Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Young Singers

I like music. To me it's fun to discover young, talented musicians before the rest of the world does (if the world ever does). It doesn't really matter I guess but it's kind of analogous to finding a really cool local food purveyor, just adds to the experience. Anyway, some friends of mine and I headed down to the Blind Pig last Monday to see local up and coming Alex Winston and somewhat further along Kate Voegele. Alex is 19 year old singer/songwriter/guitarist from the metro Detroit who fronts an excellent band (that includes the 40 Oz. Sound guys and the former Electric Six bassist "John R. Dequindre" (always liked that stage name)). I've been intrigued since last year when I found her online and bought her EP off of her website. The CD arrived in the mail and I was charmed to find it in a hand addressed envelope. At the end of December some of us caught her semi-acoustic show in Ferndale. When we arrived it was pretty empty and Alex was just standing by the door inviting people to stick around for the show. We told her we were actually there for the show and then proceeded to ask her for food recommendations. I guess one of the reasons I like regional music as well is that you can pretty much interact with the musicians on a regular person level. My best wishes to all of the local musicians I've met, I want them to do well and sell records, but I also hope they are able to maintain their sanity as bigger record labels discover them.

Anyway, last Monday 2/11 was a pretty good concert. I never been a big fan of the sound at the Blind Pig. I don't know what it is exactly, perhaps a combination of things, but the sound is not the greatest and everyone knows it. But a good show nonetheless. Definitely like a couple of the newer tunes Alex and her band have been working on. And my friend Nicole is so right to describe Alex Winston's music as the kind "girls love to sing aloud while driving in their cars"... although I think everyone loves to sing it probably, perhaps only girls admit to it. One highlight of the evening was Nicole actually provided a flexible bandage (to not use the brand name) to the lead guitarist of the Whitest Light who had somehow cut himself and was bleeding all over a rather nice guitar. He later announced that "this beautiful young lady up front can help you with all of your first aid needs." So great sets by Alex Winston, Whitest Light (we weren't really in the mood for a third band but they are pretty tight nonetheless), and Kate Voegele. Kate, who was the elder female lead of the night at 20 years of age, hails from the Cleveland area I guess and has a great voice - she came through Ann Arbor last summer during the Art Fair. As some friends and I discussed, something about her voice suggests that she could turn country in a heartbeat and probably sell a gazillion more records but she seems to be into the rock which is fine by me.

You can see Alex for yourself 3/16 in Detroit when they open for Blind Melon or 3/27 again in Ann Arbor when they open for Electric Six.

1/2008 Radio Interview Now Online

Well it took a little longer than I thought but mp3s from when I was a guest on Ann Arbor Lifestyles are now online. This aired 1/12/2008 but I blogged about it after it was taped 1/7/2008.

Part 1 - we largely discuss my day job at UofM and my interest in sustainability.
Part 2 - we start to get into my motivation for the hoophouse and four season farming.
Part 3 - we continue hoophouse discussions as well as ideas for anyone to try.


Last Wednesday I attended another event also at the AADL multi-purpose room titled From Ewe to You. They also recorded that one so it will eventually be posted at the library's video on demand list as well. It was a neat discussion from 2 farmers that raise various breeds of sheep in the area and a third panelist who spins from various fiber. I've always been excited about the idea of having livestock and particularly generating products from the fiber from the livestock. Plus, it's nice to have the connection to the history of sheep and spinning that Washtenaw County has. I knew that we were the biggest sheep county in the state. I didn't know that we use to be the second biggest sheep county in the nation back about 1900. Apparently, Washtenaw County being at a key juncture point for trains west was a big staging area for livestock heading out on trains and then people decided to just go ahead and raise the sheep (whether to keep or ship) right here in the county since it has rolling hills, a good river, and green pastures.

Anyway, I don't have the time for livestock currently but it is very exciting to see people continuing the historical traditions of our area. There is even a group that meets once a month regarding all things spinning... they are appropriately named The Spinner's Flock. Some of you might want to check them or some of their sales (I think they just had one) out. According to their website and literature:
We are a group of enthusiastic, friendly and welcoming individualists who practice and promote the art and craft of handspinning, while spreading the word on the wonders of Michigan grown fibers. In addition to those who raise the various breeds of sheep, membership now also includes those who raise angora goats (mohair), llama, alpaca, and angora rabits.

