A great way to grow strawberries!
- Advantage of the benefits of eating strawberries and eat strawberries attention (sealsvfrv.wordpress.com)
A great way to grow strawberries!
The “season” is just about upon us my friends.
Support your local growers.
Trying to tap into the best thinking about the future of global agriculture, as I have tried to do in my work as a reporter, can be an exercise in frustration. Many groups and many bright people go at the problem, but not many of them go at it in a holistic way.
The environmental crowd is worried mainly about the ecological damage from agriculture and is prone to recommend solutions that farmers say would undercut the food supply. Traditional agronomists are mainly worried about supply — and tend at times to recommend fixes that might worsen the environmental damage.
A separate crowd is primarily worried about the inequities in the global food system: that a billion people at the top end are killing themselves eating overly rich diets while a billion poor people live desperate lives circumscribed by malnutrition.
Can’t we figure out how to fix all this at once?
It’s a tall order, but a heartening development in global agricultural policy is that some people are starting to try. Now comes an interesting new installment in the literature of the Big Fix. It’s an analysis by an international team of scientists led by Jonathan A. Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota.
Their paper, “Solutions for a Cultivated Planet,” was released online and is scheduled as the cover article of the Oct. 20 issue of the journal Nature. Dr. Foley is also publishing a piece in the November issue of Scientific American, due on newsstands next week, that summarizes the team’s analysis in layman’s terms.
The group finds, as others have before them, that the challenge of doubling global food production in coming decades can probably be met, albeit with considerable difficulty. The interesting thing to me about the analysis is that it doesn’t treat any of the problems confronting the food system as superior to the others — it treats the environmental problem, the supply problem and the equity problem as equally important, laying out a case that they all need to be tackled at once.
“Feeding nine billion people in a truly sustainable way will be one of the greatest challenges our civilization has ever faced,” Dr. Foley says in the Scientific American article, referring to the projected global population at midcentury. (He outlines some of the links between environmental problems and agriculture in this talk, and his group produced a popular animated clip that gives a sense of the scale of the problems here.)
Many elements of the new paper will be familiar to readers who follow these issues. Yet it is interesting to see these building blocks of a smarter food system spelled out in one paper, with hard numbers attached.
For starters, the group argues that the conversion of forests and grasslands to agricultural use needs to stop now; the environmental damage we are doing chopping down the Amazon far exceeds the small gain in food production, it says.
Next, the paper contends that increases in food supply need to come from existing farmland by a process of intensified production in regions where yields are low: northeastern India, Eastern Europe, parts of South America and large parts of Africa being good examples.
If yields in these regions could be brought to within 75 percent of their known potential using modern farming methods, including fertilizer and irrigation, total global supply of major foodstuffs would expand by 28 percent, the paper found. If yields were brought to 95 percent of their potential, close to those achieved in rich countries, the supply increase would be a whopping 58 percent.
The paper does not say so, but I suspect that either development would be enough to reverse the soaring food prices of recent years.
Another important strategy laid out in the paper is to improve the efficiency of agriculture in places where yields are already high. If farmers in Africa need more fertilizer, farmers in the United States need less.
The paper essentially argues that high yields can be attained with fewer chemicals and less water, which would not only cut pollution but in some cases also cut costs for farmers.
And finally, the paper argues that more of the food we grow needs to wind up on people’s plates. That means cutting food waste, not just the kind so common in Western kitchens but also the tremendous post-harvest losses caused by bad storage conditions in poor countries.
And it means a shift in diets away from meat and dairy products, which are inefficient to produce, and toward plants. The paper acknowledges that a massive transition to vegetarianism is unlikely but argues that even incremental changes — getting many people to move from less-efficient beef to more-efficient chicken, for instance — would make a difference.
The paper studiously avoids taking sides in the ideological wars over the food system. It does not adopt the left-leaning argument that organic production is the answer to the world’s food issues, nor the rightward view that markets will solve all problems.
It does argue for pulling as many good ideas as possible from emerging food movements into the conventional system — but only if they serve the three goals of increasing supply, reducing environmental damage and improving food security.
As a scientific report, not a policy document, the Foley paper does not offer any big new proposals for how to make all these things happen. Many commentators who have studied these issues have come to the conclusion that the barriers are not primarily technical but involve a lack of political will to solve the problems, leading to low public investment in agriculture.
In his Scientific American article, Dr. Foley does make one intriguing proposal. Pointing to the certification system that has encouraged the construction of green buildings, he asks: what about a new certification system for sustainably produced food?
Instead of catering to a single ideological predilection, the way the organic label does now, the new label would be based on a system that awards points for public benefits and subtracts them for environmental harm. Foods produced according to the best practices would get the highest scores, or possibly the highest letter grades. If consumers adopted it, such a certification would put pressure on companies and farmers to clean up their practices.
