Accolades for Jun 19 Community Dinner

Thank you for working so hard to make the dinner tonight. I enjoyed this meal that was so efficiently put together! The tempeh was great—not too salty, but tasty. The arame salad was refreshing and the quinoa was light and pretty at the same time! I sense and feel the good energy in the soup and food that I ate. I look forward as usual to the next dinner that you and Kathy present at the Church of the Crossroads!
With much appreciation—Alice

It was so wonderful to see you and thank you so much for sharing your delicious and nutritious dinner available for us.The corn soup was so soothing, so natural taste. The red quinoa pilaf, seaweed salad were both all flavourful, the quality of ingredients you’ve chosen was so fresh, your Collard tempeh wrap had perfect harmony with Tahini garlic sauce with subtle smokiness in tempeh. *Amazing dipping sauce! I’d love to learn how to prepare.My husband refused to eat Tofu cheesecake at first, I insisted to have one bite, then as you said, should I say…you warned, he ate it all by himself so I lost my dessert! Thank you again for keeping real Macrobiotic cuisine exists in Hawaii, look forward to seeing you soon. Kaori

Never thought that food like this would interest me, but it is seriously ?ono! Malia

It is great that you have these community dinners. You provide an alternative to the few places that vegans can eat. George

Hands Turned to the Soil

Hands Turned to the Soil
Originally uploaded by macro808

This past Saturday, I drove to Kahana State Park to attend the Hands Turned to the Soil conference put on by Ma’o Organic Farms and Whole Foods. It was amazing and inspiring to be around all the presenters and participants alike who all shared the same passion for revolutionizing organic farming and food security in Hawaii.

The first panel had Eric Enos of Ka’ala Farms, Kukui Maunakea-Forth of MA’O Farms, William Aila Jr. of the Wai’anae Boat Harbor, and Kaiulani Odem. Their messages grounded and carried us through the day.

The main themes they spoke of focused on the importance of patience in making changes, the concept of kuleana (a Native Hawaiian word that means right, privilege, concern, responsibility), the politics of water on the island, and that for any change to happen, we have to start with ourselves and families first.

From here, I moved on to hear many great things about changes at UH during “College Campuses – Revolutionizing Food & Farming at the University of Hawai‘i by Ashley Lukens, Dept. of Political Science; Brooke Monroe, SOFT Garden; and Kalei Kawa‘a, Ka Papa Lo‘i o Kanewai”. UH now has it’s own organic garden in the back near the UH Federal Credit Union and Sustainable Saunders with veggies for sale to students and faculty and they need help too. To learn all about the varieties of taro/kalo, Ka Papa Lo‘i o Kanewai teaches and provides opportunities to work in the taro patch. Ashley teaches a course in the Poly Sci Dept about Food Security!

From there, I learned about healing foods from the Hawaiian point of view during La‘au Lapa‘au from Mary Correa, Instructor of La‘au Lapa‘au and HWST 107 at Kapi‘olani Community College. I’ll post some stuff she said in the next blog.

Finally, I learned some cool stuff about local limu (seaweed) from Uncle Henry Chang Wo and Wally Ito of the Ewa Limu Beach Project. I’m going to post about them in a separate blog as well!

7 steps to health from Mary Correa, Instructor of La‘au Lapa‘au and HWST 107 – Kapi‘olani Community College

Mary had so many informative things to share with the Hands Turned to the Soil conference participants. I was so excited to hear how she’s teaching about the healing properties of foods from the Hawaiian point of view, and perhaps not surprisingly, macrobiotic philosophy aligns with what she was saying as well.

Towards the end of the session, we got to try some “edible weeds” and they were really tasty!! I’ve got my eye out for them now so I can find them growing around here and there.

One aspect of what she was presenting really caught my attention since Denny Waxman has his 7 Steps to Strengthening Health.

To maintain good health she said we should do these 7 things:

1. Pray and/or meditate daily
2. Make healthy lifestyle choices
3. Be mindful of the foods we eat
4. Exercise regularly (gently)
5. Drink water (instead of processed beverages)
6. Fast/cleanse during the change of seasons
7. Breathe

I’m so happy to know that more people are teaching about the connections between food, lifestyle changes, and health.

* Limu * Seaweed *

When I first got back from Japan and started teaching macrobiotics in Hawaii, I went to the library and checked out a local cookbook about “limu” or seaweed. The cookbook showed all the types that grow around the islands, but said they were mostly all extinct which made me feel so sad.

