Organic Bytes
Health, Justice and Sustainability News 
January 14, 2008 -  Issue #158
In This Issue
Alert Update of the Week:Vilsack and Riddle
Sustainability Alert: How Much Change Will There Be Inauguration Day?
Encouraging Statistics of the Week: Farmers Markets Go 'Boom'
Essay of the Week:The Urban Homestead
Fair Trade Alert of the Week:...Tell Millstone Coffee: Unfair Trade is Rotten!
Web Video of the Week: "I'm Broke! Why Buy Organic?"
Health News of the Week: Medicinal Plants Face Extinction
Headlines and Articles of the Week
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Alert Update of the Week:
Vilsack and Riddle

Vilsack Despite a deluge of over 100,000 emails and petition signatures from organic consumers and farmers objecting to the appointment of biotech and biofuels booster Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture, the Senate is scheduled to begin confirmation hearings for Vilsack today.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is disappointed in this controversial appointment, and we are calling on our national network and allies to pressure Obama to move beyond "agribusiness as usual" by drafting Jim Riddle to head the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the department that oversees organic food, farming, and standards. Riddle is an organic farmer from Minnesota, former Chair of the National Organic Standards Board, and a longtime advocate for sustainable and organic farming. With Riddle heading up the AMS, farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture, transition to organic programs, and the National Organic Program will finally receive the attention, technical assistance, and funding they deserve.

Take action

Sustainability Alert:
How Much Change Will There Be Inauguration Day?
On January 8, the US Senate began confirmation hearings for President-Elect Obama's cabinet. The Salt Lake Tribune sums things up neatly in a headline indicating Obama's Cabinet may be short on reformers. According to Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association. "The latest polls show that 60 percent of Americans say we're in serious straits and need some major changes, but he's going to have to be pushed if we're going to see anything other than small change." Please follow the link below to learn more about the nominees and send letters to President-Elect Obama and your Senators. The Senate is expected to confirm all the nominees in a floor vote on Inauguration Day, so there's not much time left for public input.
Take Action
Encouraging Statistics of the Week:
Farmers Markets Go "Boom"
Farmers Markets

Use the OCA's 'Buying Guide' to find Farmers Markets, CSAs and organic goodies near you.

Essay of the Week:
The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living...
Urban Farming "Sick of flavorless, genetically modified, pesticide-drenched franken-vegetables? It's time to start growing food in your back yard. Before you start thinking that you have to move somewhere else to grow your own food, take another look around. With a couple of notable exceptions, American cities sprawl. They are full of wasted space. As a homesteader, you will begin to see any open space as a place to grow food. This includes front yards as well as backyards, vacant lots, parkways, alleyways, patios, balconies, window boxes, fire escapes and rooftops. Urban homesteading is an affirmation of the simple pleasures of life. When you spend a Saturday morning making a loaf of bread, or go out on a summer evening after work to sit with your chickens, or take a deep breath of fresh-cut basil, you unplug yourself from the madness. Many of us spend a lot of each day in front of a computer. Homesteading hooks us into the natural world and the passing of the seasons, and reminds us of our place within the greater cycle of life."  ----  Source

Learn more about OCA's "Organic Transitions" campaign designed to mobilize communities and consumers to develop transition strategies in the new era of Peak Oil and climate change, with organic food & farming providing the healthy cornerstone for a new green economy.
Fair Trade Alert of the Week:
Tell Millstone Coffee: Unfair Trade is Rotten!

Millstone Coffee has multiple lines of organic and fair trade coffee, but it is currently using a rogue company called Oak Harbor Freight Lines as its distribution hub in the Seattle area. Oak Harbor Freight Lines workers in Oregon, Washington and Idaho have been on strike for four months now in protest of the freight company's violations of U.S. labor laws, as well as hostile efforts by the company to intimidate workers. Oak Harbor even cut off health benefits to its retirees.

Take action
Web Video of the Week:
"I'm Broke! Why Buy Organic?"