“This certification would help us get beyond current food labels such as ‘local’ and ‘organic,’ which do not tell us much about what we are eating,” Dr. Foley writes in Scientific American.
I can only imagine the ideological battles that will erupt if this idea is taken seriously. Yet some of the needed elements are already falling into place, like attempts in Europe to measure the carbon footprint of various foods.
If scientists with no axes to grind could manage to keep control of the certification system, using it as a vehicle to apply stringent performance criteria to farming systems while turning the label into a global brand, the world might have a powerful new tool for improving the food supply — and the health of the planet.
By Pedro Arrais, timescolonist.com July 13, 2011
Deb Heighway in a greenhouse in one of the eight Gorge area home gardens that she has under cultivation.
Deb Heighway in a greenhouse in one of the eight Gorge area home gardens that she has under cultivation.
Photograph by: Arnold Lim, timescolonist.com
Deb Heighway’s journey into SPIN farming began with the germ of an idea. Today, three years later, her urban farm in the Gorge area of Saanich has taken root in eight of her neighbours’ yards.
SPIN stands for Small Plot INtensive, an inexpensive-to-implement farming system for plots under half a hectare. The concept was created by two Saskatoon farmers, who have popularized the idea in North America.
What is different from traditional farming is the scale. Instead of large tracts of land, SPIN farming flourishes on smaller pieces of land — such as backyards in the city.
“It never occurred to me that I could grow food,” says Heighway, who started her venture, Donald Street Farms, three years ago. “Now I have eight gardens in six back yards — four of them on my street.”
She works hard every week and isn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty. She grows between three to five types of vegetables in a garden and harvests them every five weeks. She then replants it with another type of vegetable.
The homeowner supplies the land and the water. Heighway maintains the garden and installs an irrigation system with a timer. The homeowner’s reward for the use of plot of land is a basket of vegetables every week. The produce left over, Heighway sells from a stand at the front of her house.
Volumes are small in comparison to conventional farming, but Heighway dispenses with farm machinery — she doesn’t even own a rototiller — and she can walk to six of her gardens.
For her neighbours, her produce takes the concept of the 100-Mile Diet to the next level, as the vegetables on their kitchen tables would have been grown and harvested as close as 100 steps away.
Heighway, who says she had no green thumb when she started, literally sowed the seeds to her own success by simply knocking on doors of people on her street, keeping an eye out for unused or underutilized back yards.
“There was a gentleman who was particularly delighted to see me. He was getting tired of mowing his lawn,” says Heighway, who used to have a job finding jobs for people with disabilities. “He is delighted now that he spends less time mowing and gets a basket of produce every week in the bargain.”
She gets a three-year commitment from the homeowners for the use of their land. Homeowners can still plant flowers and other plants, and the bees attracted to the garden from the fruits and vegetables are an added bonus.
She admits her venture is still a labour of love. She estimates it may be five years before she can make a viable living off her farming.
She begins her year in May and ends it sometime on October — weather permitting.
The municipality of Saanich recently gave its approval for her to sell her produce from a kiosk in front of her house. She opens the gate of her garden on Donald Street every Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
While she is the only person in her area who sells what she grows, Heighway is in good company as far as raising produce is concerned. She is a member of Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers, a grassroots group that boasts more than 80 members who promote local organic food production, food security and sustainability. They grow fruit and vegetables, mostly for personal consumption but occasionally they add variety to what Heighway sells.
“The idea of producing food for the table from one’s backyard is not new,” says Gabe Epstein, co-ordinator for the group. “But local by-laws in the past have discouraged community gardens because the gardeners were not [legally] able to sell the produce.”
He says that small-scale farming helps the local economy by keeping the money in the neighbourhood. The group has suggested the municipality allow local gardeners to market their wares at municipal recreation centres.
That’s good news for Heighway, who sees branching out to markets and restaurants as the logical next step for her business. She sees potential in supplying local chefs looking for fresh produce daily.
“Its all about eating local and eating in season.”
More information at donaldstreetfarms.com or spinfarming.com
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist
He says about 70 percent of the pigs at barns with automatic feeders were alive. But most pigs in other barns were dead.
Most of the beef cattle had been let out to graze, and were still alive. But about 60 percent of the dairy cows in barns had died.
Farmers are asking government to allow them to take the animals out of the area, or permit them to take care of their livestock.
Some farmers are requesting that they be allowed to euthanize the remaining animals.
The agriculture ministry says, however, it will be difficult to allow people to enter the restricted area to euthanize or feed the animals.
Saturday, April 23, 2011 04:39 +0900 (JST)
Pupils at a Scots school had to run for cover when it started raining worms during their PE lesson.
Teacher David Crichton was leading a group of pupils playing football on an astroturf pitch at Galashiels Academy when dozens of the slimy creatures began plummeting from the sky.