Henry and Wally of Ewa Beach Limu Project taught us about how they are doing aqua culture on the Leeward side of the island. It sounds like they find species of limu that grow in the ocean, and then bring them back to their farm to cultivate them. They didn’t feel we could sustain ourselves on what’s available in the ocean because development and environmental changes have diminished the supply.

They told us how certain varieties that were previously thought extinct, they have actually been finding and regrowing. That’s so fantastic! They taught about the nutritious qualities of sea veggies, and also that they can be used in home remedies, such as a poultice on wounds.

This reminded me of how when my friend Dan cut himself while working at the farm last week, we made our own “bandaid”. To do this, we took kombu, soaked it until it was soft, and taped it over the cut underneath a piece of gauze. The students at the farm were amazed to see how quickly his wound healed. Kombu power!

It’s a Party! Cooking Class

During the course of teaching over the past several years, many people who hear the words “health food” think they are doomed to eating brown rice, tofu, and salads for breakfast lunch and dinner. However, there are are so many simple, elegant, and delicious dishes that we can make and share with friends, family, and colleagues.

In this class, Leslie will teach a variety of “party foods” that are great for potlucks, dinner events, and other celebrations.

Come relax, have fun, and learn new and delicious ways to support your health and well-being.

Toho no Hikari, 3510 Nuuanu Pali Drive, $38

Macrobiotic Dinner, Frequently Asked Questions

Macrobiotic Community Dinner, next dates June 10 and June 19, 2009

Q. Do you have to be a church member to go to the dinner? Similarly, are there only church people there?

A. This dinner is completely 100% open to all. We have a wide variety of people who attend, some of whom happen to be church members, but the majority of whom are not affiliated with the church. The Church of the Crossroads has a long history of supporting a wide variety of people who are invested in peaceful, non-violent, green and sustainable living. They generously allow us use of their space.

Q. Do you have to come at 6:00 pm?

A. You can come all the way up until 7:30! Even if you are running late, we try to be as flexible as possible by holding dinners for people until we are finished cleaning.

Q. Is everyone there vegan and/or macrobiotic?

A. We have a wide range of customers who come from diverse backgrounds. What everyone seems to have in common is that they want to enjoy a healthy meal that aligns with their value system of eating healthy, delicious, local, organic, whole foods.

Power of farming from public radio show

Food Deserts

YOUNG: When Michelle Obama rolled up her sleeves and started digging a garden on the White House lawn, advocates for healthy local food cheered. The First Lady set a powerful example by inviting Washington, DC schoolchildren to garden along with her.

The message: the inner city, too, can have access to fresh, organic food. And in these tough times this is especially important. Government figures show that some 36 million people live in households that have trouble just putting food on the table.

Jessica Ilyse Smith tells us about efforts in New York City to bring high quality foods to struggling neighborhoods.


SMITH: It’s Saturday morning at the Cemalyn Grocery in Brooklyn. Cesar Rodriguez tends to his customers.


SMITH: Soda, cookies, chips and canned foods line the walls of Rodriguez’s bodega. But, among the sea of processed foods and packaged goods, stands a small outpost of fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables.


SMITH: Rodriguez recently added these fresh foods to his store. He’s one of almost 1,000 bodega owners taking part in New York City’s Healthy Bodegas Initiative.

The Health Bodegas Initiative encourages families to drink low-fat milk. (Courtesy of NYC Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene)


VOICEOVER: Through the program, we’re trying to improve people’s health and the health of the neighborhood, have people eat healthier products, and lose weight because obesity is a sickness here in our community.

SMITH: Low-income neighborhoods like Rodriguez’s have few supermarkets or other options for fresh fruits and vegetables. Yet there are many places to buy fast food, candy and alcohol.

Sabrina Baronberg of the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene wanted to find ways to address the many health problems like obesity, diabetes and heart disease found in poorer areas. She found that 80% of the food markets in these neighborhoods were small corner stores.

BARONBERG: These areas have many more bodegas than supermarkets and very few supermarkets in fact. That really inspired me to work to make these large environmental changes to make it easier for people to eat healthier.

SMITH: So, in 2006 Baronberg began to work with bodega owners and kicked-off the Healthy Bodegas Initiative. She saw that residents wanted to change what they ate but needed help.

BARONBERG: Nobody wants to live a life of chronic disease. So people would say to me I really want to make these changes, I want to switch to 1% milk, I want to eat more fruits and vegetables, I want to be healthier but I can’t. My bodega only sells junk food and there aren’t any supermarkets. So what am I supposed to do? And, you know, there is nothing more frustrating than that.

