Author Appearances October 21-22, 2010

Posted By admin on September 17, 2010

HSU and the College of the Redwoods are honored to host the authors of Plenty for two days in October. Planned public events (free!) are:

October 21, 2010
Authors’ Presentation, Forum Theater College of the Redwoods, Eureka Campus, 10-12 AM
Meet the Authors, Humboldt State University, Kate Buchanan Room in the University Center, 3-5 PM

October 22
“Living la Vida Locavore,” Panel Discussion
College of the Redwoods Science Night
Eurkeka Campus Life Sciences (LS) 102 – 7:00-8:00PM
Moderator: Prof. Peloso
Participants: Authors
HSU Prof. Matt Johnson
Holly Kreb, Local Farmer
Jim Regli, Local Farmer

Conscious Eating Film Series Runs in October

Posted By admin on September 17, 2010

Community and Campus Attendance is Welcome at all screenings!

Conscious Eating Video Screening and Discussion Series
hosted by HSU Library in Siemens Hall 128, October13, 20, & 27, 2010

Oct. 13 (W) 3 – 4:30pm NOURISH: FOOD + COMMUNITY Facilitator: Mira Friedman
Nourish vividly illustrates how what we choose to eat – individually and as a society – has an effect around the world, and how making more wholesome choices can improve the health of the environment, our communities and ourselves. With beautiful visuals and inspiring stories, Nourish traces our relationship to food from a global perspective and suggests the steps individuals can take to create a more sustainable food system and live more healthful lives.

*Mira Friedman is a Health Educator at HSU Health Center

Oct. 20 (W) 3pm – 5pm FOOD INC. Facilitator: Prof. Laura Hahn
Food Inc. Lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing how our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profits ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. This documentary reveals surprising–and often shocking–truths about what we eat, how it’s produced and who we have become as a nation.

*Prof. Laura Hahn teaches Communication at HSU. Her specialties are Social Advocacy, Gender & Communication.

Oct. 27 (W) 3pm – 5pm GOOD FOOD Facilitator: Prof. Sheila Steinberg
Something remarkable is happening in the fields and orchards of the Pacific Northwest: small family farmers are making a comeback. They’re growing much healthier food, and lots more food per acre, while using less energy and water than factory farms. For decades Northwest agriculture was focused on a few big crops for export. But to respond to climate change and the end of cheap energy, each region needs to produce more of its own food and to grow food more sustainably. GOOD FOOD visits producers, farmers’ markets, distributors, stores, restaurants and public officials who are developing a more sustainable food system for all.
*Prof. Sheila Steinberg teaches Sociology at HSU. Her specialties are Environmental Sociology, Globalization and Community.

This film series is part of HSU/CR Book of the Year which provides a forum to promote literacy and the free exchange of ideas among students, staff and community members. Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon has been selected for 2010 and it highlights campus and community interest in sustainability and local food production. Come meet the authors on Thursday, Oct. 21 at 3pm in Kate Buchanan Room!

Persons who wish to request disability related accommodations should contact Kumi Watanabe-Schock, HSU Library at (707)826-5656 or e-mail Some accommodations may take up to several weeks to arrange.

Guest Commentary: Book of the Year falls plenty short.

Posted By admin on August 4, 2010

by HSU Wildlife Professor Matt Johnson, July 2010

Cheap empty calories, subsidies that distort reality, and a blatant disregard for environmental facts – these are some of the reasons for the failure of our current food system. Ironically, this year’s “Book of the Year” fails for analogous reasons. The book, Plenty, by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, is a memoir of the authors’ year-long experimental attempt to evade the problems of our food system by eating foods produced within 100 miles of their home in Vancouver.

The writing is full of empty calories that entertain, but the reader is left hungry for substantive information. The book amuses with cute anecdotes of the couple’s struggles and triumphs in preparing meals devoid of familiar staples rendered unavailable by their arbitrary 100-mile rule, such as a wheatless sandwich with “bread slices” made from turnips. I laughed out loud reading about their escapade smuggling a beloved hunk of mutschli cheese across the US-Canada border. The pair also weaves into the book interesting local history of the Vancouver region and its farmers. But the reasons or potential advantages of their culinary constraints are not explained fully. Instead, their experiment comes across more like a gimmicky environmental hair shirt – voluntary discomfort to atone the environmental guilt of living in an affluent country marked by huge environmental footprints, and cheap convenient food accessible all the time, regardless of the season. A more engaging, and informative, memoir of a local eating experiment is the Kingsolvers’ Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In contrast to the more urban-oriented Plenty, the Kingsolvers’ book is enriched with stories of the family’s efforts to grow their own produce and poultry, ambitions common also in Humboldt County.

