Responsible Consumption

Everyday we are bombarded with advertisements to encourage us to consume a particular good from a particular company.  Whether it be online, through our televisions, in prints we read, on the radio, or whatever medium it may be, we are surrounded by hints towards consumerism.  Although sometimes these advertisements may create an urge to consume, the truth of the matter is we still contain the power of choice.  This power of free will is something that all of us contain, but some do not choose to act on.  Because of this, the debate around who is responsible for health outcomes is a prevalent one. 

I am sure you have read and heard about many studies about television commercials having consumptive effects on people, especially children, but I junk-food-bouquethave a problem with these studies.  The majority of these studies, such as “Priming Effects of Television Food Advertising on Eating Behavior”, all include lack of parental supervision.  Yes I agree that the 45% increase in snacking by the children when submitted to snack commercials is a very real fact, the fact that kids were able to snack with out supervision, I believe, is the problem.  Children unfortunately are not thoroughly educated in smart and healthy consumption, so their only hope is responsible parenting.  When allowing their kids to watch something that is proven to increase appetite, why would you provide your child with a bowl of goldfish instead of a plate of orange slices?  I see very little room for excuses here.  Providing your child with unhealthy snacks will no doubt lead to unhealthy consumption.

Companies exist to sell things and be successful.  Obviously they are working hard to convince people to buy their product, regardless of their health outcomes.  As long as consuming these products does not put others around us at risk, I do not believe that a ban or tax is justified.  I do believe that healthy food options should exist in the same numbers as fast food options, but unfortunately at this time that is now how it is.  “Why We Eat More Than We Think” does a great job of identifying the consumer as the problem.  We are the ones putting ourselves in the situation to consume by purchasing the product and choosing our portions.   “We can’t control where there’s a McDonald’s on the corner, but we can control whether we have potato chips sitting on the counter or ice cream in the freezer…”  Bad food is not our only choice, people just lack the education to choose otherwise.  “You can’t just tell them that they shouldn’t eat chips or candy or meat.  You have to convince them that there’s an alternative.”  I think this is the walk away message, we must educate people about healthier alternatives.


Hustlin’ in the Kitchen

This week I was introduced to Thug Kitchen by a teacher of mine, and was instantly hooked.  Thug Kitchen is an attempt to attract those who are not interested or unaware of the ease of making good and healthy food.  As Ron Finley said in an earlier post of mine, “We need to make it sexy.”  What he means by this is that by making our mission seem cool and attractive to the masses, we can open doors to a population that is currently in the dark on these topics.  Everyone enjoys good food, why not be able to provide yourself with healthy and tasty food in the comfort of your own home?

My blogging thus far has been focused on bringing fresh produce to the counters of people who are normally unable to obtain things like these, but this only gets you so far.  People need to know what to do with this produce once it arrives.  Blogs such as Thug Kitchen is a great source for information, while still entertaining and interesting those who may otherwise not take the time to cook or read recipes themselves.  I am not saying that using profanity is the way in which we are going to get people into the kitchen, but I think what the author is doing here is great.  The dialogue he holds with his reader is intended to make something that is often times serious and directed at a certain type of person and turn it on its head.  Using slang, profanity, and a comical dialogue he attracts people outside the typical kitchen bubble.  When explaining what Thug Kitchen is all about, he writes “EVERYONE DESERVES TO FEEL A PART OF OUR COUNTRY’S PUSH TOWARD A HEALTHIER DIET, NOT JUST PEOPLE WITH DISPOSABLE INCOMES WHO SPEAK A CERTAIN WAY. WE AIM TO EDUCATE AS WELL AS ENTERTAIN, MOTHER F*****.”  Although this may turn many traditionalists off, I think it is awesome!  Why not break out of the box of what is deemed acceptable?  If this means attracting and inspiring newcomers to eat healthy, grow more local produce, and return to a localvore lifestyle, than I say F-it.  Bring on the profanity.

