Sweet Home-Grown Alabama

“Good for the Soul” says the posters taped to the dozen white tents. Customers mill from one seller to the next as a lone guitarist croons the song, “Blackbird singing in the dead of night…” It is a smaller market compared to the last few weeks, but has plenty of options for those in search of healthy eating. In the digital age of technological efficiency there is little room left for the old-fashioned farmers or grown in the backyard produce that was the heartbeat of historic Alabama, but as “Going Green” makes a come-back so does education about the importance of natural agricultural.

Every Thursday from 3-6 p.m. a farmers market sells organic produce outside Canterbury Episcopal Church on 5th avenue near UA campus. Most of the buyers are UA students or faculty who come for a fresher and cheaper selection of vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits and more.

Bubbles Bailey, from Montgomery, AL, learned how to make soaps and lotions in 2006 by practicing homemade recipes. She quit her job working in an office to do it full time.

“I stopped worrying about fitting in the box,” she says.

She uses raw honey from her bee hives, goat’s milk and more to create skin care products that are healthy for your skin and natural. Bailey says she enjoys what she does and the freedom of working for herself.

“Being an entrepreneur, you just got to find what you’re passionate about. Don’t wait till you’re 50 yrs old like I did.”

Homegrown Alabama, a UA student organization, founded the market. Mostly a collection of 10-20 graduate and undergraduate students majoring in American studies, they are dedicated to reaching out and educating others on healthy eating and supporting the agriculture community. <http://homegrownalabama.ua.edu/&gt;

They have multiple programs designed to convince more people to shop at the market. Students can swipe their id cards and swap out their Bama cash for tokens that are used to purchase goods. There was also an EBT plan (Electronic Benefit Transfer which was previously called food stamps). EBT refunds an individual $5 for every $10 spent at the farmers ‘market, but depleted funds ended the program a few weeks ago.

Many students still do not know about the market or think that it is not worth their time to visit

Corinne Jones, sophomore, “I’ve heard about it. This year I’ve become more familiar with it, and I’ve seen it around, but not been.”

“No, I haven’t gone, but I’m going to starting this semester,” senior Hannah Waits says. She admits that she loves to cook and makes dinner 3-4 times a week, but she shops at big grocery stores.

Another drawback is that college students do not have the time, energy or experience to prepare meals.

“I cook maybe 3 or 4 times a month,” Jones says. “I usually don’t even get home till 11 at night.”

Quinn Rowe, junior in TCF, “I might die by the time I’m 40 because of how many quarter pounders I eat.”

It is the fourth year that the farmers market has come to campus. Lindsey Turner, assistant marketing manager for Homegrown Alabama, calls it the best year so far with 18-20 vendors consistently coming to sell their goods. Most farmers drive for 45 minutes to get to Tuscaloosa, and all but one attend other weekly markets such as Pepper’s Place in Birmingham.

After the market closes in October, Homegrown Alabama will begin to organize the market starting in May. They also will host film screenings at the Ferg with guest panels aimed to discuss plights facing farmers today and education on organic produce.

There are other groups on campus that also center on the environment. UA Environmental Council focuses on activism and tends to the community garden at the Arboretum. The Druid City Garden project is led by an Honors College professor Rashmi Grace and her UH 300: Food and Community class. <http://www.druidcitygardenproject.org&gt;

Though, not many of the vendors were affected by the tornadoes in April, Homegrown Alabama helped Grace replant the Druid City Garden after it was destroyed.

New College also has a farming project that teaches students about agriculture. UA offers other programs of its own such as a nutritional promotion where students can talk to dietitians about how to live healthier (for appointments call 348-2778). The university also instated Project Health, which is an organization that educates students on anything from alcohol and drugs to financial stability and suicide.  < projecthealth.ua.edu>


Redesigning dorm room drab

Brittany Prescott-Kyles, 24, has always wanted to be an interior designer. The cheerful newly-wed never doubted what her passion was in life. The sweet goal-oriented gal from the South mixes country tradition with modern glam. To achieve this balance between simple and ornate, Brittany likes to create focal points using unique pieces—something with character like antique furniture. When asked how she described her personal style, she laughed and answered, “Can I say Pottery Barn?”

Looking at her you would never know that she works for a successful interior design company that is contracted by the University. If you passed her on the street, you would never know that she helped create a space that 2,000 students will call home-away-from-home.  Her design fingerprint will forever rest on the University of Alabama because of a building that isn’t even finished yet. On the north side of campus is a rising megalith of steel next to Rose Towers. This addition to campus, called the North Bluff residence halls, is a three phase housing development that will include two dorms and a new recreational center for students.