SMITH: New York City’s neighborhoods are not the only areas with limited access to healthy food. These so-called food deserts are found across the country in rural and urban locations. Mark Winne has looked at food deserts for years.

Early growing season at Red Hook Community Farm.
(Photo: Jessica Ilyse Smith)

WINNE: It’s relative based on how far somebody has to go to get to any kind of decent, affordable food store, and the means that they have to get there. And do they in fact have the means?

SMITH: Winne is the author of “Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty.” In the book, he chronicles the rise of food deserts in the 1960’s, alongside the growth of the American suburb. With scores of people leaving downtown areas, inner cities were drained of wealth. Supermarket chains followed the wealthier client base and moved to the suburbs.

WINNE: They simply began to walk away from urban America. And these were communities that needed those stores more than others. They were communities that were being challenged by poverty, and challenged by some of the worst socioeconomic conditions that we’ve had perhaps in the 20th century.

SMITH: It wasn’t just the lack of supermarkets that led to the growth of food deserts, but also the lack of public transportation to bring urban residents to suburban grocery stores. Winne says nearly 70% of the households in low-income neighborhoods do not own a car.

As an example he highlights the 8th ward of Washington D.C., which is close to the U.S. Capitol building. In this area, nearly 70,000 residents live with slim access to grocery stores.

WINNE: About 38% of those people are considered poor using U.S. poverty standards. If you look at the landscape we see almost no supermarkets and we also see another characteristic of a food desert, which is a tremendous number of fast food joints. And that’s what people have to choose from for food. And as a result we see very high levels of obesity.

SMITH: Costs from obesity and related chronic diseases are increasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. spends over 117 billion dollars a year on healthcare related to obesity. And in low-income neighborhoods with lots of fast food and few healthy options, the obesity rate is rising.


SMITH: Over in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, Eugene rakes leaves that he’ll add to one of the compost piles lining the side of an urban farm.

A poster encourages New Yorkers to eat fruits and vegetables to improve health and reduce the risk of diabetes, high-blood pressure, and heart disease. (Courtesy of NYC Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene)

EUGENE: We have our compost beds over here that we’ve been processing for a long time. We have one that was built two months ago, and it’s almost done but it’s not all the way done. It’s almost broken itself down, all of the nutrients and stuff like almost broken down and created our soil that we use.

SMITH: Eugene is one of about ten neighborhood teens who work at the Red Hook Community Farm. The farm – run by the non-profit group Added Value – was built literally from the ground up. Soil was brought in to cover an old abandoned ball field. If you look closely on the outskirts of the rows of onions, lettuce and beets you can still see home plate and the faint white lines that mark the field’s boundaries.
This farm has not only increased the community’s access to fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables, but also has helped change the neighborhood.

EUGENE: Before the farm I’d say it was pretty much a little badder, because there was still a lot of gang violence and stuff like that going around here. I’m just basically proud of being here and helping out and being able to bring healthy food to my neighborhood that I live in.

SMITH: Eugene and other teens plant seeds, harvest crops and sell their bounty at a farmer’s market in the neighborhood. Before the farm started, residents went through a lot to get fresh food.

KATE: I took two buses or a car service to get food back to Red Hook. I mean you couldn’t even get a quart of milk, or vegetables.

SMITH: Kate and many other Red Hook residents who buy their produce from the farm understand that fresh fruit and vegetables are important for their health. William Lewis is a longtime resident who didn’t like what he found in the neighborhood before the farm.

LEWIS: Well, it was dull, there was nothing you could buy. Not fresh anyway – just regular stores, you know. When the farm came, I just started coming here because I know it’s fresh food, and I like fresh, it’s better for me—it’s better for everyone as a matter of fact, you know?

SMITH: The farmer’s market has become a neighborhood gathering place, and teens at the farm not only earn money and learn how to grow food, they also learn how to be stewards of their community…a community that is focusing on changing the circumstances of its health. Efforts like this inspire author Mark Winne:

WINNE: So it’s the human innovation, creativity, willingness as a community in some sort of organized social way, and political way of trying to change the circumstances that they live in—and that really inspires me.

SMITH: Programs like the Added Value farm and the Healthy Bodegas Initiative operate from the ground up to improve the health of people living in food deserts. They also help to close what Winne calls the food gap that severely divides Americans.

