Damn Good Biking

Damn Good Biking
Mammath Mountain

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lessons learned

Its about 1130 just returned from a awesome night at our foreign cinema event.
Here was the lessons learned.

Never have expectations for heroes
Always eat good food when you can
If all else fails, do something you believe in

Matt and I jammed, people liked it, we interviewed with NPR, worked out the beginning stages of a book we are going to write, rolled the first footage of a documentary, made excellent connections for ourselves, and for others.

A success.

Country Joe was there….and he left.
Read my letter, never responded, asked about playing, he said. I don't do that.
I expected him to be a man who wants to pass down his music instead of keeping it to himself.
You know teach others.

The foreign cinema is a place to die and go to food heaven, the entire staff was efficient, joyful, and friendly. The chef, John, works magic with the fixins, every bite was….mmmmm....I should say no more.

The key to our events is that we put everyone on the same common place. The dinner table. These connections are made by sharing the bounty of our wonderful planet, and working with each other for a common purpose. More food.

Tonight I realized that beyond all my travels, the core of my determination is to at all cost do what you love. It might not always take you down the easiest path. But it will be the most rewarding.

Claudia Munoz, and Joey Braccio from Peace Corps Niger were in attendance. Really our night is about honoring those who serve. Either in combat, or as an ambassador of our culture, each share their risks, we all devote a portion of our lives in service to our dynamic country.

Some in the crowd served in the front lines of combat
Some served in the front lines of combating hunger
All in attendance are manning the front lines of positive change.

Country Joe.
Ah, Barty Crawford and all of those along my path of learning music are my teachers.

Food, fuels
Love wastefully.

a Four star Evening

Plummeting further down the rabbit hole, yesterday Matt, Michael and I, hit a home run but moving closer to obtaining our fiscal sponsorship, and we had a meeting with the backers to start a veterans village in Minnesota.

At this site, it is a very real possibility that your truly could end up. Its a location where we will begin a veterans community that can not only economically sustain itself with agricultural enterprises, but teach others.

check out the campus on the vets village webpage.

Within a few moments Michael and I are heading into the heart of San Francisco to hold our fundraiser dinner at the foreign cinema restaurant.

At this event we are collecting the leaders in agriculture, food industries professionals, along with food policy educators. I hope they like the farmer veterans we have amassed, we really have a diverse grouping of guys.

The chefs have been donated a wide variety of quality wines, as well as all the fresh seafood, vegetables, and meats they could ever want. The prestigious Marina Market has supported our event by giving a blank check and virtual access to its cupboards for this event.

This will likely be the best meal I have had in years, and possibly for quite some time.

time to roll, take care,
enjoy your chef boyardee, I have my own chefs....for tonight anyways.

the wayfarer way.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A letter by James Howard Kunstler

Here you go guys, another call for stepping up agriculture.
this article was sent to me by our webmasater for the FVC enjoy.

The "change" we face in agriculture dwarfs even the death throes of Happy Motoring (and is not unrelated to it either).

A lot of people are likely to starve in America if we don't get our act together pronto in terms of how we produce the food we eat. Petro-agribusiness faces a set of disturbances that are certain to induce food shortages. Again, the Peak Oil specter looms in the background, for soil "inputs" and diesel power to run that system. But all of a sudden even that problem appears a lesser danger than the gross failure of capital finance now underway -- and petro-agriculture's chief external input is credit.

Credit may be in extremely short supply this year, and hence crops may be in short supply as we turn the corner into spring and summer. Just as in the case of WalMart versus Main Street, the reform of farming in America is one of those "changes" much larger than most of us imagine.

I'd go so far to say that a large proportion of young people now in college will find themselves not working in office cubicles, but in some way or other in farming or the "value-added" activities connected to it.

A New York Times Op-ed Piece

The author of this op-ed piece is a veteran we were connected to from Daniel Ellsberg (leaked the pentagon papers).

This year Tyler will be embarking on a cross country bicycle trip to raise awareness for veterans services and discussing the broader war on terror from soldiers perspectives. I highly recommend visiting his site.

we are hoping to support Tyler in some means during his trip, if would like to participate or contribute feel free to contact myself or Tyler.

