Bramble Herb Shop

Ithaca’s Bramble herb shop advocates for natural remedies

With its shelves lined with jars of dried plants and spices, Ithaca’s one-stop-shop is every herb-lover’s dream. Located in Ithaca’s Press Bay Alley is Bramble Community Herbalism, an herb shop owned by four local herbalists. They came together under the common goal of bringing accessible, sustainable medicine to the Ithaca community.

With the help of a successful Indiegogo campaign, Bramble was able to grow its business. Amanda David, one of the co-founders of Bramble, advocates for alternative medicine as a way to connect people and plants to promote personal and planetary health.

As a child, David spent most of her time outdoors exploring nature. After graduating from high school, David became a migrant farm worker and travelled around the states working on organic farms. Around this time she received a book on plant medicine from a friend and was inspired to start her career as an herbalist.

“I was totally blown away that plants could be used as medicine,” David said. “I started learning the different plants and found that a lot of the plants we were weeding out of the farms were medicinal herbs.”

David went on to become an apprentice herbalist and took numerous classes on the study of herbal medicine. When the idea of opening an herb shop in Ithaca came about, David jumped at the opportunity.

With the help of three other local herbalists, Bramble opened its doors in October of last year. David said she wanted the space to be a place for the community to receive consultations, education and products. With over 30 percent of the shop’s stock locally grown, and 100 percent of it organic, Bramble’s focus is on supporting the Ithaca community.

“It’s very local centric,” said David. “We’re trying to focus on supporting local herbalists and using local herbs.”

As well as retail items, Bramble offers classes on various subjects relating to herbalism. The herbalists further encourage consultations for those who want alternative methods in assisting with their health goals or challenges.

“Herbs are not just alternatives to pharmaceuticals,” David said. “They can be used as a compliment to pharmaceuticals.”

Alongside David is her apprentice, Rose Fleurant. Like David, Fleurant grew up a lover of nature.

“I wanted to get into a field of how to help heal the earth,” Fleurant said. “I didn’t think of using plants as medicinal until I moved to Ithaca.”

As David’s apprentice, Fleurant is trying to gain as much knowledge as possible of herbs and their many uses.

“From medicinal uses to planting and replanting and how to heal the earth, it’s all about being reconnected to where we came from,” Fluerant said.

Fleurant said herbs can be used preventatively and to boost the immune system and help the body processes work more efficiently. They can also be used as alternatives to pharmaceuticals for chronic or acute conditions.

Although David said she is happy there are pharmaceuticals, she is wary because pharmaceuticals are often overused and misused.

“There are so many things you can treat naturally with herbal medicine that so many people are running to pharmaceuticals for,” David said. “Herbs should be your first round of defense in most health situations.”

Along with providing consultations, Bramble also runs a low-cost community clinic once a month to provide low-cost care for those who may not be able to afford a general consultation. Chelsea Doig, a customer at Bramble and chamomile tea enthusiast, believes that the shop is a perfect way to educate the community on the benefits of natural remedies.

“[The herbs] are able to ease my ailments without the physical side effects of pharmaceuticals,” said Doig. “It’s pretty amazing how nature can heal.”


Yoga Farm

Yoga Farm: ‘Sanctuary and Playground’

In a mission to help students find their goodness, Yoga Farm, a wellness center in Lansing, N.Y. offers educational classes and workshops to students seeking courses in yoga and meditation.

Christopher Grant and Daniela Hess, co-directors of Yoga Farm, founded the wellness center in the spring of 2015 after listening to the call of Spirit.

“For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a part of a group of people who were living and learning together – diving into some of the deeper truths about what it means to be a human – seeking something beyond,” said Grant.  “I always had a sense that there was something beyond.”

Yoga Farm is a welcome environment where students can follow three different approaches to find their goodness. The center offers group yoga: private instruction, including yoga, meditation and coaching: and courses centered on a theme.

“People come here to remember their goodness and their lightness – lightness is playful,” said Hess.  “I help people fall in love with themselves, like I mean really fall in love with themselves.”

In addition to their regular classes and workshops, Yoga Farm hosts the Sacred Sunday Community event every Sunday, open to all community members.  This event allows community members the opportunity to have a deeply personal experience with body, mind and Spirit.  Sacred Sunday is a three-part event, but the community can come at the beginning of each hour.  The first hour consists of prayers and practices called Ho’oponopono, then gentle community yoga and the finally a meditation.

“People who come every week get a completely different experience and it’s like church without the ‘churchyness,’” said Hess.  “It’s beautiful – it’s this sacred morning for anybody regardless of your denomination or affiliation, religions – it doesn’t matter.  We’re really connecting with the thread that weaves itself through everyone and it’s our goodness and our grace.”

Hess said the practice of yoga and meditation is often seen as serious to Western people.  She believes Yoga Farm guides students through the true nature of Spirit.

