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Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’

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Photo: Julia Kurnik, World Wildlife Fund
WWFUS hopes that a research-based pilot project could identify the best crops to grow in the mid-delta Mississippi region as climate change forces California to reconsider what it should grow
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As changes in weather patterns damage agriculture in California, scientists are wondering if the Mississippi Delta could pick up the slack. The potential benefits of moving some farming to Mississippi include employment, better distribution systems, and less waste.

Radio show Living on Earth says,”Droughts and extreme weather are already taking a toll on the produce grown in the Central Valley of California. Now researchers from the World Wildlife Fund have found that the mid-Delta region of the Mississippi River, where rich soils currently mostly grow commodity crops like rice, corn, and soybeans, is ripe for growing more specialty crops such as fruits and vegetables.

“Jason Clay of WWF spoke with Host Steve Curwood about how the types of crops now grown in California could also be grown in the Mississippi mid-Delta region to enhance climate resilience and address poverty, food waste and food insecurity in America’s Heartland.

“CURWOOD: When you take a juicy bite out of a honeydew melon or chomp down on a handful of almonds, chances are that food came from the central valley of California. This region has perhaps the world’s largest patch of Class 1 soil, with abundant sunlight and no winter snow. But as the climate has changed, the flow of water from the Sierra Mountains has become less reliable. There have also been more heat waves and choking smoke from wildfires. So scientists and economists from the World Wildlife fund [say] the Mid-Mississippi river delta region is ripe for a switch from commodity crops such as cotton, rice and soy, to more high value specialty crops such as fruits and vegetables. …

“So how did you get into this study of farming and food?

“CLAY: I actually grew up on a farm, a very small farm in northern Missouri. And we lived on less than $1 a day. And so, as you might imagine, I couldn’t get away from farming fast enough. But everything I’ve done in my life has kind of led me back to farming. And about 20 years ago or so I started to work with WWF and convince them that, in fact, the biggest threat to the planet to biodiversity to ecosystem services is where and how we produce food. And from that point on, we begin to develop a program around agriculture, around livestock, around aquaculture, seafood. …

“CURWOOD: So Jason, what’s the importance of California to our food systems?

“CLAY: For the last hundred years or so California has become the major source of the fresh food that we eat. About a third of all vegetables about two thirds of the fruits and nuts all come from California. So, almonds and pistachios and things like that, but also cling peaches and olives and Kiwi and honeydew. California is just very important to the food system. 100 years ago it wasn’t, but it is today. …

“CURWOOD: What are some of the risks to this system? Looking ahead?

“CLAY: Well, it’s actually not even looking ahead. We’re already seeing that California is being affected by droughts, by fires, by freezes late in the spring, [also] by winters that are too warm to actually allow the fruit trees to bloom well and [we’re seeing] below normal snowfall in the mountains. And then in the summer, the snow melts too fast so that we don’t have enough water all year round to irrigate the crops. We’re losing at least the last of four crops and maybe the last two, depending on where you are. …

“CURWOOD: So I understand that you and your colleagues at the World Wildlife Fund have just released a report that identifies the potential of the Mississippi River mid-Delta region, that’s near Memphis, as I understand it, as perhaps an agricultural engine for fruits and vegetables. You’re calling it the Next California plan. …

“CLAY: Could we actually begin to shift production in a logical, organized way into this region without major disruptions in the food system? Because if we can anticipate this change, we can can make it happen much more smoothly, much more efficiently and a lot cheaper. …

“Fruit trees, for example, which require cold winters, are perfect for this area. In fact, they’re better than in California. There’s also the fact that in this region, there’s a lot of poverty, a lot of unemployment. …

“We’re probably going to get back to a much more distributed food system with the impacts of climate change. [One] of the things that struck me about farming in the Midwest is that most of the farming areas are actually food deserts. …

“They don’t have access to fresh food all year round. And this is no exception. In fact, people in the mid-Delta region are like number 49 or 50, in terms of [eating] fresh fruits and fresh vegetables.

“CURWOOD: Jason, some folks point out that we waste about 1/3 of our food. …

“CLAY: What the Next California does is reduce the transportation involved in food. It increases the quality of food on the shelf by having it more local. [We] can really take advantage of how close this region is to Chicago and St. Louis and Kansas City and New Orleans and [through] the intercoastal canal up to the East Coast. And so those things all should reduce food waste.”

