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Food & agriculture - Oct 22

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Bitter Harvest for Small Farms
Legal Troubles Mount as Local Producers Buck Food Safety Rules

Jane Black, Washington Post
WINGINA, Va. -- To some, Richard Bean is a folk hero: the small farmer who dared to sell local, naturally raised pork chops, ribs, sausages and bacon. To the government, Bean looks like a felon.

Since 2001, Bean has sold his pork to restaurants and at farmers markets in the Charlottesville area, where he also offers chicken, vegetables and homemade bread. In many ways, his Double H Farm is exactly what the burgeoning eat-local movement wants: a diversified, family-run farm that sells to nearby customers.

...Eat-local proponents, or locavores, say foods grown by nearby, small farms are fresher and better for the environment and local communities than government-certified organic foods, which can come from as far away as New Zealand. Bean is one of a number of small farmers whose stand against state and federal regulations has landed him in legal trouble.
(20 October 2007)
One of the many examples of bureaucracy that grew up in the "old age" of cheap fossil fuels, but which has now become counter-productive. Zoning is another field in need of a revolution. -BA


World Bank Report Puts Agriculture at Core of Antipoverty Effort

Celia W. Dugger, New York Times
For the first time in a quarter century, the World Bank’s flagship annual report on development puts agriculture and the productivity of small farmers at the heart of a global agenda to reduce poverty. Three-quarters of the world’s poor still live in the countryside.

The World Development Report, released yesterday, is the first on agriculture since 1982. Just a week ago, an internal evaluation unit chided the bank for its neglect of agriculture in Africa and its plummeting financial support for that sector over the past 15 years - support that did not begin to grow significantly until last year.

More broadly, the report crystallizes an emerging consensus among wealthy countries, philanthropists and African governments: Increased public investment in scientific research, rural roads, irrigation, credit, fertilizer and seeds - the basics of an agricultural economy - is crucial to helping Africa’s poor farmers grow more sorghum, corn, millet, cassava and rice on their miniature plots.

Foreign aid for agriculture has plunged as support for global health and primary education has surged.
(20 October 2007)


The Eat Local Challenge

Deconstructing Dinner via Global Public Media
As has become an innovative way to experience the joy and difficulties of eating local food, many communities are challenging their people to eat more locally or better yet, entirely local for a specified period of time. In September 2007, the city of Vancouver proclaimed the month as eat local month, the city of Hamilton Ontario has launched an eat local project, and here in the city of Nelson, our own eat local challenge took place in the month of August. 150 Nelson-area residents pledged to commit to eating more locally, and many local businesses took it upon themselves to provide their customers with more local options.

On this broadcast we hear segments from a conversation facilitated with seven of those who pledged to take the challenge in Nelson. We hear how they managed such an undertaking, what they learned from the experience, and whether or not they gave up! We also listen in on a few short segments from a recent visit to Nelson by authors Alisa Smith and James Mackinnon of the bestselling title, "The 100-Mile Diet".
(21 October 2007)


How Green Is My Garden?

Thomas C. Cooper, New York Times
IF the government wants to reduce its dependency on imported oil and, in the words of the Department of Energy, “foster the domestic biomass industry,” it has only to stop by my backyard with a pickup. The place is an unlikely but active biomass production center - especially at this season with countless autumn leaves eddying in every nook and cranny - and I’ll happily donate my production to the cause.

Biomass, as the word inelegantly suggests, refers to all the biological material in an area, from trees to algae. The subject is on people’s minds these days because it offers an available and renewable local source of energy. In the process of growing, plants gather energy from the sun through photosynthesis. That energy can be released as gas (through fermentation or other types of decay) or through heat (various forms of burning).

Although a number of technologies are being employed and more are being tested, most large-scale biomass refining involves some form of incineration to produce electricity, or fermentation to make ethanol fuels. Biomass fuels today generate roughly 3 percent of the energy we consume in this country and, since 2000, have been the largest renewable energy source. My garden is a case in point.

...The entire Northeast is similarly an expanding store of biomass that could provide self-sustaining, local energy on a considerable scale. In its agricultural heyday 150 years ago, our region was only 20 percent forested. Today it is 75 percent wooded, a dense, largely uninterrupted forest created by natural regeneration. A similar surplus exists across much of the country.

Harvesting this biomass does not imply clear-cutting or otherwise vacuuming the woods. Indeed, biomass programs provide a market for low-grade timber that otherwise is left to crowd out more desirable species and, ultimately, to rot. The result of biomass harvesting is a more diverse woodland, a more diverse local economy and a more diverse supply of energy.

As our demands for energy grow we should enhance the technologies for converting biomass and expand the programs to utilize this renewable source in our collective backyard.
(20 October 2007)
As with many biofuels proposals, what makes sense on a small-scale is a disaster on a larger scale. The current levels of energy usage are immense and growing, while cheap fertilizers have blinded us to the fact that in the future nutrients and good soil will be at a premium. See following article. -BA


Tanzania squeezed for fertilizers- increased demand from rich countries

Kilasa Mtambalike, Daily News (Tanzania)
THE government will from now on give priority in distributing subsidized fertilizers to the Southern Highland regions to make them more easily available in the area.

... Mr Lowassa was reacting to grievance raised by a resident of the area that the farm input had become very expensive and inaccessible.

Mr Lowassa explained that the prices of fertilizers had gone up worldwide due to increased demand of the product by wealthy countries like US.

He said that America was using the product in cultivating maize and cassava not for consumption but for making alternative energy (organic fuel).
(20 October 2007)

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