Welcome to Groundswell

Groundswell’s mission
is to help youth and adult learners develop the skills and knowledge they need to build sustainable local food systems. Our focus is providing hands-on, experiential learning opportunities with real working farms and food businesses in the Ithaca area. Through collaboration with area schools, colleges and universities, Groundswell offers programs of study for beginning farmers, students, community members, and professionals.

Groundswell is an initiative of the EcoVillage Center for Sustainability Education in Ithaca, NY, which is a project of the Center for Transformative Action. Visit the Groundswell website to learn more about our programs, initiatives and resources.

Friday, April 13

Where does your "pink slime" come from?

A beef grinding operation. Photo by USDA/Wikimedia
by Audrey Gyr

In the past few weeks, the controversy surrounding “Lean Finely Textured Beef," otherwise known by its colorful moniker "pink slime," has raised many questions about the state of our food system. Created by Beef Products Inc., this product was invented ten years ago to turn fatty beef trimmings, which are highly susceptible to contamination by E. coli or Salmonella, into a product safe for human consumption.  Previously these trimmings had only been fit for pet food and cooking oil. However, by liquefying the trimmings and using a centrifuge to separate the fat and sinews from the meat and then spraying it with gaseous ammonia they could be safely mixed with regular hamburger meat and sold to an unsuspecting public.

You probably have heard Lean Finely Textured Beef referred to as “pink slime” in the news. The term was coined by a USDA microbiologist in 2002 in an email sent to colleagues, who went on to say "I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling." Nevertheless, it continued to be sold to school lunch programs, prisons, grocery stores, and restaurants across the country. In fact, some studies estimate that over 70 percent of all hamburgers sold contain “pink slime.”

Consumers have been outraged to find out that this ingredient and the ammonia used to produce it was never labeled on the food they were eating. The USDA says that “Lean Finely Textured Beef” did not have to be included on food labels because the ammonia used was classified as a processing agent. However, over the years there were many complaints about products that contained “Lean Finely Textured Beef.” Complaints mainly centered around the sometimes strong ammonia smell which could make the product unpalatable. In response, the company began reducing the amount of ammonia used in production. As a result, several batches which were intended for school lunches tested positive for salmonella in 2008. (You can find more details about this in an investigative piece written by Michael
Moss in 2009.)

The Quintessential Black Farmer: Preparing the garden

Weeding the urban garden plot
by Kirtrina Baxter

Today I decided to prep the garden for my spring planting. This will be my first official private food garden. I have grown lots of food in many places over the years, but never have I had the sole responsibility of growing food myself. Last year in I built an herb spiral in my backyard in Ithaca that grew well and I was able to harvest from, and I’ve grown herbs in the past on my own. I also put in a raised bed last year, but was too busy working on other projects to actually grow anything. Over the past 14 years I have participated with neighbors on community gardens, grown veggies at a few friend’s houses and helped grow produce and flowers at farms. However, this is my first very own food garden and I am totally excited. It is ironic that I lived in the country for 8 years and had to come back to the city to grow food, but I am up for the challenge and really excited to be urban gardening again.

While looking for a house in Philadelphia I had 3 priorities: lots of windows and sunlight; large closets; and a kitchen with lots of counter space. But I attached to this list a desire to have a small place to grow food. I figured, it was the city, and I didn’t want to expect too much. Well, I got everything I asked for and more. Not only do I have lots of light, closet and kitchen space, but my little backyard is actually a nice-sized garden plot. AWESOME!! I don’t need a bunch of trees and grass, although that is nice, as long as I can place my hands in some dirt and come up green!

The realtor who showed me the place said that it was set up as a garden, though no other tenant had used it as such. At first look, it seemed my 2 adjacent neighbors, who have the same lot as mine, could be gardeners as well. One had what seemed to be a rock garden, and the other had filled her space with rock mulch. To my surprise, when I met my neighbor with the rock garden (or so I thought) she told me that the women who lived here before me grew lots of veggies the last two seasons and that she too was planning on growing some this year. She had a bad case of moles two years previous and decided to do an overhaul of her space, hence the covered backyard and the large rounded rocks that were just placed there to keep the covering down.