The second-year boys had to abandon their lesson as the earthworms fell during the bizarre incident.
David said the children had just completed their warm up when they began to hear “soft thudding” on the ground. The class then looked to the cloudless sky and saw worms falling on to them.
David said: “We went out to one of our outdoor areas – an all weather astroturf pitch.
“We were out playing football and had just done our warm up and were about to start the next part of the lesson. We started hearing this wee thudding noise on the ground. There were about 20 worms already on the ground at this point.
“Then they just kept coming down. The kids were laughing but some were covering their heads and others were running for cover for a while. They just scattered to get out of the way.”
The bizarre occurrence took place at around 9.15am on Tuesday. The teacher then scooped up handfuls of the worms as proof they had landed on his class.
David said he and his colleagues eventually found around 120 worms in total after checking the artificial football pitch and tennis courts.
He added: “After it happened I counted about 60 on the multi purpose court we were on. I went in and told the other PE teachers and we went out to the tennis courts about 100 yards away. There were about 60 there on the tennis courts – so there were over 100 in total.
“Everyone was having a laugh at me about it until they went out and saw for themselves. They were joking about it – and I said ‘if you don’t believe me go out and have a look’. Everyone thought I was mad. They came back in and looked shocked. The boys have certainly been talking all about it since then.
“I spoke with the science department here but none of them had any explanation for it. One of them thought maybe it was a freak weather thing. But it was such a clear, calm day. And we are quite a bit away from any of the buildings so it’s not like anyone could have been throwing them.”
Showers of worms falling from the heavens have been reported in the past. In 1872 worms were reported falling in Somerville, Massachusetts, in 1877 in Christiana, Norway, and in 1924 in Halmstad, Sweden.
More recently, in July 2007, a woman was crossing a road in Jennings, Louisiana, on her way to work when large clumps of tangled worms dropped down from above. That incident is believed to have been caused by freak weather over a nearby river lifting water and worms and dumping it over the road.
IAN BROWN: Why is there a backlash against foodies, in favor of Big Agriculture?
MICHAEL POLLAN: You know how journalists work. They like to set up that kind of tension. But I think it’s not that simple.”
IB: The Economist declares war between Big Agriculture on the one hand and small-scale sustainable farming on the other. The magazines claims the latter can never feed the world, not with 9 billion people by 2050. MP: There are people in the food movement who aim to replace Big Ag with Small Ag. But I think there are many more people in the food movement who seek to reform Big Ag. And to cast it as a choice between the small, diversified, sustainable farm and the highly productive massified farm is a false choice. Where does Wal Mart fit in that? Wal Mart is interested in localizing its production right now, and they’re doing a lot of things to do that. They are going to big farmers and trying to get them to change the way they behave. There’s a lot of movement to get antibiotics out of production in animal farming. And that’s not about breaking those farms up into tiny little units. That’s about reforming the way they do business. So if you cast it as an either/or–if Big Ag is the only way you can feed the world, and I’m not willing to concede that, I don’t think it’s proven, though it is asserted–then that frees Big Ag to do whatever it feels it needs to do to continue to be big and productive. I think it’s a way to take the focus off them and off the fact that many of their ways of doing business are completely unsustainable and brutal and unjust. It’s an interesting formulation, but I just don’t accept it.
It’s also an interesting formulation because we just don’t have the choice of continuing down the path of this highly industrialized, highly fossil fuel-dependent food industry, even if we wanted to. Even if we decided that’s what we liked best, we’re going to find we don’t have the fossil fuel to support it. We would find that having a globalized food economy is fraught with risks, as we’re seeing with the current price spikes. And that food security, whether you’re talking about countries or smaller units, is endangered by having the food system we have. A lot of the political instability we’re seeing now is tied to problems with the globalized food system. So the idea that’s it’s working and that we could continue on this path is just not a choice available to us. We have to figure out another way to do it. And to say the only alternative is the tiny artisinal farm is false. There are many ways to do it. All of them involve changing industrial agricultural, however.
IB: What do you make of the complaints of B.R. Myers, who has aesthetic and moral objections to foodies in the latest Atlantic Monthly?
MP: His aesthetic problem is an ethical problem, and that’s that he’s a vegan. And if you look at the way he writes about these issues…everything he dismisses as gluttony always involves eating an animal. So there’s a few agendas mixed up in that, and he’s not completely open about what they are.
