Solving The Food Crisis in America And The World: Part 1

We’re living in an era of great technological enlightenment. We have the capability to push a little button and communicate with people from the furthest corners of the globe, we have discovered ways to regrow lost or broken body parts using stem cells, we are taking applications to settle Mars, and we have sent a satellite so deep into outer space that it has officially left our solar system, but even with all our grand accomplishments, we still haven’t found a way to feed the 805 million people in the world who don’t have enough food to live a normal life. 1979515_10203522782296092_495809678_nThese are the people living in a famine beyond anything most of us could ever imagine. They are starving to death, and sometimes, with full stomachs.

805 million is roughly 1/9 of the global population. It’s men, women in children living in every village, town, and city in the world. They’re even living in your neighborhood. It doesn’t matter how advanced we have become as a people, we still haven’t found a way to ensure healthy and nutritious food to the millions who need it most.

The question, really, is where do we begin? For me, we have to start at home. With roughly 40% of the country on SNAP benefits, the issue of hunger and nutrition has become more than a problem, it’s an epidemic. As news stations from around the country are devoting all their time to ISIS and Ebola, there are millions of children right here in the good ole USA who have nothing to eat. There are millions of kids going to schools who have cut free lunch programs, have cut free breakfast programs all in the name of national debt, when there are thousands of other programs funding the wealthiest of Americans. For many, these were the only meals the kids have during the day. For many, going to bed has become a part of life.

On top of a clearly broken socio-economic system, we also have something called food deserts. There are areas in which fresh, healthy, and nutritious food is not available for the people who live in the area. Most are in low income urban and rural neighborhoods, but there are also some in America’s suburban neighborhoods. With limited income, lack of transportation, and a lack of healthy food availability, it would seem 10505376_10204722276002685_5253319214878122381_nhopeless.

Though the powers that be have shown that they have little, if any interest in tackling the food crisis, there has been a movement throughout the US to hit the problem where it’s hurt us the most. In our low income communities, in our school, and at our churches, agricultural programs have been popping up targeting those who need it the most. Organizations are bringing agriculture into the classroom like never before, introducing raised beds, green walls, green roofs, hydroponics, and aquaponics, which aren’t just feeding the students, but teaching them everything from the basics of math and science, to personal and communal responsibility. While they might not have enough money to buy the unhealthy food in the cafeteria, they have free access to the food in which they grew.

Community gardens aren’t just for hipsters, anymore. For many Americans, they are a way to beat the system. For usually just a few dollars a plot and a few seeds, anyone who wants access to fresh food can grow their own. Community gardens have a way of bringing people together. Yes, there is always the reward of all the veggies you can eat, but the community 554585_4246938617620_606909232_nbuilding aspect can’t be denied. More community gardens leads to closer knit neighbors, which leads to less crime, less dependance on drugs, and less educational dropouts.

I’m not saying that agriculture is the solver of all problems big and small, but I do believe that making it available to everyone is the biggest step we can take toward a more healthy and just society. Though I know I know I’m going to get a lot of hate mail for saying this, but food is a basic human right. You can have all the money in the world, but once the food supply is gone, you’re going to be begging right along with everyone else.

What do we do with the rest of the world? Well, that’s a little more complicated. We’ll come back to that later.

And now for something a little different…

cricket pasta

Tonight, Michelle and I enjoyed fried eggplant and tomato sauce from the garden. That’s all pretty well and good, but the real treat was the Flour City Pasta.

I know, you’ve had plenty of pasta before, but this is different. Made with cricket flour, the pasta is completely sustainable, higher in protein, and about as tasty as it gets! I was expecting it to be a little gritty due to the fact that cricket flour isn’t water soluble, but the consistency was no different than any other pasta I’ve ever had before.

Soon I’m going to go visit Jon Stadt at Flour City Pasta to give you more!

No Giving Up!

