Freak Out of Fractals: This Year’s Maize Maze at Rio Grande Community Farm
By Kemper Barkhurst
Rio Grande Community Farm has sponsored an annual cornfield maze in Albuquerque since 1997. This year’s maze promises to be among the most complex and confounding yet, tracing the shape of a funky fractal—a mathematical, detailed pattern that infinitely repeats itself (think: what you see in a kaleidoscope). In partnership with the City of Albuquerque Open Space Division and the Fractal Foundation, this year’s Maize Maze celebrates the complexity and joy of fractals, a mathematical and artistic concept applied in the areas of art, technology, urban planning, computer and video game design, medicine, and more. Beyond a fun family experience, everyone can learn something from the amazing concept of fractals.
Rio Grande Community Farm is one of the oldest parcels of continually farmed land in the United States, situated on one of the earliest Spanish Colonial settlements in the Rio Grande Valley, an agricultural heritage dating back more than 1700 years. Years of hard work have transformed the previously neglected land into community gardens, wildlife habitat, and certified organic croplands, providing educational experiences, community service projects, recreation, and entertainment to the Albuquerque community while protecting the environment and honoring New Mexico history. By partnering with the Fractal Foundation, this year’s maze promises to deliver on the foundation’s mission to “use the beauty of fractals to inspire interest in science, math and art.”
Celebrate with Rio Grande Community Farms at the opening night of the Maize Maze on Friday, Oct. 3 at 5pm, and enjoy pumpkin painting, fractal building, hay rides, local food trucks, and more! Hours for the maze from Oct. 3 throughout October are Fridays, 3pm-8pm, Saturdays, 11am-8pm, and Sundays 11am-6pm. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for kids aged 4-12 years. Kids age 3 and under are free. Stay tuned for special events scheduled throughout the month of October, such as moonlight maze walks, live local music, and nature talks The maze is also open for arranged group visits; special group discounts apply. Group visits are a terrific educational activity for classes, companies, teams, or other groups.
This year’s Maize Maze is sponsored by Presbyterian Healthcare, Soo Bak Foods, 99.5 Magic FM, NASH FM 92.3 KRST, and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science. For more information about the maze and related activities, visit http://riograndefarm.org/events/maize-maze/. Arrive by car or bike, and make sure to check the web site for directions and parking instructions. For more information about the Fractal Foundation, visit http://fractalfoundation.org/.
By Beyond Pesticides Staff
Edited and reprinted with permission from the journal Beyond Pesticides, July 28, 2014
New research from Michael Skinner, Ph.D.’s laboratory out of Washington State University finds that—yet again—exposure to pesticides may have devastating consequences for future generations. The study, “Pesticide Methoxychlor Promotes the Epigenetic Transgenerational Inheritance of Adult-Onset Disease through the Female Germline,” published in PLOS ONE, finds that gestating rats exposed to the pesticide methoxychlor develop a higher incidence of kidney disease, ovary disease and obesity in offspring spanning three generations. The incidence of multiple diseases increased in the third generation, or in “great-grandchildren.”
This study suggests that ancestral exposures to methoxychlor over the past 50 years in North America may play a part in today’s increasing rates of obesity and disease. The epigenetic changes observed were specific to methoxychlor exposure, and Dr. Skinner says his findings have implications such as reduced fertility, increased adult onset disease and the potential to pass on those conditions to subsequent generations. “What your great-grandmother was exposed to during pregnancy, like the pesticide methoxychlor, may promote a dramatic increase in your susceptibility to develop disease, and you will pass this on to your grandchildren in the absence of any continued exposures,” says Dr. Skinner.
Methoxychlor is an organochlorine compound which, though eventually cancelled in 2003 in the U.S., was initially developed as a “safer” replacement to DDT. It was first registered in 1948, and has been used to control various nuisance species including cockroaches, mosquitoes, flies and chiggers, as well as various arthropods that attack field crops, vegetables, fruits, ornamentals, stored grain, livestock, and domestic pets. Methoxychlor can behave like the hormone estrogen and profoundly affects the reproductive system. It is also listed as a persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemical by the EPA Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program. PBT chemicals are of particular concern not only because they are toxic, but also because they remain in the environment for long periods of time, are not readily destroyed, and build up or accumulate in body tissue.
Previous studies have demonstrated that exposure to chemicals, including fungicides, dioxins, and other endocrine disruptors, can have severe health impacts on offspring. This study builds on a history of research showing that pesticides—even a decade after banned—can continue to impact health across generations. Evidence of multi-generational impacts from pesticide exposure is not isolated to laboratory animals. A 2007 scholarly reviewed paper, entitled Pesticides, Sexual Development, Reproduction and Fertility: Current Perspective and Future Direction, by Theo Colborn, PhD. and Lynn Carroll, PhD, points to studies linking the legacy chemical DDT to transgenerational health effects.
Dr. Skinner, who has been studying the genetic effects of pesticides for 15 years, is also the author of the landmark study that links exposure to the insecticide DDT with multi-generational effects. In addition to two important studies, Dr. Skinner’s lab has also documented epigenetic effects from a host of other environmental toxicants, including plastics, pesticides, fungicides, dioxins, hydrocarbons and the plasticizer bisphenol-A or BPA. He has published over 240 peer-reviewed publications. For more information or to see the full studies go to www.beyondpesticides.org
Happy Birthday Westside!
Save the Date! We invite you to join us on October 25 at our Westside store to celebrate one year. We will celebrate with cake, grilling on the patio, a puppet show, live music, a $100 shopping spree give-away, and lots more!
We’re particularly excited to host a fruit and veggie costume contest. Start planning your get up for a kale dress, carrot top, or banana super hero suit now! Everyone is eligible to enter, winners will receive great prizes like gift certificates, delicious treats, and recognition on our website.
