And a very good morning to everyone; Joyous Easter to everyone who celebrates.  It’s been an amazing weather week at Chez Siberia with several days in the 70s and 80s (soon to be followed by several days in the 50s, which is definitely more like it in terms of April weather for Upstate New York). (Cue the sound of teletype machines)

To the news!!

Certainly we all have sort of anecdotal feelings that there is a growing movement in terms of establishing farmers markets. The USDA actually has an update which shows that basically over the past 10 years, there has been an almost 300% increase in the number of operating farmers markets in the US.

For more information about USDA programs targeted at growing farmers markets and local foods, see here at USDA’s website

A Wellington, NZ-based design team has come up with a gardening solution for folks who live in high rise apartments, called The Plant Room. This structure ‘clips on’ to the outside walls of apartment buildings and provides basically an exposed greenhouse structure which can be used to provide growing space for apartment dwellers.

British Charity, Growing Organic, has a new program which I think might be something we can push here, the One Pot Pledge, whereby folks who lack growing skills but who are enthusiastic about learning how (but also don’t want to get in over their heads) are matched up with experienced growers for guidance. All they have to do is grow one edible plant in one pot. There are, of course, a vast range of plants that require time to production ranges from 30 days (for something like lettuce) to several months (for things like peppers and tomatoes), but the point is that all they have to do is care for one plant. An easy start and something which I think we could use here as well.

Venture capitalists in that West Coast den of financial iniquity, Silicon Valley, are smelling opportunities in…sustainable agriculture. There was a conference in Palo Alto, CA last week. Exciting stuff.

For all of the flash and dash of the new US television reality show, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution”, there is growing support for what he is attempting to do in putting real food in front of children at school lunch time. This week, the Royal Economics Society released a comprehensive study performed on 13,000 children, from 88 schools, comparing the results (academic test and otherwise) of children who had been on the new menu plans promoted by Oliver vs. children who had not. For children on the new menus: Academic performance went up; absences went down. Use of inhalers went down. Disruptive behaviors went down. They are still trying to figure out why the children at the very bottom did not improve as much as other students, but they did show some improvement as well.

And from the “Sinclair Lewis Must be Gyrating in His Grave” news, an article from the Washington Post from earlier this week raised the red flag on an issue that we’ve discussed here at FDL several times: Fraudulent labeling of foods and the seeming incapacity of the FDA to do anything about it. “John Spink, an expert on food and packaging fraud at Michigan State University, estimates that 5 to 7 percent of the U.S. food supply is affected but acknowledges the number could be greater. "We know what we seized at the border, but we have no idea what we didn’t seize," he said. The job of ensuring that food is accurately labeled largely rests with the Food and Drug Administration. But it has been overwhelmed in trying to prevent food contamination, and fraud has remained on a back burner.”

And in microscopically local news, the photo shows the soil temperature in the bed of my garden that I’d put under old sheets of glass we had laying around from earlier this week. Needless to say, I sowed starter rows of broccoli, lettuce, kale, chard, beets, carrots, and peas to take advantage of the warmer soil and to get a jump start on my vegetable garden. To say this is early is to put it mildly – with climate change, we are now able to get things in (hardy things, but veggies nonetheless) a full 4-5 weeks earlier than we did when we first moved to Chez Siberia 25 years ago. Not a hoax, folks.

(photo at the top, courtesy of Okinawa Soba)