I like to think that the world is evolving to be a more self conscious global community where our needs are better understood gardenand better focused upon, but the reality is, I’m nothing more than another dreamer who finds himself turning on the news and feeling more hopeless and more depressed about the state of the world that I was just the day before. I once had a belief that the human race was made up of logical and rational being who were willing to listen to opposing views and sit down to a compromise, that people would, rather than jump to illogical conclusions, would review all the information available before jumping to conclusions.

I wish I could say that I fear for the world in which we live, but the only fear I have is that it might be too late to make any real significant change. It might be too late to make the world a truly better place. The only real emotion I feel is sadness. A 10505376_10204722276002685_5253319214878122381_nsadness brought on by knowing that the age of innocence is long past. Sadness that people refused to take responsibility for their actions as the see responsibility as either an assault on their personal freedoms or an inconvenience.

Though there are plenty of people who believe in what we are doing with our urban farm, there are even more people who applaud us, but in the same breath will tell us how they would never grow anything, that they are perfectly fine with being ignorant to the situation as a whole.

This year was a hard one. Too much rain and too many cold days left us with a much smaller yield than we’ve had in the past. Vegetables in which we’re usually harvesting in early July, we didn’t see until late August to early September. Next year, I’m making some big changes in the way we grow, here on Our Tiny Earth Urban Farm. With the obvious changes in our own climate, we need to adapt the way we grow. We need to find alternatives to the methods we used in the past, and and build upon the ones which worked best for us this year.

We’re going to continue growing vertically using the GLTi vertical panels, as we were able to produce everything from lettuce to squash in the panels. My plan is to bring several indoors where we can grow our herbs and leafy greens right in the kitchen 10681647_10204850528928928_1606178973_nas well as in my office year round. I could just as easily grow nightshades, such as tomatoes and peppers, indoors, but I think it would be better with the cat in the house to just keep it simple.

I’m also going to build cold frames in order to extend the growing season. With simple hay bales and old windows, I can start specific seeds, such as spinach and provider beans earlier and harvest them later.

I know I could give up. I know that this is only going to get harder and harder as the years go by, but that’s the beauty of being a human being. We have the means to adapt. When we see a challenge, we meet it head on and thrive, despite what nature throws at us. I’m not giving up. Our Tiny Earth will remain a model to what can be done.

Come Visit Me!

10617486_10204720151709579_2143596236_nHello, Rochester!

Come visit me today as I demonstrate and answer questions about the Green Living Technologies vertical garden at Hart’s Local Grocers at 10 Winthrop Street in Rochester, NY right behind the famed Little Theater. I will be there from 10 until 2 answering any questions you might have about vertical agriculture, green walls, green roofs, and any other question you might have about urban agriculture.

To Start a Garden

There’s always a reason to start a garden. Whether it’s an act of dissent, a step toward sustainability, or to simply put your fingers through the soil, there’s always a reason to start a garden.

My garden is more than where I grow my food. My garden is where I release my anger, my sadness, my struggles, and my pain. It allows me to live in the present, to see the world, or at my little piece of it as it is, beautiful. It’s my zen.

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The Honeybee Dilemma

If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” – Maurice Maeterlinck, The Life of Bees

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Michelle and I love bees. In fact, Michelle gets so excited watching the bees, you would think she was still a child.

Honeybee pollinating our squash

Honeybee pollinating our squash

Unfortunately, between a cold winter and colony collapse, we don’t see nearly as many bees as we once had. I remember watching bees by the hundreds scattered across the yard buzzing from one clover flower to the next. We had to watch our step when walking across the lawn, as you never knew when you were about to step on a bee and get the sting of a lifetime.

Bumblebee covered in pollen from hyssups

Bumblebee covered in pollen from hyssups

Last year, we had tons of bees working every flower of every plant in the garden. Even in the raspberries and pears, you couldn’t look at a flower without watching a honeybee in action. Though we have countless bumblebees, they’re overall population has dropped dramatically, as well.

Michelle and I have decided to invest in a hive or two for next year. We know there’s a lot of work involved, but we’re ready to do what we think is necessary for the food system.

What do you think about bees?