“It’s not always serious here, people something have it that the spiritual path has to be very quiet, a lot of bowing and ‘Namaste’ – there is that,” said Hess.  “But the nature of Spirit is playful and that’s something here in the West that I see people have forgotten.”

Penne Barresi, a student at Yoga Farm, says that yoga can be useful in everyday life.

“For me it’s being in the present and it not only works my body physically, it wakes my body up emotionally and spiritually and allows me to combine those things and stay present,” said Barresi.  “When I’m sitting in traffic, trying to get some place and I can take a breath, reconnect my breath and be OK.”



Cornell’s Mission to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

At Cornell University, over one million disposable cups are used on campus each year.

In an effort to combat this issue and promote the recycling of all recyclable materials, Cornell University took part in RecycleMania, an eight-week competition for colleges and universities across the United States and Canada aiming to promote waste reduction activities on campuses.

Mark Hall of the R5 Operations, a department dedicated to support the university’s mission to keep the campus safe, attractive, functional and efficient, said the university has been involved with RecycleMania for four years.  Hall spearheaded the “Kick the Cup” event on campus three years ago, which allows students the opportunity to have free coffee, tea or hot chocolate every Wednesday for the duration of the competition if they provide a reusable cup.

“I enjoy doing the outreach,” said Hall.  “I get to meet all the students and tell them this stuff.”

Each week, participating schools report their amount of recycling and trash, and are able track their efforts in comparison to other campuses.  The university ranks highly in waste minimization and waste diversion every year, even as the competition gets intensive.

“We’ve always been in the top 20-25 percent,” said Hall.  “The good thing is that more schools are getting involved, which pushes our ranking down but I think we’re doing fine.”

Students at the university, including Andrew Peterson, a computer science major,  welcome the efforts to promote recycling materials.  Through the university’s events like “Kick The Cup” and “RecycleMania GameDay Basketball,” aimed to make students more aware of waste used on game days, students understand the importance of recycling.

“Everyone here seems onboard with it,” said Peterson.  “The campus just does a great job of encouraging it and with events like these, it’s easy – they make it easy for you.”

Rene Tsukawki an English major at the university and visitor to the weekly “Kick The Cup” event believes that recycling is vital to helping the environment.

“I think people take for granted a lot of what we have right now and it’s because the generations before us lived a certain way,” said Tsukawki.  “I might not be alive by the time it takes effect but if it’s only a few moments of effort on my part, just throwing something in the right bin or taking a few extra steps, to guarantee that other people will have a better environment, then why not?”

Zoe Watkins, a government major and frequent visitor to the “Kick The Cup” event said that the most important thing to remember impact recycling has on the world.

“It’s something that can be easily changed and has a large impact on the whole world, not just our campus,” said Watkins.  “It starts with us.”



The Sugar Bush

South Hill Forest Products inspire student learning

Since 2007, Ithaca College students in the Non-Timber Forest Products course have traded in the traditional college classroom experience for a more hands-on approach, becoming creators and entrepreneurs of non-timber products.

The course meets as a group once a week for a four-hour business meeting for South Hill Forest Products, a student-run company that produces all-natural maple syrup, honey and edible oyster mushrooms along with other products for purchase online and at many local businesses.

Katy Stringer, a senior environmental studies major and teaching assistant for the course, said that the projects completed are unique because they are student-conceived.

“The students are operating as employees of the business as well as to some degree, their own managers,” said Stringer. “They are the ones who are doing all the labor, as well as finding the consumers who are going to purchase these products.”

In order to maintain the business and expand beyond the products they already create,  students participate in projects and workshops that teach how to make wood carvings, maple syrup, soaps and salves.

Sam Donato, a senior environmental studies major and teaching assistant for the course, said that students on any given day, might work on one or two teams focusing on different aspects of the company.

“A day in this class could find you deep in the woods somewhere, or in the lab working on paper or somewhere around town searching for products,” Donato said.

Much of the budget for this business and class is funded through the Environmental Studies Department.

“Every year we do make a decent amount of money through selling our products to various local businesses and consumers but we also use a great deal of money,” Stringer said.  “The cost is high but in experiential knowledge it’s rich.”

The most popular product the company produces is maple syrup. Tori Chamberlin, a senior environmental studies major and teaching assistant for the class, said that a typical boil lasts a day or two. This year, the group started their boil on a Sunday and continued outside boiling until the following Thursday.

“It’s a really neat opportunity to be out in the woods with people who you might not be familiar with,” Chamberlin said. “This year we had a 100 hour boil, and 100 hours later, you come out as best friends – it’s a great teamwork and team building activity.”

Donato said the production of maple syrup is the most intensive but most rewarding experience.

“It’s constantly got us moving: doing cool things in the forest, sitting by fires, boiling maple syrup, collecting it from trees, filtering it and bottling it,” Donato said. “The whole process is very inclusive and intensive, but very fun.”

South Hill Forest Products will hold its annual Maple Open House on April 23, 2017 that will showcase the sugar bush and provide tours, games and food.