More here.

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Photo: Soul Fire Farm
Run by a collective of black, brown, and Jewish people, Soul Fire Farm works to end injustice within the food system and offers trainings for people of color to learn essential agricultural skills,

I’ve been reading a sad book by Sarah Smarsh called Heartland. It’s about generations of her family on a small Kansas farm, and the subtitle tells it all : “A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth.” So far she hasn’t said anything about today’s young people returning to the land with enthusiasm, which blog followers know is one of my interests. I’m into the chapter about giant agribusiness taking everything over.

But I know there are more stories out there offering hope for small, sustainable farming. Today’s story is about an upstate New York farm that focuses on helping black and brown people learn agricultural skills and fight food injustice.

From the radio show Living on Earth: “Leah Penniman is the co-founder of Soul Fire Farm and joins host Steve Curwood to discuss her new book, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land, and her journey as a woman of color reclaiming her space in the agricultural world. …

“CURWOOD: Tell me a little bit about your journey falling in love with nature and farming, and how it has led you to create your book, Farming While Black.

“PENNIMAN: Well, nature was my only solace and friends growing up in a rural white town. … In absence of peer connection, I went to the forest and found a lot of support and love in nature. And so, when I became old enough to get a summer job, I [was] able to land a position at the Food Project in Boston, Massachusetts, where we grew vegetables to serve to folks without houses, to people experiencing domestic violence. And there was something so good about that elegant simplicity of planting, and harvesting, and providing for the community. That was the antidote I needed to all the confusion of the teenage years. …

“I feel connected to the whole ecosystem, but the plants are incredible. They have these secret lives that we can’t see, or even imagine. So take, for example, the trees of the forest, right? There’s a underground network of mycelium that connects their roots, and they’re able to pass messages and warnings. They pass sugars and minerals to each other through this underground network. And they collaborate across species, across family. And so, when we tune into that, I think we learn something about what it is to be a human being and how to live in community with each other in a way that if we’re not connected to nature, we sort of lose that deeper sense of who we are, who were meant to be.

“CURWOOD: Now, your book is not only a how-to guide for folks who are interested in pursuing a path similar to yours, but it also, well, it has some history, sociology, environmental lessons all wrapped up in this package. Why did you add those additional stories and information in with your guide, rather than it, well, having it be strictly a manual?

“PENNIMAN: Well, I wrote this book for my younger self. So, after a few years of farming, I would go to these organic farming conferences, and all the presenters were white. … In putting together this book, I was really thinking about myself as a 16-year-old and, all the other returning generation of black and brown farmers who need to see that we have a rightful place in the sustainable farming movement that isn’t circumscribed by slavery, sharecropping, and land-based oppression, that we have a many, many thousand-year noble history of innovation and dignity on the land. …

“The raised beds of the Ovambo and the terraces of Kenya, and the community-supported agriculture of Dr. Whatley, those are to remind us that, you know, we’ve been doing this all along, and we belong. …

“CURWOOD: You have a waiting list of people who want to come to Soul Fire Farm and learn how to do this? …

“PENNIMAN: This was something that just surprised me because I thought I was just a weirdo out here, I was going to start this farm with my family, grow food, provide it to those who need it most in the community. And that was going to be it. And I got a call our first year from this woman, Kafi Dixon in Boston who said, you know, through tears, I just needed to hear your voice to know that it was possible for a woman like me to farm, and that I wasn’t crazy, and that there’s hope. Right? And that was the first of thousands and thousands of phone calls and emails to come of folks saying, ‘I need to learn to farm, I want to do it in a culturally relevant, safe, space. I want to learn from people who look like me.’ …

“We’re living under a system that my mentor Karen Washington calls food apartheid. So, in contrast to a food desert as defined by the US Department of Agriculture, which is a high poverty zip code without supermarkets, right, a food apartheid is a human created system, not a natural system like a desert. … There are consequences to that. We see in black and brown communities a very high disproportionate incidence of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, even some learning disabilities, and poor eyesight. …

“CURWOOD: One of the most intriguing sections of your book Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land is this explanation of how you can clean up lead-contaminated soil, which you find in so many places in the urban environment. You have a very practical guide as to how you can use natural plants to chelate, that is, to remove lead from the soil, so that it’s safe to grow food there. I don’t think I’ve seen that anywhere else. …

“PENNIMAN: There’s an incredible plant, it’s an African origin plant called Pelargonium or scented geranium, and it’s a hyper accumulator. So, you can plant it, you acidify the soil, you plant it and it will suck the lead out and store the lead in its body. So, then you can dispose of that plant in a safe place. …

“CURWOOD: And what do you think people of color lost when we lost contact with the land?

