Springtime Allergy Relief

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By Khara Hindi 

Sneeze, sneeze…sniffle, sniffle…itch, itch.  Is this what the beginning of spring usually means to you?  Seasonal rhinitis, or hay fever, is most commonly caused by pollen, a fine powdery substance released into the air by trees, weeds, and grasses. When we breathe in pollen, our immune system overreacts by treating it as a foreign invader and releasing chemicals such as histamine that cause inflammation and other allergic responses. Itchy, red, and watery eyes, sneezing, and congestion in the nose and throat are common symptoms of seasonal allergies, but post-nasal drip, sore throat, dry cough, headache, fatigue and dark circles under the eyes can also occur.

Treatment Options

Common prescription and over-the-counter allergy medications can help ease symptoms, but they often cause unpleasant side effects, such as drowsiness, headaches, dry mouth and nose bleeds. If you’re looking for a more natural approach to treat your allergies this season, the following supplements help to strengthen and support the body’s own healing processes to relieve allergy symptoms naturally.

NETTLE LEAF inhibits the production of histamine by stabilizing the immune cells that line the mucous membranes of the nose and throat. Nettle leaves can be used to help prevent the onset of allergies, and also to reduce symptoms caused by all allergic responses, such as hay fever, asthma, and sinusitis.

EYEBRIGHT helps decrease the overreaction of the mucous membranes in the nose, throat, eyes and ears. It is both astringent and anti-inflammatory, making it a useful treatment for hay fever, respiratory congestion, sinus infections, and allergy induced conjunctivitis and ear infections.

YERBA SANTA slows down the production of mucous and eases congestion by facilitating the release of mucous from the lungs and respiratory tract. It is indicated for asthma, coughs, and bronchitis when an excess of mucous exists.

CURCUMIN, the active component in turmeric, helps lower levels of enzymes in the body that cause inflammation. Some studies also suggest the compound has anti-allergenic properties and may inhibit histamine release.

QUERCETIN is a natural plant-derived compound known as a bioflavonoid. Research suggests that it blocks the release of histamine and other chemicals that cause inflammation. Quercetin is found in many common foods such as citrus fruits, apples, onions, and tomatoes, but taking it in supplement form is often needed to help with allergies.

BROMELAIN can help relieve the swelling and inflammation caused by hay fever. It can also help reduce nasal congestion and cough.

Be Proactive

Since natural supplements work in different ways than prescription and over-the-counter medications, it may take a day or 2 to before you actually notice any effect. If you commonly suffer from seasonal allergies, it may be helpful to begin taking natural supplements at the very beginning of allergy season.

Look for the above herbs and supplements as singles and in combination formulas in La Montanita Co-op’s own private label, made locally by Vitality Works in Albuquerque, NM.

Soil: Care and Feeding for Crop Success

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The Carbon Economy Series presents Rodale’s Elaine Ingram: March 12-13

By Iginia Boccalandro

Can you imagine if you could grow anything you wanted with the soil in your yard? If you could use less water, produce more biomass and build fertile soil that is immune to pests with less costly inputs?  Yes, here in New Mexico, shelter from the wind and cold would also be a part of the equation.  Does this sound too good to be true?  Well, Dr. Elaine Ingham, PhD, soil biologist and soil food web instructor, not only says that this is possible, but she will be in Northern New Mexico on March 12-13 to teach us how to do it.

Our planet, for most of its existence, was inhospitable to life until the recent arrival (in terms of planetary time) of a cyanobacterium able to transform sunlight energy into chemical energy stored in bonds of simple sugars.  Known as photosynthesis, this process uses carbon dioxide and water, and oxygen is one of its most important byproducts, thus setting the stage for life as we know it.  Most plants, algae and cyanobacteria perform photosynthesis while maintaining atmospheric oxygen levels and supplying all the organic compounds and most of the energy necessary for life.

Looking at the succession of life forms evolving over thousands of millions of years, blue green algae could be looked at as the first step; these tiny, one-celled organisms evolved into multi-celled organisms including plankton, annual plants, perennial plants/grasses, shrubs, vegetables, deciduous trees/soft woods and finally to giant conifers and hard woods like the giant sequoia, trees that are often thousands of years old.  Paolo Lugari, founder of Las Gaviotas in Colombia, calls all of these the “vegetative skin of the earth,” which create the conditions for us to be here, now.