Local Food Interest On The Rise

If turnout is any measure, then I would say the approximately 160 people (I counted) who packed the AADL multi-purpose room last night for a panel discussion certainly represents an increasing interest in local food. Regardless From the Farm to Your Fork – Why Local Food Can Make Us Healthier, Happier and More Secure was definitely a stimulating and exciting discussion. Very successful, my compliments to Kim who largely organized it. And hopefully we will have more events like this leading up to the HomeGrown Festival to continue the conversation of some of the ideas that were mentioned. (Actually Kim and I have some ideas but feel free to post any event ideas here as a comment.) If you missed this event, don't fret. These days events like this at our library eventually end up as podcasts posted here - thanks to our fabulous library system!

One thing that I thought was missing from the up front panel presentations and also during the questions period afterward was a mention specifically of the idea of a "farm incubator" to help foster the development of new farmers much in the way new businesses are often fostered. Anyway, new farmers are in short supply and we all need to do something about this. I'll have more to say on this in the future. The other thing I would have liked the panel to re-stress is that you simply need to keep going to the farmers markets and buying shares. And if you are reading this you likely do attend markets - I saw a lot of familiar faces at the event last night as well - but if you keep going even when selection is a little bit low like during the winter you help demonstrate the demand that eventually farmers and new farmers will rise up to meet. Personally, I'm a little bit surprised more winter greens competition hasn't shown up this winter - believe me I'd welcome it, I always feel a little awkward selling out in an hour - but it's coming I'm sure.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What to look for when your candidates go green

My colleague Tom Princen wrote an recent op-ed in USA Today... What to look for when your candidates go green.

And Tiffany recently posted regarding how Green is your candidate?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Look out Summer Rayne Oakes

Look out Summer Rayne Oakes... perhaps I could be the next big model who has a passion for sustainability, sustainable style, and the like.

Yeah, maybe not. But I was honored to be invited by friend Britten Stringwell to her Unihood Fashion Bizarre and Dance last night at the yellow barn in A2. I was one of a diverse crowd of models who took turns walking (or strutting as it were) the unique runway and then saying a few words at the mic ... whatever one was moved to say (Note: speaking was not required, one model blew bubbles). Basically what I said was:
Can you picture winter greens? Arugula, spinach, salad mix. Can you picture a team of Unihood-wearing harvesters? I can.

And I really can. The thing about the unihood designs is that unlike a baseball cap or some of my loose fitting stocking caps they really won't fall off as one bends or leans over in the greenhouse. So that alone is enough for me to try them out. Throw in the fact that they are made with quite a bit of reclaimed materials with a nice touch of style from a local artisan and you got yourself a winner.

So friends Tao and K came by and snapped some photos for me (thanks!) during the fashion bizarre. K and I ended up buying a unihood each - K actually choosing to purchase what turned out to be apparently the first unihood Britten ever made. Britten asked to get some photos of us.

Astute radio listeners may note that they have heard of Britten Stringwell recently in the Environment Report story done last year by local reporter and friend Jennifer Guerra (who incidentally was also a unihood model).

Anyway, good times had by all. There was some nice warm up music and good DJ'd dancing afterward (I'll post musicians here if I remember their names), as well as severed unicorn heads and art, and Roos Roast coffee roasting on the yellow barn porch all night long.

Mitigating Climate Change through Organic Agriculture and Localized Food Systems

Taking a look at research - where I believe we are going to see a rapid increase of people investigating these kinds of questions - this recent press release/report from the Institute of Science in Society caught my eye: Mitigating Climate Change through Organic Agriculture and Localized Food Systems.

This June if anyone wishes to travel to Modena, Italy there is a FAO Workshop on Organic Agriculture and Climate Change as part of the 16th IFOAM Organic World Congress.

Closer to home, the Michigan Organic Farm and Food Alliance is having their 2008 Michigan Organic Conference the first part of March. And there is the Agriculture and Natural Resources week on a certain campus in East Lansing also during the first part of March. Highlights are listed here including a workshop about the role of pollinators in a sustainable environment... a previous theme on my blog: here and here:)