Sunday, July 13, 2008

Continuation: Litter is Good, No?

The boasting of the Soulard Restoration Group about its litter abatement program illustrates the bankruptcy of neighborhood leadership. Resolving the litter problem is something we all need to confront and be responsible for. We all need to work to improve Soulard, Madame Chouteau believes. Perversely, the SRG has assigned litter control to Marvin Powell and his crew, which Madame Chouteau assumes to consist of homeless people - hired for a few dollars.

Just as Alderwoman Phyllis Young has done nothing to rein in the curse of the designation of Soulard as an "Entertainment District," so the Soulard Restoration Group displays its impotence by palming off our litter on the homeless, making them responsible for the mess.

Their clueless approach to problem solving is detailed in the June, 2008 issue of the SRG publication Soulard Renaissance (subtitled "Living with History") in the lead article, titled "Krewe of Clean on the Scene."

The article, written by Ann Russell, comments that "yes, for the first time in a few years, Soulard is enjoying a sustained weekly litter clean-up program. Overseen by Marvin Powell of Peter & Paul Community Services (PPCS), the Soulard Clean Krewe has taken to the streets at least once a weekend (weather permitted) since March."

The article continues with SRG President Don Kirby explaining that "then after they go out, our task force members - me included - take a bike ride around the neighborhood and see what’s been done and what needs attention next round. It’s an effort that involves many great organizations who all have one goal in mind - a clean, safe Soulard."

The program is funded by a grant of $5000 from Peter and Paul Housing Corporation (PPHC), a non-profit organization separate from PPCS. This grant was matched by funds from the Soulard Business Association (SBA) and the Soulard Restoration Group, from what Madame Chouteau can understand from the article.

Rather than suggesting that the neighborhood residents, property owners, business owners and visitors to the neighborhood assume responsibility for their actions and for cleaning up the neighborhood, the Renaissance article provides an e-mail address ( so that people report where the litter is thickest. Then the homeless can be dispatched to solve the problem. The homeless can wipe the neighborhood’s bottom, once a week.

In fact, Madame Chouteau eagerly awaited the July issue of the Soulard Renaissance, hopeful that a follow-up editorial would suggest that all who live in the neighborhood, who recreate here or who just pass through join the efforts of the homeless crew and support them by not littering and by picking up after themselves. But the pages are silent on the subject.

Nowhere in the lengthy June article was there mention of individual responsibility or the necessity of community involvement - other than reporting the location of litter. The tone of the article implies that the swells of the SRG consider the problem is solved - by a weekly sweep. If the Soulard Restoration Group abdicates its leadership role by supporting band-aid solutions, at least Alderwoman Phyllis Young could have issued a statement, something like:

"We all need to work together to try to solve the litter problem in Soulard (and throughout St. Louis, for that matter). Whether you are a property owning resident, a tenant, a non-resident landlord or a visitor to one of our many bars, places of business, or a restaurant, we ask your assistance. Please do not litter. Please help make Soulard more user-friendly and attractive by picking up litter that thoughtless people have created. If you are an owner of a business which sells alcoholic beverages, please do not let your patrons exit your premises with open beverage containers. These containers often end up littering the landscape. Please pick up the newspapers and flyers found in the streets and gutters. Please use City of St. Louis trash containers appropriately. Those who are dog owners need to pick up after their animals, too. If we all work together, we can have an impact. Please join Marvin Powell and his crew to help make Soulard a better place to live, to do business and to visit. After all, if they can do it, so can the rest of us. Thank you for your contribution to our neighborhood."

Friday, July 4, 2008

Baetje Farm Cheese Products Explained

Careful St. Louis food consumers have hardly begun to realize how lucky they are to have such an excellent source of outstanding goat milk products at the Soulard Farmers’ Market as those provided by Steve and Veronica Baetje of Baetje Farm. Their products have attracted considerable attention. For example, Neville McNaughton of CheezSorce L.L.C. recently made several insightful comments about Baetje Farm. He noted that:

"Veronica is a little gem in the cheese business. She represents a whole new era of cheese production that will literally make us a better nation. She and Steve are making very fine cheese. They are a quick study. They have an excellent facility, they are hard working and they are destined to do well."

Neville, who is a consultant in the cheese business, adds:

"Baetje Farm throws the spotlight on some of the issues surrounding the concept of regionally produced foods. One important element is the requirement that regional food producers must be able to make a living from their efforts and from the products they produce. It is important that we are able to communicate this need to the consumers.

"Another realization is that some aspects of food production result in distortions in the entire industry. These distortions tend to favor the big guys, the result of advantages they hold over the supply chain as the result of their size and control. These advantages include passing off costs to producers and to consumers, something which undermines quality and consumer satisfaction. Freshness and flavor are lost. This is not the case with Baetje Farm products, for example. They live for these qualities.

"These issues aside, regionality is being given a boost because of the rising costs of fuel and energy. A window is being opened by devoted producers such as Veronica and Steve, who clearly offer insights into top quality and readily available options. Rising energy costs spur consumers to search for options, and Baetje Farm products reward this search."

Neville has considerable background in cheese production. Born and raised in New Zealand and now a resident of Davisville, Mo., Neville has over 34 years in the dairy and cheese industry. His job as a consultant to people like Steve and Veronica includes providing insights into project management, set-up, aging room design, plant layout, new product development, cheesemaking training and specialized promotional activities. His website is

Neville concludes that "it has been a privilege to be of assistance to Veronica and Steve. Their cheese is made from raw milk when it is appropriate and pasteurized when it is legally required. Her products are wholesome and represent the best of what can be done with milk. Large industrial producers rarely just use what is on the label. This applies to milk and milk products, and particularly to cheese, which usually has additives. Baetje Farm, which sells its products fresh and close to its source of raw materials, sidesteps this entire issue. The consumers benefit."

It should be added that Scharf Farm and a number of other Soulard Farmers’ Market vendors also provide market shoppers with regionally produced or grown products. As an aside, it is nice to note that KSDK Channel 5 did a very nice piece on Baetje Farm and on several other Soulard Market vendors. The short aired on Show Me St. Louis. The publicity helps broadcast one of the greatest assets of St. Louis - the Soulard Farmers’ Market. Many thanks to KSDK for the coverage and to Neville McNaughten for his explanation of the importance of Baetje Farm.