THE Pentagon’s recent decision not to award the Purple Heart to veterans and soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress has caused great controversy. Historically, the medal has gone only to those who have been physically wounded on the battlefield as a result of enemy action. But with approximately one-third of veterans dealing with symptoms of combat stress or major depression, many Americans are disappointed with the Pentagon’s decision; many more are downright appalled. As a former Marine infantry officer and Iraq war veteran, I would urge the Pentagon to consider a different solution altogether.

First, let me say that both sides of the Purple Heart debate have expressed some reasonable concerns. Those who believe that the Purple Heart should be reserved strictly for the physically wounded hold a more traditional sense of the battlefield in which wounds are bloody and undeniable. The gashes of war carry an irrevocable purity that tends to make the issue concrete and uncomplicated.

And yet there have been complications. During the 2004 presidential election, John Kerry’s Purple Hearts, awarded for his service in Vietnam, were labeled by his opponents “purple owies” because the wounds he suffered were not considered dire enough. It was a petty episode, to be sure, but it demonstrated the disparate views of this medal. In the interests of guarding the nobility of the Purple Heart, many service members, including me, have suggested that not every last physical wound merits a decoration.

When I was in Iraq, the most common wound behind the many Purple Hearts we awarded was the “perforated eardrum,” an eardrum punctured by the concussion of a nearby explosion. In the vast majority of cases, no blood was ever shed. Seldom did these marines ever miss a day of full duty. And yet they were all awarded the coveted medal.

Admittedly, I was dubious about the “recognition” of these and other lesser wounds; I felt that in a way they subverted the obvious intent of the Purple Heart — honoring soldiers who have been seriously hurt. But where to draw the line? Perhaps it should be awarded only to those who required admittance into a combat support hospital. “The Purple Heart deserves at least one night out of action,” I argued at the time. But my own commander stood fast by the rules, affirming: “A combat wound is a combat wound, no matter how small. So they get the medal.”

A year later, back at Camp Lejeune, N.C., I was making calls to the families of wounded marines — a difficult duty even when the wounds were minor. But I noticed during that time that I never once made a call to a family about a marine’s psychological wounds. I never got a casualty report for post-traumatic stress, despite the rising number of veteran suicides. Never once.

Why, I asked myself, if a combat wound is a combat wound no matter how small, shouldn’t those people suffering from the “invisible wounds” of post-traumatic stress also receive the Purple Heart? Difficulty of diagnosis is one of the central justifications the Pentagon has given, citing the concern that fakers will tarnish the medal’s image. Spilt blood cannot be faked.

But this seems an unconvincing argument not to honor those who actually do suffer from post-traumatic stress. For example, the possibility of fakers has not prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from awarding disability payments to service members who have received a diagnosis. Why should the military itself be different?

The distinction, I suspect, lies in the deep-seated attitude toward psychological wounds. It is still difficult for many members of the military to truly believe that post-traumatic stress is, in fact, an injury and not the result of a weak or dysfunctional brain. The same culture that demands tough-mindedness also encourages skepticism toward the suggestion that the violence of war can hurt the healthiest of minds.

Still, almost all service members agree that veterans suffering from confirmed cases of post-traumatic stress should be cared for. The reality of psychological wounds is becoming harder and harder to deny. That post-traumatic stress can lead to suicide is no longer in question. That far too many of those returning from combat experience deep and long-lasting devastation is irrefutable.

So why not recognize the struggles of these many individuals with a medal? Why, for instance, if a veteran has been given a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress and awarded benefits, should he not also be awarded a Purple Heart? Sadly, as long as our military culture bears at least a quiet contempt for the psychological wounds of war, it is unlikely those veterans will ever see a Purple Heart. That is too bad, I think, because they do deserve all the honor the physically wounded receive.

But there may be another solution — perhaps a new decoration, a new medal, could be established specifically for those suffering from post-traumatic stress. It would be awarded to those whose minds and souls have been sundered by war.

