Posts Tagged ‘health’

Picking Beans at Round Hill Park

September 19, 2010



I’d passed the sign hundreds of times:  “Round Hill Park.”  Some day I’ll check it out, I’d promised myself.  That day was last Tuesday.  I spent a gorgeous late summer morning and early afternoon picking organic beans.  Thousands of beans.  Fistfuls of beans.  Green, yellow and purple beans. 

Joining me were Bryan Ritti, farmer, and COO of FarmsCorps, Inc., a social enterprise created to support aging farmers, local food banks, and regional agriculture organizations.  This summer he and Chelsea Attwood have co-managed the farm operation at Allegheny County, PA’s Round Hill Park, an oasis south of Pittsburgh, just off of Route 51, near Elizabeth.  Bryan spent two years in a monastery, so the solitary life of a farmer is natural to him.  Like many of today’s new breed of young farmers, he is smart, dedicated and passionate about living  off the grid  and off the land.  For lunch he devoured raw kale on homemade almond bread and chased it with a just-off-the-vine super ripe tomato. 

Also picking was Lauren, an educator from the Outdoor Classroom. She is also a gleaner for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, one of the lucky recipients of the bounty produced at Round Hill’s cultivated acre of fruits and vegetables. Organic kale, okra and string beans are a far cry from the rotten apples I saw the last time I volunteered at a local soup kitchen.  Thanks go to the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) for this outcome.  PASA, one of the largest state organizations supporting farmers and a sustainable  lifestyle is remarkable also.  They provide mentors for young farmers like Bryan who have chosen farming as a vocation.

So why am I  spending a day picking beans?  First, it is a delightful way to soak up, instead of supplement, my deficient Vitamin D. Second,  Bryan and his contemporaries interest me because, I believe they hold the health of the next generation in their hands. 

Today’s new farmers live and breathe the mantra of “Eat fresh and local.”  My car sports a bumper sticker with that message.  In season food that has traveled only a short distance tastes better.  Food that comes from your neighbors supports your local economy.

Bryan and other twenty- and thirty-somethings are the parents of the next generation .  It is THEIR health that will determine the health of their children.  If they are toxic from pesticides, PCBs, phthalates, mercury, lead and aluminum, they will dump their personal toxic loads into their unborn children.  If they are health conscious, eating organic vegetables, using natural personal care products and cleaners, avoiding fish and other products with heavy metals and watching their electro-magnetic fields, their offspring will be healthy.  It’s that simple!

Bryan and his buddies have big plans. FarmCorps, a not-for-profit modeled on the Peace Corps and Americorps.  It collaboratively provides the critical labor needed for farmers to increase scale and diversity of production.  As a social enterprise project of New Sun Rising, FarmCorps serves local farmers while providing experiential learning and training opportunities in sustainable agriculture – from agri-tourism like the exhibit at Round Hill Park to farm succession. Crops produced in specialized FarmCorps programs are donated for public benefit as a part of FarmCorps’ aim to serve southwestern Pennsylvania through strengthening the local food system.

Inherent in FarmCorps’ mission is providing training and vounteer people power for the aging farmer families. Hopefully fewer will not have to yield to pressure of real estate developers to sell their family farms and succomb to suburban sprawl. With the lofty goal of providing services in all 50 states, FarmCorps is just getting organized.  When I suggested to Bryan that his farms would be viable potential homes for workers with autism, he lit up like a Christmas tree.  “Putting marginalized populations to work is one of our goals,” he said. 

In the next year, DDR is going to be exploring connecting with organizations  like FarmCorps to delve into opportunities for inclusion of adults with disabilities.  In addition, we will be meeting with trend analysts to determine how to connect with tomorrow’s parents to investigate avenues for educating them about having healthy babies. 

In the meantime, shop locally, eat seasonally, and enjoy the gorgeous fall weather.


Vaccine Politics

December 21, 2009


Wow!  What a year it has been for news about vaccines.  Just when you thought it couldn’t get any crazier, it has!  The biggest, best, most informative conference ever!  A governor elected on a vaccine-choice platform!  And pediatricians petitioning against vaccine choice in Jewish schools!