A Vegetable Growing Cheat Sheet

Originally posted on Gardeninggrrl:

Not mine, but a great reference. Thanks to anglianhome.co.uk for the awesome infographic.
UK housing energy fact file infographic

View original

The Green Wall at Our Tiny Earth Urban Farm

I can’t tell you how happy I am with the productivity of the Green Living Technologies International LLC  green wall. This is proof that anyone can grow healthy food despite a lack of space. Imagine these on balconies and along the streets in crowded cities like New York, Chicago, and LA. Imagine people who have never had the opportunity to grow their own food due to a lack of space, can now simply walk up to their green wall and pick a tomato or lettuce.

Growing vertically is one of the fastest growing methods of gardening around the world today. With a global population of 7.23 billion people which growing at a rate of 228,000 per day, we’re losing the necessary arable land needed to sustain such population growth. Our only options are to grow up. Along the sides of buildings, in homes, or even in warehouses, vertical could very well be the way we are all gardening in the future.

As you can see from the pictures, I’m growing tomatoes, peppers, herbs, acorn squash (which should be flowering soon), and leafy greens. I have another panel growing Swiss Chard and strawberries!

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I See My Garden…

I don’t know what you think when you look at your garden, but wen I walk into mine, I see freedom. Freedom from the ever present influence of the corporate culture in which America has been dominated and crushed by. I see freedom to live as I wish, without worrying about what this company put into their food or what this other company does with the money I give them. I see freedom from the almost almighty dollar. I say almost almighty, as in our home, we work hard to takes its power away. In our home, though

Our Garden

Our Garden

we’re not wealthy by any standards, we work hard to keep it nothing more than an afterthought. I see our garden as much our home as the house, itself. Where Michelle and I spend a little time together every day caring for the plants, which in return will give us food. I see the garden as a perfect representation of myself. From a distance, perfect and orderly, but up close…

Our garden has become an example to our community that it can be done. We’re able to not only feed ourselves, but share what we have with our friends and family. We have raised beds and green walls. Fruit trees and berry bushes. The children in the neighborhood stop by to see and learn where their food comes from. Our garden shows that anyone, despite income or perceived class, can grow their own food. If not all, at least some.

How do you see your garden? What do you grow? What is its inspiration?

A Change In GMO Labeling Language

Over the past few years, there has been a battle over the safety of genetically modified organisms, or GMO. Though there has been progress in public education and labeling, it has been slow. As much as I would love to go into why GMO is morally and ethically wrong, I’m preaching to the choir. I’m focused on a different battle within the same war. The language.

The truth of the matter is that the companies who develop the GMO products have us by the proverbial balls. In labeling the productsrighttoknow37 GMO, that gives them the freedom to fire back with an argument that’s, quite frankly, hard to come back from. Their argument is that GMO happens in nature. Though I find it funny that a bunch of people who generally don’t believe in evolution would use this as an argument, it’s a solid one. Nature does indeed have the ability to modify anything in order to ensure its survival. Simple evolution.

I propose that we change our language. Instead of the term ‘GMO’ or ‘Genetically Modified’, we need to be using the term ‘Genetically Engineered’. This is a term that implies that the product was created by man rather by nature.

As always, I stand by my belief that we have the right to know what we are eating. I stand by my belief that knowing what we’re eating is a basic human right and that labeling is the moral and ethical solution, but we first need to change our language.

Going Vertical

I’m sure some of you have noticed the pictures of the GLTi green wall posted in the last post. I’m sure some of you wonder where I get it, how it works, and how it can benefit you.

wallartOkay, well, you’re looking at a Green Living Technologies living wall. It’s made of stainless steel with an aluminum frame. In other words, it’s built to last. Mine has been through hell and back and still works as well as it did the day it was first used. We have been able to grow many times the amount of tomatoes, peppers, greens, herbs, beets, and anything else you could ever imagine in just a fraction of the footprint, using just a fraction of the resources. Using soil, I have been very successful in growing without the use of any chemical except for organic fish emulsion in which I only used in the very beginning.

This is going to revolutionize urban agriculture as we know it. For many people who don’t have have the space to grow a full garden, all you need is a few feet or a space on your wall. Maximum production with minimal space.

