Last week we had a visitor to the garden, Rebecca Ramsay. Rebecca had been grazing through the garden, and had spotted certain weeds in our wild flower bed. She was telling me how certain weeds that were growing in the border had invaded Frog Pond in Cambridge. Rebecca told me how the Water Department of Cambridge and the Friends of Fresh Pond has a stewardship program that allows volunteers to come and help take care of the park area surrounding Frog Pond.
They are having their monthly Weed Out at Frog Pond on Sunday, July 8th from 1:00 to 3:00. For July, the monthly weed is Black Swallow-wort. All the volunteers will help eradicate the invasive weed at Frog Pond and learn the best way to get rid of the weed.
Below is the flier for the event:
Meeting with Ipswich Shellfish Group and Members of Sodexo and BIDMC
We pulled up to the harbor in Gloucester, MA, eager to learn from members of the Ipswich Shellfish Group and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and collaborate to make sustainable seafood in the hospital a reality. Not only did we convene to discuss the specifics of serving sustainable seafood in the hospital, we also came together to envision the larger impact such a transition could instigate in other hospitals and institutions beyond the Boston area. As the pungent fishy odor wafted through the air, everyone stood in a circle and expressed their hopes about the purpose of this program. Nora Blake, the Sr. General Manager at Sodexo for the Greater Boston Area, delivered an impassioned speech about her vision to use the BIDMC sustainable seafood efforts to illustrate that working with your local fishing community and considering environmental impacts can be cost neutral and benefits all parties involved. BIDMC certainly has the power and influence to make such a message widespread. The chefs present from Sodexo expressed their desires to work with different fish varieties and foster trust with consumers in order to make them feel comfortable trying the range of seafood options served. Their descriptions of the recipe possibilities made everyone’s mouths water.
As the group explored the docking site and later progressed to the Ipswich Shellfish Group’s processing facilities, it became strikingly clear that a fishery really does include every person involved in the elaborate process of bringing seafood from the ocean to the dinner plate. By conscientiously purchasing seafood from the local fisherman in Gloucester, the hospital will move one step closer to decreasing the divide between the sea and the consumer. In so doing, physical distance and carbon emissions certainly decrease, and just as importantly, the relationship between the fishing community and the customers strengthens. In this single day, we saw fishermen offloading 900,000lbs of herring from their boats, workers tediously shelling clams and processing a plethora of fish varieties, and still others shipping the seafood out to demanding industries. We even had the opportunity to hold a 70-year-old female lobster and pose for a picture with this wonderfully wise creature.
The day ended on an optimistic note. A partnership had formed with the Ipswich and Gloucester fishing communities, the chefs and other members of Sodexo, BIDMC, and Harvard, and the goal of providing sustainable seafood in BIDMC was closer to reality. The transition will require a lot of flexibility and creativity on the part of the chefs, but ultimately, it will serve to increase the wellness of the hospital community. In the end, enhancing wellness should always be a hospital’s ultimate goal anyway. Wellness in this case refers to seafood’s nutritional value as well as the trust consumers place in the hands of their food providers and the health of the marine environment. When institutions that sustain us, such as BIDMC, promote this inclusive form of wellness, individuals become increasingly healthy and connected to the local and global communities that support them.
This past Wednesday afternoon, we were visited by the Phillips Brooks House Association after school program, the Roxbury Youth Initiative! RYIT is an afters chool program for elementary and middle school students in Roxbury, Boston:
PBHA’s Roxbury Youth Initiative Term-Time strives to provide continuous, year-round academic and emotional support to youth of our summer program (Roxbury Youth Initiative). Our main focus is on homework and academic help and providing a safe, educational space for youth after the school day. We follow a model of positive youth development, seeking to build on youths’ strengths and community assets. Through hands on enrichment activities and field trips, RYIT allows participating youth to explore their neighborhood, gain academic skills and confidence, and learn from positive role models.
Together with the students, we discussed the things plants need to grow, the development of fruit, the make-up and process of composting, how some plants can grow during the winter, and how to start your own seedling. We also planted Mountain Mint in peat pots!
The students examined strawberry plants and flowers, pea plants and pea tendrils, the small vines that the peas use to grip onto other things, such as a trellis. The trip was a fun success, and we hope to see RYI come back in the summer!
This past Friday, we were joined by the students of the Mission Mentor program for our community workday (every Friday from 3-6!) Mission Mentor is a Phillips Brooks House Association program that connects Harvard undergrads with youth from Mission Hill, a neighborhood in Boston tucked between Roxbury, Fenway, and the South End.
PBHA’s Mission Mentor fosters one-on-one relationships between Mission Hill youth and area university students and graduates in order to broaden children’s access and exposure to the resources in Boston and beyond. Through encouragement and friendship, Mission Mentor strives to increase the confidence and optimism with which youth approach their own education and future.
