could work out a way to let your rabbits graze in your yard.

When all your food comes from local and homegrown sources, you need to find a balance that nourishes both body and soul. When you eat a varied diet of whole foods, you can avoid deficiencies. Including animals in this way is much different than including animals raised in conventional systems. In a perfect world, considering sustainability, you wouldn’t need broiler or beef cattle production to meet your nutritional needs. You would be eating smaller amounts of meat cooked in different ways. If you are buying eggs, ask the farmer what happens to the old hens and offer to buy some. Chopped chicken and gravy over mashed potatoes would be on the menu, rather than large pieces of fried chicken. The broth from stewing those old hens becomes chicken soup, known by both tradition and research to  have health benefits. A sustainable diet sustains both you and the earth, with no deficiencies. Becoming a part of your food system is an adventure that I hope you enjoy.Homeplace Earth

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seed library--BLOGIn case you haven’t heard, seed libraries are fast becoming a way for you to get involved in the seed saving movement. A seed library may be located in a book library that you are already familiar with.  You can “borrow” seeds with the promise to return them at the end of the season. Actually, you will be growing out the seeds you received from the seed library, saving the seed, and returning at least as much seed from your seed saving as you “borrowed” and maybe more. Just by participating, you can help to develop strains of things unique to your area, keep little known varieties from becoming extinct, increase your seed saving knowledge, and get free seeds.

A seed library has just been established at J.Sargeant Reynolds Community College (JSRCC) in Goochland, Virginia, thanks to the efforts of my daughter Betsy Trice. Betsy began teaching the sustainable agriculture classes there in 2010 after I left for other adventures–starting this blog being one of them. The seed library comes at a great time, not only for the seed saving revolution, but for the sustainable program at JSRCC. A Career Studies Certificate in Sustainable Agriculture at JSRCC is now a reality. First proposed in 2003, it has only taken ten years to roll through all the red tape. Meanwhile, through those years, the library at the Goochland Campus recognized the interest in the program because the students frequented the library and requested materials. As a result, that library has the best collection of sustainable agriculture and permaculture books of anywhere I know. You don’t have to be a student to take books out—and now seeds! Although it took ten years to get the certificate approved, it took Betsy only one year to go from “Wouldn’t this be great?” to “The first orientation meeting for the JSRCC Seed Library is March 5, 2013.” She had the backing of the library from the beginning.

seed library table-BLOGBetsy got the idea for the seed library from reading the article “Sowing Revolution” in the January 2012 issue of Acres USA magazine. She followed up on resources listed in the article, especially the materials available from www.richmondgrowsseeds.org, the website for the seed library in Richmond, CA. If you are interested in starting a seed library in your area, I encourage you to spend some time on their website. You can even register for a free webinar scheduled for April 11, 2013 to help you get started. I imagine each library will develop in its own way. In order to be eligible to take seeds from the JSRCC program you need to attend an orientation that lasts about an hour. Orientations will be planned regularly, but the next one is scheduled for Monday, April 15, 2013 at 6pm. Seed libraries have even caught the attention of NBC Nightly News on March 22, 2013. That newscast showcased the Richmond, CA program. If you haven’t saved seeds before–not to worry. This is a learning experience. Besides, a library is bound to have books and resources for you to learn from, not to mention the great people you will become involved with in the process.

hand and turkey craw beans - BLOGSeed libraries mean much more for communities than free seeds for the participants. They mean keeping the seeds in the hands of the people. Whoever Owns The Seeds Controls Your Food Supply. It is increasingly important to become actively involved in the seed part of your food. In early 2000 I learned that Monsanto had been buying seed companies since the 1970’s. I won’t go into all the negative connotations about that, since you can find that information in lots of other places. You would be most familiar with their chemicals and genetically modified crops. I want you to know that they are still buying seed companies and intend to be actively involved in the garden seed arena.

In 2005 Monsanto bought Seminis, a major seed supplier for many catalogs. Fedco took a major stand and stopped doing business with Seminis. You can read about that here. More information about the Seminis buy-out is available from the Organic Seed Alliance here. It explains the dilemma the seed companies were in when that occurred. Once it acquired Seminis, is it any surprise that it has been making changes in vegetable seeds? On October 20, 2011 the Los Angeles Times ran an article about that with this quote“This isn’t a hobby…. We’re serious about it,” said Monsanto Chief Executive Hugh Grant, who expects the company’s vegetable seed revenue to rival its $1.5-billion soybean business in the coming decade.

I don’t like to be the bearer of bad news, but there it is. This doesn’t have to be bad news, actually. It might be just the push we need to get more actively involved. The most basic act of defense against Monsanto is to save seeds and distribute them to others, and seed libraries are just the venue to make that possible. If there is a seed library in your area, become a participant. If not, start one. Who owns your seeds?Homeplace Earth

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