Heifer International: Ending Poverty and Hunger Through Empowerment

Yes, it is a bit early to think about Christmas, but one of my favorite Christmas catalogs arrived in the mail today. It’s from the humanitarian organization Heifer International — a group that reminds me of the dramatic difference one gift can make.

Through agricultural and livestock projects, Heifer International has helped impoverished families around the world for 70 years. The Christmas catalog lets you buy a gift for a poor family in honor of a loved one. The gifts, which include a $20 flock of geese, a $50 share of a heifer and a $150 llama, helps families get started on the path to self-sustainability. For example, a $30 gift of pollinating honeybees can help a small-scale coffee farmer increase production by  10 percent and provide honey for additional income.

According to its 12 Cornerstones of Just and Sustainable Development, Heifer International provides training, livestock, seeds, and other needed support to people in the poorest regions of the world. Through one of the most effective cornerstones, called “Passing On the Gift,” families who have been helped by Heifer International give to others in need in their communities. Other cornerstones include “Accountability,” “Nutrition and Income” and “Training and Education.” Women and men are encouraged to reach decisions together, and participants learn sustainable farming methods that protect the environment.

Food Network star Alton Brown explains the benefits of Heifer International:


So, if you’re looking for a way to make a difference this holiday season, look up Heifer International’s gift catalog. It’s called “The Most Important Gift Catalog in the World” for good reason. Individual acts of kindness really do make a difference!

Collectively: A New Sustainability Media Platform

This week, a new media platform called Collectively appeared online. Targeting the 18-to-30 age group, Collectively shares articles and videos about sustainability projects from around the world. Many of the world’s largest corporations, including Coca-Cola, Unilever, McDonald’s and Twitter. are partnering with (i.e. sponsoring) the Forum for the Future to bring this platform to the Internet.


The Forum for the Future states that the goal of Collectively is to inspire “a generational shift to a new normal.” Collectively highlights encouraging news in the push for sustainable agriculture and energy, as well as related news about art and technology. Visitors to the site can watch a video about urban beekeeping in Los Angeles, for example, or read an article about the promise of micro farming. In an age of alarming news about climate change, wars, and health crises, you don’t have to be a member of the Millennial generation to crave good news about the future of our planet.

It is easy to question the motives of corporate sponsors, and to feel skeptical about claims that the sponsors do not dictate content. However, it is necessary to bring both private and public organizations and businesses to the table as we tackle complex — and urgent — environmental and humanitarian issues.  Meanwhile, young visitors to this new platform will have a chance to learn about sustainability issues and consider their own potential for creativity and leadership. I am at least thankful for that.

Book Review: And Then Came a Lion, by Cecilia Marie Pulliam



In her novel And Then Came a Lion, Cecilia Marie Pulliam introduces us to Susannah Carlson, a young girl who has premonitions about child abductions. As Susannah matures into a young woman, she repeatedly risks her life by acting on these premonitions to save children from horrific crimes. Eventually she must decide whether to reveal these premonitions to those who are dearest to her. Throughout the story, which takes the reader from the northwestern United States to Africa, Susannah is faced with gut-wrenching choices and life-or-death decisions.

Ms. Pulliam deftly and creatively weaves this gripping tale, building suspense and prompting yet another late-night turn of the page. As I read the book, I found myself close to tears at some moments, and rejoicing at others. Susannah Carlson is a believable and admirable character. As I got to know her friends and family, I cared about them and felt like I knew them. The descriptions of Africa are vivid and breathtaking, and made me want to visit that continent.

I highly recommend And Then Came a Lion by Cecilia Marie Pulliam. The pace of the story builds suspense and places the reader in the middle of the sometimes terrifying, sometimes beautiful scenes. At times the story will break your heart, but like many good heroic tales, triumphs are often accompanied by heartache. I look forward to reading the next novel by Ms. Pulliam.

To find out more about the book and the author, click here.

Your Food: USDA Tool Can Help You Find Local Farmers’ Markets

Many farmers’ markets are open throughou the fall and even year round. If you’re still looking for a market in your area, a little-known USDA tool can help. The USDA Farmers’ Market Directory lets you search by zip code and distance, and lets you filter your search based on products available, payment accepted, market location, winter markets, and state contacts. To be eligible for a listing, a market must “feature two or more farm vendors selling agricultural products directly to customers at a common, recurrent physical location.”


The directory makes it possible to find a farmers’ market that best suits your preferences or budget. For example, the “Products Available” list includes baked goods, honey, crafts, herbs, meats, dry beans, soaps and many other product categories.  The “Payment Accepted” filter lets you look for markets that accept credit cards, WIC vouchers, SNAP and other Federal nutrition programs.