The mentees, aided by their mentors, joined with us in sow Red Oak Lettuce, Radical Radish Mix, Chiogga Guardsmark Beets, and Turnips. Quickly getting a handle on the ideas of leveling the soil, square foot gardening, and watering the beds, our new friends helped us plant a lot more than we could alone!
After two years of the Garden, Mission Mentor is the first PBHA program to come to the garden to get some hands on learning and good fun. A long overdue relationship indeed, but we are very happy with the success of our workday and are glad the mentees had a good time in the garden (us too!) We are even more excited to continue providing a space for all PBHA programs to come, and to act as a resource for Harvard’s awesome public service organization.
Last Sunday, we had a small ceremony to replant Gisele, Tom, and Tree #3, our heirloom apple trees donated this year by The Boston Tree Party, a local organization that gives out usually pairs of heirloom apples to schools, businesses, churches, and community centers throughout the area in an effort to spread fruiting trees all over Boston. We were given an Esopus Spitzenberg, a Baldwin, and a Roxbury Russet tree, the first of which is from New York, the latter two from Boston. (I personally do not know which one bears the names of which Bündchen or Brady, but we care for them equally. For some clues as to why they bear the names of these two, see this blurb on Bündchen receiving an Environmental Citizen Award from the Center.)
For this event, we were fortunate to have Eric Chivian, the director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Med School (the garden’s administrative body) and the owner of an fruit orchard in Central Massachusetts, come to guide us through the replanting and speak a little about heirloom apples. He told us that the Esopus Spitzenberg was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple, that the Baldwin is also sometimes known as the “Woodpecker” due to the bird’s predilection for it, and that the Roxbury Russet was supposed to be the first named American variety. We also discussed the Kazakstani origins of apples and the prevalence of hard cider when Johnny Appleseed spread the gospel of apples, though Dr. Chivian also told us that the vast majority of apples planted by Chapman (Appleseed) were total duds, at least productively; they were useful because homesteading laws often required new buyers to plant a certain number of apple trees to demonstrate settlement rather than land grabbing. We planted our trees to serve both purposes; they will far outlast our presence on this campus and will provide students and passersby with beautiful fruit.
First, we dug three holes in the MAC (Malkin Athletic Center) Quad, which is a location right in the middle of several undergrad dorms on the side of the Charles.
Then Sam, Cielo and Addie arrived with the uprooted trees in tow.
Dr. Chivian gave us backgrounds of the individual trees, this one the Esopus Spitzenberg.
Planting fruit trees on Harvard campus is nothing new. Here is a map of fruit trees on campus from Harvard Planning and Real Estate, as catalogued in 2002:
I cannot find more specifics anywhere on all or any of these fruit trees, but we know there are crab apples above Pusey Library, and I hear rumors of peach trees in the Yard. If you know where these other alleged apple or pear trees are, let us know! And otherwise, say hello to Gisele, Tom and friend in the MAC Quad where they will be weathering this winter and many to come.
This past Thursday, June 16, Philadelphia City Council passed a 3.85% real estate tax increase to deal with the Philadelphia School District’s $629 million funding gap. The tax will raise around $53 million, half of the $100 million that the school district asked for. The other option on the table was a 2¢ per ounce soda tax, championed by mayor Michael Nutter. His proposal was met by an enormous lobbying effort by the soda industry, executives, lobbyists, and unions (who argued that the bill would send jobs away and hurt Philadelphia’s economy), that made it pretty much dead on arrival. City Council members opted for the property tax, some going back on their word to not raise property taxes again. Council members were also upset that the framework of the bill, which was proposed last year under the banner of anti-obesity, seemed to opportunistically change, according to Philadelphia Daily News reporters Catherine Lucey and Jan Ransom.
All of this gets me a bit hot under the hood. Lobbying wins again with normal tactics, and council members bend over backward. With so little support from the state government, Philadelphia needs council members who won’t run away from the many problems facing the city. I don’t mean for this to be a politician-bashing blog post, but it is just so sad to see this. Philadelphia’s future (and every city’s) will be dependent on the quality of its public education, not the profitability of its soda industry.
The soda tax is a great idea, and in Massachusetts, a similar tax has a majority of the public’s support, according to a new Boston Foundation poll! Currently, soda and candy, which would also be affected, are exempt from the state sales tax of 6.25% because they are grouped with food. But seeing as they provide no nutritional value, and are only impulsive guilty pleasures, why should they be privileged? Fifty million dollars could be raised from the Massachusetts tax, which could go to anything in the state budget that badly needs it (read: everything in the budget). Meanwhile, such a soda tax fights diabetes, an increasingly catastrophic problem in youth across the country, and sends a strong message, “sugary foods are expensive because we don’t need them.”
Now wouldn’t such a tax be a perfect solution for an urban, underfunded school district that only got half of what they asked for?
What will it take Philly?