Small Scale Farmers Cool the Planet

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Intifada Milk: We Are Palestinians

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Wilderness, Wolves & Soil Carbon Cowboys

American Inspiration:

Go here to support their Indiegogo campaign.

How Wolves Change Rivers:

Soil Carbon Cowboys:

SOIL CARBON COWBOYS from Peter Byck on Vimeo.

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Monsanto vs. The Farmers

Monsanto vs Farmers from Mathieu Asselin on Vimeo.

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Uganda: Saving Seeds

Saving Wild Crop Seeds in Uganda:

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Restoring Rajasthan

Lakshman Singh’s ingenious method of rain water harvesting has made Laporia, a small village near Jaipur drought proof and poverty free. Starting in his home village, Singh has spread the idea to over 200 other villages benefitting more than 350000 people.

By Anita Pratap

Chauk method of ground water recharging

Chauk method of ground water recharging

Lakshman Singh and his friends in Laporia used ‘Chauk’ method of ground water recharging. A series of bunds, channels and pits are dug over a 5Km stretch in a checker board like pattern, following the natural slope of land. Rain water flows slowly across the Chauka system resulting in the retention of top soil and increase in moisture content. This also helps in recharging ground water.

The broken bund (mud embankment) was emblematic of all that was wrong with laporia. The inhabitants of this arid village in an arid district in India’s most arid state, Rajasthan, were dirt poor. They were malnourished, wore torn clothes and rarely washed. Soap, they could not afford. Nor sugar or milk in their tea. Many went to bed hungry every night. Diseases and illnesses went untreated, because there were no medicines. Children remained illiterate. Cattle died or thirst. Upper and lower castes crumbling property, dragging relatives to court.

The root cause of Laporia’s misery was acute water scarcity.

Read how Lakshman Singh transformed Laporia at ProPoor News.

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The Quinoa Quandary

Published on Friday, February 15, 2013 by Common Dreams

Quinoa: To Buy or Not to Buy… Is This the Right Question?

We’ve been hearing a lot about quinoa lately. While US consumers prize it as a delicious ‘super-food,’ there is growing anxiety about the impact of the quinoa boom in the Andes, and particularly Bolivia, the world’s top producing country. The media has focused primarily on the fact that global demand is driving up the price of quinoa, placing it beyond the reach of poor Bolivians—even of quinoa farmers themselves—leaving them to consume nutritionally vacuous, but cheap, refined wheat products such as bread and pasta. By this logic, some suggest, northern consumers should boycott the ‘golden grain’ to depress its price and make it accessible once again.

Others point out that the impoverished farmers of Bolivia’s highlands are at long last getting a fair price for their crop—one of the few crops adapted to their arid, high altitude environment. In this view, global markets are finally “working” for peasants, and a consumer boycott would only hurt the hemisphere’s poorest farmers.

In short, the debate has largely been reduced to the invisible hand of the marketplace, in which the only options for shaping our global food system are driven by (affluent) consumers either buying more or buying less. It’s the same logic that makes us feel like we’ve done our civic duty by buying a pound of fair trade coffee. This isn’t to dismiss the many benefits of fair trade or other forms of ethical consumption, but the so-called quinoa quandary demonstrates the limits of consumption-driven politics. Because whichever way you press the lever (buy more/buy less) there are bound to be negative consequences, particularly for poor farmers in the Global South. To address the problem we have to analyze the system itself, and the very structures that constrain consumer and producer choices. 

Read more at Common Dreams…

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Detroit Grows Food, not Cars

Detroit’s Good Food Cure

–by Larry Gabriel, Yes Magazine, Oct 25, 2012

Weekend mornings are the busiest days of the week at D-Town Farm. That’s when up to 30 volunteers from across Detroit come out to till the earth and tend the crops at the seven-acre mini-farm on the city’s west side. They sow, hoe, prune, compost, trap pest animals, build paths and fences, and harvest­—all the activities necessary to grow healthy organic fruits and vegetables to nurture the community. There is a 1.5-acre vegetable garden, a 150-square-foot garlic plot, a small apple orchard, numerous beds of salad greens in a couple of hoop houses, a small apiary, and a plot of medicinal herbs such as purslane, burdock, and white thistle.

“One of our goals is to present healthy eating to people,” says Malik Yakini, Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN), which runs D-Town. “We think that healthy eating optimizes a good life generally. A diet close to nature allows the human body to function the way it is supposed to function.”

