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Urban Country Fair Saturday, Farm Aid Concert Sunday

September 30, 2009 Environment, Events/Meetings, Farmers' Markets Comments Off on Urban Country Fair Saturday, Farm Aid Concert Sunday

This coming weekend the fine folks from Farm Aid will be in Town.  Sunday October 4th I will be out at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (aka Riverport) to see the annual concert featuring Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Dave Matthews and many others (see lineup). The concert can be viewed on DirecTV or streaming via FarmAid.org.

Saturday’s festivities are far away from the suburban concert setting.  Farm Aid will partner with local organizations to present an Urban Country Fair in Tower Grove Park in South St. Louis:

On Saturday, October 3, Farm Aid is inviting St. Louisans to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.

The free HOMEGROWN Urban Country Fair, curated by Farm Aid’s online community, HOMEGROWN.org, will feature exhibits and workshops showcasing ways that everybody can get involved with good food. From urban farming to composting, beekeeping, home brewing and all things in between, the Fair promises a day of hands-on, interactive experiences. Farm Aid’s partners for the event include All Along Press; The Greenhorns; KDHX Community Media; Local Harvest Grocery, Cafe and Catering; and the Tower Grove Farmers Market.

The fair will feature vendors celebrating modern homesteading and the connection to good food, farmers and the earth. Fair goers will also enjoy live music by The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir and The Northwoods.

Exhibits will include:
The Burning Kumquat Urban Farm – Urban farming
The Greenhorns – Getting started in farming and seed cleaning
Organic Valley – Butter making and young farmers
Floating Farms – Aquaculture
Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association – Beekeeping!
YellowTree Farm – Urban homesteading
Schlafly Beer – Home brewing
Upcycle Exchange – Crafting and repurposing
Earthdance – crowd-sourced mural painting
Rachel Bigler – Fermentation

WHEN: October 3, 2009, 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

WHERE: Tower Grove Farmers’ Market, Tower Grove Park, West of the Pool Pavilion

Farm Aid founded HOMEGROWN.org to be a place where the love for food and the land evolves, deepens, and becomes something more fulfilling. The HOMEGROWN.org social network is a community of like-minded do-it-yourselfers who can share the bigger stories that food has to share.

Farm Aid’s mission:

Farm Aid’s mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews host an annual concert to raise funds to support Farm Aid’s work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family-farmed food. Since 1985, Farm Aid, with the support of the artists who contribute their performances each year, has raised nearly $36 million to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take action to change the dominant system of industrial agriculture and promote food from family farms.

– Steve Patterson


Urban Homesteading Eliminates the Green Acres City vs Country Issue

Forty-four years ago today the CBS TV series Green Acres was first broadcast.  I loved repeats of this series during the 1970s.  Part of me wanted to live in the urban penthouse while another part wanted to try the farming thing.  The show started with Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor) crying over the prospect of leaving the city to follow her husband’s dream of farming the land:


So why am I talking about a campy 60s sitcom?  Last night I listened to Amanda Doyle interview a father (Jules Dervaes) and daughter (Anais Dervaes) on KDHX taking about their urban homestead in Pasadena California where they use their typical urban lot to grow food for themselves and sell the rest to others.

(click image above to view website)
(click image above to view website)

Lisa Douglas didn’t need to be dragged out of the city for Oliver Douglas to farm, a small plot of land in the city is sufficient.   Their website is http://www.pathtofreedom.com/.

The podcast of the interview should be posted on KDHX shortly and is usually available for a week or so.  The podcasts are also on iTunes.

Speaking of farms, today is “Fresh from the Family Farm, a restaurant event to benefit Farm Aid.  Participating restaurants will donate 20% of their September 15 profits to Farm Aid.”  I visited The Terrace View in Citygarden for lunch and will do another restaurant on the participant for dinner tonight.  Will be either Local Harvest Cafe, Stellina Pasta or Pi.

– Steve Patterson


Suburban Sprawl Descends Into Uncomfortable Middle Age

Most would agree that West St. Louis County is the poster child for urban sprawl. Over many decades, St. Louis development has crept westward through St. Louis County and into St. Charles County, the current epicenter of unrestrained sprawl. As time has passed, much of central and western St. Louis County have begun the inevitable cycle of aging and renewal that is associated with older urban areas.

