The top things for which we are grateful
Letterman has his Top 10 List, and Oprah has her gratitude journal. We — at this time of thanksgiving — thought that it would be fun to blend the two and compile a Top 10 list of things we are grateful for.
But we Outposters are a very grateful bunch, so our Top 10 morphed rapidly into a slightly bigger list, and could have kept growing.
So here it is: Our Top Things We Are Grateful For (blessings big and small):
Michelle Obama’s White House garden
In March 2009, the First Lady and a troop of third-graders broke ground on the south lawn, to begin what became the White House kitchen garden. People around the country applauded as an expanse of lawn gave way to vegetables to be used by chef Sam Kass in the White House kitchen. The British Prime Minister’s wife followed suit in London, as did the Queen, and we’re guessing plenty of regular people in the USA and UK pulled out their shovels, too.
Mrs. Obama did not stop there. Her progressive and inspiring food policies took her to school kitchens, where she pushed for healthier school lunches, and a White House Farmer’s Market has been established in Washington.
At the Outpost, we’re always rooting for people to rediscover the joy of eating fresh, organic food, and we’re firmly behind the “eat local” movement. We’re grateful to have a First Lady whose values mirror our own.
Will Allen and Growing Power
While Michelle Obama is busy planting vegetables and inspiring people the world over, we have a similar role model right here in Milwaukee. Will Allen, founder of Growing Power, digs his hands into the earth and comes up with fists full of worms and hope.
Allen’s urban farm on Milwaukee’s north side has been the topic of many high-profile editorials in 2009, from The New York Times Magazine to Oprah Magazine.
Allen has traveled to The Netherlands to attend talks on food systems, he has worked with London’s mayor to try and get gardens planted in Hyde Park, and he has made an impact at home as well.
Allen is something of an ambassador, then, leaving Milwaukee to spread the word about sustainable urban agriculture. As he sows the seeds of education, he also sows seeds of goodwill and leaves other leaders with a positive, inspiring impression of a Milwaukee native.
Back home, his Growing Power provides us with jobs, education, mentorship, and very delicious food. We are grateful that Will Allen is here.
This is an organization that is dear to our hearts, and not just because Outpost was integral to its inception, but because it provides a way for local businesses to pool resources and promote a “shop local” ethos in Milwaukee.
The alliance is getting stronger with each new membership, and with each community event it supports. Businesses all over the metropolitan area have joined, from restaurants to bookstores, design firms to radio stations, numbering somewhere around 125 at last count.
We are grateful to live in a city that boasts a vibrant and eclectic base of locally owned businesses, and we’re equally grateful that Our Milwaukee is here to support them and get the word out.
In 2009, something happened at cinemas nationwide; the public was let in on some of the secrets of the food system it depends on. Pop your head around the door of the Downer Theater this past summer, and you wouldn’t have seen a Hollywood actress on the silver screen; you’d have seen a cow. You’d have seen many cows, on a factory feedlot, and then the inside of a poultry facility. You’d have seen cows in cages, cows in fields, and a farmer chewing on a stalk of wheat, explaining the difference. That was Joel Salatin, the farmer who was profiled in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Speaking of Michael Pollan, he also makes an appearance in Food Inc. Like Pollan’s books, the film made a strong case for buying local, buying fresh, and avoiding food that you can’t trace to its source.
At Outpost, we’re thrilled to see a documentary like Food, Inc. in cinemas because the message delivered is in line with our way of viewing food, and it’s heartening to see it work its way toward the mainstream, where it will reach and benefit more people than ever before.
A new home for arts critics
It doesn’t matter what city you live in, chances are you grumble about your local newspaper. It’s too liberal, it’s too right wing, it’s too this, it’s too that. But chances are, when it comes to reviews, you read them and take note before heading to the box office, movie theater, or before choosing what to watch on TV.
When a few of Milwaukee’s arts critics took a Journal Sentinel buyout this summer, many people wondered aloud what would become of arts coverage in our city? We have a vibrant, active and multi-tiered arts scene, and we depend on those voices to reflect upon it, spark dialogue, pick the winners and point out hidden gems.