“PENNIMAN: Certainly not all folks of color, right? Right now, about 85 percent of our food in this country is grown by brown skinned people who speak Spanish. And … it’s a belief in West African cosmology that our ancestors exist below the earth and below the waters, and by having contact with the earth we’ve received their wisdom and guidance. And with the layers of pavement, and steel, and glass, and the skyscrapers, it’s harder to feel that contact. … When folks come to Soul Fire and get their feet back on the earth, what I hear time and again is, I’m remembering things I didn’t know that I forgot.”

More at Living on Earth, here.

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When I was at the magazine, I often sought out authors from different regions who could write about the benefits of community gardens to low-income neighborhoods. Kai remembered that and tagged me on Facebook when he posted an article yesterday about a comprehensive farming initiative in inner-city Detroit.

Robin Runyan writes at the website Curbed Detroit, “This week, the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) revealed its plans for the first Sustainable Urban Agrihood in the North End.

“Wait, an agrihood? It’s an alternative neighborhood growth model, positioning agriculture as the centerpiece of a mixed-use development. There are some agrihoods around the country, but in rural areas. This is the first within a city.

“MUFI’s agrihood spans three acres on Brush Street, a few blocks up from East Grand Boulevard. MUFI runs a successful two-acre garden, a 200-tree fruit orchard, and a children’s sensory garden. They provide free produce to the neighborhood, churches, food pantries, and more.

“The big part of the announcement was the plan to renovate a three-story, 3,200-square-foot vacant building that MUFI had bought at auction years back. …

“The Community Resource Center will include office space for MUFI, event and meeting space, and two commercial kitchens on the first floor. A healthy cafe will be located on vacant land next to the CRC.

“Tyson Gersh, MUFI President and co-founder, said at the announcement that they want to be the first LEED certified platinum building in Detroit.”

The article credits Sustainable Brands, BASF, GM, and Herman Miller and Integrity Building Group for providing much-needed help on the project.

More here.

Photo: Michelle & Chris Gerard
The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative.

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In Tanzania, women farmers appearing on a TV show called in English “Female Food Heroes” are bringing attention to the importance of their work and the barriers to expansion.

Oxfam America reporter Coco McCabe writes about contestant Edna Kiogwe, “She grew up in a farming family and knows well the hurdles they face, especially women farmers who, in her country, own only a small fraction of the land. …

“It’s that inequality — and the lost opportunities buried beneath it — to which Kiogwe and 14 other women farmers helped to bring attention this year as contestants in the fifth season of a highly popular reality TV show shot in Tanzania and aired across East Africa. Called Mama ‘Shujaa wa Chakula ,’ or ‘Female Food Heroes,’ the Oxfam-sponsored show celebrates the vital contributions women farmers make in feeding the planet, and highlights the challenges many encounter on a daily basis, including limited access to land, credit, and training opportunities. …

“In the village of Kisanga, where ‘Mama Shujaa wa Chakula’ was filmed [in 2015], the 15 contestants learned a great deal about the struggles local farmers face in feeding their families. Each of the women stayed with a village family for the duration of the three-week shoot, and daily contests included designing tools that could be useful to Kisanga farmers, interviewing them about their agricultural challenges, and putting together skits to help bring attention to those hurdles. …

“Kiogwe [now] spends most of her time in Dar es Salaam, a coastal city about a two-and-a-half hour drive away, where she lives and works as a civil servant. But her city life belies her village roots — and her keen interest in farming. Unlike most women in Tanzania, Kiogwe owns her own land, given to her by her forward-thinking father on her wedding day. She harvests corn, cassava, rice, and sugar cane, carefully aligning her 28 days of annual leave from her city job with peak work times on her small farm in the Morogoro region. …

“ ‘I want to make agriculture like a business,’ says Kiogwe. … With a little effort, greater value can be added to the fruits farmers grow, for instance.

“ ‘Change it from fruit to juice, we can sell it … We can add value to maize — maize flour for porridge — and you can have a good label and good packaging and compete with international businesses. That is my dream.’ ” More here.