Once you’ve seen it up close and personal, it will blow your mind.

Feel free to contact me with any questions you might have involving growing vertically or the panels at info@ourtinyearth.com

Right now, we’re growing tomatoes, peppers, thyme, squash, marigolds, and greens. Everything you need to make dinner.

 

1/8 Of An Acre Of Heaven

 

Of all the tasks and all the hobbies one might take up in a lifetime, few require the patience of a garden, but for those who have the patience, the rewards are seemingly endless.

Our Tiny Earth Raised Beds

Our Tiny Earth Raised Beds

This is our garden. Our Tiny Earth Urban Farm. I know, there are people out there who have bigger gardens, produce more food, and even have animals and bees, but for our needs, we’re doing just fine. With a production of roughly 60 pounds of food per week in the summer months, we’ve been able to cut our grocery bills to a mere fraction of what they were in the winter and spring months. For us, this is our 1/8 of an acre bit of heaven.

Bumble Bee Finding Its Purpose in Hyssop

Bumble Bee Finding Its Purpose in Hyssop

Michelle loves her raspberries

Michelle loves her raspberries

There's something you have to love about pears!

There’s something you have to love about pears!

We've been enjoying the summer squash!

We’ve been enjoying the summer squash!

There's something beautiful about simple bib lettuce

There’s something beautiful about simple bib lettuce

The Honeybees are in action!

The Honeybees are in action!

The acorn squash is coming in nicely!

The acorn squash is coming in nicely!

Cukes!

Cukes!

My favorite pepper, the Hungarian Wax!

My favorite pepper, the Hungarian Wax!

Tomatoes are well on their way!

Tomatoes are well on their way!

Everything you could ever need to make sauce is right here on the wall!

Everything you could ever need to make sauce is right here on the wall!

 

 

Our Tiny Earth: Muligan

For those of you who are new to Our Tiny Earth and for those of you who have been with us since the very beginning, I would like to say welcome, once again. My name is Scott Wischmeyer and this is Our Tiny Earth. I guess you could say that this is a new beginning of sorts. I made the decision to start all over again from scratch, as I feel that I’ve been losing focus on what it’s really about and what I would like to bring you. Nothing but the best for my readers!

I was screwed right from the start

I was screwed right from the start

Who am I? Well, my name is Scott Wischmeyer. I have a background in traditional, hydroponic, and vertical agriculture and have dabbled in rooftop as well as aquaponics. I’ve worked with the biggest names in the business and have shaken hands everyone else. My mission is to obtain some sort of sustainable presence within an urban environment as a way to prove that it could be done.

Michelle and I live in the sunny tropical paradise of Rochester, NY. We garden, we cook, we eat, and we travel all over the country learning about what they’re doing, what they’re eating, and how we can mimic what they’re doing on our own little 1/8 of an acre plot of land, which we call Our Tiny Earth Urban Farm.

Over the next couple years, I’m going to tell you about everything from growing vegetables vertically, to why I can’t call Our Tiny Earth what it really is because of a greedy greenwashing family in Los Angeles. I’m going to introduce you to the people who have made urban ag what it is today, and where it’s going to be tomorrow.

Thank you for finding Our Tiny Earth. Get comfortable, this is going to be a long ride.

The F Word

Lobster Bisque Pot Pie at Atwood in Chicago. A foodie wet dream.

Lobster Bisque Pot Pie at Atwood in Chicago. A foodie wet dream.

Okay, so there’s a bit of a stigma attached to coming out. I know that in certain circles, just the mere mention that you might partake in this particular lifestyle leaves you open to judgment from older or more xenophobic people within your community. The truth is, we’ve all experimented at one time of our lives or another and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. What you put in your mouth is your business.

No one ever said it was easy being a foodie. Hell, a friend of mine claims that the word, itself, implies a certain level of douche-baggery. But then, there are others who wear the term on their sleeves as a medal of honor. Something to take pride in and even heavily recruit for.