I urge General Eric Shinseki, the new head of Veterans Affairs and former Army Chief of Staff, to work hand in hand with the Defense Department to bring about some form of official recognition for these wounded veterans. The current stigma of post-traumatic stress would likely prevent many soldiers from wearing the medal initially, but its mere existence would help crystallize in the American — and the American military — consciousness one of the more obscure human costs of war.

I suggest we call this medal the Black Heart. Certainly the hearts of these soldiers are black, with the terrible things they saw and did on the battlefield. Certainly the country should see these Black Hearts pinned on their chests.

Tyler E. Boudreau, a former Marine captain, is the author of “Packing Inferno: The Unmaking of a Marine.”

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Meeting a new Veteran

Hi guys this is something my boss wrote after we recently met another of our vets for the first time. The veteran adam, is a remarkable young man, he really emphasises the quality of people we are taking on.

We left Mexico that day at 1030, we arrived in Berkeley at 0100.
that's how we roll.

Meeting Adam Burke

Yesterday Army Vet turned farmer Josh Anderson and I left the 85 degree weather of Maneadero, Mexico, near Del Cabo’s packing facility and drove up to Hesperia, in the high desert East of Los Angeles. We climbed up to about 4000 feet elevation, and the temperatures dropped and the wind picked up. The higher mountains were covered with snow.

We went to meet Adam Burke, a young Iraq Army vet who wants to farm blueberries where he grew up in Central Florida. Adam got hit by mortar shrapnel in the Sunni Triangle in 2004, two weeks before he was to get out. Adam’s group was hunting down Saddam Hussein’s sons.

“Did you see them?” I asked. “After they were dead,” he said.

Adam is an athletic looking young man with an endearing smile, but walks with a cane. He has trouble bending over.

“I was the first person in my family to NOT go directly into farming,” Adam said. “I spent all my childhood having to pick vegetables, and didn’t want to do it anymore. I’d give anything to be able to pick right now.”

Adam has put together a well researched crop plan, marketing plan and business plan. He wants to put two year old berry plants into 30 gallon containers, using pine bark and azalea fertilizer. He wants to plant early yielding high-bush plants. “I want to hire other vets,” he said. “This way my friends can pick, even if they lost their legs, or have just one arm.”

Adam’s wife, Michelle, grew up in a farming family, too. Now she’s a traveling pediatric nurse and they travel the country helping out at understaffed hospitals. They were going to leave California on Saturday but asked to stay into April so they could connect more with the Farmer-Veteran Coalition. We want to make Adam’s dream of farming a reality

Farmer-Veteran Coalition

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Eco-Farm Conference Monterrey California Final Day

The twilight zombies are shuffling between coffee stands, the booths are breaking down, the weather has finally cleared, and I actually am leaving the conference with a potential job offer as a farm loan manager in Humboldt County Northern California.

Last night I declined the concert and dance and instead chose to pick out some tunes with a pianist, guitar, dobro, and banja player at the main hall.

As all small circles develop here, each player belonged to the same agriculture agency who works out of the same office in Davis that we might potentially occupy in the next few months as the FVC locates to a central location. With the our foreseen fiscal sponsorship, creation of our own non profit status, and potential funding from the VA, USDA, and foundation support we are well on our way to hopefully employing in the near future a staff consisting of a full time office manager, veteran outreach coordinator, as well as for our project directors position as farm adviser.

Its a wonderful feeling to be a part of something monumental from the ground up. Our organization has made incredible progress from this conference forging new connections, future projects, and most imminently leads to potential employment opportunities for our Farmer-Vets.

Alright, I'm bound to Santa Cruz later this afternoon, then later back to Berkeley to veg' out in the hotel for a day, get a full belly, a good nights rest, and start the race all over again for our planned activity at the Foreign Cinema restaurant on the 28th.

be well.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Eco-Farm Conference Monterrey California Day 2

Waking up exhausted, hungry, and eager to begin a new day at Eco-Conference. Last night at our FVC mixer I learned the hard lesson of operating without sleep or food as the nasty consequence of being unable to hardly construct a coherent thought.

