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Posts Tagged ‘farmer’

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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When dollar bills of any denomination get too beat up to use, the federal government shreds them. For a long time, the various Federal Reserve banks gave out small bags of shredded money to visitors as a souvenir — always a big hit with kids.

But for the last few years, shredded money has been used as compost in gardens. Here’s a story from Seth Archer at Business Insider about the new approach.

“Have you ever wondered what happened to currency that gets damaged? If you have a paper shredder in your home, you already have a pretty good idea. But that’s just the start….

“The New Orleans branch of the Federal Reserve shreds $6 million in cash each day. They mainly shred bills that are dirty, taped, graffitied or otherwise unfit to be used as cash.

“The bills are shredded to a fine texture to make compost. … The cash is transferred to a compost facility, where it is mixed with other materials to make nutritious plant food.

“After the compost is made, it is sold to local farmers, who use it to grow peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers.

” ‘It is very fulfilling to be growing using a material that would otherwise go to waste.’ — Simond Menasche, founder and director of Grown On.”

More here.

Photo: Great Big Story

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Heifer Project is a charity founded by Dan West, “a farmer from the American Midwest and member of the Church of the Brethren who went to the front lines of the Spanish Civil War as an aid worker. His mission was to provide relief, but he soon discovered the meager single cup of milk rationed to the weary refugees once a day was not enough. And then he had a thought: What if they had not a cup, but a cow?”

Recipients of Heifer Project’s cows, chickens, pigs, and other assistance commit to giving the offspring of the donated animals to others in need. That way the giving grows and spreads.

Recently, Heifer Project has been helping poor farmers in Guatemala make enough from their cardamon crops to live on.

Editor Jason Woods, has the story in the nonprofit’s magazine, World Ark.

“Miguel Xo Pop farms his own plot of land. Everyone in the Sierra de las Minas depends on two crops, cardamom and coffee, to survive. Xo and his family are no different. Traditionally, the cloud forest’s climate helps the two plants thrive, but in the past few years a pair of plagues cut cardamom prices in half and reduced coffee income to nothing.

“Recently, Xo joined a Heifer International Guatemala project that will help him keep the pests away from his cardamom while adding more crops to his farm, but the project is still in its initial stages, gaining momentum. So for now, Xo spends a quarter of a year away from his wife and five kids to earn money.”

More on the lives of the farm families, here.

The reporter also describes how an altruistic businessman moved to a “double bottom line,” one that includes charity.

“A couple of years ago, McKinley Thomason was searching for a way to use his Nashville-based spice business to make a positive impact. After hearing about Heifer International’s burgeoning work with cardamom, he knew he had found his organization.

“Shortly after contacting Heifer, Thomason’s company, The Doug Jeffords Co., started donating 10 cents to Heifer Guatemala for every seasoning blend sold from their J.M. Thomason line. But Thomason’s passion for Heifer’s work in Guatemala moved him to do even more.

“Thomason has been acting as a project adviser to Guatemalan farmers, sharing his market knowledge and technical expertise in the world of cardamom. He is also making connections and introducing Heifer Guatemala to other like-minded spice companies that could support this or other projects.”

More at Heifer Project, here.

Photo: Dave Anderson

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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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Martha Bebinger had a great story at WBUR recently. It’s about an immigrant from Burundi with a mission.

“There were still drops of dew on the stalks of thick, spear-shaped leaves Fabiola Nizigiyimana slashed and tossed into a box one early morning.

“ ‘We call them lenga lenga, in our language,’ she said, laughing the words. “They are [a] green.’

“The 40-year-old single mother of five farms a one-acre plot in Lancaster. She’s one of 232 farmers who share the 40-acre Flats Mentor Farm. Last year, Nizigiyimana helped found a co-op that teaches farmers, many of whom can’t read or write in English or their native tongue, how to turn their plots into a business.

“They get help with packaging and selling their goods to local restaurants, ethnic food stores and farmers’ markets, many of them creating budgets and balance sheets for the first time.

“Nizigiyimana [was] honored for her work … at a White House ceremony after being selected as one of 15 USDA Champions of Change, who represent the next generation of farmers and ranchers.”

Read about all that this optimistic, cheerful woman has overcome and what challenges lie ahead for her business here.

