Summer Food Course Photos 2010

Summer Food Course Photos 2011

Summer Food Course Photos 2012

Welcome to this site, all interested in resilient farming!

Welcome to this site, all interested in resilient farming!

The postings most appropriate for you have the label, "Resilient Farms."

Friday, April 24, 2015

Diet is never going to be like any other area of science...

“Diet is never going to be like any other area of science. Whatever we’ve read, whatever the competing theories, whatever the weight of op[inion, every individual is effectively conducting their own pseudo-scientific experiment in eating.”
            --BBC News Magazine (Vanessa Barford, 4/17/13) Atkins and the never-ending battle over carbs

Science, and here I am talking about food science, has clout that comes from its reputation for systematic investigation – especially in studies of food preferences and marketing, and food sensory perception and tastes. Studies themselves are meant to be repeatable, and with similar results each time – thus, conferring reliability.  It is not necessarily objective – the choice of what to study and how to frame the research is subjective – but it does try to be honest, with little to market except a message or two.

It could be argued that science looks for universal truths, or at the very least generalizations, although virtually all of what it produces has caveats, and that annoying coda, “more research is needed.” Yet we depend on science for such systematic investigation – many of us don’t take the time to do the work on our own (although us experience-seekers may be an exception).

I, personally, am conflicted about the utility and direction of science, as I wrote even in 1974 (p 38),  at the University of Sussex,

…We have idealized science as a superior form of activity…  It is indeed political, with its institutional structures, growing membership, emergence of leaders, and the existence of a range of issue considered vital to its welfare [and reproduction].

Could it be that scientific study and analysis has useful things to tell us about our food and the way it is produced?  But food is complex, and so, no single science – or information stream -- has ever produced the one solution to any complex problem. So, while there’s a lot of junk science out there, poor advice and simplistic talk show babble, there are also some crazy good science stories that can be heard above the din. It may seem contradictory – saying don’t listen just experience, but then, listen to science. Nevertheless, the language of science is fascinating, and underlying it all is a basic premise -- that perhaps we are more alike than not. What applies to one may certainly well apply to another, e.g., the way in which fructose is metabolized in the body (via the liver). At the very least, it’s worth a look to find any widely applicable messages. Mostly I look and find conflicts, but every now and then, something resonates.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Beliefs about food and diet (ideas from FoodWISE)

Why do we eat what we eat?

Clearly, food beliefs and food choices are emotionally laden, yet much of the nutritional and health maintenance information provided to people has typically been based on scientific arguments, which include rational, abstract and objective concepts, such as nutrients and probabilities.[1]  These arguments and concepts typically are not what people listen to. Interestingly, researchers show that nutritional information (especially, scientific) and food choice are only moderately connected to each other (Wardle 1993, 72), suggesting that feelings may be just as important, if not more so.[2]

Finding Balance was certainly an attempt to find an easy, universal theory of food. Instead, I found rather conventional ideas for the time, which seemed completely common-sensical. Eat complex (whole grain and or slightly fibrous plants) and avoid fat.  Sugar was not yet verboten, although groups such as Center for Science in the Public Interest were valiantly trying. One of their most effective messages was in a film, Eat, Drink, and Be Wary, wherein 12 teaspoons of sugar were slowly dropped into an empty coke bottle, illustrating how much sugar was in 12 ounces of coca cola.

As I was writing, a colleague in my department of Biology at Loyola Marymount University, Steven Scheck (he’s now a dean at Oregon State University) read my nutrition chapter and admonished me to downplay eating carbs and make the avoid-sugar-message clearer. What could be more silly I thought? Eat less sugar? Sure, in liquid form, and sticky form, to avoid dental caries, but weight loss? (This was, of course, before the low-fat high-sugar convenience food market exploded).

I must admit that I loved the eat-complex-carbs message of the 1970s and 1980s for its simplicity and purity (no messy saturated fat). It was a diet echoed in Finding Balance.  

Clearly, ideas about diet are changing -- they change all the time.

[1]Aarnio and Lindeman Appetite 43 (2004) 65-74 Magical food and health beliefs: a portrait of believers and functions of the beliefs. Also see:

[2] Researcher Brian Wansink, too explores the affective domain, as being of prime importance in food choice.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Faculty, dean, students participate in the first Huxley cheese!

The first Huxley cheese, March 2015 (click here)

The class? A 300-level group independent study in winter 2015.
The goal? To present this fresh milk cheese to alumnae at Back-2-Bellingham in May.
Why? Because the cheese making itself taps into many Huxley areas of interest -- acidity, cation exchange, soil fertility, scientific method, microbiology, and more. It is the perfect tool for integrating such knowledge.

Spring in the Pacific Northwest

Chickens are laying at the Veteran's Farm -- Growing Veterans, which features a significant Huxley presence of farmers. The chicken on the left was attacked by an owl last year, but modern medicine and TLC cured the ailing chicken, now considered the alpha hen.

Time for Nettle pesto -- harvest with gloves, parboil, then add oil and salt (and pine nuts, parmesan, and pepper if you like)

This is also the season for eating dandelion blossoms, leaves, and roots.
See this 2011 post for the recipe:

Spring Block

23 students + 3 faculty + 1  TA -- in this hands-on intensive, we study soils, water, farms, biogeography -- and the connections among them. Today, methods of soils analysis. Friday, into the county to study soils at the Lenssen Farm, and robot-farming at Louis Bouma's on the Flynn Road in Lynden. Next week, we study energy flows, it's all Inspiration.

2015-04-08 13.16.45.jpg