According to OXFAMCloseup, the nonprofit’s quarterly magazine, the episodes shot in Kisanga, Tanzania, aired in five countries and had 14 million people tune in. The magazine adds, “Versions of the program are now being produced in Ethiopia and Nigeria, and some finalists have become involved in local, national, and even global farmer advocacy.”

Photo: Coco McCabe / Oxfam America
Edna Kiogwe helps her host family with the morning chores in Kisanga, where the TV show “Female Food Heroes” was filmed in 2015.

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It’s so interesting to see all the different ways people are taking to farming. We’ve already covered a number of angles. Now Adele Peters at FastCoexist writes about how would-be farmers in Brooklyn are testing out “vertical farming.”

“When it opens this fall in Brooklyn, a new urban farm will grow a new crop: farmers. The Square Roots campus, co-founded by entrepreneurs Kimbal Musk and Tobias Peggs, will train new vertical farmers in a year-long accelerator program. …

“The campus will use technology from Freight Farms, a company that repurposes used shipping containers for indoor farming, and ZipGrow, which produces indoor towers for plants. Inside a space smaller than some studio apartments—320 square feet—each module can yield the same amount of food as two acres of outdoor farmland in a year. Like other indoor farming technology, it also saves water and gives city-dwellers immediate access to local food. …

“It’s intended for early-stage entrepreneurs. ‘We’re here to help them become future leaders in food,’ says Musk, who also runs a network of school gardens and a chain of restaurants that aim to source as much local food as possible.

“After building out the Brooklyn campus, they plan to expand to other cities, likely starting with cities where Musk also runs his other projects—Memphis, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh.”

More here.

Photo: SquareRoots

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Missing the excitement of the summer Olympics? As these Vermont farmers show, any determined and organized group can have their own “Olympics” and have a lot of fun.

Jessica Rinaldi writes at the Boston Globe, “With the world’s attention focused on the Olympic Games in Brazil, a decidedly different type of competition was held in a small corner of New England, as farmers took to the field for the second annual Farmer Olympics in Vershire, Vt.

“After taking part in warm-up events that included a hay bale toss, the crowd gathered for an opening ceremony where a quartet performed the Olympic theme song on kazoo. When the competition began, 60 farmers sprinted up a hill, empty bins and shovels in hand, for the manure relay. The event was sponsored by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont. In the end it was a team from Cedar Circle Farm in East Stepford who took the gold. Their team’s name? Soil’d.

Click here for a terrific collection of photos from the second annual Farmer Olympics.

Photo: Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont
Competing in the Farmer Olympics, Vershire, Vermont.

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Photo: Leigh Vincola, ecoRI News
David Kuma, left, is learning to farm under the tutelage of Ben Torpey.

In this story from Leigh Vincola, an ecoRI News contributor, several good things are happening simultaneously.

“David Kuma set out to grow more of his own food as he learned about industrial agriculture and all of its poisons. His father, a biologist, always had a garden growing up, so an innate knowledge of plants followed his curiosity.

“Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., raised partially in rural Illinois and then in Attleboro, Mass., Kuma understands urban, rural and suburban lifestyles and how plants can fit into each.

“Today, Kuma is one of three participants in the Southside Community Land Trust’s (SCLT) farm apprentice program …  Acknowledging that it has been historically difficult for minority populations to enter into commercial growing, the program’s mission is to provide organic farming experience and education to those who are interested.

“Kuma is partnered with Ben Torpey at Scratch Farm, a small-scale, chemical-free operation at Urban Edge Farm. Urban Edge is a state-owned, 50-acre piece of land managed by SCLT, where seven separate farms grow and share resources. The farm was established to give new farmers access to land and a community to learn from. As part of his paid apprenticeship, Kuma spends a full day on the farm two days a week and is learning a lot quickly. …

“From transplanting and cover crops to solarizing and low-till cultivation, Kuma is learning what it takes to run a small-scale farm naturally. His eyes have been opened to the importance of soil health.

“ ‘There’s a lot more to it than putting seeds in the ground,’ he said.

“For Torpey, having an apprentice is rewarding.

“ ‘Dave comes with a intuitive sense of plant biology and his curiosity reminds me that what we’re doing is fun,’ Torpey said. ‘It encourages me to experiment with new things.’ ” More here.