Today I awoke, stretched, and set up our table, then visited with Will Allen and his wife Kate. It was their farm in Vermont I worked on after Farm Aid which kicked off this intrepid wayfarer's incredible omnivores odyssey around the States, and now Mexico.

My activities after the event was consumed by operating our information booth, spreading the FVC gospel and pimping out our propaganda to willing listeners. The accomplishment of this activity was made in the payment of finding willing farm owners wishing to place our veterans on farms, as well as selling potentially two more tickets to our event on the 28th in San Francisco.

Again, I am bushed, so its time to take a little napsy poo.

Be well, I'm rolling strong with good vibrations


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Eco-Farm Conference Monterrey California

Two weeks on the road, nearly 2,000 miles of diverse vegetations, and climate zones have passed beneath me. Each experiance has given me a nibble to add to the entire feast of turf swallowed up.

Currently I am at the Eco-Farm conference held at the ASILIMAR conference complexes where the most people of the highest levels of production and those aspiring to feed communities meet to conspire.

My day in large has been spent in conferences learning about the mysteries of the Farm Bill and its iniative to assist begining farmers. Considerable time and energy has been used to promote our project, and connect not only to potential future projects with other organizations but connecting to former and future members of the horticulture program which I will be attending in the Spring.

It seems I can't swing a stick without knocking into someone who has attended or is affiliated with the program. This experiance has emphasized my thoughts that this is the place for me to come to learn what I must to help feed communities.

Its 1739, I am utterly exhausted and in much need of a rest, food, and time to myself, in 5 minutes I leave to pack up our promotion table and move towards the next objective of our mixer at 2000. No sleep yet, I"ll likely skip dinner to rest, then hopefully the saga of making connections, and new friendships begins anew.

It seems our project has stormed the conference and not a wind blows without carrying the whisper of our project, this community supports us, new communities will as well, and I am all the happier for the path I have chosen to get to this point.

okay, I must go for now.
be well.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Matt McCue is starting his farm!!

Greetings everyone, this is something my fellow farmer-veteran, and Peace Corps-music cohort recently scribbled about his current predicament.

Its been a long journey for Matt, he's came a long way from being a soldier in Iraq to a young farmer starting out on his own. The only way to live is to find a passion, and suck the marrow out of it. America, meet one of its heroes.

Soil tests, water tests, lease agreements, loans, co signers, bankers, and letters of intent.

These are things that flow through my mind as I search for the piece of land that will produce the food that will sustain my life and career; food that will become a small piece of the backbone of the bay.

Upon completion of every financial form imaginable I dream of bringing seeds to the soil. They will come alive and convert sunlight into sugar molecules. I will grow them in straight rows and space the plants in such a way that I can weed them mechanically.

In a few months I will become a part of a living system that will involve water reservoirs, underground pipes, filters, hose fittings, heavy machinery, light machinery, and plastic drip tape. All this technology and industry is built to catch the power of the spring and summer. Every agricultural machine ever made is a subservient juggernaut waiting for the days to become longer and the spring to come.

I will search Berkeley and the East Bay for our 150 CSA member quota. I will make it work because that is what I do. Horticulturist, Mechanic, and Businessman are some of the hats I have to wear; keeping the dream alive through soil tests, water tests, lease agreements, loans, co signers, bankers, and letters of intent.

Matt Mccue
Shooting Star CSA

Friday, January 9, 2009

Harvesting Ties With Afganistan

Hello all, been out of the picture for a while. Thought I would observe the world for a while instead of write about it. Here is a fantastic article, enjoy. Today my task is to communicate with these people mentioned and see what our organization can do to potentially start sending our farmer veterans to Iraq and Afghanistan in the next coming years.

A good place to begin reconciliation would be the dinner table, wouldn't you agree?

Without further adieu.....

Harvesting ties with Afghanistan

By Tom Vanden Brook - USA TODAY
Posted : Wednesday Dec 31, 2008 8:10:28 EST

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Growing up on a farm with no electricity or indoor plumbing in the rolling, wooded hills of southwestern Wisconsin may be the best training Col. Martin Leppert could have had for what he’s facing here.

