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Fermentation and Food: The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved
Sandor Ellix Katz, KPFA (Pacifica radio station)
Microscopic organisms – our ancestors and allies – transform food and extend its usefulness. Fermentation of food is found throughout every human culture on earth. Hundreds of medical and scientific studies confirm what folklore has always known: Fermented foods help people stay healthy.

Sandor Ellix Katz is the author of the books “Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods” and “The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved.” On today’s Open Book, we’ll hear a speech he gave recently in Oakland California.
(21 December 2007)
If you think you know about food, listen to this. Eye-opening talk. -BA

Farming the Amazon with a Machete and Mulch
Ketzel Levine, National Public Radio
On jungle land at the mouth of the Amazon River, one resourceful female farmer has become a master of adaptation in a landscape of constant change. Her story offers an example of how individuals might face the challenges of climate change.
(4 February 2008)

Homogeneous horror
A handful of companies now dominate world farming, with profound implications for genetic diversity

Sue Branford, Guardian
…This technological revolution in poultry farming has occurred at a time of other far-reaching changes. New intensive methods of agriculture have made it possible for farmers to produce massive soya and maize harvests. This, in turn, has allowed the production of millions of tonnes of concentrated chicken feed, which is needed to rear poultry in confined spaces. Meanwhile, market reforms, backed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have ruined hundreds of thousands of smallholders in the developing world, forcing peasant farmers – such as Zamarchi – to sacrifice their independence and sign contracts with the poultry companies.

Taken together, these changes have meant that the poultry companies can provide supermarkets throughout the world with huge quantities of cheap chicken. And lower prices and intensive advertising campaigns mean people are eating far more of it.

Developing countries have become the leading worldwide suppliers of this cheap chicken because land and labour cost less. Brazil is the world’s leading exporter – the industry, which is still growing, already employs some 4 million people. As the agricultural frontier marches north into the Amazon basin, the poultry industry – with its feed production plants, hatcheries, slaughterhouses and processing plants – is following in its wake. It is possible that some of the chickens consumed in the UK have been reared on land that just a generation ago was tropical forest.

These changes are not only confined to the poultry industry, however. Cattle and pig rearing are also experiencing rapid change – although on a smaller scale.

…Genetic breeds are less hardy and the genetic uniformity of industrial livestock creates the perfect breeding ground for the evolution of highly pathogenic strains of disease. Outbreaks of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome in pigs is already occurring, for example, as well as avian flu. The official response to these outbreaks is almost always to ban freerange livestock, with the argument that tighter biosafety measures are required. So, the big companies, which created the conditions for disease in the first place, end up profiting from it, because competitors are forced out of business.

What is particularly scary is the likelihood that one of these diseases will mutate into a deadly human disease. The authorities should be insisting on wholesale changes in the way that industrial farming is organised but, instead, they are taking measures that deepen the structural problems.

Sue Branford helped edit a study of livestock farming published in the January edition of Seedling, a magazine produced by Grain.
(6 February 2008)
Carolyn Baker published a related article addressed to Hilary Clinton against GMOs and Monsanto.

Bob Waldrop’s Call to Action on Local Food Systems

Sharon Astyk, Depletion and Abundance
Bob Waldrop is one of my heroes. He knew about peak oil before most people, and has been moderating the RunningOnEmpty2 group forever. But the fact that there isn’t an existing system or magic solution just seemed a challenge to him. So he started the Oklahoma City Food Coop, about which you’ll hear below. He retrofitted his house to reduce his energy usage, and he’s making plans for his whole city, including for the bicycle powered transport of food from farmland outside OKC inside. He’s a one-man transition town.

This is what he sent to his food coop newsletter readers. I think it is damned good advice for nearly everyone, and deserves a wider audience. And as always, Bob puts his stuff in the public domain, because he just wants everyone get a “local food and energy system.” So listen to the man.
Let’s just cut right to the point:Growing vegetables in your back yard (or your front yard) is an excellent way todevelop some part-time income and provide your family with great food.

Growing vegetables in your back or front yard will increase your quality of lifeand your economic security and your physical and mental and emotional health.

Growing vegetables in your back or front yard provides exercise which is important for good health.

Growing vegetables in your back or front yard provides food that tastes verygood and is full of nutrition.

We need people willing to start part-time, micro-businesses, growing food and distributing and selling it into the local market. …
(6 February 2008)

The Birth of a Farmers’ Market
(Text and audio)
Jon Steinman, Deconstructing Dinner via Global Public Media
In October 2007, Host Jon Steinman paid a visit to the community of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. With a population of 80,000, it came as a surprise to discover that the city does not maintain a functioning farmers’ market where food is the focus. Recognizing how the absence of one threatened the already vulnerable state of Vancouver Island agriculture, the Food Sustainability Sub-Committee of the Mid-Island Co-op organized a one-day Farmers’ Showcase. The event acted as a trial farmers’ market to determine the feasibility of such an event on a weekly basis.

With over 3,000 people swarming upon the farmers and producers, the success of the market was a clear sign of the healthy potential for an increase in local food production on Vancouver Island.
(6 February 2008)