Don’t they both look happy? Nature can do that to you.

Photo: Scratch Farm

 

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A Lancaster, Massachusetts, woman who came to the country at age 12 without a word of English is giving back by helping immigrants get a start in farming — and her model is being picked up around the nation.

Jane Dornbusch at the Boston Globe writes, “Maria Moreira, 62, is fond of the proverb ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ When her kids were small and she and her husband had a dairy farm in this Central Massachusetts town, she had plenty of milk, hungry kids to feed, and a need to make a little money.

“So she started a business making a soft Portuguese cheese — she calls it simply Portuguese fresh cheese — that reflected her roots in the Azores, where she was born.

“That was in 1986. A year earlier, she had seen another need, and, in her own inventive way, she’d set about meeting it. Moreira and her husband, Manny, had a 70-acre field, not far from their farm, that they used to grow corn.

“A Hmong woman, an immigrant from Laos, approached Moreira about using a small corner of the field to grow her own crops. Soon, word spread, and little by little the entire field was given over to immigrant farmers, each in charge of his or her own plot. Today, says Moreira, 275 farmers are growing more than 75 kinds of vegetables at what is now called Flats Mentor Farm. …

“Gus Schumacher, former Massachusetts commissioner of food and agriculture, came to know Moreira’s work when he served as a USDA undersecretary in the late ’90s. He notes that she was among a handful of leaders — others included John Ogonowski (one of the pilots killed on 9/11) and Jennifer Hashley, of New Entry Sustainable Farming Project — supporting refugees and immigrants in establishing themselves as farmers and market gardeners. It’s a movement that has since gained momentum nationally, he says. ‘But it all started in Massachusetts.’ ”

More at the Globehere.

Photo: Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff
Maria Moreira, of Flats Mentor Farm, holds some lemon basil.

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Who can resist a farmers market at this time of year? They are such joyful places.

Saturday we went with Erik and the kids to the Hope Street Farmers Market in Providence. It’s in a good-sized park where there is a playground as well as farmstands, crafts, live music, samosas, tacos, flowers, raw juices, fish, sausages, granola made by refugees …

After his grilled cheese and his Del’s lemonade, our 3-year-old grandson chose the little green and orange pumpkin below. It’s now on his dining-room table at home. His sister, when she wasn’t sleeping, worked hard at inspecting everything on the ground and trying to put it in her mouth.

A few words from the website on extra offerings that might interest backers of other farmers markets: “For your convenience, here are some of the unique features of the Hope Street Farmers Market: The Bicycle Valet at the Saturday morning market, run by Recycle-A-Bike, a volunteer-based community organization that connects people with refurbished bikes, provides practical bike knowledge, and advocates bicycle use by safer, more confident cyclists. Anyone can drop off their bike while shopping and know that it will be safely watched and sometimes even tuned up, for a small fee, while they shop. http://www.recycleabike.org gives a full description and mission of the organization.

“Knife Sharpening while you shop is another new feature of our Saturday market. You can drop our your knives (wrap them carefully and mark them with your name please!) to be professionally sharpened for a small fee while you shop.

“Live music at the markets features local musicians or acoustic bands playing every Saturday and some Wednesdays, so feel free to bring a blanket, buy your picnic lunch or supper and enjoy the entertainment.”

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Over at radio show Living on Earth, “Steve Curwood spoke with farmer and author Audrey Levatino, who has written Woman Powered Farm: Manual for a Self-Sufficient Lifestyle from Homestead to Field. …

“CURWOOD: Why did you decide to write a book about farming specifically for women?

“LEVATINO: Well, women were coming up to me at the farmers’ market and asking about what I did and were very interested. Many of them wanted to know how to get into farming and growing things themselves, and so they wanted advice and instructions on how to get started. …

“CURWOOD: Audrey, what do women farm more typically as opposed to men?

“LEVATINO: That’s a great question, and that’s another thing that I really investigated when I was writing the book. And many women get into this farming business. It starts off as just wanting to provide the best and healthiest, most local food that they can for their families. So women are growing a lot of different things, but in many cases it is healthy, delicious, seasonal food. They know exactly where it came from, so that their children and their husbands and their neighbors can have the best food possible.