It turns out that the living microbiology in the soil underneath this “vegetative skin” changes in composition and provides the ideal conditions for each successive species.  Here is where it gets interesting: for example, since the ratio of bacteria to fungi shifts radically between grasses and conifers, knowing this can make us much more successful at growing things.  Soil that is bacteria dominant is good for the pioneer species like grasses, fungi dominant soil is good for the conifers, and vegetables do well with equal amounts of bacteria and fungi dominant soil.  Knowing this, we can become soil managers and tweak this relationship based on what we want to grow.

Think about it. Instead of being at the mercy of the soil in the back yard or the bunches of chemical and mineral additives that we are encouraged to buy, we can build soil so that the conditions for “our crop” naturally occur.  In other words, if you want to grow apricots and you know what the ideal soil composition is for these trees, you can make it so.

Dr. Ingham teaches us to feed the life forms that we want.  Because fungi love sugar and carbohydrates, the hardwood trees roots systems will exude sugars to attract them and have them work for their benefit.  It is an amazing symbiotic relationship that allows trees to get the nutrients they need by attracting the microbiology that produces it.

Dr. Ingham teaches biological solutions instead of chemical solutions.  All of these processes are natural and follow scientific and physical laws.  Once we understand them, then we can apply them and learn to use them. The processes may include methods like composting for greater fertility, reducing soil compaction and being able to store more water.  Dr. Ingham will speak from 7-9 pm on Wednesday, March 12 on the Soil Food Web at the Santa Fe Community College, and will then teach an all-day workshop from 9 am- 5 pm at Northern Community College in Espanola on Thursday, March 13.  Please visit our web page www.carboneconomyseries.com or call (505) 819-3828 for more information.

The Carbon Economy Series is a New Mexico non-profit dedicated to teaching sustainable principles and practices for a more sustainable future.

Soil Restoration in the Southwest

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By Amanda Bramble, Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center

One doesn’t have to go far anywhere in the Southwest to see that soil erosion is a problem. Roots are exposed, head cuts start then grow, any organic material that could develop into topsoil is removed, water doesn’t soak into the ground but rather, picks up sediment and deposits it into rivers and streams. It’s not just the soil we are losing, it’s the vegetation too that which feeds us and our wild relatives. We’ve been working on solutions.

In 2011, Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center initiated a restoration project to mitigate erosion just outside Madrid, NM.  A crucial element in our work was creating a new flood way that cuts through a hundred year old railroad bed.  We installed water harvesting and erosion control measures in an area where the water historically flowed before the railroad was constructed.  So we created a new path for the water, but restored the natural flood patterns of the watershed.

For a while, the rock and brush structures did their job, collecting sediment, encouraging the establishment of vegetation, and creating a stable location for this side channel to meet up with the main floodwater drainage.  But this project was constructed during a period of drought, and no one knew the extent of the flooding that was still to come.

On September 17, 2013, a record flood blasted through the town of Madrid.  It was part of the same weather pattern that caused so much damage in Colorado.  It damaged the work done here, too.

Now we have the  opportunity to upgrade the design of these flood structures.   In this new design (by land restoration guru Bill Zeedyk), we account for the extreme storm events that we can expect more of.  We will install new combinations of storm water harvesting and grade control structures.  And we’ll host dozens of volunteers to help implement this project while learning how to restore their own lands.

You are invited to come learn specifically what works and what doesn’t when it comes to erosion control design.  It will be a great time to learn by doing, and get the satisfaction of healing the watershed with elements you can find right on the land.

We’ve been fund-raising to support this project.  The donations go towards heavy equipment and for food to fuel the volunteers.  Come join us.   We are still accepting financial donations as well. It’s all about learning which designs work best in what situations, getting water into the soil, and together, re-growing our native wild lands!

Please visit our website to find out more about our community events (Rock On and Rock Out!) where you can learn about this important work, get fed well, meet good people, and be entertained with music afterwards.  You can contact us at ampersandproject@yahoo.com.

Ampersand Happenings

Geology Hike: March 16, 2014, 2pm to 4:30pm

Join us for a hike around the Ampersand’s 38 acres to explore the geologic influences that make this place so stunning.  We have layers of standstone outcroppings, petrified wood, a ridge of blocky basalt, and ancient petroglyphs to look at on the way.  Local geologists Mary Morton and Scott Renbarger will help us gain an understanding of the Earth’s history and the alchemy of rock formation. $10 suggested donation.

Rock On and Rock Out!: March 8, 2014

Lend a hand to our watershed restoration project and learn about erosion control structures made with rock.  Then relax and enjoy dinner and music. Come for the whole day or just to chow and jam out with us and celebrate our accomplishments. Learn building and design of erosion control structures in a hands on project that will contribute to our watershed restoration program from 2-5 PM, and then enjoy music and a potluck. Bring food and your favorite instrument.