Photo from University of Alabama

Brittany interned for two and half years with the firm Interior Design Professionals, Inc. where she focused specifically on university projects. She was then hired full time after graduating in Spring 2011. UA employs the company to design any structure built or renovated on campus. Most students never put much thought into the people behind the buildings and rooms we spend our college years in, but it takes a small army to plan, build and furnish residence halls.

“We had to think of everything,” Brittany said. Interior designers had to plan every detail, including the molding, paint, fabrics, flooring, counter tops, lighting, wall decorations, and door handles, just to name a few.

When planning the North Bluffs, Brittany said that they stepped outside the usual southern décor. “We pushed the envelope a little bit, so it’s more modern,” Brittany said.

The designers wanted to create a young, mature space for students, but also needed to juggle the traditional demands of the university. When presenting ideas to clients, interior designers usually offer three concepts for the space, which gives the patrons options without overwhelming them. “That’s really important when you’re dealing with clients to keep them in their comfort zone.”

She said the most difficult part is navigating all the channels to get the plans accepted. “You have to get it approved by so many people,” she admits. “It’s challenging to appease everyone.”

Jumping through hoops and over barrels is part of the routine for Interior Design Professionals, Inc. Besides working with the University, they also work with the city to design office buildings, schools and hospitals. Currently, they are working on three elementary schools damaged by the April tornado. They were already in the process of building Holt Elementary before the storm, and now have to start over since it was destroyed.

“The only problem with working for the city is that the budget isn’t as big as you’d like it to be.”

However, Brittany said that she prefers dreaming up plans for the younger crowd.  “I love doing elementary schools because it’s more creative.”

For example, she is working on a project where rooms in the school represent different continents. She explains that you can’t put a pool with toy alligators and hippos in a UA classroom. That might be a tough sell for Dr. Witt and the board of directors.

Despite the little recognition given to designers, there are several ways that they are recognized for their work. State awards and other honors are given for categories of designs such as industrial and healthcare. Two of Brittany’s bosses have won awards for their contributions to the University and DCH.

The next step for Brittany is to take a monumental exam to be certified as an interior designer. This means that she will no longer need someone else to authorize her drawings. Brittany says she is happy to work at the firm long term and excited for the new projects she gets to be a part of. Someday she might just win an award of her very own.

When asked what advice she would give to girls living in dorms, she jumped at the chance to spread her wisdom. To young women decorating their first dorms, Brittany said that frugalness is important. “They spend all this money on a room they will only stay in for a year.” She encourages girls to use pictures of home to make the space personal and make statements with bedspreads and pillows.

Brittany cringes when thinking about those who try to hang curtains and pictures. “I’m a little biased, but don’t do anything that will damage the room,” she pleaded. It’s no surprise she doesn’t recommend doing anything that leaves a lasting imprint on the dorm. Those rooms have to last for decades and thousands of students!

Clutter is another issue that students struggle with. The accumulation of stuff turns a closet into a perilous pile of disorder. She suggests baskets and rigorous organization to stifle the problem.

Above all, Brittany counseled girls that education always comes first. She encourages Alabama’s women to be independent, make goals and achieve them. These are the principles she applies to her own life, and they have led her to a career and husband she loves.

Terri Sewell seeks jobs for 7th districts

By Heather Smith

TUSCALOOSA–Congresswoman Terri Sewell spoke at a luncheon Tuesday provided by the Rotary Club at the Indian Hills Country Club on McFarland. One of the main points in her speech was strengthening the job market in Alabama.

Voted the first African American Congress representative for the 7th district of Alabama, she is the only Democratic in Alabama’s delegation. She is a freshman in the 112th Congress and a member of the House committees of agriculture and science,space, and technology. Raised in Selma, Sewell went on to attend Princeton University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford.

Sewell has many notable achievements, but she focused on her story about escorting the president during his inaugural address. She was able to speak with him about her home state a few minutes before his speech.

“I went on to tell the president about the 7th Congressional districts, while one of the poorest districts in the state of Alabama … and one of the poorest in the nation. We also have a high unemployment rate–high drop out rate–but what we lack in economic prosperity, I told him that we more than made up for in heart and in spirit and fight. And that I am convinced that what we need in the 7th Congressional district are just resources and opportunities.”

One of the opportunities focused on the TRAIN ACT. Sewell defended her decision to vote for the bill because of the potential damages Alabama’s workers and businesses could suffer if it did not pass.

The TRAIN ACT, H.R. 2401, pits the environment against jobs for Americans. The proposed bill would stop the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) from strictly regulating carbon emissions and would continue the use of coal as one of our main energy supplies. The EPA mandates could affect the price of energy consumption and potentially affect the labor forces.

“The environment, while very important, I just think is a luxury when you’re taking about saving jobs in this kind of economy,” she said.

