Food & agriculture - August 4
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ANR's clamp-down on composting operation inexplicable
Carl Etnier, Rutland Herald (Vermont)
Why is the Douglas administration trying to shut down Vermont Compost? The Montpelier small business provides jobs, low-cost processing of food waste, more than 1,000 dozen eggs every month, and high-quality compost and soil products that are in demand both in state and as far away as the Midwest.
State regulations on composting are unclear and confusing, and this year's Act 130 was crafted to give existing composting facilities some breathing room while the regulations were clarified. Yet the Natural Resources Board, which serves at the pleasure of the governor, has ordered Vermont Compost to close its doors and pay an $18,000 fine. The stated reason is because Vermont Compost doesn't have an Act 250 permit for some buildings used in the composting.
The case has a lot of legal minutiae and maneuverings. Bill McKibben put them into perspective when he called one of my radio shows last month: "The real question is the incredible folly of undermining one of our most important resources in Vermont, our future soil fertility. That's what compost is all about.
"I'm watching various arms of the Douglas administration engage in the most short-sighted, foolish acts against what are precious operations. We've got to be encouraging this stuff, not shutting it down or limiting it. The Agency of Natural Resources and Agency of Agriculture should be sending as many young people and others in the state as we can to Vermont Compost, so other people can learn to do all the things Karl Hammer is pulling off, just as the Intervale is the first place we take visitors in Vermont to show what we're capable of."
(3 August 2008)
Grow your own
Allison Arief, New York Times (journalist's blog - "By Design")
“Edible landscape” seems to be going head to head with “staycation” as the most popular catch phrase of Summer 2008. Lawns may not be disappearing before our very eyes, but citizens are definitely swapping out blades of grass for bushels of beans in increasing numbers.
Take me for instance, a bona fide city dweller: As a follow up to my column in March on the reclamation of urban and suburban land for agricultural use, I’ve spent the last several weeks putting theory into practice, literally getting my hands dirty (and whatever other cliché I can unearth) in the interest of urban agriculture.
Two months ago, I learned about My Farm, run by mortgage-broker-turned-farmer Trevor Paque. My Farm is essentially an urban take on community-sponsored agriculture (CSAs). With CSAs, individuals essentially invest in rural farms to help support their operations and are given a weekly box of fresh produce in return. With My Farm (and similar operations found in cities including New York and Portland, Ore.), you can grow food in your own backyard with the assistance of urban farmers like Paque. In one day, he created our 120-square-foot backyard farm - landscaping with found materials from the yard, installing a drip-irrigation system and planting heirloom seeds. Now he comes once a week to harvest a box of organic and ridiculously local produce for us - plus an additional box, which he sells to another family in our neighborhood.
... Though some may see this as a “lazy locavore” trend - wherein couch potato clients, glass of biodynamic Syrah in hand, observe the hard labor of city farmers while lounging with their laptops - the urban agriculture movement seems to me to be slowly transcending its elitist associations. It is truly growing into something that is wholly about collaboration, community and connection to food, to neighbors, to land.
That’s certainly been my experience both in my yard, as neighbors and friends come by to help harvest (and to eat), and in my city.
(28 July 2008)
Discussions at Gristmill about 'lazy locavorism':
Edible landscapes can outgrow the elite
'Lazy locavores,' revisited
The NYT's 'lazy locavores'
Organic food becomes latest casualty of the credit crunch
Cahal Milmo, The Independent
Dairy farmers are turning their backs on Britain's organic milk market as economic pessimism dents consumers' previously buoyant demand for organic produce.
The organic goods market at large is being "credit crunched", particularly among new products like organic ready meals and home-delivery vegetable boxes.
Figures show there has been a dramatic reversal in the numbers of dairy farmers converting to organic farming from conventional methods.
Rises of up to 80 per cent in the price of organic feed for dairy herds mean that hundreds of organic milk producers are now running at a loss. So far this year, farms which were undergoing conversion to organic, and were capable of producing five million litres of milk, have abandoned the process and returned to fertiliser-intensive, non-organic farming...
(4 August 2008)