Returning food choices to the local level

In his recent testimony to the House Oversight Committee, Hank Paulson justified last fall’s sudden call for the $750 billion federal bailout as a means to avoid economic collapse, a disruption in food supplies and the potential for civil unrest.

In addition to the threats emanating from federal officials, repeated occurrences of food safety issues have stimulated an increasing number of people to grow their own food and preserve it just as had been done by previous generations. Others are purchasing more of their food from local sources, farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture, food co-ops and organic food stores. This year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair (Aug. 8-9 at Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Ill.) will have numerous presentations addressing foods.

Take Thyme for Herbs is a Saturday session offered by Nancy Gmitro of Mt. Carroll. Focused on growing, harvesting, storing and using herbs, the workshop will include an opportunity to test your recognition of common herbs. The person with the most correct answers will receive a prize. This fun session is a must for those interested in adding some fresh flavors to their meals.

Brenda Richter of Raw Energy, Rockford, will provide a Saturday session about the benefits of raw foods. Richter advocates that at least 50 percent of our diet should consist of raw fruits, vegetables and other natural ingredients. She will explain and demonstrate how easy it is to prepare delicious, healthy raw foods. She will also discuss the effects of cooking on proteins, fats, micro and macro nutrients, and enzymes.

Mary Eberle of First Step Renew, Madison, Wis., offers an interesting Saturday session about growing vegetables in small places such as window sills, balconies and small patios. Square foot gardening can be done in a 1-by-4-foot space. The session will cover containers, soils, materials, fertilizers and expected yields.

Andrea Klahn from Americorps in Madison, Wis., will lead a panel presentation outlining the personal experiences, opportunities and challenges of the Farm to School program throughout the state of Wisconsin. It is part of a national movement to have local, healthy foods served in schools.

Steph Hughes, Seed Savers, Decorah, Iowa, will provide a Sunday session about saving seeds from the garden as a means to save money and assure that favorite varieties are always available. She will use tomatoes to demonstrate the ease with which it can be done. She also suggests participants bring their questions about how to save other vegetables from their gardens.

Sunday, Angie Mitchell, the Urban Worm Girl from Chicago, will provide a demonstration of the ease with which worm bins can be set up and maintained to minimize kitchen wastes and turn them into nutrients for houseplants and gardens. The session will illustrate the simple supplies and hands-on ease with which worm bins can be maintained. After this session, you may want to host your own “worm party.”

Karen King of Choices Natural Market in Rockford will explain on Sunday both the benefits of buying local foods and the challenges of purchasing local foods to supply her store.

Whether by necessity or personal choice, simple living can provide economical and personally rewarding experiences. Sunday, Birgit Wolff of Mason, Wis., will relate the simple lifestyle choices she and her husband have made over the past 35 years.

Major sponsors of the fair are the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, ComEd and The Rock River Times.

Any program changes will be posted on

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. The Vogls and the IREA are members of the Environmental Hall of Fame. Dr. Robert Vogl is vice president of Freedom Field, and Dr. Sonia Vogl is a member of Freedom Field’s Executive Committee. The Vogls consult on energy efficiency, renewable energy and green building. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are active in preserving natural areas and are retired professors from Northern Illinois University. E-mail

from the July 29-August 4, 2009, issue

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