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Catch a Wave at the New York Botanical Garden

by: Eddie C

Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 22:28:28 PM PDT

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(Wow! This is great! Thanks Eddie C for a fantastic diary!! - promoted by Jill Richardson)

The New York Botanical Gardens has always been a place for demonstration gardens and information about growing your own food but telling New Yorkers why we should be eating locally grown food is a departure from the norm.

Today was day one of a new program at the most established plant science institute in the western hemisphere. The program that is called The Edible Garden will last all summer and be repeated every summer for years to come. If today was any indication than my favorite living museum just dipped its toe into food politics.

There are a few seemingly small changes, like the twice weekly farmers market getting larger and getting a new title, Sustaining Farms, Sustaining Nature, Sustaining You. The Garden will stress the use and understanding of heirloom seeds all summer and today there was organic gardeners giving advise in the demonstration gardens.  

Just being handed a flier titled "10 reasons to Buy Local Food" was impressive enough but what I saw today in the demonstration tent, it just seemed like a huge victory. I saw Dan Barber warm up an audience waiting to see Martha Stewart.  

Eddie C :: Catch a Wave at the New York Botanical Garden
This was not my first time seeing Dan Barber speak I had an idea what to expect. I would hope that Gregory Long knew what to expect so this does mark a change in food attitude. As I sat under a huge tent right next to the most beautiful glass house on earth I could see about a thousand other people in the audience that didn't know what to expect.

This was an audience waiting to see Martha Stewart rattle some pots and pans and they heard Dan Barber, the chef from Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, mention that "The American food industry is based on $30 a barrel oil and cannot sustain itself" as he first addressed the audience. Mr Barber talked about the nutritional value of local grown vegetables as compared with vegetables that were shipped across the nation and the energy wasted in shipment. He talked about the advantages of grass fed animals and how the Hudson Valley has what might be the best grass on earth but somehow New Zealand cornered the market on grass fed livestock.

I was shocked when he gave an audience of Martha Stewart fans a glowing review of the movie "Food Inc" and suggested that everyone should see it. When he suggested that the next food documentary should be about the medium sized farms that are being put out of business and creating a totally corporate food culture in America the audience having recently learned that even corporate cookie dough isn't safe, the audience actually gasped in horror.

Jill gave me some more information on that issue;

Farms over 2000 acres may make up only 3.6% of all farms, but their sales represent 27% of sales by all farms of any size and their land makes up over half of all farm acres in the U.S. And these farms are totally on the government take. Nearly 1/3 of all government money that goes to farms goes to farms over 2000 acres.

The best part was that this audience that was definitely not foodies, they listened to Gregory Long introduce Martha Steward.

And once Martha got past the proper way to pronounce herb and started talking about her food empire, the audience looks just a bored as I was. They wanted to hear more from Dan Barber. Sorry Martha.

That was a pretty impressive event so far away for where it could usually be expected. People got out of bed today to see some celebrity cooking demonstrations and walked away asking about some movie called "Food Inc."

This doesn't mean there will be a great deal of serious support for food issues in an institution that is so dependent on federal funding and corporate sponsorship. Perhaps the management had no clue how impressive a speaker Dan Barber would be. Or perhaps this is a new wave and food issues will get much more exposure.  

Since there is a whole summer of demonstrations ahead more shall be revealed in the coming months. This does offer plenty of opportunity for serious minded people in the local food movement. After I've watched almost every event in the NYBG grow, this one may spread its wings too.

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Cheers for Garden growth (4.00 / 6)

After this wet spring in NYC there will be plenty.  

Three photos from today in the NYBG (4.00 / 6)

Lovely photos as always, Eddie (4.00 / 4)
and I'm glad NYBG is (maybe) getting on board with local food. That's awesome.

Speaking of local food, I'm pretty sure your second pic in the comment I'm responding to (with the butterfly) is called pickerel weed (Pontederia genus). I'm a little thrown by the fact that the flowers are normally blue, but the flowers and leaves are the right shape, and plants in a botanical garden are often unusual hybrids or varietals. I don't suppose there were any similar-looking aquatic plants with blue flowers?

If it is pickerel weed, the young leaves are edible in spring when they're still unfurling. Seed pods appear in fall, and the seeds within are edible and taste a bit nutty.

Of course, you should never eat any water plant if you're at all uncertain of the quality and purity of the water it grows in. Then again, I'm definitely not advocating that anyone forage in NYBG! :)

I wish I knew half what the flock of them know
Of where all the berries and other things grow,
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop.
--"Blueberries" by Robert Frost

[ Parent ]
Hello wide eyed lib (4.00 / 2)
That might be a cultivar of pickerel weed or seeing how the plant next to it was Victoria amazonica perhaps that plant is some exotic.  

The picture was taken in one of the two pools that the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory wraps around, so you never can be sure what you'll find unless you read the sign. I Didn't.  

[ Parent ]
And if your feet are tired. (4.00 / 5)

Then try on some ladies slippers.

I don't know about the flowers (4.00 / 4)
except they're really pretty. But the white butterfly looks suspiciously like a cabbage moth.  

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

If it's not a plant (4.00 / 2)
chances are I can't identify it. :)

I wish I knew half what the flock of them know
Of where all the berries and other things grow,
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop.
--"Blueberries" by Robert Frost

[ Parent ]
Good thing I didn't ask about the parrots (4.00 / 3)
because those are at The Greenwood Cemetery.  

Yankee Frugality: use it up, wear it out, make it last, or do without.

I was very happy to see this was a summer long project (4.00 / 1)
not a weekend event. I caught the info it was happening on Fri, but had to work our CSA on Sat. They did a news piece on this Sat night that was short, but pretty decent. Just making the market larger is great, but adding more interest points and getting press will help also. More local food! I'm planning on going out and seeing what's up after the 4th.

Thanks for sharing the day! And here's hoping these wings spread far and wide :)

There is now a more extensive look at Saturday over at DKos. (0.00 / 0)
[ Parent ]
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