My focus of interest is primarily on what urban planners refer to as the “second-ring western suburbs” of St. Louis. They are a microcosm of multiple older rural communities from the mid-to-late 1800s that have been folded into larger, newer cities over the past 50 years. They are all facing the need for urban redevelopment in the face of overwhelming evidence that many of the ideas embraced by the original suburban developers have not turned out so well.

In my city, Maryland Heights, this means a city without a town center. If asked, most people would cite either the Dorsett-McKelvey Road commercial district or Westport as our gathering places. One is a basic commercial crossroads and the other is an aging mixed -use development. Both are modestly successful and neither one represents a true central nexus for residents.

Part of the problem is that Maryland Heights is an anomaly in suburban development: it hosts over 80,000 workers during the day and houses only 26,000 residents at night. The reverse of a bedroom community, it often finds itself beholden to business and commercial interests at the cost of the residents.

This was clearly present in the 2008 fight that residents waged against development in the Howard Bend area of Maryland Heights. This area contains the flood plain around Creve Coeur Park and land on either side of the Maryland Heights Expressway from I-70 to the Page Avenue extension. Residents didn’t want to see a massive development (initially arranged around a proposed Walmart) that would back up against Creve Coeur Park. Maryland Park, as the proposed development was called, was set to build a bland suburban mixed-use project that was fully oriented toward cars.

The City of Maryland Heights has spent 20 years working on a comprehensive plan for Howard Bend that is the embodiment of urban sprawl focused on building commercial warehouses and one (or more) large-scale developments for big-box stores and retail. During the Howard Bend fight, residents became fully aware of what was contained in the comprehensive plan. While the process was public, the lack of effective public engagement by the city over 20 years had the unfortunate outcome of surprised residents visibly upset about the Howard Bend development plan. In fairness, residents also neglected their responsibilities by failing to interact with city government and make their wishes known.

Citizens who fail to monitor and influence their city governments are likely to be surprised and angry when the businesses who do engage with the city are given top priority. To combat this usual state of affairs, a group of concerned citizens originally organized under the flag of SaveCreveCoeur.com has developed into a more permanent organization called Maryland Heights Residents for Responsible Growth. As part of the steering committee, we have launched a new website for the community development organization at MarylandHeightsResidents.com

In the future, I will be contributing posts about the more universal aspects of the issues facing second-ring, western St. Louis County suburbs. Issues I intend to cover include:

  • Cities without town centers
  • Stagnant population growth
  • Diminishing open spaces
  • Flood plain development
  • Aging apartment complexes and housing stock
  • Public-engagement successes and failures
  • Community-development issues and specific projects being pursued
  • The role of residents in guiding city development

I look forward to hearing from you. Please use the comments section below or email me directly with topics you’d like to see addressed in future posts.

– Deborah Moulton


Climate Change Indeed

September 14, 2009 Environment 7 Comments

You couldn’t tell from our unusually pleasant St. Louis Summer, but the planet is slowly warming.  It is this overall warming of the planet – mostly covered by water — that produced jacket weather in August.  No heat, no humidity.  I’ve seen numerous comments on Facebook and elsewhere saying Al Gore was wrong.  ‘See, it is cool in August, Global Warming isn’t real.’ Cool temperatures with little to no humidity should send off alarms.  The world climate is changing, no doubt in my mind.

Below is a chart showing our averages:

Source: National Weather Service
Source: National Weather Service

Note that July is typically warmer than August but as we  know it is August that usually has the suffocating humidity.

The USA’s summer was cooler than average in 2009, for only the second time this decade, according to data released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Several Midwest states — including Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota— recorded one of their 10 coldest summers on record. Northwestern Pennsylvania recorded its coldest summer ever. Climate records date to 1895.

The chill continued into August, as temperatures were below normal across the Midwest, Plains and parts of the South. More than 300 low-temperature records were set across the Midwest during the last two days of August.

On the other end of the spectrum, it was one of the hottest, driest summers on record in parts of south Texas, according to the climate center.

“They’ve been fighting a really bad drought situation there,” Arndt said. McAllen, Texas, broke its all-time record for highest-average summer temperature.

Overall, the South, Southeast and Southwest regions were drier than average this summer. Arizona had its third-driest summer, while both South Carolina and Georgia had their sixth-driest.  (Source: USA Today)

Some may still argue the climate change we are experiencing is natural and that man is not the cause.  I’ll concede that man’s pollution may not be the sole cause but in my mind it is a major contributor.  While we have been fortunate in St. Louis  — I had my windows open much of August — other areas had above normal temperatures.  Just because we had a fantastic summer doesn’t mean we can dismiss the reality of the changing climate.

