“Meet Percival the peacock: Defender of chickens, protector of the farm”

Image result for peacock chicken

Mark Bergunder, farmer, has proved that there is a holistic and gentle approach to protecting a flock of chickens: enlist the help of a peacock. This infographic is to illustrate what it might look like to have a peacock protecting a flock of chickens roaming around Manor’s grounds.

As reported by Elise Cooper:

Percy not only protects the chickens, he’s pretty fond of their company too, though the egg-laying birds aren’t that impressed by his colourful plume. “It didn’t take long for the chickens to realise that he was no danger at all. Now they mostly ignore him, in spite of Percival showing them his wheel of feathers quite a lot,” Burgunder told Mashable.

According to Bergunder, who discovered the benefits of keeping a peacock near his chickens largely by accident, Percy protects his chickens from birds of prey, such as goshawks, a bird similar to the raptors that fly around Bard’s campus. It is important to note that peacocks are not capable of protecting chickens from predators such as foxes and feral cats. My assertion would be that, if chickens were kept safe at night, it would be unlikely that a fox would threaten itself in the presence of humans, during daylight, though this is up for debate. Perhaps we need Percy and a dog on campus to protect the chickens?

Percy displaying his beautiful plumage:

Lovely plumage

A post shared by Mark S Burgunder (@marksburgunder) on

Check out the article on Percy here:


Backyard Chickens in Detroit, Considerations for Bard


This post is covering the article “Detroit is Designing a City With Space for Everyone, Including Goats”, with particular attention to backyard chicken keeping, covered in the article. My final project will be an argument for introducing chickens onto the Bard campus, potentially near the farm. The article is helpful for thinking about the cultural and logistical aspects to introducing and keeping chickens into a populated urban area, which is a context whose conditions are very relatable to Bard campus’. Therefore the considerations for having chickens at Bard are not far from those of Detroit’s city government as cited in the article..

In terms of noise, roosters are a concern. In Detroit, roosters are not allowed. Smart. Bard should not have Roosters (unless someone wants to present a compelling argument).

Additional insights involve urban chickens’ predators . Chickens are notoriously vulnerable to predators, and it turns out, even in cities. The article explains how aerial attacks are a particular threat that is not always first noted and how chicken tractors address these concerns:

“If foxes are a constant threat to chickens in the countryside, urban areas offer a host of other predators: raccoons, dogs, possums and hawks. The importance of keeping hens safe from aerial attack is something a new chicken keeper might not glean from blogs or YouTube. It’s why Mikulski built her chicken tractor — to protect the chickens from swooping hawks during the day. (A fully enclosed coop protects them at night, while keeping out rats.)”

Overall if done right, it seems that keeping chickens is possible. It requires experienced people. I believe this could be a rewarding direction for Bard to go into, and this article helps to shed some light on how it could be done, and the concerns that surround it.



Elon’s New Electric Semi Truck (Walmart Wants ‘Em)

Elon is at it again. Elon Musk that is, the founder of paypal, and now billionaire “celebrity industrialist” (“‘Elon Musk,’ a Biography,” 2015). Moreover, he is the founder and CEO of Tesla, who just unveiled the release of a new electric semi-truck.

This according to NPR’s “the Two Way,” who reported on last night’s unveiling at 10AM this morning. Bill Chappel, for NPR, explains that production of the truck will begin in 2019, and “those who order the vehicle now will get the truck in two years.”

Why is this important to Bard’s food system? Though transport may not be the leading cause of carbon emissions, sustainable transport is still an important aspect of a sustainable food system. Company’s like Walmart, who have already pre-ordered five electric trucks for the US and ten for Canada, show that this is a great selling point for their company’s reputation (“Retailers to Pilot New Tesla,” 2017).

Would companies like Sysco invest in such technology, Bard could be on it’s way to eliminating transport emissions from its footprint. Especially if renewables were installed on campus to charge said vehicle(s).

It is important to note that electric vehicles, whose charged power is generated from fossil fuels, are slightly more pollutive than diesel-powered vehicles. However, if an electric vehicle is powered by renewables, its gains over the petrol combustion engine in terms of pollution reduction are 6-fold over its lifetime (“How eco-friendly are electric cars?” 2017). Overall, electric vehicles are less polluting than petrol cars, so, regardless, the fact that this change is happening is good news (at least somewhat) for our friends in Puerto Rico.

