Food, Fun and Funk: Smithsonian Folklife Festival Celebrates Its 46th Year!

I have attended the Smithsonian Folklife Festival every year since moving to the DC area. And I am a big fan of this event on the National Mall that features art, dance, food, storytelling and other exhibits that highlight various American and international cultures. So when I was asked to supply huge amounts of my soaps and such for sale at the Folklife Marketplace, I was thrilled!

At the end of last week, I dropped off a rented SUV-full of boxes of products for the Marketplace volunteers to do their magic. And yesterday a friend called to tell me that my products were prominently displayed in the Marketplace tent, so I headed down to take some photos. When I entered the Marketplace, I found that the first three tables were filled with my soaps, men’s products, and Herban Crafts kits!

And the Marketplace is just one of the many features of the Festival. This year’s themes are Campus and Community, Citified, and Creativity and Crisis. I took some photos while I was there, and look forward to really exploring the exhibits when I have more time.

The Festival kicked off last night with a free concert on the Mall featuring George Clinton and other funk legends. The was the first of many free concerts being offered during the course of the Festival.

Citified celebrates the art, music, food and community of the area of DC that sits east of the Anacostia river. As the Folklife Festival website explains, “Citified alludes to the fact that many African American residents living east of the Anacostia River have parents or grandparents who migrated from the rural South, particularly North and South Carolina, and who continue to maintain connections with their southern (although often no longer rural) heritage.”

image copyright Washington Post

Campus and Community features exhibits from several land grant colleges and the USDA, both of which are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year. Several of the colleges have exhibits focusing on the theme of sustainability, such as UC Davis’ exhibit on the ubiquitous problem of plastic bags and the University of Tennessee’s Solar House.

And Creativity and Crisis features the AIDS Quilt, now celebrating its 25th anniversary. In 1987, The NAMES Project Foundation offered hands-on quilt panel-making sessions that allowed individuals and communities to commemorate loved ones, find support and engage in dialogues about how to address the crisis. Today, The Quilt contains nearly 48,000 panels, a portion of which are on display on the Mall.

For those visitors who want to have a hand in adding to The Quilt, participants of all ages will have the opportunity to learn quilting techniques, make panels, and share stories from their own experiences.

The Festival is being held from June 27–July 1 and July 4–8, and is open from 11:00am to 5:30pm.


USDA Invites You to Vote for Your Favorite Recipes for Healthy Kids

image copyright Recipes for Healthy Kids finalist South Education Center Alternative

In an effort that would make Jamie Oliver proud, last September, the USDA and First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Recipes for Healthy Kids competition. The goal of this program is to encourage the development of creative, nutritious, and kid-approved recipes that schools can easily incorporate into National School Lunch Program menus.

Entries were accepted from September through December 2010. From among the 340 entries submitted, five were selected in each of following categories: whole grains, dark green and orange vegetables, and dry beans and peas. These finalists will be visited by a team that includes a USDA official, an American Culinary Federation chef, and a school nutrition professional to narrow it down to the three finalists (one from each category) who will participate in a national cook-off event this summer.

You can see the finalists on the Recipes for Health Kids website, check out all the yummy-looking recipes, and vote for your favorite. Voting for the Popular Choice Award closes on May 15.

The People’s Garden Fall 2010 Programs

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) People’s Garden Project continues with some great fall programming. Workshops include instruction on food preservation techniques, cover crop selection, hoop house construction, and more. You can download the 2010 Fall Program Guide for specific details about their offerings. All programs are free and open to the public.

In addition, the USDA Farmers Market will continue through October 29 every Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is located in USDA’s parking lot, at the corner of 12th Street & Independence Avenue, SW. You can purchase locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, maple products, baked goods, and much more from local producers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. And on Friday, October 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the USDA will hold its Harvest Festival, which include music, food, games, and more.

For more information, you can visit the People’s Garden website or call (202) 708-0082.

USDA Workshop: How to Start a Community Garden

On Friday, August 27, from 10:00am to 2:00pm, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be holding an event that celebrates the benefits of community gardens. This workshop will teach you how to start a community garden. Like all their events, this is free and open to the public. You can learn more about the USDA’s People’s Garden and Healthy Garden Series in this blog post I wrote back in May.

