Sunday, September 28, 2008

Local food and sustainable farming reaches academia

I have not blogged properly in ages. There are many reasons for that: we've moved houses and I'm still not fully settled. I'm also finishing my book on traditional Lebanese foods which will be launched in Terra Madre, the meeting of the world food communities, organized by Slow Food in Turin, Italy from 22-27 October. I'm trying to meet the printers deadlines, and the book still needs work. But most importantly, I have taken on a new job, kind of a promotion, but this one comes with a tall order: to breathe life into the research center cum farm cum education center located in the Bekaa. I now live there 2-3 days a week. The new mission of the center will be: "Advancing Research, Enabling Communities". It will act like a multifunctional center addressing issues of special relevance to the drylands, such as sustainable farming, hands-on education, applied and adaptive research, community development, drylandscaping, and drylands biodiversity. The community development component is of special importance: the Land and People program, which has been so successful in South Lebanon after the 2006 war, will be relocated there, while keeping the South Lebanon program operational. We will organize continuing education programs for neighboring community, and we are looking towards a partnership with a responsible tourism operator to use the facilities as a base for activities in the regions. I am also transforming the restaurant (typical campus cafeteria) into a traditional Bekaa food place: last week I had them cook a fabulous pumpkin kibbeh with walnuts and raisins, and a lentils-based dish called "rashta". Much better than the fat-soaked lasagna they usually serve. Also, all the ingredients were produced within a 50 km radius.

We're starting the responsible tourism activities on October 11, with a hike and a trip organized by Cyclamen, a local tour operator.

Meanwhile, D., for encouragement no doubt, sent me these 2 links from the Chronicle of Higher Education, which is to academia what The Wall Street Journal is to whatever is left from Wall Street.

"She and some of her colleagues at Emory are trying to change farming and food in the state, one meal at a time. Community gardens and farmers' markets have been set up on the campus to get people talking about seasonal food and regional farming. But the centerpiece of the university's sustainable-foods program is an ambitious — some might say unachievable — goal: by 2015, to have 75 percent of the 25,000 meals served each day at Emory feature regional or sustainable sources of food."

"A $2.5-million gift to Bates College will give its students plenty of food for thought this year. The private college, in Lewiston, Me., plans to use the money to spur a yearlong examination of how Americans get their food and the social and economic implications of the food-distribution system.

The donation, given anonymously by an alumnus, established an endowment to buy and serve more local, organic, and natural food. The donor gave Bates the gift (plus another $2.5-million for unrestricted use) about two years ago, but the college waited until this month to announce it. Along with the opening of a sustainable dining facility last spring, the gift is being used to start the campuswide exploration, called "Nourishing Body and Mind: Bates Contemplates Food.""


Anonymous said...

C'mon Rami, you've been blogging properly! It took me forever to catch up with your recommended reading after I got back! Congrats to your new post!

Rima W. said...

Rami, congrats on your new position.
Look forward to seeing your book. Is it going to be available in the US? hopefully just in time for xmas gifts!