Beautiful music in the studio and hog trouble in Michigan

April 1, 2012

Appearing live in studio: Tracy DeMarco and Brian Bradbury!

Well, it IS April Fool’s Day, after all, and I didn’t want to spoil the fun of bringing a real, live harp into the studio. It so happens that Tracy DeMarco is a fan of the show and follows me on Facebook. Here’s her own Facebook page. When I realized that she plays the harp and was planning the launch of her new CD as The Glass Hour, I challenged her to show up in the WCPT studios and do background music for my radio show. The fact that it was on April 1 is purely coincidental. Really. She said that she would bring in keyboardist Brian Bradbury, as well. Works for me.

Here’s more on Tracy:

Tracy performs all original music on electro-acoustic harp in the Chicago and metro areas for private and public events. Her style is ambient, atmospheric, jazz and world influenced, composed and improvisational. She currently resides in Kankakee, IL, and has been in the Chicago area for over 6 years working also in the graphic arts fields. She has been a musician since childhood, and performer on harp over 10 yrs.

Tracy has joined forces with many other talented area Chicago musicians, including jazz violinist Sam “Savoir Fair” Williams and Avant-Jazz Composer/Director, Renee Baker as part of the Chicago Modern Orchestra Project. In 2004, Tracy formed the recording project, “The Glass Hour” joined by drummer/guitarist Ed Nudd and talented acoustic guitarist Matt Schneider in creating the trio’s first CD, “Amaranthine” – a unique harmony of acoustic and electronic ambience. After 2005, Tracy continued The Glass Hour as solo project, building upon previous evocative, and storybook atmospheres with added electronic orchestration, new vocals, harp solos, and experimental tones. Guitarist/keyboardist Brian Bradbury joined The Glass Hour in 2010, and the pair are currently working towards their first CD release. Tracy remains the primary composer of the project.

I hope you enjoy her music. It’s quite beautiful and relaxing. Not like me at all.

Lights, camera, grow ’em! Dig In® Chicago shoots this week

The next few days should be pretty interesting. Starting at about 6:00 a.m. on Monday, Jennifer Brennan and I and the Dig In® Chicago video crew will start shooting our first episode at the fabulous Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. We’ll be talking to director and head horticulturist Jennifer Davit. On Tuesday morning, it’s over to the Shedd Aquarium to visit with horticultural manager Christine Nye, who worked with plantsman Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm to create the sustainable gardens surrounding the world famous institution.

Wednesday afternoon, we cross the sidewalk to the Field Museum of Natural History to tape a very interesting project called The Edible Treasures Garden. It’s a community vegetable garden that’s a partnership among The Field Museum, Jewell Events Catering and The Peterson Garden Project. The garden’s mission is to demonstrate urban vegetable gardening at one of Chicago’s great landmarks. The garden will be tended by museum employees who donate their time.

We’ll also be visiting a number of independent garden centers and other companies in various suburbs. It’s jam-packed few days when we will create three full half-hour programs in three days. This is TV-to-go, folks!

Meanwhile, don’t forget to Like us on Facebook!

Is there a “War on Humanely Produced Food” in Michigan?

You might remember that just a few weeks ago, I talked to farmer Karen Hudson, who is with Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water and Socially Responsible Agricultural Project and has been fighting factory farms since 1996,

At that time, she talked to me about a so-called “Ag-gag” law that had just passed in Iowa and was being considered in Illinois. The Illinois version never made it out of committee, but it opened my eyes to the way that Big Ag is fighting to preserve concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) all over the country.

Now it looks as though a new front has opened up in the “War on Humanely Produced Food” In an article titled Michigan CAFOs Conspire with Government to Ban Outdoor Pig Farming, writer Kimberly Hartke reports on a new order by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) that targets destructive “feral” species for elimination across the state. But it doesn’t stop with searching open areas for feral hogs. It manages to lump heritage breeds raised by small-scale farms into the category of “feral”.

That means that as of today, April 1, 2012, heritage pork producers could find themselves in violation of the law simply by owning and raising their own farm animals. These same farmers could face criminal charges and find the State of Michigan destroying their herds. Natural News paints a stark picture:

In other words, there is nothing sensational or overblown about the claims made that the state of Michigan has basically declared war on all pig breeds besides the select few raised by large-scale factory farms. The DNR’s approach to the situation is beyond misguided — it is a blatantly-unscientific assault on small-scale pig farmers across the state of Michigan, many of which face being completely put out of business.