For Living on Earth, I’m Jessica Ilyse Smith in New York City.

Related links:
– Added Value
– Healthy Bodegas Initiative
– “Closing the Food Gap” by Mark Winne

federal funding to convert to organic gardening

3-Week Sign-Up for Organic Conversion Program begins May 11
Press Release

National Organic Coalition/National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, May 5, 2009
Straight to the Source

Existing AND Transitioning Farmers Eligible

For Sign-Up Details go to the ATTRA Website or call 800-346-9140
see NSAC Memo with Details
see NRCS Directive Dated May 5, 2009
see State Allocation Amounts

Many of you worked hard to get the National Organic Conversion program in the 2008 Farm Bill (in the EQIP program at NRCS). USDA recently announced a 3-week sign-up period for farmers to receive conversion assistance.

Due to the short sign-up period, it is important that this notice gets out to farmers, and they beginning applying to their NRCS office as soon as possible — please get this out to your networks!

For Immediate Release

Contact: Aimee Witteman, Ferd Hoefner
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

PH: 202-547-5754

Organic and Transitional Farmers Restored to Rightful Status in EQIP

Washington, D.C. May 5, 2009 – USDA today announced a special three- week sign-up for farmers in the process of converting to organic farming to receive technical and financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a move applauded by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and its grassroots member organizations across the country.

The organic conversion assistance was provided for by the 2008 Farm Bill but the plan went awry when the Bush Administration issued rules for the EQIP program just before leaving office which baffled state and local offices of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). As a result, in a majority of states organic farmers and transitioning farmers were simply not being served, in contradiction of Congress’ intent in the farm bill.

“This was a was a wrong that needed righting, and with today’s announcement USDA is not only setting it right, but doing so in an innovative and farmer-friendly manner,” said Aimee Witteman, NSAC Executive Director. “We thank NRCS and USDA leadership for listening to the concerns of organic farmers and applaud their new initiative.”

Today’s announcement sets-aside $50 million out of the $1 billion EQIP program for a special three-week sign-up for farms converting to organic production, farms expanding their organic production, or existing organic farms who desire conservation support to reach even higher levels of environmental performance. The sign-up period begins Monday, May 11 and goes through Friday, May 29. Six core conservation practices (conservation crop rotation, cover cropping, integrated pest management, nutrient management, rotational grazing, and forage harvest management) are being made available to transitioning organic farmers on a nationwide basis. Each state may then also add a variety of “facilitating” conservation practices specific to the type of agriculture in their region.

“Obviously we would wish to have more than a very short three weeks to work with our farmer networks to get the word out and get farmers into local NRCS offices to sign up for this exciting new initiative,” said Witteman. “We will work quickly to get the word out far and wide and our member organizations with expertise in organic agriculture will be helping farmers understand their options under the new program terms.”

Organic farming has strong environmental benefits for soil and water quality, climate change mitigation, and biodiversity. In recognition of this fact, Congress retooled the EQIP program in the 2008 Farm Bill to provide a general EQIP priority for organic farming in the program overall as well as a specific EQIP subcomponent for farms converting in whole or in part to organic farming.

The new initiative addresses the special “organic conversion assistance” component of EQIP in particular. Funding under the organic conversion section of the farm bill is capped at not more than $20,000 per farm per year, and not more than $80,000 per farm in any 6-year period. Organic farmers may opt to compete in this special pool, with the tighter payment caps, or may opt instead to compete in the regular EQIP pool for which the 6-year cap is $300,000. However, under the terms of the new initiative announced today, farmers will receive higher payments, relative to conventional EQIP rates, for five of the six national core practices for organic conversion option. The higher payment rates reflect the higher management costs associated with the mandatory three-year organic transition period and the higher ongoing management costs associated with organic farming.

“We expect this program to evolve and grow over time,” said Witteman. “NRCS has made a good faith effort to address the needs of organic farmers and appears to be willing to make this program even better on an iterative basis in future years. This is a very welcomed new day.”

Holy Yum!

Feedback from Leslie’s Kapiolani Community College cooking class on Saturday

“Curb Your Cravings”

“I’ve taken 6 or 7 of these classes before and this one was definitely the best!”

“I thought eating healthy meant eating brown rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but you’ve shown me that eating well can taste good too. We’re definitely going to be adding more beans and grains to our meals” (wife cheers on the side)

“I liked how you personalized the class and made it very comfortable and friendly for everyone and addressed each participant in the class and their concerns.”

“Instructor is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the topic!”