“But the other thing that I discovered as I got further into my research and interviewed lots of women farmers in my area and around the country is women are just amazingly creative: they grow herbs and other medicinal plants to make cheese, salves and tinctures. Women also tend to farm — when they do livestock — smaller animals. You know, things that are a little more manageable. And sometimes it’s for fiber — sheep and llamas and alpacas — other times it’s for milk, such as using goats to make cheese.” More here.

Audrey’s farm, Ted’s Last Stand, is located near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Photo: Michael Levatino
Audrey Levatino grows specialty cut flowers and sells them at local farmers’ markets to florists and restaurants, and for weddings.

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This story comes from Heather Dockray at Good magazine (by way of the Huffington Post). It’s about a life-affirming project in Atlanta.

“Good, local, nutritious food shouldn’t be expensive,” she writes, “and shouldn’t only be enjoyed by people who can afford it.  A homeless shelter in Atlanta decided that their residents desperately needed access to healthy food — but instead of sourcing out, encouraged residents to grow their own. Now, the shelter is home to a huge rooftop garden planted by the residents themselves, which is expected to yield hundreds of pounds of great quality greens. …

“While eating discounted snacks might give homeless residents short-term financial benefits, the long-term health consequences are substantial. The Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, who runs the gardening program, wanted to give homeless people access to food previously considered out-of-reach. Now, residents are responsible for 80 garden beds, producing kale, carrots, chard, and squash, among other vegetables.” More here.

Dockray doesn’t mention how gardening and donating to the shelter makes residents feel, but I am going to guess it builds their self image and confidence.

Photo: Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless

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In a move that will benefit the environment, farmers are placing increased emphasis on the quality of their soil and cutting back on ploughing. It took a kind of soil evangelist to create the revolution.

Erica Goode has the story at the NY Times.

“Gabe Brown is in such demand as a speaker that for every invitation he accepts, he turns down 10 more. …

“Mr. Brown, a balding North Dakota farmer who favors baseball caps and red-striped polo shirts, is not talking about disruptive technology start-ups, political causes, or the latest self-help fad.

“He is talking about farming, specifically soil-conservation farming, a movement that promotes leaving fields untilled, ‘green manures’ and other soil-enhancing methods with an almost evangelistic fervor.

“Such farming methods, which mimic the biology of virgin land, can revive degenerated earth, minimize erosion, encourage plant growth and increase farmers’ profits, their proponents say. And by using them, Mr. Brown told more than 250 farmers and ranchers who gathered at the hotel for the first Southern Soil Health Conference, he has produced crops that thrive on his 5,000-acre farm outside of Bismarck, N.D., even during droughts or flooding.

“He no longer needs to use nitrogen fertilizer or fungicide, he said, and he produces yields that are above the county average with less labor and lower costs. ‘Nature can heal if we give her the chance,’ Mr. Brown said.” More here.

Sounds like wisdom that even a backyard farmer could embrace.

Photo: Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times
“My goal is to improve my soil so I can grow a better crop so I can make more money,” [says Texas farmer Terry] McAlister, who farms 6,000 acres of drought-stricken cropland. 

 

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I thought you would like this story from the National Deseret News about refugees making a new life for themselves in Arizona.

Lourdes Medrano writes, “In a small field on the outskirts of [a] desert town near the Mexican border, close to 30 women and men stoop over rows of pumpkins, carefully picking the pulpy autumn fruit along with its flowers, stems and leaves.

“The volunteers are part of an innovative program that helps refugees from war-torn countries find work and food. Called the Iskashitaa Refugee Network, the Arizona-based organization consists of a diverse group that harvests donated crops from local farms and people’s backyards to feed displaced populations from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

“On this recent fall afternoon, Adam Abubakar, a refugee in his early 30s who came to Arizona two years ago from the conflicted Darfur region of Sudan, quickly clips pumpkin leaves and drops them in a tote bag for later distribution to newcomers who eat them. For Abubakar, picking fruits and vegetables comes second nature. Back in his homeland, he grew most of the food his family consumed …

“The government provides refugees limited resettlement assistance and organizations such as Iskashitaa work to help the newcomers become self-sufficient as they adapt to American society. Refugees working in the pumpkin field not only harvest the fruits and vegetables they eat, but they also distribute crops to fellow newcomers, learn about urban gardening, market what they grow, and participate in cross-cultural food exchanges. …

“The number of incoming refugees has fluctuated over time and reflects shifting world conflicts and heightened security concerns. In 1980, for instance, 207,000 refugees — including many displaced by the Vietnam War — resettled within the country.