“The DNR’s thinking is irrational,” writes Senator Darwin L. Booher from Michigan’s 35th District in a recent article on the issue. “The department says we must ban certain pigs because the state has a feral hog problem (pigs running at-large or outside a fence). But since all pigs outside of a fence are feral and the DNR cannot genetically differentiate between swine, the department decided to ban certain pigs in Michigan simply due to their appearance.”

One of the farmers who will be profoundly affected by this new law is Mark Baker of Bakers Green Acres in Marion, Michigan. Go to that website to see his testimony on Friday to the Michigan Senate Agriculture Committee. Baker has filed a lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and its director Rodney Stokes.

Obviously, people other than farmers will be affected by this draconian decision, including fine dining chefs and people who choose to buy humanely raised meat for their family table.

Hartke, who is publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation, a leading nutrition education non-profit that promotes sustainable agriculture and traditional foods, sees a connection and possibly a conspiracy:

The pork confinement operations in Michigan have come out in favor of this new law.  As the public becomes increasingly aware of the eco-damage, filth and animal cruelty on these mega farms, rather than clean up their act they are pressuring government agencies to thwart alternative production models. So sensitive to the growing public concern about their practices, in some states pork producers are introducing Ag-Gag legislation to keep the public from seeing how their food is produced.

According to the USDA,  all together, the 2009 small farms in Michigan raise less than 500  pigs. And, 1725 of those farms have less than 25 pigs. In contrast, a typical factory farm would have several barns, with upwards of 5000 hogs under each roof!

Another day, another attack on our environment. I’m pleased to have Mark Baker and Karen Hudson on the show with me this morning.

Last but not least…catching up on news stories

  • I’ve been warning Chicago gardeners that the 80 degree temperatures were not going to last and that, in Jennifer Brennan’s words, “If you plant early, you’ll plant often.” Now I’m getting backup from the University of Missouri.And if you’re wondering how fruits will be affected by the weather, here’s someting from Chris Doll at Illinois Fruit and Vegetable News:

    What a year already! Weather, primarily warm weather, has been a hot topic, especially for the past month. I have not averaged the daily temperatures, but the media report that March has been the warmest on record, with only three days to go (and all above 70 degrees). There have been only two freezing temps (27 and 29 degrees F) on March 3 and 4. As a result, all phenology developments are the earliest on record. Apricots began blooming on March 7, peaches were in full bloom on March 12, and first bloom of apple was on March 20. The differences in days for these crops from 2007 (our most recent early spring that saw an Easter weekend freeze and widespread crop loss) are 17 days earlier for apricots, 14 days for peaches, and 11 days for apples, which makes them at least 3 to 4 weeks ahead of “normal.” Two big questions are being asked: Will there be any killing freezes? When will harvests begin? As per a press release from Smalls Orchard in Mondamin, Iowa, if the crop survives the killing freezes, will Jonathan harvest begin in the heat of early August?

    More comparisons with the 2007 year with the Easter Sunday freeze that was devastating in this area: Our March 2012 above-average warm spell began on March 13, and since that time the daily high temps were above 74 degrees 14 of 16 days. In 2007, the warm spell began on March 21 and continued for 14 consecutive days before five days of freezing temps beginning on April 4. Many fruit areas in the Midwest and eastern parts of the country had freeze warnings this week, but in the St. Louis area, 50 degrees was the minimum for the week. It remains to be seen whether summer will bring predicted heat and low rainfall.

  • Coyotes are back in the news. This article from the American Bird Conservancy reports that when it comes to snack time, coyotes are often looking for cats. The same organization reports that migrating birds are returning early. Quelle suprise!
  • Oh, great. The weird spring weather might just have caused a maple syrup shortage. Start stockpiling.
  • Crab apple trees are wonderful, but Pat Hill reminds us that we have some terrific native trees that are spectacular at this time of year. I need to have Pat on my show soon.
  • Two new European studies published in the peer-reviewed journal Science, implicate neonicotinoid insecticides in honey bee losses. As usual, the chemical companies question the data. Blah, blah, blah.
  • At long last, the FDA has acted to reduce the routine use of agricultural antibiotics.
  • Finally, for those of you who get a headache when trying to sort out the terms “open- pollinated,” “F-1 hybrid” and “GMO,” here’s an article called Seed Buying 101: A Seed Gardener’s Glossary from the Home Garden Seed Association.