Photo: Martha Bebinger/WBUR
Fabiola Nizigiyimana helped found a co-op that teaches farmers how to turn their plots into a business.

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John’s web surfing has been turning up topics he knows I’d like, too, and he takes the time to send a link. An article he sent from Modern Farmer describes why scientists are studying cows’ hairstyles.

Anne O’Brien writes, “While a bovine couldn’t care less about a hair whorl gone awry, it may be prudent for the farmer to take note. Turns out there is some serious science behind hair whorl behavior and brain development.”

Hair whorls on cows’ foreheads, O’Brien reports, “may be more than an aesthetic quirk. About two decades ago, animal behaviorists began to notice a connection between crazy hair whorls and crazy animals.

“Dr. Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University and author of the best-selling book Animals in Translation, first noticed a connection between the location of a bull’s hair whorl and whether the animal was excitable when handled by humans. Studies showed that location — meaning above, between, or below the eyes — as well as shape of the whorl could be, to some extent, a predictor of excitable behavior in cattle. …

“How, then, are hair growth patterns and temperament related? It all has to do with brain development, says Dr. Amar Klar, head of the Developmental Genetics Section within the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland.

“ ‘Our skin and the nervous system come from the same layer of cells in embryonic development, the ectoderm,’ Klar says.

“As embryonic cells migrate to form a developing fetus, skin and brain cells are closely intertwined, particularly at the scalp. …

” ‘When we were looking at brain laterality and the location of internal organs, hair whorls also came up,’ Klar says. His research has shown that within the human population, the majority is right-handed and demonstrates a clockwise hair whorl.

“Livestock seem to mimic this handedness. A study from the University of Limerick in Ireland in 2008 demonstrated that horses with clockwise hair whorls were significantly more likely to move toward the right, or begin a gait with the right-sided hooves — in essence, these horses were right-handed.” More here.

Photo: Temple Grandin
Scientists have been exploring the connection between the cow’s hair whorl and its behavior.

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Did you know that plants can protect themselves from predators?

Writes Douglas Quenqua at the NY Times, “It has long been known that some plants can respond to sound. But why would a plant evolve the ability to hear? Now researchers are reporting that one reason may be to defend itself against predators.

“To see whether predator noises would affect plants, two University of Missouri researchers exposed one set of plants to a recording of caterpillars eating leaves, and kept another set of plants in silence. Later, when caterpillars fed on the plants, the set that had been exposed to the eating noises produced more of a caterpillar-repelling chemical. …

“Plants exposed to other vibrations, like the sound of wind or different insects, did not produce more of the chemical, suggesting they could tell the difference between predator noises and atmospheric ones. The researchers published their work in the journal Oecologia.” More here.

I have an idea. How about farmers, instead of using genetically modified seed to protect plants, just pump recordings of crunching predators into their fields so that the plants could protect themselves?

As they say where I work, “More research is needed.”

The NY Times posted this Pieris Silhouette video by mubondlsc
Can you hear the crunching of the caterpillar?

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Photograph: http://americanflatbread.com/lareau-farm. Lareau Farm is home to American Flatbread in Waitsfield, Vermont.

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A few of my readers will see “Waitsfield, Vermont” and think “skiing.” That’s because they were skiing there a couple weeks ago.

But this post is about the man who launched American Flatbread in Waitsfield in 1985, franchising his restaurant concept in other states and using his business success as a platform to advocate for the environment and other causes.

“In the fall of 1979,” writes Mike Ives for the Christian Science Monitor, “George Schenk stuffed all his worldly possessions into his pickup truck and moved from upstate New York to central Vermont. After settling in the sleepy ski town of Waitsfield, he began working as a dishwasher, freelance photographer, and live-in baby sitter.

“He also apprenticed at local restaurants and learned from chefs who were cooking in ways that emphasized local and regional ingredients. By 1985, Mr. Schenk was selling his own ‘flatbread,’ a variation on the brick oven-style pizza he’d eaten as a teenager, topped with Vermont produce.

“Serving nutritious food, he realized, was a good way to promote the kind of community values he’d absorbed in his Connecticut childhood and the ecological principles he’d embraced in his previous careers as a farmer and forester. …

” ‘I felt as though the environmental dimension of food needed a voice,’ Schenk recalls.