Hope to see you there! Let us know you’re coming.
Great Growing, Delicious Food
By Robin Seydel
The members of the Veteran Farmer Project have been busy weeding, harvesting, weeding, selling at the VA growers’ market, weeding, selling at the Railyard market, weeding—get the picture? While all the rain has been wonderful and our tomatoes bountiful, so have our weeds. But we have a dedicated core crew, Gretchen, Buck, Jeff, Darren, and Veronica, and some new folks coming on board—welcome Christie and Virginia. Sadly, we lost Ben and Cat and their three children to Oklahoma, but they had a wonderful garden experience that we hope they will put to good use there.
Donation Thanks: Trees From ABCWUA
A big thanks to Katherine Yuhas of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority for her donation of 10 trees to the Veteran Farmer Project. Katherine heads the water conservation division and put together a series of SMART USE Water Conservation classes. Everyone who attends the class gets a free tree to plant in their yard compliments of the ABCWUA and Plant World. Katherine had some extra trees and most kindly donated them to the VFP. The SMART USE Water Conservation classes are still happening and we encourage everyone to take this excellent class and get their free tree (fall is the perfect time for tree planting!). For more information and the complete schedule of classes, go to www.abcwua.org and register for the September classes.
We hope to be planting the trees in our new space in the next few months. We have known for a year or so that the project would have to move from our current location on Silver and Second due to development pressures, an experience common for today’s urban and next generation farmer. We are in the process of looking for a new location and hope to be able to announce our new location soon.
And while we are saying thanks—another huge thanks goes to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture for their generous grant that will help us move the farm and get started in our new location.
In the mean time, look for Veteran Farmer Project produce stands at the VA Growers’ Market every Wednesday from 10:30am to 12:30pm. And join us at the gardens downtown on Tuesday and Thursdays from 8am-10am for gardening fun, education and camaraderie.
For more information, contact Robin at 217-2027 or email@example.com.
Gleaning Green: Food for Free
by Ari Levaux
The voice on the phone gave me directions to a house in a residential neighborhood. The way she spoke made me feel vaguely like James Bond receiving an assignment from “M.” “The owners gave permission for the tree to be picked, but they don’t get home from work until two. Before then, don’t even knock on the door because they have two yipper dogs who will go crazy.” she explained. “The tree is really tall; I think it might be grafted, which means the upper cherries could be better than the lower ones, so if you have a ladder you should bring it. In this heat they aren’t going to last long so you should go soon. Do you think you can go today?”
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 33 percent of the food grown worldwide goes to waste. Valued at 750 billion dollars, it would take a farm the size of Mexico to produce this amount of wasted food. And when it rots in a landfill, the UNFAO estimates that the gases that are created account for 6-10% of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. If global food waste were a country, Grist.org reports, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
In the face of a growing population, much attention has been paid to various ways of producing more food, usually via modern agricultural techniques. A less sexy approach to feeding the hungry, while simultaneously cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, would be to reduce the amount of food that is wasted.
Enter the gleaners.
The act of gleaning, as it relates to food, is to salvage food that would have gone un-harvested. It’s an act as old as agriculture. The ancient poor used to prowl the harvested fields of rich landowners and pick the grains or vegetables left behind. Today in the world’s poorest countries, gleaning still occurs in much the same way, while in wealthier nations like the U.S., gleaning takes on myriad modern forms.
In cities around the US, activist groups have forged relationships with grocers, caterers, restaurants, and growers at the supply end, and with food pantries, homeless shelters, and other organizations feeding the hungry at the demand end. Many of these organizations, such as Food Shift in the Bay Area, consider reducing greenhouse gas emissions to be an essential part of their missions—along with feeding those in need.
And then there are rogue gleaners like myself, working in cahoots with the likes of the woman who told me about the cherry tree, or alone. Beginning in mid-summer, it’s easy to walk the residential streets and alleyways looking for trees from which ripe fruit is dropping to the ground. All it takes is a knock on the door to determine if the homeowner would be open to you picking the fruit. I usually offer to pick up the rotten fruit that has already fallen as well, in exchange for harvesting the potential mess that’s still dangling from the trees.
Then, if everything goes according to plan, I have a lot of fruit on my hands, which must be dealt with very soon. It can be frozen, whole or juiced, or turned into jam, or dehydrated—my method of choice.
Later in the season I’ll turn my attention to fall vegetables, like kale, which gets sweeter after a frost. The freeze is usually beginning just as the farmers markets are ending, and farmers are ready to turn their fields under for the year. During the last few markets of the season, I’ll strike deals with growers to acquire large amounts of their kale before it meets the plough.
Sometimes the grower will invite me to come glean it myself, old-school style. But more often they’ll offer to harvest a massive amount and sell it to me at a bargain rate. Technically speaking, food that’s acquired in this manner isn’t “gleaned,” but “recovered.” Either way, it’s food that wasn’t wasted, that by filling bellies puts less demand on a carbon-intensive, land-hungry food system.
And for those who don’t have an associate like the woman who guided me to the cherry tree, a smart phone can make a good substitute. A new organization called Falling Fruit (Fallingfruit.org) is building a worldwide database of urban edibles, including, according to a video on the site, “Apples, apricots, mangoes, plums, avocados, star fruit, citrus, nuts, berries, vegetables, spices, herbs [and] mushrooms.” A smart phone app is under development, soon to be released.
I loaded the map onto my laptop and took a look. It showed, within blocks of my house, apples, apricots, plums, peaches, and grapes. So I took a walk, and there they were. There was also a nice gooseberry bush. Many trees were hanging over fences above the sidewalk. There were no mangoes to be scrounged, but I pigged out nonetheless.