Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gotta love the Web: even stories about tasteless, racist cartoons can have an upside

I do love the Web! The best part is the access to information, which is a major reason I started my blog: I want to share what I learn.

So the latest story on the Web about Republicans making tasteless, racist jokes/ cartoons/whatevers about Obama has an upside (for me), via the Web. Apparently, right on the heels of the NY Post chimp shooting cartoon, a Republican mayor of a California town sent out an email with a cartoon of the White House surrounded by a watermelon patch. As usual, when called on it, he claimed he had no idea it was racist. (Seriously?? And even apart from the racist angle, why don't these guys realize that sharing this type of stuff is inappropriate in a professional setting?).

On the web site where I read about this, a commenter wrote: "I love how these guys always say they didn't intend anything racist. So what did they intend? Is there any way to interpret this cartoon that doesn't play into racial stereotypes?"

Someone snarkily responded: "Hey, he's just promoting Michael Pollan's 'White House Farmer' plan!" (and the person included a link*).

Now, I've heard of Michael Pollan, but not of the White House Farmer. Pollan is the author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma." I haven't read the book, but I've read articles by him, and I know his creed is, "Eat food. Mostly plants." By eating food, he means things that our grandparents would recognize as food: bread and eggs and fruit, for example, rather than say, Pop Tarts. By "mostly plants," he advocates eating low on the food chain, consuming a lot more grains, fruits and veggies than meats and dairy.

I clicked on the link provided by the snarky commenter. The "White House Farmer" is a plan to convert much of the land surrounding the White House to farm land, in order to grow produce for the White House. It would allow the White House to set an example for the nation in producing its own sustainable, organic, local food.

Pollan asked for "White House Farmer" nominees from around the country, and had visitors to the site vote. The three top vote getters have been selected, and Pollan will soon forward their names and more information about the plan to Obama's staff. I looked at the three winners, and stopped at #2. Carrie Ann Little (who received about 50 votes less than the #1 vote-getter, and about 3,000 more than #3) is from Puyallup, WA! Right outside of Tacoma!

Ms. Little runs the Mother Earth Farm, which provides food for Pierce County's Emergency Food Network. Part of the reason this excites me is because she is farming for the needy here. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we were shocked when we arrived to see how expensive everything was at the local farmer's markets. (I seem to find organic goods cheaper here than in Boston. Locally produced food, not so much). So it's great to learn about people producing local, organic food for those in need.

I'm also excited because she is very local, for me. I'd like to learn more about the farm, and perhaps volunteer there. And she's not from Seattle! That's significant, because Tacoma is considered the unsophisticated, somewhat hickish little brother of Seattle, and so much of the cutting edge environmental stuff seems to come from our older sibling. (Like ads on the radio informing Seattle residents that they can now put their food scraps in a separate bin on garbage day, and it will get picked up for composting).

In addition, the nonprofit community development organization I work for has "providing the community with access to healthy, affordable organic food" as one of its goals somewhere down the line, and the not-yet up and running Tacoma Food Co-op, of which my husband and I are members, has that as its primary goal as well. Thus, it's great for me to learn about others in the area already doing what we're hoping to do.

So Mr. Mayor, grow up. Attend a workshop on diversity, while you're at it. And indirectly, thanks.

* Here's the White House Farmer web site url:

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