Monthly Archives: December 2015

International Year of Pulses — It’s about beans, not beats!

Oats, peas, beans and barley grow – still, for 2016 it’s all about peas and beans……

In 2016, the International Year of Pulses (http://www.fao.org/pulses-2016/en/) the humble dried bean and pea are contrasted with oats and barley, touted as key elements in the challenge to address global poverty. Use of the term “pulses” presents a linguistic shift for some (like me) to redefine the word to cover all varieties of dried beans including “kidney beans, lima beans, butter beans, broad beans, chickpeas, cow peas, black-eyed peas and pigeon peas.” More important, we will learn to appreciate a the role of pulses in regional and national dishes with which we have become familiar – “from falafel to dahl to chili and baked beans.”

The 68th United Nations General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is facilitating implementation of the Year in collaboration with national governments, NGO’s and others – it is worth noting that among the facilitators there is no mention of food-related corporations or of the media.

The intent of the UN initiative is to shed light on pulses as a ubiquitous and low-cost food that offers promise in the fight to feed a world ravaged by hunger, malnutrition, food insecurity, and the pervasive challenges of food distribution and access. Much of the UN focus is understandably on third world countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Thus it remains to this nation – and perhaps this state – to adopt a concerted effort to respect, learn, develop and deploy strategies that harness the power of pulses to combat the crisis of global hunger — and of hunger in our midst.

The FAO offers a definition of terms aimed at mere mortals:

Pulses are annual leguminous crops yielding between one and 12 grains or seeds of variable size, shape and colour within a pod, used for both food and feed.  The term “pulses” is limited to crops harvested solely for dry grain, thereby excluding crops harvested green for food, which are classified as vegetable crops, as well as those crops used mainly for oil extraction and leguminous crops that are used exclusively for sowing purposes (based on the definition of “pulses and derived products” of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).

Pulse crops such as lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas are a critical part of the general food basket.  Pulses are a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people around the globe and should be eaten as part of a healthy diet to address obesity, as well as to prevent and help manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary conditions and cancer; they are also an important source of plant-based protein for animals.

In addition, and of particular interest to gardeners and environmentalists, pulses have special nitrogen-fixing properties that can contribute to increasing soil fertility and have a positive impact on the environment.

Speaking about the nutritional value of pulses, the FAO chief said that dried beans and peas (broadly defined) have double the proteins found in wheat and triple the amount found in rice. They are also rich in micronutrients, amino acids and b-vitamins. Because they can yield two to three times higher prices than cereals and their processing provides additional economic opportunities, pulses offer a viable food source with the capacity to lift farmers, especially women farmers, out of rural poverty.

Bottom line, the focus on the simple food source confers overdue recognition and respect on pulses as the indispensable, under-valued nutritional basics that have sustained generations from the beginning of time.

According to optimistic – or, one might hope, prescient – planners at the UN, “the Year will create a unique opportunity to encourage connections throughout the food chain that would better utilize pulse-based proteins, further global production of pulses, better utilize crop rotations and address the challenges in the trade of pulses.”

Though it remains to be seen how that will play out, in particular because of the unfamiliar use of the term, it’s an intriguing learning opportunity for all of us.

In a state replete with agricultural research institutions, an ag-based economy, a plethora of FFA’s, ardent environmentalists, committed gardeners, scholars probing the history of agriculture, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, combined with a commitment to global and local hunger, we should be able to mount an aggressive Year of Pulses initiative, a chance to wrap our heads around a challenge in our midst and in our world

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Prologue to Possibilities – New Years Eve Post 2015

Poking around can be hazardous for the inquiring mind…At times one falls into the trap of probing the object rather than pursuing the allure of the poking process itself. And thus the story of how I have been waylaid of late by a related, but tangential, project that has captured my imagination, expanded my horizons, and taken a good deal of time…..As we wrap up 2015 I’d like to share the project, in part to explain the pause in the Pokes, but also to tell you what’s up and to invite your ideas.

As many readers know, the resurgence of the arts in Northeast Minneapolis reflects, embraces and expands this vibrant community.   As is their wont, practitioners of the myriad facets of the literary arts have established their unique presence — in the wings. The work of writers flows from their fertile minds and laconic pc’s; their words are transmitted through disparate channels that mediate between the creator and the reader – editors, publishers, printers, booksellers; their ideas inspire individual readers not massive crowds. Thus, the voices and thoughts of those whose creative energies contribute so much to the totality of the arts need a gentle push to step to the main stage.

In an earlier post I described my involvement in an ambitious video project designed to amplify the voices of the Northeast community’s literary artists. The Voices of Northeast collaboration is part of and builds on a long-standing video project initiated by North Side resident and scholar Peter Shea. Shea’s initiative, known by the enigmatic series title “The Bat of Minerva”, explores the lives of thoughtful and creative people so that their unique insights reach a general viewing audience. The “Bat” series is cablecast on Channel 6 (Metro Cable Network) and archived at the University of Minnesota Institute for Advanced Studies. (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/voices-of-northeast-minneapolis-captured-and-shared-on-video/)

In recent months Peter and I have collaborated to initiate a series of interviews with a range of creative people who, in various and sometimes invisible ways, reflect and support the literary arts as essential and enriching players in a vibrant arts community in Northeast Minneapolis. The videos are accessible on the IAS website (http://ias.umn.edu/2014/07/29/northeast/)

Ours is a low-key project. Each week Peter engages in a wide-ranging discussion – not an interview but a conversation – with one or two individuals who enrich, expand — and share with others — the literary vibrancy of this neighborhood.

My role, that of identifying, contacting and “selling” the concept to those who contribute so much to the literary scene, has enriched my appreciation of this community – and absorbed more than a few hours and days.

At year’s end Peter and I have been looking back to assess the impact and the future of this model.  One thing we have learned is that the possibilities know no limits – each guest introduces us to other resources – a person, an agency, a player – of which we were hitherto unaware. We know that we have barely tapped the mother lode of players in the world of words that thrives in our midst. Another learning is that the means of sharing the ideas and the words is expanding exponentially. We recognize that access to the recorded interviews cries out for attention.

We are also coming to realize that this simple grounds-up approach offers a frequently unpredictable alternative to cookie-cutter interviews with known subjects… We are coming to appreciate that this is technology harnessed and shaped to accomplish the vision that inspired the early proponents of public access television.

For now, our focus is on two priorities we hope to pursue in the months and year to come. One is to replicate the simple process that has created and sustained our efforts to date. At present we are exploring the possibility of expanding our sphere to explore the stories of artists who live or work on the North Side, which quietly embraces a rich, diverse, burgeoning community of creative artists of every stripe. We are eager to explore the many faces of that reality, including individuals and supporting agencies that together shape a rich arts environment in North Minneapolis.

Peter, the inveterate scholar, and I, the unreconstructed librarian, are also concerned with the challenge to harness the potential of technology to enhance access to the videos that are the tangible product of this project. The first and essential step is a fait accompli – the Voices of Northeast tapes are in the public domain and securely archived for download and editing to suit the user’s purpose.

The need now is to take the next step, to apply the tools of access – aka cataloging/coding – that render the videotaped treasures universally and permanently accessible. The goal is to organize the complex collection of video interviews in a standard system that assures that any seeker is able to search, identify, view or download, then learn and share the recorded words of a diverse community of interest.

So, on the one hand, this is an explanation of the temporary absence of Poking Around. On the other hand, it’s a heads up on what this pilot project has accomplished – and what we are thinking about for the future.

Ideas welcome – especially if you have suggestions of people, places, projects and other possibilities into which we should poke in 2016!