The NPR article can be found here:

Works Cited

Fischer, Hilke, and Dave Keating. “How Eco-Friendly Are Electric Cars?” DW.COM, 8 Apr. 2017, www.dw.com/en/how-eco-friendly-are-electric-cars/a-19441437.

Donnel, Jessica. “Retailers to Pilot New Tesla Electric Semi” Andnowuknow.com, 17 Nov. 2017, https://www.andnowuknow.com/whats-store/retailers-pilot-new-tesla-electric-semi/jessica-donnel/56130#.Wg9R6lVKtMx.

Garner, Dwight. “‘Elong Musk,’ a Biography by Ashlee Vance, Paints a Driven Portrait” Nytimes.com, 12 May 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/13/books/elon-musk-a-biography-by-ashlee-vance-paints-a-driven-portrait.html.



An Overview of Some Great Urban Farms

This week I thought I’d cover some urban farming. This is primarily for those Bardians thinking about their future places of residence. It’s also grounds for imagining what our world beyond Bard can potentially look like.

In 1790, of the total US population (3,929,214), ninety percent of the labor force were farmers (“Historical Timeline – Farmers and the Land”, 2014). Now, farmers are less than 1 percent of “wage and salary workers” (“United States Dept. of Ag: Background”, 2016). It is not a surprise that with three steps forward, and two steps back, we are reclaiming our spaces with agriculture in this post-industrial period – not to say that farming is in any way a step back.

Urban farms are also great for other reasons. They can divert people’s time and energy from the gym to producing fresh local food. A sort of carbon sequestration. Moreover, the beauty and life that gardens produce are externalities that are sorely missing from many urban areas.

Now to my article. 6 urban farms. Each one unique and interesting. I’ll talk specifically about one – Detroit’s “agrihood”. A 3 acre piece of land with a 2-acre garden, a children’s sensory garden, a 200-tree fruit orchard and an up and coming community resource center.

The garden serves “free produce” to 2,000 residents within 2 square miles of the farm.

Check out the farm – I like this photo, especially:

Above, the grass reminds me of the level, flat ground that seems inevitably stuck being unused in so many urban areas. To think that food can grow from such a surface is hard for me to believe. However…

Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, Detroit, Michigan, agrihood, garden, sensory garden, produce, local produce, fresh produce, community, food, agriculture, farm, farms, farming, urban farm, urban farms, urban farming

…they’re doing it. The farm looks great – the soil loose. Once you start moving it – cultivating it, soil is an amazing thing.

Don’t give up on urban farming, anyone. I’d be down to live in an “agrihood” – would you?



Hudson Valley’s “Place-based Learning”!!

The article I am reviewing is “Get Out!: Place-Based Education in the Hudson Valley.” It discusses place-based learning, specifically at the Waldorf School at Hawthorne Valley Farm as well as other farm-based education programs in the Hudson Valley.

In place-based education, schooling is based “around immersing students in their community to enrich development in a range of subjects, while also building character and creativity.” In the case of Hawthorne Valley Farm, this means students engage in activities on the 500-acre biodynamic farm, which “also includes a CSA, research facility, publishing company, art program and theater.”

“[In 2016, n]inth-grade students [,at Hawthorne Valley’s Waldorf school, worked] with soil experts to enhance and revamp the local composting program. Meanwhile, kindergartners explore[d] the forest and [brought] compost to pigs, and third-graders live[d] on the farm for a full week. [Generally, students will wake] at 5 a.m. to retrieve chicken eggs and milk the cows. Part of this is to understand the rhythm of land work, but another part is to simply work practically with their hands.”

Student transformation is testified by Rachel Schneider, director of the Hawthorne Valley Farm Place-Based Learning Center, “who had her realization with place-based education in the late 1970s, when she was a teacher bringing schoolchildren to the farm.”

As cited in the article, Rachel is compelled by the power of the approach: “‘I couldn’t believe what happened to me in the weeks we were there,’ she says. ‘The sense of waking up to this beautiful, natural world that surrounded me, and the incredible need that we all felt to do physical work, wanting to sweep in the cows. I couldn’t believe the difference in the children I was teaching.'”