“Today, American Flatbread operates three popular Vermont locations, exports frozen pizzas nationwide, and is franchising its restaurant concept in other states.

“But profit isn’t Schenk’s only priority: For more than two decades he has donated thousands of his flatbreads to the poor and sick. He’s also held an average of eight benefit bakes each year to raise money for those in need.”

Although his political views and “civil disobedience” actions have often raised hackles, the people who know him best defend him.

“They insist his commitment to his employees and community is sincere and unwavering,” writes Ives. ” ‘I don’t always agree with George, but I always appreciate him,’ says Amy Shollenberger, former executive director of Rural Vermont, a nonprofit farm advocacy group. ‘He loves everybody, wears his heart on his sleeve — and walks his talk.’ ”

Read more.

Brian Mohr/EmberPhoto
George Schenk founded American Flatbread pizza as a way to showcase local produce and advocate for both community and global causes.

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There are people who want to grow crops but have no land and people with arable land that lies fallow, and never the twain shall meet.

Oh, wait a minute.

“Susan and Paul Shay bought their four-acre dream spread years ago, with the idea of returning some of the land to farming,” writes Michael Prager at the Boston Globe.

“Meanwhile, when Seona Ngufor immigrated to America 10 years ago, she held onto the idea she would take up farming — as in her native Cameroon — if only she could get access to a farmable plot. …

“They were brought together by an unusual matchmaking service that uses geographic information system mapping data to pair would-be farmers with property owners who have extra land.

“The matching service is the work of the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, a nonprofit organization in Lowell that trains farmers in organic growing and helps them find a plot to work. …

“New Entry uses GIS mapping data to screen for potential farm plots. The map sets contain a long list of criteria to distinguish individual parcels. … The system is so sophisticated it can pick out suburban homesteads with large patches of unused land, so New Entry was no longer limited to looking at obvious candidates, such as existing farms. …

“Once New Entry identifies sites, it approaches agricultural officials in the towns involved to work with landowners interested in turning over property to farmers.

“In Groton, for example, New Entry and the town’s agricultural commission hosted an information session with property owners. …

“ ‘There was a lot of information, a lot of resources,’ said Susan Shay, 63, a programmer and analyst at a medical malpractice insurer in Boston. …

Program director Rebecca Weaver “brought Ngufor, 56, who had taken the New Entry training program, to meet the Shays. …

“The Shays were so eager to see some of their land used for farming that they drove an easy bargain: rent of $1 a year, in exchange for a free go at whatever is growing.”

To see how New Entry’s maps identify potential farm space and to read the whole story, see the Globe article, here.

Photograph: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff
Susan Shay (left) leased land she owns in Groton to Cameroon native Seona Ngufor for farming. Ngufor has just completed her first growing season.

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In case you missed it, last week Prince Charles’s campaign to sell British wool in the United States brought 30 lovely sheep to Bryant Park in New York (where surprising things seem to happen on a regular basis).

Erin Durkin described the happening in the NY Daily News:

“The Bryant Park lawn looked more like the Sheep Meadow Thursday as a flock of wooly livestock took over the famous green space for the day.

“The thirty sheep were brought in to launch the Campaign for Wool, an effort by Prince Charles to promote the wool industry in the United States. …

“The Bryant Park Corporation signed off on the event — the first time they’ve ever hosted ‘live animals of this quantity,’ according to spokesman Joe Carella — after the local community board voted unanimously in favor of hosting it.”

Well, you know, we have a lot of nice sheep right here in the U.S. of A. Do you have a neighborhood park? If Prince Charles is too busy, maybe a local farmer would show off some sheep. I could see this attracting a lot of attention around Easter.

Bally Duff Farm in Chepachet, Rhode Island, for example, raises Black Lincoln sheep. Other Ocean State farms are listed here.

The Prince of Wales can afford giveaways, and that could be a challenge for local farmers. Enter to win a wool mattress from his campaign, here. Extra photos here.

Photograph: Diane L Cohen
Bryant Park was transformed into a wool installation to celebrate the launch of HRH Prince of Wales Campaign for Wool in the USA.

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Looking at streams swollen by yesterday’s rain, I began thinking about Scuffy the Tugboat.