So we’re grateful to see Tom Strini, former music and dance critic for the Journal Sentinel, furiously writing away from his new “Culture Desk” at ThirdCoast Digest. We’re grateful to see 27 years of institutional knowledge not lost. (And we’re glad to share space with him at ThirdCoast. You can check out many Exchange articles and columns there each month.)
And we’re grateful to see Damien Jacques, former JS theater critic, in a new home at OnMilwaukee.com, alongside television reviewer Tim Cuprisin. Back at the Journel-Sentiner, Mary Louise Schumacher and Jim Higgins are holding down the fort admira bly.
Power to the people — an affordable electric car?
Many among us would like to drive a more efficient car; a hybrid or electric car, but the high price tag makes us balk. Good news comes to us from Nissan; it’s proposed (in development) electric car, the Nissan Leaf, will be priced around $25,000; a lot more affordable than anything we’ve seen so far.
No doubt other car companies are trying to bring us something similar, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they roll out. Of course, this doesn’t do us much good if the United States’ grid system isn’t overhauled and updated — to provide enough power to charge all those electric cars — but we can be grateful that President Obama seems to know this and has allocated funds for energy reform.
Schwartz lives on, sorta
Another “phew” story comes from Downer Avenue and Mequon; from two former Harry W. Schwartz stores. When the business announced in March that it was closing its Milwaukee bookstores after 82 years in business, hands were clapped over mouths and groans were sent up. People were genuinely, sincerely sad.
So we’re grateful that two former Schwartz employees were able to summon the funds and the mettle to take on their stores under new names, and keep the bookstores alive in their respective communities.
Lanora Hurley of Next Chapter Bookstore in Mequon, and Daniel Goldin of Boswell Book Company on Downer Avenue, deserve our thanks and — more importantly —our support.
We’re grateful for Outpost’s own Little Oaties. Milwaukee Magazine called them the best cookies in town, and we whole-heartedly agree. If you haven’t had one, all we can say is: What are you waiting for?
All’s fair in Milwaukee
In July 2007, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett signed a resolution making Milwaukee the first major city in the country to become a certified “Fair Trade City.”
Alderman Tony Zielinski was behind the push, stating that fair trade would provide economical and ethical benefits for the city.
“Fair trade city status is the right thing to do from a human rights standpoint because of the horrible sweatshop conditions that produce far too many products that make it into this country,” Zielinski said. (Source: Exchange magazine, Oct 2007).
Today, Milwaukee residents enjoy many fair trade events, notably the Fair Trade Crawl in May, and have access to fair trade stores in communities across the metro area.
Bike racks on buses
Going with a transportation theme for a moment, Milwaukee’s cyclists were rewarded this past summer, when the County Board vetoed Executive Scott Walker and put an end to a long campaign to get bike racks on buses.
Milwaukee was one of only a handful of major cities in the country not to have the bike racks, and proponents argued for the environmental and societal benefits of encouraging more people to commute on two wheels and explore bike trails. Now, all 470 transit system buses have been outfitted with them, putting Milwaukee in good company with Madison, Sheboygan and Green Bay.
The Outpost Natural Foods Co-op in Wauwatosa is a beautiful sight in summer – from the parking lot, of all places. Christine Goldsworthy, Outpost staffer, has been tending a beautiful garden of native species, and owners and customers compliment us on it all the time. The Capitol Drive and Bay View stores also boast native perennials; a small thing perhaps, but it’s something that makes a big difference.
It’s about Time! Slow food gets it’s due
Time Magazine made foodies very happy in August with its cover story: The Real Cost of Cheap Food
We were happy to see Food Inc. expose some food system truths to moviegoers, and happy to see a mainstream publication like Time magazine bring the same message to a very large audience. Just by working for a natural foods co-op, Outpost staffers are educated by osmosis on the consequences of the food system in America. The Time magazine article doesn’t pull any punches, and tells the story — the truth — in a way that could put you off your bacon breakfast… for good.