Please RSVP!  That way we will be sure to have enough food for all of our rock work experts:www.ampersandproject.org.

What’s on Your Plate?

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What’s on Your Plate?

By Eleanor Bravo, Food and Water Watch

Santa Fe Passes GMO Labeling! Now its Albuquerque’s Turn

What’s on your plate? Because there are no laws requiring genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be labeled, we don’t know. Right now we have an opportunity in Albuquerque to support labeling in the State of New Mexico.  A resolution was introduced into the City Council just for this purpose.

What exactly is genetically modified food? GE crops are engineered by transferring genetic material from one organism into another to create specific traits, such as making a plant resistant to treatment with herbicides, or enabling a plant to produce its own pesticide to repel insects.  Chemical companies such as Monsanto sell these modified seed as well as the accompanying herbicide Roundup. They also make false claim to a greater crop yield.

Over 50 countries already require labeling. In order to ensure that US citizens can make informed decisions regarding what they eat, the US must do the same. Long term effects of GMO’s on our health and environment are unknown. Yet they exist all over the world. Not only in many food products but livestock bred for human consumption are fed GMO feed.  There is no way to tell if we are eating GMO or something that has been fed GMO. Limited studies on the health risks have shown increased and abnormal tumor growth in rats. Humans are not lab rats; yet we are participating in a large scale science experiment without knowing.

Agribusinesses would like you to think that the cost of labeling will drive up the cost of food.  Labels tell the number of calories, amount of sugar, carbohydrates and other ingredients without raising the cost of food.  Labels are altered on a regular basis without impacting grocery costs.

Santa Fe City Council unanimously passed a GMO labeling resolution. Now the largest city in New Mexico has the opportunity to do the same. On Feb 19, City Councilor Isaac Benton (Dist. 2) introduced a resolution which supports the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. The full Albuquerque City Council is expected to vote on it in early April.

If you want to know what’s on your plate and what you are feeding your families, contact your city councilor to tell them to vote YES on this resolution. Find your city council district by visiting http://www.cabq.gov/council/council-district-map and type your address.

Our work for labeling of genetically modified organisms has just begun. In 2013 the New Mexico Senate voted down a bill that would have required labeling in the State. With resolutions that call for labeling in the 2 largest cities in NM and numerous other communities, we will continue calling for mandatory statewide labeling. For more information about GMO labeling visit www.foodandwaterwatch.org. To get more involved in passing this resolution, contact Lars at Food and Water Watch at 505-750-4919 or send an email to lpanaro@fwwlocal.org

Food Value Chains Redux

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This month as we look at the Co-op Distribution Center’s activity, we revisit a topic touched on in our first installment—food value chains. Part of what makes the CDC unique is their approach to their suppliers and to their customers. Rather than simply moving commodities from point A to point B (the basic definition of a supply chain), the CDC actively works with local and regional producers by paying attention to every step a particular food item takes from farm to fork. Further, they work with their partners at every step of the way to ensure each party’s values are respected, and needs are met. Or in other words, they use a value chain approach to make the CDC, its suppliers, and its customers successful. They recognize that to succeed, their partners need to succeed also.

Regional distributors like the CDC must compete with national and multinational companies—and often customers’ expectations are based on the standards and services these larger companies can provide because of their volume of business. Regional distributors like the CDC must find ways to create a valuable experience for their customers and their suppliers based on a different set of expectations. Where a large company might be able to discount their goods because of volume, the CDC might add value for a customer by providing information about where and how it was grown, and a producer profile. In turn, this information might mean that a restaurant can advertise a dish as local or humanely raised and charge more based on the value added from the details about the food’s origin.

The relationship the CDC has with each partner in processing an item helps them identify where value might be added. For example, a restaurant loves the Kyzer Farm pork chops is gets from CDC, but uses sausage in more of their dishes and only offers pork chops as a weekly special. The CDC then works with its meat processor to create the cuts and products the restaurant wants. This means the CDC will be able to use more of the whole animal, which means they will make more per animal, and their customers get what they need. Ultimately, this makes it a more sustainable program.

In addition, for the CDC making the most per pig means that they can pay top dollar to the farmer and the processor. It also means they can work with Kyzer on his feed program and the processor on their food safety regimen. Ultimately, everyone is able to uphold high quality standards and good ethics when in comes to food production.

Because the CDC has relationships with most of its suppliers and customers, they are able to facilitate a dynamic market that adapts more quickly to customer and supplier needs based on direct feedback, collaboration, and more communication.  In addition, this adaptability is at the heart of how regional distributors and distribution networks not only create and add value to their goods and services, but also help each other build more sustainable businesses.