“The water moved in a hurry, as all things move in a hurry when it is Spring. Scuffy was in a hurry, too. ‘Come back little tugboat, come back,’ cried the little boy.”

Remember?

A farmers market in Providence was undaunted by the rain. The farmer at the farmstand here joked that the puddle was just a matter of hydroponic gardening. In other photos, I show peonies and a sign buffeted by the storm — and a rabbit too busy foraging to worry about cameras.

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I’m looking forward to the farmers market season, and I’m not the only one. More and more consumers are demanding really fresh food. Fortunately, farmers are increasingly creative about getting that fresh food to consumers.

Now farmers markets are going online. I learned about this via the Christian Science Monitor, which points to an article by Katherine Gustafson for YES! magazine.

Gustafson writes that small producers are using the Internet more.

“Smart use of the Web,” she writes, “can shift the focus of food retail away from industrial suppliers and toward those in the position to offer on-demand delivery of the freshest food around. …

“One example I found particularly inspiring was the Farmers Fresh Market program run by the Foothills Connect Business and Technology Center in Rutherfordton, N.C.

“The organization created a proprietary online system to allow individuals and businesses in nearby cities to order fresh produce from growers local to Rutherfordton. In many cases, the growers pick the food the same day the buyers receive it.”

What’s not to love? Read more.

Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/file

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A website affiliated with Fast Company and called FastCo.Exist has some interesting information on sustainability.

Consider the article showing how Mexico City is promoting several public goods simultaneously. The city’s environmental agency recently launched Mercado de Trueque, a barter market where recyclable materials are exchanged for fresh food to support the city’s farmlands.

Michael Coren reports: ” ‘This innovative program is designed to show citizens directly and tangibly how what we call trash becomes raw materials. If solid waste is properly separated, it still has value,’ writes the Ministry of Environment (in Spanish). The market accepts glass, paper and cardboard, aluminum beverage cans, PET plastic bottles, and returns ‘green points’ redeemable for agricultural products grown in and around Mexico City, including lettuce, prickly pears, spinach, tomatoes, plants, and flowers.” More here.

Co.Exist also has an article by Ariel Schwartz on how you may track where the things you buy come from. For example, your canned tuna. Check it out.

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In a Yes! magazine op-ed, reprinted in the Christian Science Monitor, Marc Freedman of Civic Ventures writes about his favorite topic: the potential of older Americans to contribute beyond retirement.

“With big thinking,” he writes, “there is a chance to tap the talents and experience of the ‘baby boom’ generation to solve longstanding social problems, from health care to homelessness, education to the environment. There is a chance to turn an older population into a new workforce for social change.

“Some people, like Gary Maxworthy, are leading the way … [Around age 60] he thought a lot about his old Peace Corps dream and the prospect of returning to it. In the end, he chose a more manageable domestic option, VISTA, part of the AmeriCorps national service program. VISTA placed Maxworthy at the San Francisco Food Bank, where he discovered that—like food banks throughout the state of California—it was primarily giving out canned and processed food. It was all they could reliably deliver without food spoiling.

“Maxworthy knew that California farmers were discarding tons of blemished but wholesome fruits and vegetables that were not up to supermarket standards. He launched Farm to Family, a program that in 2010 distributed more than 100 million pounds of fresh food to needy families in California.” Read more.

For those who are interested in “encore careers,” check out Encore.org, by Civic Ventures, “a nonprofit think tank on boomers, work and social purpose.”

 

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Check out this story in the Boston Globe. It seems especially timely given the increasing numbers of people growing their own food and the concerns about many others who are struggling.

“Every summer, 40 million backyard farmers produce more food than they can use, while people in their communities go hungry. If only they could link up. Enter Gary Oppenheimer, 59, of West Milford, N.J. He was directing a community garden a couple of years ago when inspiration struck. In May 2009, AmpleHarvest.org hit the Internet, connecting food pantries and gardeners. In just 150 days, Rosie’s Place in Boston became the 1,000th pantry on the site, and the growth has continued. As of Labor Day, 4,188 pantries were listed, in all states. Oppenheimer says the nonprofit organization is actively seeking grant funding to sustain what has sprung up.” Read more here.

If you have extra produce from your garden, you can go to AmpleHarvest to find a food pantry near you.

Photographs: Sandra M. Kelly

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