Food Systems

Flipping the Switch

If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you would have noticed that I add environmental issues to my foodie stories. Last week I visited with Chateau Chantal Winery president, Marie-Chantal Dalese to check in on how their new photo voltaic (PV) solar panels are doing. They’ve been running for two months now. It’s the largest solar agribusiness installation at a Michigan winery.

The 148.5 kilo Watt (kW) solar array was installed by Harvest Energy Solutions. It’s annual production of 172,351 kW is like saving the CO2 emissions for the electricity of over 18 homes per year. The PV panels are on track to meet the goal of providing 40% of Chateau Chantal’s electrical needs annually.

The panels are tilted not only for sunlight but also so the snow falls off to leave them open for the winter sun. (Yes, we DO have winter sun.)

Below are photographs from the day that the switch was flipped to turn on the panels! Senator Stabenow was on hand for the celebration. (Photos are courtesy of Chateau Chantal.)

Senator Stabenow Chateau Chantal Solar EventCropped

SolarSwitchFlip_June2015 (63)

The Hive Update

I have an update from the fine folks at Wild Mitten Honey Co-op. They’ve been rescuing bee colonies around West Michigan this spring. Spring is when bees tend to swarm; a new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. Joshua at Wild Mitten is contacted when bees are in an inappropriate space – like a child’s bedroom. Here’s their video of the rescues.

They’ve recently rescued six colonies that are in need of homes, so they are ready to fill up the Lavender Hive that I wrote about earlier. LOOK here for their GoFundME site. The money will be used to purchase the hive equipment to get these bees settled into a new home. Plus, you get some fresh, local, raw honey to eat!

Be a Part of the Conversation

My two passions: Buildings and Food! How do they come together? Sustainability.

After being inspired by a documentary shown at a Vegan GR event, I researched livestock and greenhouse gases. The article attached below has the results. It’s located on the US Green Building Council website. We are looking for YOUR ideas about how sustainable food and sustainable buildings can complement each other.

CLICK HERE to inspire us!!

Let us know how you address food-related climate change and greenhouse gas emissions in your buildings. What do you see as the most pressing issues between food and buildings/occupants? And, what have you been reading lately about the data?

Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

Photo by Jim Gebben

Photo by Jim Gebben

The Nursery of Democracy: A Visit by Michael Pollan

Kalamazoo Community FoundationWhen I heard that journalist Michael Pollan was coming to speak in Kalamazoo, I immediately signed up. I’m a big fan of this writer – mostly because he’s a great researcher. He really goes in-depth into how our food system works (or doesn’t). He was brought here by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

His focus was on the act of cooking and what it means – the subject of his latest book, Cooked, now out in paperback. He stated that real cooking is a
Therapeutic act
Agricultural act
Political act.

There are too many food systems horror stories, and the one that he started out with this time was Russet Burbank potatoes. You’ve all eaten them – they’re what McDonald’s uses for their French fries. They’re long and grown to ‘look perfect.’

For this story, he visited a mega-farm that was fully automated. The ‘farmer’ had video cameras of the acreage of potatoes and worked the controls remotely for watering and pesticide application. They use the pesticide Monitor to prevent anything from marring the potatoes – even when the marks don’t affect potato quality or taste. When Monitor is applied, no one can enter the field for 3 – 4 days, because it’s so dangerous.

Pollan went on to describe the storage room full of harvested potatoes. They need to be held there for six weeks to off-gas the chemicals that had been applied during the growing process. I don’t know who decided that after six weeks, they’re ‘safe’ but, no thanks!

Now you see where he’s going with his thoughts on cooking. “Not cooking has to do with the kind of food system we have,” Pollan stated. When researching the book In Defense of Food he found that the healthiest diets were those cooked by humans, not corporations.

Research he mentioned indicates that people spend an average of 27 minutes cooking a meal, and 4 minutes cleaning up. Four minutes? I wish! Or, maybe not…. Opening up a spice pack or can of soup to add to pasta is not really cooking. “Americans spend more time watching people cook on TV than they actually do cooking,” said Pollan. “The family meal is an endangered institution. It’s where we civilize and socialize our children.”

Not only is processed food full of sugar, fat, and salt, but they often market individual meals which can undermine the family meal. So, when Pollan stated that the family meal is the nursery of democracy, was it farfetched? I don’t believe so.

You, readers, have much more control over the food system than you’ve been led to believe. You can change your health and the planet one meal at a time. What kind of food system do you want?

And, finally, Pollan noted, “The food movement offers farmers something that they haven’t had in a long time – new customers; new products; new markets.”

Go forth and cook!


Kalamzoo Community Foundation

Q & A Time

Q & A Time (lighting not great for photography)

If you can’t find these books local, they are in my Amazon Affiliates store.