During these times of economic hardship, many green-minded shoppers are questioning whether it's worth it to cough up the extra dough to buy organic food. This entertaining video provides an excellent summary of the benefits of organic food and farming. If you have friends or family that are skeptical of organics, shoot 'em a link to this video, and they may end up joining you on your next trip to the local co-op.


Health News of the Week: Medicinal Plants Face Extinction
According to a report this week from the international conservation group Plantlife, 15,000 of the world's 50,000 plants used as medicines now face extinction. Not only are most of the patented, synthetic pharmaceutical drugs used in Western medicine originally derived from naturally occurring medicinal herbs, in addition, the majority of the world's population in the developing world still obtains most of their medicines from plants. Scientists warn that this mass extinction is a result of over-harvesting, loss of habitat, pollution, and invasive species. Sara Oldfield, the secretary general of Botanic Gardens Conservation International says, "The loss of medicinal plant diversity is a quiet disaster."

Learn more in OCA's Health Resource and Action Center

Sustainability Tip of the Week:
Saving Energy at The Fridge
TipsThe average refrigerator consumes more energy than any other household appliance. We spend over $10 billion in the U.S., alone, to supply energy to our household refrigerators. The following tips will save you money and reduce your carbon (energy) footprint:

1) Clean the filter and coils annually: Most Americans rarely, if ever, get around to vacuuming out the filter and coils on the back of the fridge. A dusty coil can increase energy consumption by 20 percent or more.

2) Keep it full but not stuffed: A fridge and freezer will be able to retain their coolness better if they're full. If you're not at full capacity, place a few containers of water in the freezer.

3) Think about what you want before you open the fridge. Every time you open the fridge to browse for a snack, you consume  around of 9 to 13 watt/hours, which is enough power to light a 60-watt bulb for 10 minutes.

4) Let hot items cool before placing them in the refrigerator.

5) Defrost the freezer regularly.

6) Check the door gasket for a tight seal.

7) Cover liquids and foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.

8) If your fridge is older than 1993, get a new one. You're spending so much on your electric bill, you'll actually save money. New models use less energy than a 75-watt light bulb. Be sure to look for the Energy Star label.


We'd like to send a special thanks to all of you who took part in OCA's end-of-year donation drive. We still need to raise $50,000 in January to guarantee our financial stability for the coming year. We look forward to continuing to fight for health, justice and sustainability in 2009!

Donate Here

Headlines of the Week:
Headlines(1) Investing in a New Food System Should be Part of the Economic-Spending Package

(2) Rachel's Democracy & Health News #993 - Can Chemicals be Regulated?

(3) Leonardo Boff: Suicidal Tendencies

(4) Victory Gardens Sprout Up Again

(5) Top Censored Press Stories of 2008

Let OCA sift through the media smog and bring you the top new and analysis of the day. The OCA website has 10 or more news articles posted each day, and a library of over 40,000 articles covering issues including health, justice, food and farming, politics, and the environment. Bookmark

Message From OCA Sponsor:
Sign Petition to Repower, Refuel and Rebuild America
Take Action After eight years of failed energy policy, we finally have the opportunity to make a clean break with dirty energy. But to make it happen, president-elect Obama must take the lead in his first 100 days. That's why the League of Conservation Voters is partnering with other environmental groups to send him the strong message that now is the time to move to 100% clean electricity, create 5 million new clean energy jobs, cut our oil dependence in half, and cut global warming pollution. America has a fresh start. This is our chance to turn things around. Sign the petition and help Repower, Refuel, and Rebuild America.

Please forward this publication to family and friends, place it on web sites, print it, duplicate it and post it freely. Knowledge is power!

ORGANIC BYTES is written and edited by Craig Minowa and Ronnie Cummins
and is a publication of:
6771 South Silver Hill Drive
Finland, Minnesota 55603
Phone: (218)- 226-4164
Fax: (218) 353-7652