Subsidies prop up otherwise nonviable enterprises, ostensibly for the greater good. The topic of environmental and ethical considerations of food is opportune and important, and Plenty’s appeal is amplified by its timeliness; in effect, the book is subsidized by a newly emerging national food conscience. The book is divided into short chapters corresponding to months of the year, and many readers’ interest in the topic will quickly propel them through all 262 pages. But I can’t help thinking that if “food miles” wasn’t such a trendy phrase, this book would have passed by inconspicuously. In places the writing is elegant and clever; but in others it slips to hollow phrases such as, “It was, like, everything was connected.” In contrast, Michael Pollan’s far-more popular Omnivore’s Dilemma treats a similar topic but is a gripping and demanding read, written with a cogent voice and enough wit, personal investigation, and substantive analysis to engage a much larger audience, even one without a predisposition to the topic. Correspondingly, Pollan’s book hit hard, winning numerous awards and catching the attention of many well outside “green” circles.

Plenty’s most troublesome shortcoming is its disregard for the realities of carbon footprints versus other environmental impacts, efficiencies of scale, and global trade. It’s true that transporting distant foods by air across the globe to supply consumers with out-of-season produce is horribly inefficient and an unsustainable luxury. But it is simply naïve to assume that locally produced foods always have low environmental impacts. The authors irresponsibly chose to omit a more nuanced acknowledgment of the complexities of the environmental ethics of food.

For at least four reasons, distant food may sometimes be the better choice. First, transportation costs represent an average of only 11% of the total carbon footprint of foods, with production contributing 83% . Sometimes the most environmentally friendly foods are produced far away under conditions naturally favorable for the crop. This is particularly evident when the local foods involve energy-intensive methods, such as when they are grown in heated greenhouses or with conventional fertilizers (which are derived from fossil fuels). A local food item grown with synthetic fertilizer will often have a larger footprint than a distant organic one.

Second, regional environmental advantages for a distant crop can lower environmental impacts and, when coupled with large scale transportation by ship and rail or road, can outweigh the costs of transport. For example, a study in 2003 concluded that orange juice concentrate shipped in bulk from Brazil to Europe had a lower impact than local apple juice produced within Europe . Non-perishables with high calorie-to-weight ratios (such as dried grains) are some of the best candidates for efficient transportation; a fact that should have alleviated the authors’ agonizing cravings for wheat flour that they had trouble sourcing within 100 miles of Vancouver. Moreover, transportation costs include those used to get the food from the market to our homes. For perspective consider this: driving the average car just five extra miles to access locally produced onions at a farmer’s market will put as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as shipping 17 pounds of onions half way around the planet, from New Zealand to London.

Third, carbon emissions are far from the only impact of our food systems. Crops and cultivation practices locally inappropriate, such as broadcast irrigating water-demanding crops in arid regions, can hugely outweigh the carbon benefits of local production. In addition, social benefits can sometimes favor distant over local foods. Buying fair-trade-certified foods exported from developing countries can help support some of the world’s poorest farmers, and in some cases avoid social complications of locally-grown foods whose low prices are reliant on illegal laborers working in unfair conditions.

Fourth, an overemphasis on where food was produced masks inequities in the resources required to produce different types of foods. Because meats and dairy products lay one tier up the trophic pyramid from plants, unavoidable natural laws of thermodynamics mean eating them is less efficient than eating the plants themselves. Consequently, you can shrink your footprint far more by changing what you eat, rather than where the food came from. According to a 2008 report from Carnegie Mellon University, going meat- and dairy-free one day a week is more environmentally beneficial than eating locally every single day.

Of course, eating locally has many non-environmental advantages including better taste, supporting local economies, encouraging food sovereignty, and connecting people to their foods, their landscapes, and the farmers working within them. Moreover, eating foods that are local, organically produced, seasonal, and regionally appropriate will nearly always be the best choice environmentally. Indeed, I’m a strong proponent of eating seasonal food from local organic farmers. But it is naivety to hold up local eating as the environmental high ground without acknowledging the truths of natural economies. And we should expect more from a book of the year.

[1] Singer, P. and Mason, J.  2006.  The Ethics of What We Eat.  Rodale, Inc. (8/10/2010-onorder @ HSU)

[2] Schlich, E. and U. Fleissner. June 2003. Comparison of regional energy turnover with global food.  LCA Case Studies, p. 1–6.