Sewell was one of 18 Democrats that voted with the Republicans to dismiss the TRAIN ACT. The bill passed the House and is now in the Senate.

However, there is another potential move that could bring 15,000 jobs to Alabama in the next five years. Sewell said that the free trade agreements with Panama, Columbia and Korea could help the economy. Congress will take up those discussions in the next few months.

Obama’s job plan is another way to boost the market. She went on to say that there needs to be more tax reliefs for small businesses and believes that corporate tax structure has to be re-examined. Sewell also said that the state or the government should not limit pale grants because they are essential to building the future of this country by allowing students to earn higher educations. She was adamant that she would not have been able to attend college without one.

“The only way I believe we can out educate, out innovate, out compete with the rest of the world is that we invest in all that is good in America.”

Obama’s bill has hit a wall, however. The Wall Street Journal covers the story. It might not be as easy to generate jobs as the Congresswoman suggested. Now that the bill has passed that severely restricts illegal Latino immigration into Alabama, there are more jobs for Americans but no one wants them.

Marcy Bonebright wrote about the difficulties now facing the construction companies. “Hispanics, documented and undocumented, dominate anything to do with masonry, concrete, framing, roofing and landscaping,” Bob McNelly, a contractor with Nash-McCraw Properties, told the news service. “There are very few subcontractors I work with that don’t have a Hispanic workforce… It’s not the pay rate. It’s the fact that they work harder than anyone. It’s the work ethic.”

Emmanuel Church hosts programs to help Latino families

This is my first attempt at a stand-up. I do not want to confess how many times it too me to choke out a few sentences, but I got through the project. I think it turned out to be a decently told story about how life was for Latino families living in Wood Village mobile home community.

I had to learn to work around the limitation of not filming the children’s faces, however. Because I did not have parental consent, I could not identify the kids in the video.

From Farm to Plate

I know this subject matter might be a little off the journalism and technology track, but I believe there are ties that exist if one takes a long and hard look. So far, I have focused tightly on just the system of journalism, or a mainstream journalism subject (like politics). For this blog entry, however, I want to weave the idea of how our new age of reporting can have a greater affect on immensely dense and tangled issues.

For me, finding such a ball of opinions and facts would be easy due to one class I am taking through the UA Honors program. It is titled “Food and Community”; and it has dramatically changed the way I see food and how I eat it. Now, I am the bane of my friends’ and families’ existences because I continuously babble about the horrors of farm animal abuse, agricultural corporation monopolies that threaten family farms, the dangers and mistreatment employees face at meat-packing factories, the consumer’s ignorance about the drugs and processed chemicals injected into every aspect of food… The list goes on and on.

I wish I could stop caring. I wish that I had never taken this class, so that I could live blissfully unaware. But instead, all I can do is pass on my knowledge.

Here is a cluster of topics that encompass the greater issue of how our country’s complex agriculture and meat industry needs serious consideration by Americans. People don’t know what they need to know. Hopefully, this blog might help with that.

Tracking from farm to plate:

In most cases, you will never know where your food originally was grown. Farming and ranching depends on a series of processes that include processing the food in factories, packaging it (sometimes in other factories), transporting it to main facilities that then ship it to other stores, until it finally comes to you in a grocery aisle in a supermarket. The best thing you can do when decided between two brands is to do some research about the company and read the labels looking for ingredients or terms you understand.

JustBare is a good example of a chicken company that cares about it’s animals and it’s customers. They are environmentally conscious and extremely transparent about the food they serve. A code is on every one of it’s packages that the consumer can type into the website and find out what farm the chicken came from.

McCormick is a poor source of information about where the spices in their blends. A vast majority of our spices come from other countries, but surfing McCormick’s website never gives the consumer a clue. They use pretty pictures of cookies and delicious recipes to distract from the fact that they do not tell you anything concrete about how their product is made.

The issues of large-scale farming and ranching:

The NewYorkTimes has done an excellent job of covering farming and ranching from all sides. Here is a whole index of stories.

Oprah did a segment on the cattle industry. Lisa Ling went into a slaughterhouse to tell the story of how cows become steaks. Warning: this is a graphic video.

Lisa Ling had permission to videotape, but it is rare for anyone to get a glimpse into the food industry. Many companies want to protect trade or product secrets, but this can also hide transgressions against animals, health or safety code violations.

Any knowledge of these abuses usually comes from secret filming behind closed doors. New York, Iowa and other states are now passing bills that make a crime out of taking pictures in the facilities without the company’s permission. However, many argue that this is the only way to find out the truth.

Since corporations began taking over our nation’s food industry, they have continually fought legislation that would cost them money. They do not want to disclose evidence that would change the public’s view of their products. Therefore, they hide employee accidents that occur because of ignored safety regulations, and argue that consumers do not have the right to know about food recalls (the FDA does not require them to announce when food is taken off the market for safety concerns).