The article cites two other examples of this programming, one at San Miguel Academy in Newburgh and the other in Kingston.

A great way for students to move away from dependence on processed food is to have them be involved in the creation and care that it takes to produce “Real Food”. The place-based learning model, therefore, has implications for healing our earth as it fosters awareness and habits that can serve a new generation of land stewards.


Food Waste – An argument for a Bard Chicken Coop

This post is covering the article: “Kitchen Scraps to Backyard Chickens”.

The purpose of this article is to give us a chance to think about what it might look like to have chickens catching some of the food waste in the stream before it hits compost.

The first question: what can chickens “catch”?

“Among their favorites are bakery items (even stale bread), rice, wilted salad greens, cooked vegetables, popcorn, beef or pork scraps, fish skin, fruit, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese.”

Wilted salad greens is a good one – if people don’t finish salad greens in time for their peak freshness – then feed them to the chickens! Perfect!

Cooked veggies is also a good one. My only concern would be the sodium content. From various blogs and sources I’ve read – sodium is at least something to be cautious about, likewise, however in human consumption.

The article does state that “[c]hickens have an amazing ability to choose foods that provide a healthy balanced diet. As long as they have food choice, they’ll avoid items that might be poisonous, inedible, or cause digestive problems.”

The article does warn: “Be cautious about feeding too many scraps to chickens. Kitchen waste generated by a family of four people is a good amount for five or six hens, but bringing in a huge quantity of waste food from a cafeteria could cause the birds to overindulge and attract unwanted pests.”

This makes me think that if Kline did have chickens, someone observing and managing their food would be important.

The article has more in depth info. Any thoughts?





Farm Bridge’s History, A Report From 2016

Image result for Jim Hyland

“They converted IBM’s dishwasher into a semi-automated vegetable washer,” – Adam Bosch for the Times Herald-Record in 2010

A pretty innovative concept, The Farm Bridge, seemingly birthed out of need and a passion for food. The article reports that “In 2012, over two million pounds of food were processed through the facility on their way to retail locations all over the tri-state area and beyond.” It continues to outline plenty of interesting aspects to the company’s mission, including it’s B-corp certification (what is essentially the Fair Trade of good business practices) to its work with local farmers and farms in the area.

As Hyland mentioned to us on the tour – New York State was crucial to the support of the project – and now that it’s off the ground, it’s interesting to have heard him talk about the local food impact that he is encountering. That there is no local food or not that much is being processed is interesting. As a business model, Farm Bridge essentially channels the food market that exists around it. Yes, he said, he’ll bring the local with him in his endeavors, but he would not be in business if he were only focused on local.

Why did the demand decrease? Where are the farmers that his initial success was built on? In 2012, with two million pounds of food, how much of that was local? Are people not demanding local? Is the local supply inconsistent? What is going on with our food??

The article, posted in Country Wisdom News, reports on Jim Hyland’s success with Farm Bridge in 2016.


A Great New Book on Bread, Thoughts on Globalization

The article, by NY Times reporter Tejal Roa, is a summary and background about a book released by Nathan Myhrvold, “a founder of Intellectual Ventures and… author of “Modernist Cuisine…” the photo above was taken at his office in Bellevue, Washington (Credit: Ruth Fremson/ The New York Times).

The book “chronicles the history and science of bread-making in depth…” Roa explains that the book is “a call for cooks to rethink one of the world’s oldest foods — to understand how bread is made, using more than their instinct and intuition, so they can push the craft forward.”

The book seems great, and as much as I am a locavore and try to be – an insight that stood out to me is the alleged defense of high fructose corn syrup that the book is cited to contain. I would certainly entertain the argument.

Additionally, the locavore in me became curious about Myhrvold’s ideas on sustainability and regional sourcing, specifically his views on the use of tapioca starch, which was cited in the article as: “to prevent the inexorable balding process in which bagels shed their toppings[;] a fine slurry of modified tapioca starch works like a powerful, edible glue, firmly affixing a dense, even layer of toppings to baked bagels.”

Tapioca, in my eyes is a global commodity, and according to Huffington Post: “It’s mainly cultivated and eaten in tropical regions; it started off in Northern Brazil, but eventually made its way across the South American continent and over to Africa and Asia.” Has he considered sustainability in his use of this commodity?