Okay, so Milwaukee is famous for one particular drink: beer. And we do that particularly well; especially artisan brews like those on offer at Lakefront Brewery, which received a few votes from our staff. We’re particularly keen on their ESB organic and New Grist gluten-free offerings. And they have polka music, too, at their weekly fish fries. But if beer isn’t your thing, Milwaukee boasts two fabulous alternatives; coffee and tea. For coffee, we don’t have to rely on Starbucks because we have Alterra, with its hip, urban and cozy coffee houses and absolutely delicious local blends. And that’s not even going into the cool t-shirts. And Sven’s in Bay View offers some top-notch beans. Don’t want java? Tea might be your thing, and in Milwaukee, we have some serious bragging rights when it comes to delicious, varied, exotic, fair trade tea. We have Rishi Tea. The company swept the floor at this year’s World Tea Championship in Las Vegas, netting an unprecedented 28 awards for its artisan blends. Visit their web site (rishi-tea.com) for an education in fair trade, tea sourcing, and to enjoy a moment of Zen, gazing at some beautiful photographs of tea in the making.
Growing Power’s Will Allen, as we have already mentioned, fills the role of mentor in his hometown of Milwaukee. We see the results across town at Sweetwater Organics, where James Godsil, Steve Lindner and Josh Fraundorf took an industrial slum building and filled it with a three-tiered aquaponic bio-intensive fish-vegetable garden.
Under the tutelage of Allen, the three men took the symbiotic aquaponic system to new heights. According to their web site: “Sweet Water’s sustainable aquaculture system harvests urban waste streams, e.g. wood chips, cardboard, veggie residues, coffee grounds, and brewers mash, along vermiculture lines, yielding the richest possible soil. This soil in hundreds of potted plants on the simulated wetland tiers is key to the transformation of fish wastes into natural nitrate for plant growth and water filtration. The fish nourish the plants. The plants clean the water, and, in the case of tilapia, feed the fish!”
The group hopes to make money from the sale of fish and greens, and also provide education and promote the slow food movement in Milwaukee. We’re lucky to have them and their entrepreneurial spirit here.
More vegetarian and organic restaurants
Local chefs have been paying attention to public sensibilities… and they know people want fresh, local food and they know that people want to buy organic. In Milwaukee, locavores and vegetarians can take solace in the offerings at Meritage, Roots, Café Manna, Comet Café, Hinterland Gastro Pub, Anodyne, Beans & Barley, Honeypie, Lulu Café, The National and Amaranth Bakery and Café, and others. Look for a story in the January Exchange, profiling these chefs, and seeing how they manage to source local in the depths of a Wisconsin winter. We’re grateful they do.
Congress investigating USDA standards
The USDA created the National Organic Program in 2002, to mark those products made without pesticides or synthetic ingredients. Since then, there have been concessions, controversies, violations and confusion. Big-name producers are marketing “natural” products, which organic producers say undermine their market.
According to a July report in the Washington Post: “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has pledged to protect the label, even as he acknowledged the pressure to lower standards to let more products in. In response to complaints, the USDA inspector general’s office has widened an investigation of whether products carrying the label meet national standards. The probe is also looking into the department’s oversight of private certifiers who are hired by farmers and food producers and inspect products to determine whether they can use the label.”
That Congress is stepping up the pressure to keep integrity in the organic labeling system is something that can only benefit the local producer and the consumer.
One of the Outpost staffers who answered our gratitude poll gave a nod to CSA’s. And we have to agree. If you don’t have time to get to the co-op or grocery store, and the farmer’s market is a few days away… your CSA might just save you. Sign up for free-range eggs and organic produce, receive a surprise basket every week or two. You can even sign up to volunteer on the farm, getting a workout, some time outdoors, gardening lessons and a discount while you’re at it. Sounds pretty good to us. Check the Local Harvest website for CSA listings.
So there you have it — just some of the top things for which we are grateful. We’re sure to think of a few more before this goes to press, but hopefully we’ve inspired you to check out one or two Milwaukee gems you didn’t know about before.
Outpost administrative staff