Organic and healthy:

There are many organizations and clumps of farmers and ranchers that believe in the traditional styles of growing food–totally natural. Natural Health News is a nonprofit devoted to covering green farming and educating the public about healthy eating.

In Tuscaloosa, there is a student led farmer’s market, called Homegrown Alabama, where most of the vendors sell organic produce.

Other sources of information:

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Fast food nation: the dark side of the all-American meal by Eric Schlosser

The table of paparazzi at Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s luncheon

I do not follow politics one bit, and I don’t even vote. Gasp! That’s right. I’m a journalism major, and I do not exercise my first amendment. It does not interest me and frankly, I would rather stay away from the drama of it all. To me, every politician is exactly the same. They promise things that never get done, and issues that need solutions never have an easy answer. So why bother?

When this country was founded, men who ran for office were of different lifestyles and careers. A farmer, a rancher and a barber could all run for mayor. Now, politicians are strictly taught how to be politicians. Most of them are lawyers or businessmen, which make sense because both apply when it comes to running the country, but that has also limited the views and opinions of the people in office.

When I went on assignment to cover Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s luncheon, I had no idea who she was. Turns out she is an incredibly accomplished woman, but while I researched her background and career I could not help but dread the upcoming Tuesday. In our quest for a higher education, my peers and I met at the Indian Hills Country Club at noon.

The ten or so other aspiring journalists sat at the same table like paparazzi. Once glance in our direction and you could tell exactly why we were there (in fact, we received a great many stares). There was barely any room for our food because of all the cameras, notepads and equipment bags stacked on the table and around our chairs.

I hate being that person who annoys everyone around them because I have to move around and get various angles of video and pictures for the article. In short, I hate being an obnoxious journalist. I would much rather be the cool journalist that never has to trip over people’s feet or get glared at because I almost hit them in the head with my tripod.

When I had my perfect spot picked out and actually relaxed, it was interesting to hear Sewell’s stories about President Obama and her job of watching over the 7th district. She seemed like a genuinely friendly and generous personality with an enthusiastic love of her job. So as far as politicians go, she made a noteworthy impression on me. In the future, she might be the only politician that I pay any attention to.

New niche is expanding for Latino journalism

It is interesting to watch Caucasian men and women report on a story about children in the ghettos or drug wars on the Mexican border. They seem out of place and disconnected to the plights they are reporting on. Would it register with audiences more to see Latino journalists walking the deserts paths of drug runners or African American newscasters investigating education in poor neighborhoods? Or is that considered stereotypical? After all, several ethnicities could be affected by any story.

Historical segregation and racial prejudice has undoubtedly played a part in hindering minorities in social and professional environments. Just as minorities are gaining ground in the political arena, the same battle is being fought in journalism.

On the Daily Grito, Rubon Soto counted down 10 news reporters and anchors in American journalism. They are all in highly populated Hispanic cities such as L.A., San Antonio, Miami, New York and Chicago.

George de Lama, associate managing editor for foreign and national news at the Chicago Tribune, notes in his article “There’s a Need at the Top for Latino Journalists” that there is a significant need for minority reporters that has not been filled. He was the second Latino to work at his paper and explains how his predecessor and mentor was promoted to editor.

“The need is visible across the country; the rise of Latino influence on American politics, popular culture and society is exploding onto the nation’s consciousness before most news organizations are ready to handle it. Today no serious newspaper can pretend to serve its community without sophisticated reporting about Hispanic affairs.”

There are opportunities in small community news and large organizations to push racial and ethnic borders. There are talk shows, magazines and newspapers all to support the growing number of immigrants in the U.S. NewsTaco is a blog led by four journalists that deliver information from Latino points of view. Fox News also has a site dedicated completely to stories centered on Hispanic interests.

Now that doors have been opened, the problem becomes education for minority children. They often are born into homes with parents who speak little English and work minimum wage jobs. It is a constantly struggle financially and socially as the kids are required to adapt to a culture much different from their own heritage. Competition for college acceptances, internships and entry-level positions may only heap more stress and insecurity onto an individual struggling to overcome discrimination.

However, enduring and succeeding these obstacles molds a stronger character, which then produces better journalists. The tougher and more stubborn resolve, the harder a news reporter digs to uncover the truth of a critical story.

Lama offers a snippet of advice when it comes to young Hispanics waiting to burst into a career field.

“For young Latino journalists today, whatever your choice, learn from the experience of others, then make your mark by breaking your own new ground. Whichever way you go, whatever you decide to pursue, remember that fresh approaches to stories and new insights in reporting and writing are at the heart of excellent journalism, the kind that best serves our readers—and that provides the greatest possible career opportunities.”