Net Neutrality

According to a recent study, the U.S. ranked 31st place on average download speeds around the world. Even more surprisingly, the U.S. came in 42nd with average upload speeds. This falls behind countries such as Belarus, Slovenia and other countries you have probably never heard before. So how did the country that invented the internet fall so far behind?

According to the article, “Why is American internet so slow?”, huge telecommunication companies like Time Warner, Verizon and Comcast have “divided up markets and put themselves in a position where they’re subject to no competition.”

This is largely because of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which allows cable companies to divide and monopolize, thus charging their customers higher prices without investment in internet infrastructure. Fiber optic connections offer faster connections than traditional copper wire, however, they are expensive to build. Verizon stopped building fiber optic infrastructure in 2010, just as other countries were opening the market to competition.

Some argue that Internet service is as close to a human right in the 21st century. At its core, net neutrality is the idea that all data should be treated equally and the internet should be a leveled playing field. This means that Internet users should be able to access any web content they choose without restrictions or limitations imposed by their Internet Service Provider.

In 2014, the D.C. Court of Appeals struck down the FCC’s net neutrality efforts. In February 2015, the FCC passed new Open Internet rules, which were challenged in court. These open internet rules would ensure consumers and businesses access to “fast, fair and open internet.” In this day in age, the FCC ought to treat broadband access like a utility and common carrier. The internet is a dynamic learning tool and should be treated as such a freedom.


PBS Reborn

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) was created in 1967 to “enhance citizenship and public service” and to provide a “voice for groups in the community that may otherwise go unheard.” The original mission of PBS was to provide a forum for debate and diversity free of commercial constraints.

Recently, however, PBS has come under scrutiny for its massive corporate funding and how it affects its broadcasts.

In 2014,  PBS received $ 3.5 million from Enron trader and billionaire John Arnold to fund a series about pension peril. The segment featured a ballot initiative that was being pushed in the state to roll back public employee pensions. This campaign initiative was funded by Arnold himself.

An investigative piece from PandoDaily found that Arnold was “actively trying to shape the very pension policy that series claims to be passionately covering.” David Sirota’s expose led PBS to take action on the conflict of interest underlying the original donation.

Following the report, PBS returned the $3.5 million grant it received to “sponsor an ambitious project on public pensions amid charges that it solicited inappropriate underwriting for the series.

According to the article, Happy Birthday, Public Broadcasting!, PBS has failed in its mission. The article calls the American public broadcasting system “spiritually dead” and in need of reform as a public trust.

The solution for this? Commercial broadcasters footing the bill.

Broadcasting is the only industry in America where you can make money off a public resource and not pay a thing for it. – Lawrence Grossman, former PBS and NBC News President

According to the article, the rebirth of PBS as an independently funded public trust would:

  • Take it off the annual federal dole
  • Remove corporate sponsorship
  • Free service of censorship pressures of private funding
  • Give the public a place for alternative views and independent analysis

“It’s time to give it its trust fund. All we need is the political will. Our democracy deserves no less.”


Snowden Coverage and Advocacy Journalism

The Edward Snowden government leaks have created a war between the U.S. corporate media system and independent media outlets. Here’s a refresher on the Snowden leaks and NSA surveillance on privacy rights.

In his article for the Huffington Post, Jeff Cohen discusses the implications of TV hosts and news panelists who refer to the government with the pronoun “We.” Even though polls show that more than half of the American public believe Snowden’s leak of NSA spying was a good thing, these voices are excluded from mainstream media. Instead, these news outlets focus on questions like: “‘How much damage has Snowden caused? How will he be brought to justice?‘”

“I would arrest him and I’d almost arrest Glenn Greenwald,” said Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times journalist and CNBC talking head. “We’ve screwed this up to even let him get to Russia.”

By “we,” Sorkin is referring to the government. However, the last time I checked, journalism serves as a check on the government, not a partnership with it.

In an interview with Glenn Greenwald, NBC’s David Gregory asked the factually-misleading question: “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you be charged with a crime?”

Greenwald’s response: “I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies.”

Defining who is and who is not a journalist has recently become a concerning issue. In an article for the New York Times, David Carr discusses the difficulties in discerning the “isms,” that is, journalism and activism.

The line between who is a journalist and who is an activist has become increasingly blurred in the case of Greenwald. Greenwald is an activist who is “deeply suspicious of government and national security apparatus” and a “zealous defender of privacy and civil rights.” Greenwald is also a journalist.

“All activists are not journalists, but all real journalists are activists. Journalism has a value, a purpose — to serve as a check on power.” -Glenn Greenwald

Because someone is an advocate does not mean they are the opposite of a journalist. Greenwald is no exception. Greenwald, along with other independent bloggers and independent organizations, scare the established mainstream media. This advocacy journalism has gained new traction as mainstream media continue to dominate news and fail to accurately report the issues at hand.