One of the things that strikes me about foodie-ism, to use a term that I really despise, is that it is ethically inflected in a way that other forms of past interest in food have not been. And I’m sure you noticed this amongst the chefs you were with. What’s very striking about the current interest in food is that it’s not purely aesthetic. It is not purely about pleasure–people are very interested in the system that they’re eating from. And they’re very interested in the way the food was produced and the story behind it. People are mixing up aesthetics and ethics in a very new way, that some people are uncomfortable with, frankly. The idea that you could take any pleasure from politics, that you could mix those two terms, is a very un-American idea. We see it as you’re either indulging yourself, or you’re doing the world good. The fact is, slow food and other elements of the food movement are proposing that the best choice, the most beautiful choice, is often the most sustainable choice. It might be more expensive, and that’s a problem that we need to work on. But I think the industry is feeling very threatened right now by the fact that so many people are asking hard questions about their food. And so there’s an effort underway to discredit the food movement.
If the industrial food system were working so well, you would not have so many consumers abandoning it in droves. And this is an organized PR campaign to defend industrial agriculture. In America there’s a consortium of various groups that have put together about $30 million to defend industrial Ag. The Farm Bureau is kind of leading the charge in America. The farm Bureau has always fronted for agribusiness.
IB: I have spoken to people who think the current focus on cooking, and especially high-end TV cooking, has actually alienated us even more from what we eat.
MP: It’s interesting that the media would celebrate this shallow foodie-ism [on TV] and then attack the food movement for shallow foodie-ism. But you know how the runs of the media go. Once you celebrate something, what can you do then? You attack it. I think the media has gone overboard on the food issue. I don’t even think food politics are quite as vibrant as the media would have you believe. But having built it up so much, what is left but to take it down? Still, it’s fraught. There is a real restiveness around food in this country, and a sense that the western diet is at the heart of the problems.”
IB: The food movement is also attacked for producing expensive food.
MP: There is beautiful food being served today that is expensive that only the affluent can afford, that’s absolutely true. But the food movement has many pieces. And there are also many efforts to democratize it–to bring farmers’ markets into the city and offer vouchers to the poor so they can buy food at the farmers’ market. To teach cooking classes in the inner city where the culture of cooking has been particularly undermined. So there are many elements. The Slow Food organization is a great example. It celebrates beautiful and expensive food but is also involved in getting gardens into schools, to make it possible for more people to benefit from the food.
A great many social movements in this country have begun with elites, with people who have the time and the resources to devote to them. You go back to abolition, women’s suffrage, the environmental movement. That’s not unusual. And to damn a political and social movement because the people who started it are well-to-do seems to me not all that damning. If the food movement is still dominated by the elite in 20 years, I think that will be damning. It would need to be more democratized. The reason that good food is more expensive than cheap food is part of the issue we’re trying to confront. And has to do with subsidies, and the way we organize our society and our economy. Those are big systemic problems.
IB: One of the reasons people want to eat in a more engaged way seems to be a longing for community, as an antidote to our technological isolation. Food is community–and a very physical form of community, at that.
MP: Shared meals, breaking bread, making food, with one another, with nature, across generations–there is a longing for that. One of the earmarks of industrial eating is eating alone. Our eating has become very isolated and anti-social. And the industry has atomized us in our eating. The industry would rather we didn’t eat our meals at the table with other people. You can sell more food to people if you break them up into demographic target groups, and they’ve understood this for a long time. If you go to the frozen food aisle at your store, you will see frozen entrees, designed for adult men, entrees designed for teenaged girls, entrees for women dieting, entrees designed for young boys. So if you can break people up into those pieces and sell a different entree to each one, you’ve sold a lot more food that you would have if you’d just targeted Mom and let her decide what everyone’s going to eat. So industrial eating or corporate eating has undermined the social dimension of eating. And people miss that. And I think that is one of the drivers that brings people to this movement.”
As long as we allow the crony capitalist, consumerist paradigm to put profit before Life itself, we will inevitably continue upon a course of self-destruction.
Nature is a force far greater than we can ever even begin to control. There are immutable laws in place, not written by any human hand, that simply cannot be defied. If our species refuses to comply with those laws, it simply will not survive its own ignorance and arrogance.
Richard Posner is a writer, computer graphics and image editor, and is skilled at electronic music applications. The full range of his political and ideological views, and the background for those, can be found on his own site. Richard can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
A massive transformation of agriculture is occurring in Venezuela, a transformation that has lessons for every other country in the world. The Law of the Land and Agrarian Development, the Law of Food Sovereignty and Security and the Law of Integrated Agricultural Health set out the agenda (they can be found on http://www.mat.gob.ve2, in Spanish). The policies are based on the premises that farmers should have control of their land and product, that the country should produce its own food, and that chemical fertilizers and pesticides should not be part of agriculture.
Land in Venezuela has been in the hands of about 500 families and corporations since the 1800s and worked by an impoverished peasantry. Much of the land was underutilised as cattle ranching, pulpwood plantations, export crops such as sugar cane, or left idle. Most food was imported. This land is gradually being taken over by the government and handed to local communities who have been fighting for it for two centuries.