Can Maine feed all of New England?
Welcome to “10 Words or Less.” Today’s contestant is the original thinker behind Rad Urban Farmers, about whom I wrote for The Boston Globe a couple of years ago. His gig is to farm on underutilized suburban yards and disperse the produce he grows to the landowners and to CSA and farmers’ market customers. His goal, after each garden is established, is to service them via only a bike and trailer. As you may recall, the idea here is to ask short questions, request short answers, and do a minimum of editing, but the “10WOL” thing is a goal, not a rule, so please, no counting.
Name Charlie Radoslovich (ra-DOS-lo-vich)
Passions “The environment and good food.”
A guilty pleasure “Eating vegetables before they’re fully mature.”
What did you want to be when you grew up? “A lawyer, believe it or not.”
What happened? “That was 3d grade.”
The best job you ever had “I guess I’m doing it.”
What are you trying to prove? “That you can be independent.”
How many clients do you have? “18.”
What’s the furthest one from your house? “8 miles.”
Are things on schedule? “I think so, yes. My long-term goal has always been to be able to educate folks about the environment and I feel like farming allows me to do that through modeling.”
How do you decide what to grow? “It depends on folks’ soil and sun and on my needs.”
Your favorite vegetable to grow “I would probably say mustard greens.”
Why? “They’re beautiful, they come in different textures, and they’re forgiving.”
What’s the most cumbersome tool you can handle on your bike? “Probably hoses.”
Is this a good growing year? “It’s turning into a very good growing year, but I would love a little more water.”
A hopeful sign in your field “More families that are sharing land [with Rad Urban Farmers] are now growing on their land.”
What’s the one thing you wish everyone would just get right? “Compost. How to make it, and how to keep it active.”
The “tobacco playbook” is legend among capitalists, especially those who want to keep selling a product that clearly has adverse health effects for those who buy it. And it should be, considering that for decades after it was clear that ingesting tobacco or its smoke was noxious, the playbook made it possible for companies to continuing with relatively few curbs, and tobacco continues to be sold even today.
Playbook practices include lying, delaying, misdirecting, and obstructing at every turn. Such tactics have nothing to do with claiming right or virtue, two concepts you want to have on your side but are all but meaningless when you’re in the trenches. I’ve always thought this lesson has been much better taken in by conservatives vs. liberals, and capitalists vs. crusaders.
I say in my book, ”Fat Boy Thin Man” that when the ideas that I hold about compulsive eating and food addiction become mainstream, scientific advances will have been far more influential than anything I said. I believe my story of losing 150 pounds-plus and keeping it off for two decades deserves to be in the conversation, but as a counterpoint to the science, not a replacement for it.
That’s why I’m happy that this continues to be a very fruitful period for scientific studies that buttress the views I’ve been promoting. Here are three I’ve run across recently:
* The first is from Canada, led by Dr. Caroline Davis of York University in Toronto. It identified “food addicts” by using the seven criteria that the American Psychiatric Association uses to define substance-use disorders (its lingo for what we call addiction), and then found that the subjects who met those criteria “displayed an increased prevalence of binge-eating disorder and depression and more symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. They also were characterized by more impulsive personality traits, were more sensitive or responsive to the pleasurable properties of palatable foods, and were more likely to ‘self-soothe’ with food,” according to a report on scienceblog.com.
There’s plenty of take-away from this study, but the first I want to point out is that you can’t identify something that isn’t there. Food addiction is there. The other thing I want to point out is that the APA does not say that food addiction exists, even while its criteria for addiction say that it does. The APA looks for any three of the seven — which include increasing tolerance and continued use despite ill consequences — to determine a disorder exists, and I have experienced all seven. Oh, those wacky psychiatrists.
* The second study of this set doesn’t address food addiction specifically, but all addictions. Until recently, addiction has been largely a psychological issue. But beginning with studies 15 years ago that showed brain activity peculiar to addicts, addiction as a physiological phenomenon worthy of medical attention has been gaining adherents.
In the latest evidence that the medical establishment is putting its weight behind physical diagnosis, “10 medical institutions have just introduced the first accredited residency programs in addiction medicine, where doctors who have completed medical school and a primary residency will be able to spend a year studying the relationship between addiction and brain chemistry,” according to a story in the New York Times.
The good part about this trend is that medical science offers more empirical data about conditions than a therapist’s assessment, and data should help satisfy skeptics, or at least give supporters more evidence than, say, my story. Though beautifully written, emotionally gripping, and metaphysically persuasive, my tale can still be described as “what some guy says happened to him.”