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Victory Gardens


Post WWII Americans prided themselves in their ability to provide and support their families without the relying on outside sources in order to get by.  Growing produce for your family in your backyard or in a community garden was very common and helped keep America healthy and in shape.  This remerging trend has taken the urban landscape by storm.  As you have seen in the posts that I have made and in cities all over the country, the importance of growing fresh local produce is coming full circle to the post war Victory Garden Era.  These Victory Gardens “accounted for 44% of the fresh produce in the U.S, harvested by nearly 20 million Americans.” (Huffington Post)  This is a very impressive number compared to the 20% that we currently produce for ourselves. (


With all of the new projects and initiatives attempting to bring gardening back into the American culture we can reverse this increase in imported produce and provide out country with fresh and tasty produce.   This Huffington Post article is attempting to bring this possibility back into the minds of Americans.  Charles Birnbaum presents us with numerous projects happening all over the country, such as a new luxury high rise is Manhattan with a vegetative roof, or Michelle Obama’s installation of the first ever White House garden.  These projects are surrounding us and have the potential to reinvent our agricultural production capacity.  In a time of high fuel costs and the scare of global climate change, the ability to produce for ourselves and our families in our own backyard is an increasingly valuable opportunity.

Farming Social Media

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Urban Farm Magazine is one of the leaders in the sustainable agriculture publication world.  “Here at Urban Farm Magazine, our mission is ‘to promote the benefits of self sustainability and to provide the tools with which to do it on any size property.”  I visited their Facebook page this week to see what they were up to and try to get some ideas for a new post this week, but instead of getting some ideas from things they were posting I decided to review their use of social media.  In a class I am currently enrolled in, we have been discussing the use of social media outlets, and what it takes to be productive and successful in marketing yourself.

According to  “How Businesses Can Evaluate their Social Media Campaigns” article, there are three major factors reviewing your social media outlets.  1) Number of Followers.  Urban Farming Magazine has over 16k followers, which is quite the following.  Being able to build brand awareness and brand loyalty is one of the most important factors of a business, and with this many people behind their brand they are doing just that.  2) Engagement.  Although the majority of the posts that occur on their page are not intended to sell anything, they are successfully creating dialogue between themselves and their followers.  The majority of their posts have at least 50 likes and at least a few comments, showing that their followers not only enjoy what they have to say, but are willing to communicate about it.  Keeping followers interested and active is crucial in creating a successful campaign.  3) Analytics and Traffic.  Although I cannot speak on this portion of their campaign, I can say that with the number of followers they have obtained and the amount of discussion and interaction on their page I can imagine that this step of the analysis would come back positive.

I think that their current strong points are their diversity of post types, their ability to create conversation, and their do it yourself encouragement.  From recipes to growing tips, Urban Farm Magazine has it all covered.  They provide opportunities to learn and opportunities to grow for all levels of people looking to get involved in a more sustainable lifestyle.  Also they are able to create communication between people, which encourages people to continue to visit and also allows people to help mold their future campaign towards what people want.  Lastly they are educating people, making their page not only a place to come see what is happening, but also a place to learn.

The return of crafted food

I came across the Mast Brothers in Todd Selby’s book “ Edible Selby.  This book follows Selby’s exploration through the world of craft food.  The Mast brothers are from Minnesota and grew up with an urge to get their hands dirty and try new things.  This desire brought them down the road of chocolate making, which has turned into a well-known and respected chocolate shop in Brooklyn, NY.  Although not everyone is ready to spend $20 on a chocolate bar that they have handcrafted, from the chocolate to the hand printed and hand wrapped finish, they have created a story behind their product that is hard to resist.  “The chocolate itself represents more than a candy bar, it represents a new way of handcrafting food.  An old way, that is now new again, and I think it is spreading like wildfire.” Rick Mast.  Keeping a working relationship with their cocoa bean producers in Belize, they have connected the source with the product understanding how and where all of their supplies come from.  Knowing that these brothers sailed to and from Belize to pick up their beans and deliver them back to NYC creates a sense of appreciation for their hard earned final product. 


This video, although hard to ignore the finely groomed hipster beards, presents these two brothers in a personal and intimate scene.  The music and simple setting draw your attention to the idea in which they are hard at work trying to implement in the city.  The theme of the video follows the ideas behind Mast Brothers Chocolate, returning to the simple ways in which we use to create things.  Low impact inputs and high quality outputs are their focus, rather than consistent outputs with high levels of inputs.  The stylized editing of the video makes the product in which they are representing one of high quality and eloquence, crafted by hands in which make the product more than just a taste, but rather a story. 

My question for you- Is the extra money worth the story and effort that is put in to this chocolate?  Would you rather spend $1.50 at the grocery store for a Hersey’s bar which has been created from start to finish by machine, or $15 at Mast Brothers for something that has been handcrafted from the beans to the wrappers? 

