Five at 8 – 9/4/09: The threat of the city farmer

Friday before Labor Day. It’s call-in-sick-and-see-if-anyone-believes-you day.

1) I’m on Tom Pierkarski’s side and you can blame my father. Pierkarski is the Rosemount man profiled in the Pioneer Press today because he sells vegetables out of his garden and the city is charging him with operating an illegal retail business. My father retired at 62 and started a second career as a gentleman farmer, growing vegetables and requiring us to answer the same question every 5 minutes at dinner (“how are those (fill in name of vegetable here))”. When we moved to Woodbury years ago, I found a guy just like my dad who sold vegetables off a card table set up outside his house. I saw last week where the land is now being sold off for more houses that look alike. I stopped at the Schilling farm off Bailey Road last Sunday and picked up a couple cartons of snap beans. $1 apiece. Put the money in the box. They trust you. These sorts of things are our tradition; no less a part of our history than the State Fair.

This is the second story this week of radical gardeners. MPR’s Mark Steil reported this week on the dispute between the city of Watson and Aziz Ansari, who’s growing thousands of tomatoes in his front yard, and is embroiled in a dispute with city enforcers.

2) Simple question: Should students be allowed to watch President Obama’s speech to the nation’s school kids next week? Or is it part of a political conspiracy to indoctrinate them in the way of the Democratic Party? The Associated Press looks at the issue. “As far as I am concerned, this is not civics education — it gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality,” said Oklahoma Republican state Sen. Steve Russell. “This is something you’d expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”

In Elk River, for example, teachers will not be allowed to show the speech live in the classroom.

BobEmery-WBZ-TVsm.jpg Caution: A back-when-I-was-growing-up story ahead: The kids TV show in Boston was Big Brother Bob Emery, who would have a segment of his show where he pushed Bosco chocolate syrup. Everyone would raise a glass of chocolate milk to a picture of Dwight Eisenhower in a “toast to the president,” while Hail to the Chief played. That’s him over there on the left. Look at him, conspiring to turn Massachusetts into a red state.

3) Tough luck for the 4-H kids who worked hard to get to the State Fair, then got sent home yesterday because four of them came down with H1N1. Performers with the performing arts group were instructed not to shake hands at the end of their routines, as they normally did.

Swine flu — err, H1N1 — may be the end of civility as we know it, the New York Times reports.

As the world braces for a second wave of the swine flu that broke out in the spring and resulted in the deaths of more than 2,100 people worldwide, the disease is altering long-established patterns of everyday greeting. Handshakes have been cut short, kisses aborted. Warm embraces have been supplanted by curt pats on the back.

Even “high fives” are being discouraged, the article says.

4) Can we trust anything sold by a pharmaceutical company? The BBC held a debate yesterday over the conflicts of interest between doctors and the companies. Do you trust your doctor to prescribe what’s best for you, or what will put some extra cash in his/her pocket?

5) Fires update. Nice write-up on about how firefighters fighting the Western fires “saved the birthplace of the expanding universe.


It’s MPR Day at the State Fair today. Sen. Al Franken is Gary Eichten’s guest at 11. Keillor is going his annual thing. The question I was asked most yesterday was “Is Cathy Wurzer here?” She was yesterday; but not today. Sorry. I’ll be watching Jeff Horwich and the Smarts at the MPR NewsQ tent. So the blog will mostly lie fallow today. But make sure you have your picture taken. Here are some of yesterday’s.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Is prevention really a medical cost-saver?

Second hour: Jane Goodall on the way to restore endangered species

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – As mentioned above, Franken, then Keillor. Here’s a preview — courtesy of — of how the health-care discussion with Franken may go:

If we can get people to stop yelling “Nazis,” can we also get people to stop referring to people with a different view as an “angry mob,” at least when it’s clearly not?

People were asking tough questions, getting an answer, and being respectful if they disagreed. That’s not a bad thing.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – It’s Science Friday! Hour one: What colleges are doing to prepare for flu outbreaks.

Second hour: Why railroads may be the key to jump starting the hydrogen economy.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – From all appearances, this was the summer of the cheap trip. People stayed closer to home. How did this affect local economies? MPR’s Tom Robertson will report.

Linden Hills Power and Light, a non-profit in south Minneapolis, wants to take its curbside compost program a step further. At the State Fair they’re unveiling their digester that creates natural gas from organic garbage. They want to build a 10-ton digester that would power a greenhouse to grow local produce. Brandt Williams will have that story.

Nationally, more on the backlash against Obama’s school speech, Cheryl Corley looks at the high-speed rail proposals in the Midwest, and NPR will report on the prevalence of steroids in high school sports.

The unemployment rate will be out this morning. It’s expected to go higher. I’m looking for more unemployed people to tell me their stories. If that’s you, contact me here.

  • Thomas

    This is exactly what Trice and his Ilk (lefties and righties) do, mischaracterizations and flat out lies. Its people like him who keep honest, pragmatic people out of politics. Can we get back to having adults run our government, please??

  • Dave

    I don’t understand the kerfluffle over Obama’s speech.

    Regardless of whether there is political content in the speech, the worst thing a school could do is refuse to show it. It’s the president of the country addressing students specifically. Students have a right and responsibility to listen to him. Schools should not be teaching children to disengage from politics.

    The BEST thing a school could do is have the students watch the speech, and then have a discussion with students afterward regarding any perceived political overtones. That teaches engagement AND critical thinking.

  • kennedy

    Are we seriously saying that we don’t trust the president to speak to our children?

    As a student, I participated in Jimmy Carter’s presidential fitness program (failed miserably and hated the program). Encouraging fitness was the message I took away without any political message.

    It sounds like the President Obama wants to encourage kids to stay in school and study hard. The biggest problem I see is announcing it at this late date. School days are already planned and the timing of the address may conflict.

  • Heather

    For the record, PolitiFact has rated the conservative uproar over the school speech “Pants on Fire”.

  • Joanna

    Veggie farmers, buncha commies! Are they trying to indoctrinate our kids into cutting out the middleman? The should be forced to grow grass with pesticides. Next thing you know they’ll be growing dandelions and calling it salad.