Detroit photo by Michael Hanson

D-Town is set in one of the city’s greenest areas, a former tree nursery in the 1,184-acre River Rouge Park. It’s a couple of miles downriver from Ford Motor Co.’s famous Rouge plant (that once employed 100,000 workers) and about a mile upriver from the Brightmoor, a formerly devastated neighborhood that boasts no fewer than 22 community gardens. The Detroit City Council granted use of the land to DBCFSN in 2008. Deer ate up most of the first crop: Volunteers who planted 750 tomato plants harvested only about five pounds of tomatoes. Now a fence keeps deer out, and other pests such as raccoons and possums are trapped and released far from this feeding ground. There are even a few apple trees on the grounds that are tended by folks from Can-Did Revolution, a recently established family canning company.

 Detroit Renaissance

Nowhere in the United States has urban agriculture taken root as prolifically as in Detroit. Earthworks Urban Farm, Feedom Freedom Growers, GenesisHOPE, Georgia Street Collective, and other community gardens have stepped up to help create a healthier and more self-empowered food system. The Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women runs a small farm on the school’s grounds to teach students about nutrition and self-sufficiency. This gardening renaissance has been growing for over two decades since the Gardening Angels, a group of southern-born African-Americans, began growing food and passing their agricultural knowledge on to another generation.

There are more than 1,200 community gardens in Detroit—more per square mile and more per capita than in any other American city. The number of community gardens is just a fraction of the number of kitchen gardens that families grow in yards and side lots. Locals are learning more about nutrition and feeling the health effects of eating the food they grow. “You’re only as healthy as the food you eat,” says Latricia Wright, a naturopath who champions natural, uncooked, unprocessed foods. “It’s all about the minerals in the food.”

Read more at DailyGood.org

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Cottage Law passes California House!

Sacramento, CA – Today, Assembly Bill 1616, the California Homemade Food Act, authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), passed the Assembly Floor by a bipartisan vote of 56-17. The Act, which would allow for the sale of certain homemade, non- hazardous foods by creating a structure for “cottage food operations,” now heads to the Senate.

The Assemblyman made a commitment to help micro-entrepreneurs gain access to these neighborhood-based economic opportunities after his constituent, Mark Stambler, was shut down by the Los Angeles Department of Environmental Health last June for selling homemade bread to a local cheese shop. “I am happy to see this effort move on to the Senate,” said Gatto.  “My constituents are clamoring for local, healthy foods and want to buy products made by local small businesses like Mark’s.”

The California Homemade Food Act is consistent with recent chances in the laws of 32 other states. Under AB 1616, foods available for sale would include every-day items such as breads, tortillas, dry roasted nuts and legumes, granola, churros, rice cakes, jams, jellies and other fruit preserves, and cookies. The legislation establishes a two-tier system of operations based upon the point of sale or trade. Producers opting to sell directly to the consumer would be subject to registration with the local health department and the completion of a food handler’s course, while producers opting to sell through a retail outlet, such as the neighborhood coffee shop, would be subject to inspections by the local health department. Both would have labels declaring their products “homemade” and have traceable information.

“Our farmer’s markets and street fairs are flourishing parts of neighborhoods throughout the state.  They bring a feeling of community in a modern, impersonal world.  If we can promote these interpersonal relationships at a time when people are struggling to supplement their family incomes, by removing unnecessary red tape, then we’ve accomplished something important for both the residents of our state and its small businesses,” Gatto commented.

Mike Gatto is the Assistant Speaker Pro Tempore of the California State Assembly.  He represents the cities of Burbank, Glendale, and parts of Los Angeles, including Los Feliz, North Hollywood, Silver Lake, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, and Van Nuys.

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Debunking the “Myth of Sustainable Meat”

By Joel Salatin
The following post originally appeared on the Polyface Farms Facebook page

The recent editorial by James McWilliams, titled “The Myth of Sustainable Meat,” contains enough factual errors and skewed assumptions to fill a book, and normally I would dismiss this out of hand as too much nonsense to merit a response. But since it specifically mentioned Polyface, a rebuttal is appropriate. For a more comprehensive rebuttal, read the book Folks, This Ain’t Normal.

Let’s go point by point. First, that grass-grazing cows emit more methane than grain-fed ones. This is factually false. Actually, the amount of methane emitted by fermentation is the same whether it occurs in the cow or outside. Whether the feed is eaten by an herbivore or left to rot on its own, the methane generated is identical. Wetlands emit some 95 percent of all methane in the world; herbivores are insignificant enough to not even merit consideration. Anyone who really wants to stop methane needs to start draining wetlands. Quick, or we’ll all perish. I assume he’s figuring that since it takes longer to grow a beef on grass than on grain, the difference in time adds days to the emissions. But grain production carries a host of maladies far worse than methane. This is simply cherry-picking one negative out of many positives to smear the foundation of how soil builds: herbivore pruning, perennial disturbance-rest cycles, solar-grown biomass, and decomposition. This is like demonizing marriage because a good one will include some arguments.

Read more at Grist…

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