Leppert leads the new National Guard program, spearheaded by farmer-soldiers from middle America, to teach Afghans how to bolster their yields from crops and livestock.

“I can appreciate what they’re going through,” he says. “I had a little Afghan experience in my own upbringing. It’s hard living.”

In Afghanistan, eight of 10 workers scratch a living from the bleak landscape. Just 12 percent of the land in a country about the size of Texas can support crops. Devastating droughts are common here; overgrazing has depleted pastures. Small improvements can help make farming more viable, Leppert says. They also can help wean some farmers off opium poppies, which feed the heroin trade and in turn nourish militants such as the Taliban.

The war in Afghanistan, says Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, will be won in rural areas with programs like the Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team effort. Such aid will be as important as bullets, he says. Afghans won’t reject the fundamentalist Muslim Taliban and the narcotics trade until they feel more secure and see government efforts to improve their lives.

“These are the tactics that have been responsible for virtually every modern success in irregular warfare, and the Guard’s efforts are an example of the only path to success,” he says.

The National Guard’s teams began deploying here this year. The program is based on efforts over the past 20 years by the Guardsmen to improve farming in Central and South America.

Gen. David McKiernan, the top commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, calls the program “tremendous” and salutes the Guardsmen.

“They bring with them sometimes experience and skill sets that are absolutely needed in this country,” he says.

The focus is in eastern and central Afghanistan. Guardsmen from eight states — Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas — have been involved or are sending soldiers. One month of training is followed by 11 months in the field.

The teams assess farmers’ needs and often ask for a small plot of land to show them how new practices can increase their harvests.

Near Bagram, farmers have been growing grapes on mounds of earth for generations. The grapes lay on the soil, limiting yields, exposing them to contamination from fertilizer and slurping up water that has been sluiced to them in trenches.

The teams taught them to build trellises and train the vines to climb off the ground and irrigation techniques to reduce the amount of water needed.

“We’re here to provide Afghan solutions to Afghan problems,” Leppert says.

It helps, says Col. Rondal Turner, chief of staff of the Kentucky National Guard, that many Guardsmen are a little older, a little more mature than most soldiers. He finds that language and cultural barriers erode quickly.

“This fits so well with our people, our soldiers,” Turner says. “A lot of our folks are part-time farmers. We have orchards and vineyards, tobacco, corn and wheat back home just like this.”

He met recently with village elders to discuss how the Kentucky Guardsmen could help.

“I had a flashback to when I was a kid when all the old farmers talked about what worked and what didn’t at the country store,” he says. “You have that common bond with them. They’re decent farmers. They want to increase their yields.”

Lt. Col. Howard Schauer of the Nebraska National Guard has worked as a farmhand and a state meat inspector. One of the biggest challenges for Afghan farmers, he says, is that decades of conflict have destroyed farming traditions. Prior to Soviet occupation in 1979 and the civil war that followed, Afghanistan could feed itself and export crops. Today, the country must import wheat and many citizens rely on international aid programs for food, according to the State Department.

“They lost a whole generation of farmers with 30 years of war,” Schauer says. “A lot of them knew how to farm by watching their fathers and grandfathers. That disappeared. Our challenge is to show them benefits. They’re hard workers, very hard workers and they’re not dumb by any stretch of the imagination.”

They need help, he says, planting the right grasses for livestock to graze on. “Right now, you’ve got a weed that barely a goat would eat,” he says.

Afghanistan remains an exquisitely dangerous place for Afghans and the Guardsmen working with them. Leppert says security forces make up more than half of each team of about 50 soldiers. But working in the field and sharing risk is critical.

“I never look at Afghans as the enemy,” Leppert says. “‘Prove me wrong’ ” is my motto. You’re not going to trust me unless I’m out there with you, if I don’t sit down and have chai with you, just be a human being with these people. We’re diplomats of the United States.”

Still, he says, his soldiers wouldn’t hesitate to use their weapons.

“We’re like the Peace Corps with an attitude,” he says.