If, as a chef, he is simply using what works, I will admit that commodities that are traded on the world market are helpful – but they are shipped from quite far, and though it maybe easy to use the tapioca starch – is it better to find a local alternative?

The global market is beautiful in its own way – I do not deny that – but, it is not sustainable, at least right now. Should we enjoy it while it exists – or try to see it change before more places are affected by climate change? This applies to Bard as well – in short, how big is our commitment to regionalism, and why?

In conclusion, the article introduces us to what seems like a large step towards a more sophisticated and beautiful bread making practice for bakers. For example, the book also debunks “the idea that water purity affects the rise and flavor of bread.”  Do you think Nels will read it – or have thoughts?


Link here, some quotes I liked below:

“So Mr. Myhrvold is puzzled by the uniformity of bakeries and bread aisles, and the persistence of what he calls ‘an ethos of primitivism,’ or a resistance to innovation, among so many contemporary bakers.”

“‘Modernist Bread’ finds inspiration in a variety of sources, industrial as well as artisanal, offering a defense of high fructose corn syrup alongside a guide to caring for wild sourdough starters…”

“Mr. Migoya thinks that flour may come to be valued, like chocolate and coffee, as a product worth a premium price. ”

“‘I don’t want bread to be an elite thing that no one can afford,’ he said, ‘but there should be some breads that are highly regarded for their ingredients, and for the craft of their bakers.'”

For Huff Post article, go here:


Animal Protein Linked to Death, Twice

This short article introduces a study that was done on two “very large American study populations[:] …female nurses and male health professionals…” The crux? “[T]hose that consumed the most animal protein compared to plant protein had a higher risk of death, particularly cardiovascular disease.” Its pretty convincing, and its pretty credible, though still leaves a lot of questions. Just because I’m curious about diet, and eating meat, I added some more info that I personally have found, which also correlates meat eating with heart disease, and arthritis as well as posing other risks to the kidney, gout and liver.

Now, first off, the article. Is the source credible? The article, published on the website of the Center for Nutritional Studies, or CNS, references a study done by several researchers in the medical field hailing from, predominantly, the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, as well as the Division of Gastroenterology, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Harvard Medical School, Boston, and other well-reputed institutions. The article was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine, in October 2016. Pretty credible.

The organization, CNS, which summarized and introduced the research to the public via their website, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Ithaca, NY. It was founded by Thomas Campbell, MD – co-founder and clinical director of the University of Rochester’s Program for Nutrition in Medicine – who has a prolific career in research, himself. His website contains a quick bio of his life’s work – it’s impressive to say the least. I’ll take the summary and the research as solid, and keep a keen and healthy skepticism, still.

Now to investigate the study: Interestingly, the finding was only addressing those who already had a “lifestyle risk factor” (e.g. smoking, physical inactivity). Why they would do this? It would make sense to me if this was intended to make the study’s results more dramatic – in other words it makes the participants a little bit more vulnerable to their diets’ impact, affecting margins in the results.

What did they find? The article states:

“Breaking it down into specific foods, researchers found that when 3% of energy from plant protein was substituted for an equivalent amount of processed red meat protein, there was a 34% lower risk of death.”

Now, I am curious what exactly is “processed red meat protein” – is a steak considered processed? What is non-processed red meat protein? A cow? Let’s go with that. As to the data, is this 3% finding true all things equal? If one person is eating 60% red meat in their diet, and another is eating only 3%, then will a substitution of 3% plant protein still have a 34% lower risk of death?

For some clarity, I looked here: The article explains that researchers did control many factors in order to “isolate the sole effect of dietary protein.”

The article explains:

“researchers controlled for: age, intake of different types of fat, total energy intake, glycemic index, and intake of whole grains, fiber, fruits and vegetables, smoking, body mass index, vitamin use, physical activity, alcohol intake, history of high blood pressure.”

This is all to say that researchers “statistically eliminated many of the beneficial components of plant-based diets to try to isolate the sole effect of dietary protein and still found an effect.” My question from above still remains, however. Does “total energy intake” account for how much of that energy comes from animal protein? In other words, how did the control of animal vs. plant protein work? I didn’t find the answer, but we can still conclude that meat raises the risk of disease, regardless it seems.

