The Ecological dinner was a “Pride of New York” meal, featuring local dishes from across the state–Buffalo to Mexico, back down to our very own Dinosaur Barbeque (serving vegan chili to boot), down to the in-season apple crisp.
Last night’s keynote speaker was Matthew Potteiger, Professor of Landscape Architecture at SUNY ESF and co-author, with Jamie Purinton, of Landscape Narratives: Design Practices for Telling Stories. His teaching, research and community projects focus on linking food systems with social and ecological systems. This work includes comparative studies of the landscape and food systems of Japanese, Brazilian and North American cities. He has worked on numerous projects aimed at creating a more sustainable and socially just regional food system including helping to establish Syracuse Grows and coordinating local food system stakeholder groups. Foraging is his favorite food procurement strategy.
Professor Potteiger spoke about “eating ecologies” and how food is less of a thing than a series of relationships. He elaborated on systems of producing food, and how many steps there are between energy inputs to produce a given food product and its intended consumer.
Unfortunately for Professor Potteiger, the show was stolen from him as soon as he introduced his native friend, the paw-paw, and invited the audience to try some of this exotic delicacy that grows right here in Syracuse.
Licking our chops, we moved on to four small group discussions*:
Methods for eating local: personal garden, farmer’s markets, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture)
Foods we can’t get locally that we love: chocolate, seaweed, coffee. These foods are close to our hearts and it would be especially difficult for us to give them up.
Eating local foods makes us pay attention to the seasons.
How local is local? Is local only in New York State? The whole New England region? A radius of a few miles from our homes?
Are hydroponics a solution? Energy inputs must be considered.
Locally produced vs. native: Is one better than the other?
As children, many of us never knew which foods were in season or where food came from.
Some say that even local food is produced with petroleum, so energy used for transportation is negligible.
Bonnie described early methods of hybridizing corn that employed Iowa teenagers when she was young.
The local food movement will change the landscape.
Organic vs. local
- Fewer food miles
- Supporting local economy
- Can grow using organic methods without paying for certification
- Can Central New York grow enough food?
- We need to consider what’s seasonal: Do we really need bananas?
- Local food tastes better
Rebecca (from Hong Kong) would see fish fresh and alive at markets.
More information needed on menus and food labels.
Appreciation for Professor Potteiger’s food system diagrams, breaking down their complexity.
Students from the nutrition program say that the nutritional difference between organically grown food and food grown with pesticides/inorganic fertilizer inputs are not great (???)
Convenience as an obstacle to ethical eating
- It isn’t realistic to try to go 100% local. Little by little.
Ethical eating for college students is very different!
- Students aren’t here for the summer, don’t have a car, and can’t go to Regional Market.
- They feel they can do their part by talking about it
- It is unfortunate that the cheapest foods are the least healthy
Syracuse University tried Meatless Monday, but the meat industry somehow prevented this!
Friends who eat meat are sometimes defensive and threatened by vegetarians, perhaps due to a lack of exposure to the wonders of vegetarian foods.
It is difficult to influence the food system at SU. Some dining halls could serve local applesauce.
This seminar was helpful for raising consciousness about food.
Members discuss strategies and favorites in foraging:
- Wild leeks
- Water cress
- Juniper berries
- Sassafras roots
Could you forage on your land to feed yourself year-round?
- People used to do it
- Preserving through winter
- Jerusalem artichokes grow underground and are delicious throughout the winter
- Asian carp
- Garlic mustard
- Drop a certain number of berries to replenish population
- Plants need us to propagate them: We are a keystone species
- Gardening to encourage pollinators
*Note from Caroline: Please keep in mind that these were opinions expressed and do not necessarily represent facts. For example, Syracuse University had Meatless Monday programing two years ago, but I can’t confirm that it is active–ask Amber Coon, representative from Syracuse Animal Rights Organization, at the next seminar. The SU dining halls are actually doing more than you might expect; check here for their commitment to sustainability, and contact someone about how much local food is served (it’s more than zero).