For the lack of a better word, I am a foodie. I know, coming out of the closet like that could have some serious repercussions, but

Breakfast at James Brown's Place in Rochester, NY. I've lived all over the country and haven't eaten as good as they serve it here.

Breakfast at James Brown’s Place in Rochester, NY. I’ve lived all over the country and haven’t eaten as good as they serve it here.

the fact of the matter is, I’ve known I was a foodie since I was little, but was ashamed to come out. Coming from a family who relished in bland, tasteless food, I knew deep within my heart that I would never be completely accepted if I did come out. But, seriously, who was I kidding. I couldn’t hide it. Sneaking off late at night for sushi and ordering anything that was covered in one kind of fish roe or another. Finding the subtle differences between the same varieties of carrots grown by two different farms 40 miles away from each other. Seeing the Garbage Plate for what it really is, a cultural icon, not just something to draw in tourists (I’m looking at you, Philly Cheese Steak). Yes, you heard that right, I am a foodie.

If you were to ask 100 different people what defines a foodie, you’re going to get 100 different answers. For some it’s something negative, but for others, its something deeper, almost personal.

Dolsot Bibimbap

Dolsot Bibimbap

For me, the only thing in my life more personal than than the food I eat, is my lady, Michelle, and even then, I did leave her for a cupcake once in Oregon. Yeah, a cupcake, and yes, I know cupcakes are a fad that need to leave quickly. Luckily she took me back after a stroll among the naked hippies and flower children.

I know I might be stepping on some toes, but there is nothing in the world, past or present that has the ability, including art, music, or even language, to define not only a culture, but a family, quite like food. My family may not speak German any longer and sure as hell can’t hold a tune, but you can bet your ass my mother is still making maultaschen and I look forward to making it and passing the recipe to my nephew Ethan when he’s old enough to get off his ass and cook (he’s a month old. Times a-tickin’).

Though there are quite a few similarities, being a food snob isn’t really the same thing as being a food snob or a gourmet, in my

Chicago Style Pizza.

Chicago Style Pizza.

opinion. Yes, I do prefer better, locally sourced ingredients, we do tend to lose all professional etiquette and turn into kids in a candy store when a slab of pork belly is placed in front of us, but I also get the same joy from a Zweigle’s White Hot or a pile of hash browns, chorizo and poached eggs loaded onto my plate smiling at me as if to say ‘Good Morning’. A foodie does not discriminate. If the food gives me the feeling I’m after, I go for it. Am I going to stop eating Tasty Cakes from Philly just because I have no idea what half of the shit in there is? Hell no! Tasty Cakes bring me back to a time and people I remember fondly when our company CO when I was in the Army would have them sent from his sister in Philly. Am I going to stop eating Garbage Plates just because I know it will probably kill me at some point? Well, as Michelle’s Uncle Sloppy says, ‘To eat is to live and to live is to eat”.

For me, eating is about new experiences. It’s about getting to know a city, a culture, a community, or a person on a more intimate level. For a foodie, what we eat shouldn’t be taken for granted. Though there might be the aisles of labels and logos you might be familiar with, its important to step out of your comfort zone from time to time. Learn about new tastes and where they come from. Let every time you eat become a learning experience. Keep trying new things, for with every bite, you’re keeping a culture alive.

Rochester Vertical Farm

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This is the prototype vertical farm created by George Irwin, the founder and President of Green Living Technologies, using his patented green walls. I am partnering with George to build a network of vertical farms as a way to bring access to fresh and nutritious food to low income communities and food deserts. Vertical panels can also be purchased by restaurants and grocers to bring the freshest quality food into the kitchens. The panels also offer a great source of marketing. They show the customer that there is a commitment fresh and locally grown food in every dish served.

Yes, I know the camera angle is wrong.

We are able to grow anything from nightshades to brassicas to herbs and spices. We’ve had success with greens and root veggies as well. Right now, we’re working on growing several varieties of mushrooms.

If you’re in the Rochester, NY area and are looking to display a beautiful edible or ornamental living wall in your restaurant or grocery store, feel free to contact me at scott@ourtinyearth.com