[3] Jones, A.  Eating Oil.  2001.  Sustain & Elm Farm Research Centre. London. Case Study 2.

[4] Weber, C.L. and Matthews, H.S. 2008. Food-miles and the relative climate impacts of food choices in the United States. Environmental Science & Technology 42:3508–3513.

Related and Interesting!

Posted By admin on June 24, 2010

At the same time the authors of Plenty were living their year based on locavore ideals, author Barbara Kingsolver and her family undertook a similar year-long adventure. With her husband and two children, she relocated to a small farm in the southern Appalachians, in Virginia but close to the Kentucky state line. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life is her account of this adventure. The family undertook, beginning in March, to raise and prepare as much food as feasible to sustain their needs for a year. What was not practical to raise themselves was acquired from local farmers as much as possible.

HSU Library has the book, call number S521.5.A67 K56 2008. The Arcata Public Library has it as well, call number 641.0973 KINGSOLVE. And the HCL Main Library in Eureka has two copies of the audiobook version, call number BCD 641.0973 KINGSOLVER

They raised, gathered and preserved not only vegetables and fruit but also meat, slaughtering and freezing their own turkeys and chickens. Vegan-leaning locavores might want to read her chapter, “You Can’t Run Away on Harvest Day”, where she explains and justifies harvesting turkeys and chickens from the home flock. The case is gently and persuasively made so provides food for thought, as it were.

HSU Video Titles on Conscious Eating

Posted By admin on May 27, 2010

(compiled by Kumi Watanabe-Schock, HSU Library – all call numbers are for HSU)


With beautiful visuals and engaging stories, Nourish explores the provocative question: What’s the story of your food? By providing a “big picture” view of our food system, Nourish reveals the many ways that food connects to our environment, our health and our communities. Most importantly, Nourish offers specific action steps that viewers can take to help create a sustainable food future.


Something remarkable is happening in the fields and orchards of the Pacific Northwest: small family farmers are making a comeback. They’re growing much healthier food, and lots more food per acre, while using less energy and water than factory farms. For decades Northwest agriculture was focused on a few big crops for export. But to respond to climate change and the end of cheap energy, each region needs to produce more of its own food and to grow food more sustainably. GOOD FOOD visits producers, farmers’ markets, distributors, stores, restaurants and public officials who are developing a more sustainable food system for all.


This documentary charts the devastating ecological impact of overfishing by interweaving both local and global stories of sharply declining fish populations, including the imminent extinction of the bluefin tuna, and illuminates how our modern fishing capacities far outstrip the survival abilities of any ocean species. Scientists explain how this depletion has slipped under the public radar and outline the catastrophic future that awaits us — an ocean without fish by 2048 — if we do not adjust our fishing and consumption practices.

Lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing how our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profits ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. Reveals surprising–and often shocking–truths about what we eat, how it’s produced and who we have become as a nation. Interviewees include Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan.
KING CORN (VIDEO 6975/7317)
Ian and Curt, best friends from college on the East coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat, how we farm, and the stuff we’re really made of.

A fictionalized adaptation of the book: Fast food nation, the dark side of the all-American meal / by Eric Schlosser.

This film offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade. THE FUTURE OF FOOD examines the complex web of market and political forces that are changing what we eat as huge multinational corporations seek to control the world’s food system. The film also explores alternatives to large-scale industrial agriculture, placing organic and sustainable agriculture as real solutions to the farm crisis today.

HIGH COST OF CHEAP FOOD (VIDEO 5942 and also available from Humboldt Digital Scholar:
Michael Pollan, contributing writer for the New York Times and author of The botany of desire, lectures at Humboldt State University on Sept. 28, 2005.

Examines the intersection of food and politics in California over the last 30 years, illuminating the complex forces struggling for control of the future of California’s agriculture.

In 2003, Public Citizen sponsored a “factory farm tour” for nine farmers from around the world, in an effort to connect people who are working to stop inhumane, environmentally damaging factory farming. The tour participants came from Mexico, Brazil, Poland, France, Hungary, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Traveling by bus, they visited large hog and dairy operations, as well as family farms, in Iowa and Wisconsin.

Three discs on genetically modified foods. Disc 1: Unnatural Selection, talks about the threats of breeding genetically modified foods to the natural environment and farmers; Disc 2: Hidden Dangers in Kids Meals contains a movie explaining why genetically engineered foods are dangerous and should be removed from children’s meals, a taped lecture given by Jeffrey M. Smith to a live audience alleging that biotech companies rig research, cover up health dangers and pressure government regulators to approve foods that even FDA scientists say are unsafe, and a segment showing the dramatic results of learning and behavior at an Appleton, Wisconsin high school after switching to organic foods; Disc 3: Your’e eating what? contains the audio of a taped lecture alleging that biotech companies rig research, cover up health dangers and pressure government regulators to approve foods FDA scientists consider unsafe.