Snack Time


Today I decided to take a quick break from my normal theme of urban agriculture.  Last week in a class of mine, we discussed the impact of food advertising on child audiences and the potential to enact a craving for certain foods and increase consumption due to the advertisements they were exposed to.  The decision on whether to blame the food advertisers or the parents for these developed habits is what made me want to take a look into what children programming commercials actually look like.

In order to do this I broke the types of advertising into three categories: 1) nonfood advertisements 2) food ad that prompted snacking and/or fun product benefits 3) food ad that promoted nutrition benefits.

I choose to watch Nick during the early afternoon.  During an hour of viewing the majority of commercials, 11, were non-food advertisements.  Although not related to food, these commercials deployed very similar techniques as the successful food ads did.  Making the product seem like the best out and the only solution to fulfilling your needs as a consumer.  Another interesting part about these commercials was that a large majority of them were aimed for a stay at home parent, offering cleaning products, school options, smart phone apps, etc.

The next most frequent ads were ones that promoted snacking and/or fun product benefits, 7.  These ads suggested that there product was the tool to achieving a status of “cool” amongst your peers.  Seeing other children consuming a product you may enjoy and do things that you perceive to be “cool” can be a very influential visual to a young viewer.  “Advertising for food and beverages communicates potentially powerful food consumption cues, including images of attractive models eating, snacking at non-meal times, and positive emotions linked to food consumption. (Harris, Bargh, & Brownell, 2009) 

The nutrition benefit ads made up only 3 of the commercials I viewed, and were fairly ineffective in my opinion, poorly put together, cheesy, “uncool”.

Harris, Bargh, & Brownell performed a study in which a group of kids watched a T.V show featuring ads encouraging snacking and another watched a show with no ads.  This study showed that kids who view these food ads had a much higher inclination to snack while watching, proving that seeing them increase the viewers desire to consume food.  They also found that this urge continues after viewing has ended, meaning that even post viewing the urge to snack and consume food may be hard to avoid.  This process of creating an urge to snack is known as priming.

The food, which was being advertised, was not food that I would encourage children to consume on a regular basis.  Seeing this suggestive media makes me wonder what would happen if we did the same sort of thing for healthy food, and why we don’t already do it.  Why not make good food cool and accessible?  We see that “junk” food is able to create the urge for consumption; so non junk food can most certainly do the same thing.

At the end of the day I believe it comes down to the options of food consumption that the children are exposed to.  If the child’s provider is stocking food that is an unhealthy choice, than the kid will of course consume that.  On the other hand, if we are providing kids with healthy snack options than what will they choose to consume?

Temporal Growth

Joseph Redwood-Martinez is yet another advocate and participant in the movement of urban agriculture.  Joseph’s take on it however, is a different one than I have seen before.  According to his take on the current state of the US economy, the slump in the real estate market has left cities, especially California, full of open and empty spaces. “We know that real estate will come around.  We know that the people that want to build 12 tumblr_mk940g5PiR1s9ugc4o9_1280billion dollar apartments will.  In the meantime lets go for some new creative legislation.  Lets create a new kind of rental agreement, not a lease, but a license.  Lets call it an interim use license.”  His suggestion is an interesting approach to land that is currently inactive.  The Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association did just this with Hayes Valley Farm.  This project is based on an Interim License with the city, transforming this empty space into a growing community center until it can be used for something else.  Free land, volunteer work, and recycled materials keep this project at extremely minimal costs, while getting members of the community together and teach people of the possibilities within their cityscape.  “When economy recovers, not if but when, and when development starts, we move.  Peacefully.  We are not tied to the space, the thing we are tied to is San Francisco.  The thing were tied to is a healthier ecosystem in our city and using this as a demonstration of what is possible in the temporary so all of those vacant realities can be transformed.”

I think it is hard to ignore the powerful message behind bringing community together and making living spaces more visually pleasing.  Projects like these are meant to provide people with opportunity and hope, while converting wasted space into a sustainable and productive area.  By producing a video with a very intimate one on one dialogue we are allured by Joseph’s message.  Images of what he has been able to produce through a community outreach program, getting as many people involved as possible, we as viewers have no choice but to applaud his valiant effort.


Assignment of the Day:

Is short term growth a valuable use of temporally limited space? Is it more valuable to educate people for the short term or grow for the long term?