“Iskashitaa was founded in 2003 by Barbara Eiswerth, an environmental scientist, with help from Somali Bantu refugee students who began harvesting crops no one was picking to boost their diet. The refugees inspired the name of the fledgling group: ‘working cooperatively together.’ …

“By tapping into the agricultural roots of refugees, Iskashitaa aims not just to provide food, but also to empower those they’re helping.”

More here.

Photo: Lourdes Medrano/National Deseret News

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Photo: Geoff Childs
Cleaning harvested yartsa gunbu prior to sale. 

Thanks so much to the folks who recently signed up to follow this blog. If you joined hoping that I would blog often about the topic that drew you here, you will soon find that the posts are rather eclectic. A couple years back, Suzanne thought it would be nice to have a blog tied to Luna & Stella, and she said I could write about anything that interested me. I thought, Wow! What an opportunity!

Today’s story is from the radio show Living on Earth. It’s about Tibetans in Nepal who have managed to avoid overharvesting a fungus that’s wildly popular in China.

“Anthropologist Geoff Childs of Washington University tells host Steve Curwood how one [area] is managing to harvest the resource sustainably. …

“Nubri is a valley in Gurkha district in the country of Nepal. The residents are ethnically Tibetan. They’ve been living there for about 700 or 800 years, so it’s an indigenous population of Nepal. What they have done in contrast to other areas is they’ve limited the number of collectors to only residents of the villages, and so that keeps the number of collectors way down. …

“CHILDS: What they’ve arrived at in Nubri is a combination of what they call ‘yultim,’ which we could translate as village regulations, secular regulations, and ‘chutim,’ which are religious regulations. … What they will do is, they will decree certain areas off-limits to human exploitation, and usually that’s a sacred grove of trees, a certain slope of a mountain that a deity inhabits or something like that. … In terms of the sustainability of Yartsa Gunbu, that’s going to be important because those are areas where annually nobody will harvest it. So it can come to fruition. It can spore. It can live out its normal life cycle.

In terms of the village regulations the first one that I just mentioned is the exclusion of all outsiders. The second one is they’ve got a designated starting date, and they arrive at that by looking at the snow melt, looking at the conditions in the alpine pasture and figuring out what’s going to be the likely time when it’s best to gather it.

“And so for a couple weeks prior to the official starting date, every adult in the village has to check in four times daily to the village meetinghouse to prove that you’re not collecting early. A third thing that they do is they tax it. For the first member of your household, the tax is very low; it’s 100 rupees or approximately $1 dollar … they gather that tax and use it for communal purposes.

“CURWOOD: So this consensus process, everybody agrees, everybody trusts, but they also verify. … looking at this from a broader resource management perspective, what are some lessons that we can take away from what’s happening in Nubri?

“CHILDS: Trust indigenous people. Don’t immediately assume that as outsiders with more education we can come in and devise a system that will work for them. I think, first of all, study what’s in place. Study with an open mind and move from there.”

Photo: Geoff Childs 
Mt. Manaslu (26,759ft.) in Nubri is the 8th highest mountain in the world.

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I’ve written a couple times about Sandy and Pat’s niece, who graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and went into farming in a serious way. My most recent post is here.

On Saturday, Sandy and Pat went to Letterbox Farm in Hudson, New York, to see their niece and enjoy a magnificent farm-to-table spread.

The original invitation said, “The meal is in motion.  Meats from the farm are curing in Ko’s kitchen.  Our beekeeper is spinning honey from the combs, and the blue corn is waiting at the mill.  Will you join us in the fields for an incredible feast?

“The culinary team at Momofuku Ko joins the Letterbox farmers to host a celebratory evening of dinner and drinks.

“The night begins with farm-made sodas and cocktails in the garden, complete with bar snacks and live music.  In our silent auction, guests can bid for offerings from bee hive installations to garden consultations or a night on the town, provided by farmers and friends.  Before dusk arrives, we will move to the hillsides for dinner and sunset views of the Catskill Mountains.

“All proceeds from this event go to support the farm as it puts down permanent roots on new land.”

I wish I could show you all the wonderful photos of the event I just received, but I think you’ll enjoy this sampling. Note the roasted beets on greens and the elegant pork, marinated for two weeks in a marinade featuring sumac.

Photos: Sandra M. Kelly

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