The Farmers’ Almanac is predicting a cold winter for many of you.

The venerable almanac’s 2010 edition says numbing cold will predominate in the country’s midsection, from the Rocky Mountains in the West to the Appalachians in the East.

Managing Editor Sandi Duncan says it’s going to be an “ice cold sandwich.”

“We feel the middle part of the country’s really going to be cold — very, very cold, very, very frigid, with a lot of snow,” she said. “On the East and West coasts, it’s going to be a little milder. Not to say it’s going to be a mild short winter, but it’ll be milder compared to the middle of the country.”

The almanac’s forecast, however, is at odds with the National Weather Service, which is calling for warmer-than-normal temperatures across much of the country because of an El Nino system in the tropical Pacific Ocean, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md.  (Source: AP)

A December 2008 article, What’s in a Name? Global Warming vs. Climate Change, from the NASA website clarifies the terms.  Below is an excerpt:

To a scientist, global warming describes the average global surface temperature increase from human emissions of greenhouse gases. Its first use was in a 1975 Science article by geochemist Wallace Broecker of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory: “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?”1

Broecker’s term was a break with tradition. Earlier studies of human impact on climate had called it “inadvertent climate modification.”2 This was because while many scientists accepted that human activities could cause climate change, they did not know what the direction of change might be. Industrial emissions of tiny airborne particles called aerosols might cause cooling, while greenhouse gas emissions would cause warming. Which effect would dominate?

For most of the 1970s, nobody knew. So “inadvertent climate modification,” while clunky and dull, was an accurate reflection of the state of knowledge.

The first decisive National Academy of Science study of carbon dioxide’s impact on climate, published in 1979, abandoned “inadvertent climate modification.” Often called the Charney Report for its chairman, Jule Charney of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, declared: “if carbon dioxide continues to increase, [we find] no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible.”3

In place of inadvertent climate modification, Charney adopted Broecker’s usage. When referring to surface temperature change, Charney used “global warming.” When discussing the many other changes that would be induced by increasing carbon dioxide, Charney used “climate change.”

Within scientific journals, this is still how the two terms are used. Global warming refers to surface temperature increases, while climate change includes global warming and everything else that increasing greenhouse gas amounts will affect.

During the late 1980s one more term entered the lexicon, “global change.” This term encompassed many other kinds of change in addition to climate change. When it was approved in 1989, the U.S. climate research program was embedded as a theme area within the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

But global warming became the dominant popular term in June 1988, when NASA scientist James E. Hansen had testified to Congress about climate, specifically referring to global warming. He said: “global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and the observed warming.”4 Hansen’s testimony was very widely reported in popular and business media, and after that popular use of the term global warming exploded. Global change never gained traction in either the scientific literature or the popular media.

But temperature change itself isn’t the most severe effect of changing climate. Changes to precipitation patterns and sea level are likely to have much greater human impact than the higher temperatures alone. For this reason, scientific research on climate change encompasses far more than surface temperature change. So “global climate change” is the more scientifically accurate term. Like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we’ve chosen to emphasize global climate change on this website, and not global warming.

Here is a great UK Climate Change TV ad:


Further Reading:

The critics might be right, our climate change may have nothing to do with man’s pollution.  But why chance it?

– Steve Patterson


River des Peres Trash Bash on the Greenway

Cleaning up the planet sounds good but what can one person do?

River des Peres at Gravois

A week from Saturday there is an event where you can make a difference:

September 19th 2009 at 8:00 am
The River des Peres Trash Bash will have clean-up sites throughout the entire River des Peres watershed. Several of the clean-up areas are along Great Rivers Greenway District trail projects. The clean-up base area, as well as registration and after clean-up festivities, will be along the River des Peres Greenway Trail on River des Peres Blvd between Morganford and Gravois (Fultz Field area) in St. Louis City [map link]. The clean-up promotes the connection of land and water through neighborhood and stream clean-ups, educating the public on how they can Make a Difference in their neighborhood, and the development and promotion of partnerships along River des Peres. Please come out and join us!

This event is a good excuse to get to know the River des Peres better.  Volunteers are asked to register in advance.  Now if only there was a way to volunteer to help get some real water in the river 24/7.

– Steve Patterson