If farmers’ markets aren’t your thing, you can find other locally-grown options in the USDA Local Food Directories. You can look for Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), for example, which provide members or subscribers with regular deliveries of fresh produce during harvest seasons. Other directories include on-farm markets and food hubs, which manage distribution and marketing of locally-grown food to wholesale, retail and institutional buyers.


Buying from CSAs, farmers’ markets or other local options lets you know where your food comes from, and keeps dollars in the local — especially rural — economy. Besides, fresh food tastes so much better!





Five-Minute Friday: Because


Welcome to Five Minute Friday, where we gather at Heading Home every week to write for five minutes straight from a prompt. That’s five-minutes of spontaneous writing, with no edits, no second-guessing :)

This week’s prompt is “because.” Here I go:


Because I have to write, just like I have to breathe.

Because the line was too long at the checkout. I’ll go back to the store and pick it up tomorrow.

Because sometimes I need a day off from writing.

Because I didn’t know it was going to rain today.

Because I wasn’t sure if you would actually read this.

Because I will always love you.

Because I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer.

Because I didn’t sleep well last night and got up on the wrong side of the bed.

Because the submission deadline is two days earlier than I thought.

Because the cat was afraid of the vacuum, so I let him sleep next to us.

Because He created me this way.

Because I can carry this with His strength.

Because you can carry on, knowing that you are loved.

Because we can do all things through Him.


Time’s up! I hope you’ll link up and join us with your take on this prompt!

Review: Giada — A Digital Weekly

A familiar face on the Food Network, Giada De Laurenttis recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of  Giada: A Digital Weekly.  I was recently invited to review the digital magazine, which is available for a monthly $2.99 subscription. Individual issues are also available for $0.99.

Giada Weekly has a colorful, attractive homepage with image links to recipes, style, fitness and other features. Subscribers can access past issues from the “Library” tab. Every issue includes many delicious sounding recipes, such as this week’s Baked Red Peppers With Quinoa and Feta. The “Back to Busy” theme of the current issue includes quick and easy dinner recipes for the end-of-summer, back-to-school rush. Examples of these 20-minute dinners include Tuna, White Bean and Bitter Greens Salad, and Calabrian Chili Pasta. Subscribers can search for and save favorite recipes.

One of the site’s regular features is a “Feel Good Food” section that highlights a favorite food. Past issues have included articles on farm-stand food, chia seeds and pasta pizza. In the weekly “G’s Hotlist” section, Giada lists some of her favorite products. This week’s list includes favorite apps; previous lists have included favorite tunes and top quality olive oil brands.

Giada Weekly is accessible and fun to read, without sacrificing substance. I have found, however, that many websites offer similar content without the subscription fee. Still, readers who don’t mind paying for access will enjoy Giada Weekly. I recommend at least giving the website a try.

FTC Disclaimer: I was given a free one-month subscription to Giada Weekly in exchange for an honest review. All opinions stated in this review are my own.

Beyond Sustainability: The Promise of Regenerative Agriculture


image by ethanappleseed via Flickr

image by ethanappleseed via Flickr


We hear so much — and rightly so — about our dwindling resources and the need to use our resources wisely. “Sustainable agriculture” is a term that appears in the news and social media, but how many are familiar with the term “regenerative agriculture?” Regenerative agriculture is a model of agriculture that renews and restores the soil, making it it possible to produce highly nutritious food.

The Rodale Institute  describes regenerative agriculture as “farming like the Earth matters.”  For decades, modern agriculture has relied on synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides, excessive tillage and other practices that deplete the soil.  These methods have resulted in the loss of up to 75 percent of the soil’s organic carbon — a substance that is vital for soil health. At the same time, these agricultural practices contribute to excess greenhouse gas or carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which in turn contribute to climate change.

Fortunately, regenerative organic agriculture makes it possible to reverse this destructive cycle. This farming method does not rely on technological advances that are available to only a few industrial farms.  It emphasizes practices such as crop rotation, composting and conservation tillage — practices which help to keep carbon stocks in the soil and prevent harmful CO2 emissions. Carbon is returned to the soil instead of the atmosphere, and the replenished soil produces nutrient-rich crops.

Conservation tillage, for example, leaves residue on the soil from the previous year’s crops. According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, this practice can reduce erosion up to 60 to 90 percent, improve soil quality by allowing organic matter to decompose, and reduce air pollution form diesel fuel. Conservation tillage is an example of regenerative agriculture methods that return organic carbon to the soil.

We can all take steps to encourage “farming like the Earth matters.” As consumers, we can seek out and buy locally raised, organically grown food whenever possible. We can learn and spread the word about improving our food supply and the way our food is produced.

You can find out more about regenerative agriculture at the following links:

Rodale Institute: The New Farm

Organic Consumers Association: Regenerative Agriculture — Sowing Health, Sustainability, and Climate Stability