This program documents farmers’ hardships … and discusses the exacerbating effect of deforestation and urban growth. Also, potential remedies are showcased.

In Malawi, bad weather, poor governance and profiteering have combined to create famine. This film looks at the causes of, and solutions to this famine. Although many have thought foreign aid would lift the world’s poor out of poverty, there is now a growing consensus that the policies of poor countries and ineffectual bureaucracies can be major obstacles to sustainable development.

Discussion of corporate farming and its global effects.

Nine out of every ten children in Nepal suffer from some form of malnutrition, which ironically goes unnoticed. This program examines the complex causes and effects of protein energy malnutrition through the stories of people in Nepal who live with it on a daily basis. It also looks at ways of changing attitudes toward food and gender.

This film presents the history, the language, food, music, dance and spirituality of the Garifuna culture. Made in collaboration with the Garinagu of Belize and the U.S. and is a special project of Cultural Survival, an indigenous rights organization.

This video profiles Cuban farmers and scientists working to reinvent a sustainable agriculture, based on ecological principles and local knowledge rather than imported agricultural inputs. In their quest for self-sufficiency, Cubans combine time-tested traditional methods with cutting-edge biotechnology.

Shows how human desires are an essential, intricate part of natural history. The program will explore the natural history of four plants -the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato – and the corresponding human desires – sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control. This two-hour documentary begins in Michael Pollan’s garden, and roams the world, from the fields of Iowa to the apple forests of Kazakhstan, from a medical marijuana hot house to the tulip markets of Amsterdam.

When Cuba lost access to Soviet oil in the early 1900s, the country faced an immediate crisis — feeding the population — and an ongoing challenge: how to create a new low-energy society. Cuba transitioned from large, fossil-fuel intensive farming to small, less energy-intensive organic farm and urban gardens, and from a highly industrial society to a more sustainable one.” — Container.

With the mysterious arrival of Babette, a refugee from France’s civil war, life for two pious sisters and their tiny hamlet begins to change. Before long, Babette has convinced them to try something other than boiled codfish and ale bread–a gourmet French meal! Her feast scandalizes the elders, except for the visiting General. Just who is this strangely talented Babette, who has terrified this pious town with the prospect of losing their souls for enjoying too much earthly pleasure?

This has nothing to do with 100-mile diet, but it was directed by HSU alumni!

In July of 1998, two filmmakers from Northern California journeyed back to the state of Indiana to document one of the state’s local treasures: the breaded tenderloin sandwich. This documentary follows the filmmakers as they encounter some of the leading purveyors of this local culinary delicacy, and eat their way through America’s heartland.

A Little History

Posted By admin on May 11, 2010

The past choices for HSU Book of the Year:

2009-10 – Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

2008-09 – Parable of the Sower by Olivia Butler

2007-08 – Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

2006-07 – A Lesson before Dying by Ernest Gaines

2005-06 -  Grand Avenue by Greg Sarris & Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

In case you wondered…

And, since HSU partners with College of the Redwoods to choose, Teach and promote the Book of the Year, here is the CR Past Book of the Year Selections & Author Visits.

HSU Book of the Year Class to Study Plenty

Posted By admin on May 11, 2010

HSU’s English Department will once again offer a book club format one credit class focused on the Book of the Year.  Prof. Laurie Winter will be the instructor this year.  Students and community members are welcome.  Register for ENGL 480, CRN 41547.    The class will meeting Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 6-6:50 PM to arrange small discussion groups designed to fit your schedule.

Plenty is 2010-11 Choice

Posted By admin on May 10, 2010

This year the Book of the Year committees at College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University have chosen Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet by James Mackinnon & Alisa Smith as the title for 2010-11. The book presents the voices and experiences of a young Northwest couple grappling with issues of food production, sustainability and globalization in a year-long adventure spent in attempting to eat a fully local diet. In the process they reconnect with the people and places that produce food in their region, and enable the reader to grasp the extent to which food production and eating habits of North Americans have changed over the
last century.

The choice highlights campus interest in sustainability and local farming, dovetails with current community interest in highlighting local specialty food production, and offers accessible and appealing reading for incoming freshmen. The committees are working on bringing the authors to the area in the fall for presentations.  The tentative date for their appearance is October 21, 2010.