USDA’s People’s Garden and Healthy Garden Series

photo copyright USDA

When were on the Mall last month for the Climate Rally, my husband and I passed a vegetable/herb garden on the grounds of the US Department of Agriculture. It looked like a large, very well-kept version of a garden you would find in someone’s yard. It was the first time I had noticed it.

Then, a couple of days ago, I was talking to a friend who works for the USDA who told me that the gardens are part of their People’s Garden Initiative. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, established the garden on February 12, 2009 in commemoration of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday. Vilsack challenged all USDA employees to create similar gardens at USDA facilities worldwide, or to help their communities create gardens in vacant lots, schools, or churches.

photo copyright USDA

In addition to the sustainably managed gardens that I happened across, the USDA headquarters is also offering programming from May to August, including workshops and youth programs, all of which are free and open to the public. The workshops will cover topics such as composting, beekeeping, green roofs and natural pest control.

The USDA also has a farmers market, which is held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m, every Friday from June 4 through October 29. It is located in USDA’s parking lot, corner of 12th Street and Independence Avenue, SW.

For those of you who are not located conveniently to Washington, DC, the People’s Garden Initiative website is a great resource where you will find links to gardening tips, recipes, healthy eating tips, and more.

You can download a PDF version of the People’s Garden Program Guide, which lists all the upcoming festivals, gardening workshops and youth programs being held from May through August. To register for one of the Healthy Garden Workshops call (202) 690-3898. And to schedule a guided tour of the People’s Garden or Program for Youth call (202) 708-0082.

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Fresh Food: Healthy Alternatives to Factory Farming

Sign outside of Cibola Farms, Culpepper, VA

Two weekends ago, I had the good fortune of attending a screening of Fresh in Oakton, VA. This film starts by discussing the detrimental effects of industrial farming to the Earth and to our health, including food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Then it takes a positive turn by showing examples of people who are pioneering innovative sustainable farming methods. The screening was followed by a panel of speakers that included one of the pioneers from the film, Joel Salatin.

Salatin, a self-described “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist farmer,” is the owner of Polyface Farms in Swoope, VA , who was made famous by Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Salatin has developed innovative methods of farm management that utilize the natural interactions of farm animals with the land and with one another. By avoiding chemical pesticides, industrial feed, animal crowding and nutrient depletion in the soil, his animals are far healthier and provide greater nutrition to people eating them, than those raised in industrial conditions. In following these practices, Salatin saves quite a bit of money by not having to purchase pesticides, chemical fertilizers, feed and antibiotics. As a result, he yields a much, much higher profit per acre used than farmers using less natural means.

Buffalo grazing in the fields at Cibola Farms

Impressed by the movie and Salatin’s presentation, I have signed up to receive delivery of his free-range, grass-fed poultry as I have not been able to find good local chicken since my favorite farmers market meat supplier, Cibola Farms, stopped offering poultry. I feel very fortunate to be within delivery range of Polyface Farm. As a matter of fact, one of the great advantages of living in the DC Metro area is being close proximity to a huge range of family-owned farms.

Inspired by Fresh as well as other information I have been gathering about my local farms, yesterday my family and I decided to take a road trip to the Cibola Farms ranch in Culpepper, VA where they raise the free-range buffalo and pork that we still purchase regularly at our local farmers market.

Upon arriving, there was a notable lack of livestock scent to the area. As I walked around, I realized that this was because the animals had huge tracts of land around which they could move. There were herds of buffalo, a few dairy cows, several chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys, pigs, honey bees, and a very gregarious farm cat.

A happy, friendly dairy cow at Cibola Farms

This bucolic lifestyle was in stark contrast to the images of factory farms I had seen in Fresh, and Food, Inc., another movie about industrial farming. The Cibola animals looked relaxed, happy and well taken care of. They were grazing on grass, weeds and insects that exist naturally within the farm’s eco-system.

If you eat meat, it is worth considering where your meat comes from. Ultimately, we ingest what our food sources have taken in, regardless of whether they are plants of animals. By making a conscious choice in the purchase of our food, we have an opportunity to help support more sustainable farming practices and to better support our own health.

Even if you don’t live in the Greater DC Metro area, there are many places throughout the country where you can purchase locally grown, healthy food. A great place to start is the USDA’s website, which has a search page where you can locate a farmers market near you.

This article, which I authored, originally appeared on the Etsy Earth blog.

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