An elaboration on the point:

“When data was adjusted only for age, total energy and fat intake, those consuming the most plant protein were found to have 33% reduced risk of death, 40% reduced risk of cardiovascular death, and 28% reduced risk of cancer death.”

Why is this the case? I’ve read up on this a little bit to add some thoughts:

Paul Bragg and his daughter Patricia released a book titled Hi-Protein Vegetarian Health Recipes, in which they investigate various cultures of vegetarianism and makes some great arguments about eating meatless diets. Don’t know Bragg? Maybe your parents do; Paul died in the 70s at 95 and Patricia is well-lived (which is the point I might add!), so they’ve been around for a while. My point is that they’re pretty credible. Just to add, I’m sure just about every health food store from the West Coast to the East Coast of the US (and likely Canada too) carry his and his daughters “Bragg” products – mainly apple cider vinegar and liquid aminos; even Hannafords sells their stuff – and that’s just a testament to the pervasiveness of the Bragg’s brand in mainstream culture.

In the Braggs’ Recipe book, Patricia additionally explains about the toxins contained in meat. Specifically, Uric acid and saturated fats, though she does cite “other toxic materials…” as well. She states simply: “These toxins help bring on heart disease, arthritis, gout, kidney and liver trouble” (2). To what extent this has been reported and tested I don’t know. I want to know more. Regardless, they add lots of facts and anecdotes that will convince you vegetarian is a great way to go. If you’re interested, I can bring the book in to let anyone take a look. Its great.

Hope we can all figure out if there are any redeeming reasons to eat meat – I mean it tastes good, right? I guess just eat what tastes good – but try to eat more veggies, man! (Not just to save the planet, but to save yourself too)!

Jesse Camac, Shawn Burnette, Jessica Gonzalez, & Heritage Food + Drink

Jesse Camac and his history in the restaurant industry is outlined here. His father was in the restaurant business, opening up “Fatty Crab,” with “outposts” in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong.

He had a successful start in restaurants, already in his early 20s, likely building off of the insights of his father, but was tired of the chain restaurant idea of Fatty Crab.

“Maybe I got a little soured by Fatty Crab,” he says, “but I’m not a big believer in rolling out identical restaurants anymore … I’ll be honest, it got to the point where we were on Fatty Crab number 7 and it became stale. I lost my passion.”

The article explains: “Now, Camac is in Wappinger’s Falls overseeing the construction of Heritage Food and Drink his new farm-to-table restaurant cheffed by Shawn Burnette, formerly of HuskDel Posto and The Breslin.”

Another addition to the team is Jessica Gonzalez, a founding member of the “fabled” Death and Co, and formerly head bartender at Manhattan’s Bar at NoMad. The article explains: “She’d had a child and no longer wanted to bartend until 4am. Says Camac, “She wants the country life, fresh air. Space. But she also wants to do her craft.”

The article describes this “talent migration” as a “divine providence” for Jesse. Speaking on the subject, Camac reflections are noted: “We’ve got this incredible team of people who all came up here for different reasons.”

A great ending to the article is Camac’s reflections on the values of his generation of food makers:

“…Wappinger’s Falls? “New York City isn’t the be-all and end-all of food anymore,” Camac says. “To make a name? Maybe. But I wouldn’t tell anyone to open a restaurant in New York City anymore.” Camac cites all his New York City restaurant friends who have fled for more sustainable lifestyles. “Everyone is having more fun, they’re smiling and they’re breathing fresh air.”

Opening a farm to table restaurant puts Camac in a very different relationship to his food than before. Fatty Crab is an upscale Malaysian chain. A farm to table restaurant is a little different. What lessons that Camac has learned in NYC carry over to his new career, and what is different about his relationship to food sourcing now?

I would be curious if Camac is getting involved in the ethics of his food, to the degree that our class is reaching out towards. I believe chefs like this can have a very positive and powerful impact on their food systems, choosing who to support, much in the same way institutional purchasing may have an effect… and even individual purchasing. I think it all comes down to trends, which become embedded in our culture for complex reasons. Chefs are changemakers in food systems, as are activists, and others.

Do you think that a chef can impact his foodshed in a positive way? Do you think that the food system can be affected by patronizing restaurants with ethical food choices? Do you think that chefs should have farming knowledge to better judge their produce? Do you think that chefs have a responsibility to address the ethics of labor in food?