Another implication of medical attention is the possibility — or, I should say, the near-certainty, given our psychopharmacological-industrial complex — of drugs to control addiction. My quite-a-bit-less-than-mature reaction to that is, “I ain’t usin’ no stinkin’ drug to get better, so screw that!” But perhaps a more useful contribution is to note that therapy, support, and behavior modification have been helpful to this point — they have helped more addicts than anything else so far — so even if drug therapies are developed, modifying behavior will still be valuable.
* The third study, conducted by Barbara Fiese of the University of Illinois, offers data for a potent eating-disorder preventative: eating together as a family. There was a time when I would have knee-jerk scoffed at that as a conservative trope, but I am completely down with the concept today. Families that make the dining table a priority, above watching TV or ballet or ball practice, establish that eating, and being together, are important. Everyone gets to know what everyone else is doing, and thinking. Exchanging information, ideas, and feelings becomes a typical family endeavor. Emerging problems become evident, and can be addressed, earlier.
When I wrote yesterday about parental responsibility, I was including simple actions like this to avoid reaching the point where the state has to decide whether foster care is a fat kid’s only hope.
Michael Prager is an author, journalist, and blogger based in Arlington, Mass. You can e-mail him at this address.
Yes! Admission to the Festival is completely free, including access to the main stage presentations, activity booths, and many vendor booths with samples. We do have some extras for a fee, like food trucks selling full meals and an author tent with books for sale.
“Fish are hard to count. You can’t see them and they move,” are the truest words ever spoken about fish and sustainability. They came from Dr. Robin Pelc, Fisheries Research Manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In a nutshell, this is the problem with sustainable fisheries management: It’s hard to count fish, and, at least in New England, there’s some controversy over whose counting methods are most up to date.
I was an East Coaster at a decidedly West Coast Sustainable Foods Institute, the annual “Cooking for Solutions” conference presented by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. On the West Coast, sustainable seafood is presented as a settled issue. For those of us who eat Atlantic local catch, sustainability seems more of a moving target. Seafood sustainability gets complicated for a local chef when a day boat fisherman brings you a fish “red listed” by Seafood Watch. You absolutely know that responsible fisheries management matters for our collective future. But you also know that the guy went out at 4 AM to catch the fish and a mortgage, and you think about that too. As simple as Seafood Watch card makes decisions for locavore diners, it’s less black and white for locavore chefs. Chefs tell tales of diners getting belligerent because they served a local fish that was listed on Seafood Watch’s red list. Sometimes a bluefin tuna on the menu isn’t a blasphemy. It’s just a single by-catch from a responsible dayboat fisherman.
The Seafood Watch prints a tri-fold card that lives in 36 million wallets and is an app on 600,000 smartphones. The card identifies seafood species as green (Yes!), yellow (Think twice!), or red (No way, no how). Significantly more information is available on the app version or the website. In 12 short years, Seafood Watch has become the ultimate eco-label: the Gold Standard for consumers and for policymakers concerned about the health and sustainability of seafood populations worldwide. Originally, Seafood Watch was conceived as a crib card to help diners make responsible decisions about what to eat for dinner. The card caught fire with consumers. Seafood Watch leveraged the authority of those 36 million card carriers, and now has significant influence on fishery producers, food service companies, and national and international seafood policy makers and regulators . Quite a coup for a local aquarium in a California resort town! When Seafood Watch speaks, sonic waves spread out across the ocean. Little fishies all over the ocean flap their gills with joy or trepidation based on whether they’ve been labeled as green or red.
For New Englanders who want to eat local, there’s a problem. Almost no Atlantic fish are on the green, “best choices” list, and several Atlantic fish (Atlantic Halibut, fresh or farmed Atlantic Salmon) are on the “red” or avoid list from the January 2011 Seafood Watch card. No one wants to decimate the fish population—an Atlantic without an adequate fish population would be an ecological and economic disaster—especially for the fishermen who make their living catching fish. By all accounts, good fisheries management in the last decade has led to a rebound in fish populations in New England. Everyone agrees that fishing limits work. But how much and how high should the penalties be for fishermen who inch over their limits? In mid-May the Commerce department had to re-pay over $600,000 in fines deemed excessive levied against local Boston fishermen. Seafood Watch has been a game changer in the discussion about sustainable seafood and I thank them personally. But as in all things, it’s hard to distill world down into three small categories of green, yellow, and red. And it’s even more complicated with fish because they are so darn hard to count.