 The Fourth International Public Conference on Vaccination: We Came Together, We Made History!  A huge congratulations to Barbara Loe Fisher and her husband, Paul Arthur for a most remarkable conference at the beginning of October. What a success!  Over 700 attendees from 44 states and 11 nations were riveted by over 40 speakers from dawn to late evening for four consecutive days. Their subjects included vaccine risks, global vaccination issues such as contamination, injury and safety, pregnancy, swine flu, Gardasil vaccines, and military families. We heard from investigative reporters, scientists, physicians, nurses, parents, homeopaths and others.  Sometimes speakers had to agree to disagree. 

I was honored to assist with book sales, registration and general organization. What a pleasure to work with such dedicated people with amazing energy and passion. I have worked closely with Barbara and her co-founder, Kathi Williams for many years, and attended the three previous conferences.  This one was THE BEST! 

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC)  raised over $100,000 in 24 hours to fund a study of the health of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children. Go to  to view Barbara’s five-minute YouTube video describing it.  Watch the NVIC website to order CDs of the talks and downloads of the Powerpoint presentations. 

Governor Christie Elected in New JerseyCongratulations to Louise Habakus, Founder of Life Health Choices, in leading vaccine choice advocates who showed up in record numbers in to cast their votes and elect Chris Christie as New Jersey’s next governor. Christie made an official campaign promise to citizens of New Jersey in support of vaccination choice. He further cemented his position by becoming the first gubernatorial candidate to utter the words vaccines, autism and parental choice in the same sentence on Don Imus’ live radio show.  Habakus is now asking NJ residents to thank Christie for his promise.  Hopefully he will act in accordance with it!

Policy Recommendations to Pittsburgh Jewish School Administrators!  A group of 28 pediatricians in the Pittsburgh area, a majority of whom are Jewish, distributed a paper with the above title stating the following:

“We, the pediatric healthcare providers for the majority of the Pittsburgh Jewish community, ask the day schools, preschools and religious schools in the community to unite in stating the following policies regarding immunizations:

1.  All students will be required to provide proof of current, age-appropriate immunizations according to current Allegheny County immunization requirements, prior to the beginning of each school year.

2.  Any student not meeting these requirements must provide written, signed documentation, with state medical license number, from his or her licensed PRIMARY healthcare provider explaining the MEDICAL rationale for not immunizing the child in accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

3.  While Pennsylvania law and Allegheny County code recognizes the right to “religious or philosophical objection to immunization,” our school does NOT accept such exemptions!  We consider vaccination to be a part of a person’s Jewish obligation to protect their own life and health and that of others; just as we expect that students and families choosing our school will accept that we provide explicit instruction in a variety of religious beliefs and practices, and expect our students to conform to school policies on dress, food, prayer, and ethical behavior, we consider this issue to be of equal, if not greater importance, and therefore expect the same level of respect and adherence. 

4.  Students not meeting the requirements outlined above will be excluded from school until they can comply with the requirements.

Exception:  We recognize that a student who is delayed in receiving immunizations often cannot receive them all at once.  Therefore, once a student can provide proof of having received the first doses in a “catch-up” schedule, along with a dated schedule from the physician indicating when the next doses are due, that student can be allowed to return to school.  The school reserves the right to exclude the student at a later date if the family does not follow through with completing the “catch-up” schedule in a reasonable time frame.  It is reasonable to expect that nearly all new students with immunization delay should be able to complete any standard “catch-up” schedule by the conclusion of their first academic year in the school.”

 Attached to this white paper are three pages of “Medical Evidence Supporting Immunization Requirements.”   No studies, no research. Just unsupported opinions on why “vaccination against infectious diseases is one of the most successful innovations of modern medicine ” Another statement:  ” Vaccination is perhaps the most rigorously tested, safest interventions practiced by modern medicine!”  WHERE ARE THE STUDIES?

A reporter for the Jewish Chronicle, a Pittsburgh Jewish weekly picked up this story.  The comments from Peter H. Meyers, Professor of Clinical Law at the George Washington University Law School and Barbara Loe Fisher of NVIC are worth reading.   Meyers, who is Jewish, directs the vaccine injury clinic at GWU Law School, and teaches courses on vaccination law.

To me this looks like an ACLU case waiting to happen!   I heard that one of the Yeshiva Schools had already sought legal counsel.  I just cannot believe that these doctors think they are above the law!  How can they dismiss the law of the state and people’s individual rights? 

Vaccinations and politics will no doubt continue to butt heads in 2010 for sure.  Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy New Year free of vaccines and politics!