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The First Review of ‘Local Food’

James Howard, Transition Culture
A Review of ‘Local Food: how to make it happen in your community’ by Tamzin Pinkerton and Rob Hopkins. Green Books 2009. By James Howard.

There are some people that aren’t that fussed about food. To them it is merely functional, a fuel that keeps them going that appears in a package or on their plate, and very little time or thought is given to it. I cannot begin to understand that mindset. Food is so much more than merely an energy source – it is often a highly sensuous experience, full of variety and the focal point for wonderful social bonding in many forms. Yes, I love food, always thinking about my next meal and who I will enjoy it with.

And yet food is, ultimately, an energy source, vital for human survival. Without treading on the toes of Pinkerton & Hopkins, this essential energy source for our very existence is now largely experienced at the end of a long process requiring the input of unsustainable amounts of fossil fuels that damages the stability of the climate that we require to grow the food! Of solutions offered, re-localisation of food supply is the only sustainable one, and thus explored in the very useful book “Local Food – How to make it happen in your community” by Tamzin Pinkerton and Rob Hopkins.

Local Food is the first book to go into deeper detail following the previous Transition Books which offered more general views. The Transition movement is all about positivity, and it is incredibly positive for people, for groups, for communities, to begin to take control of how their food is supplied, where from, and how it is grown. One of the successes of this book is that it shows that there are so many ways to reconnect with local food, and in so many forms, that there isn’t any excuse really left for not making some step towards local food! As a long-time vegetarian who is supplied via an organic box scheme and buys local/seasonal food if forced into a supermarket, this book showed me that there is so much more I could do. There is no one-size fits all solution to local food, but Tamzin Pinkerton has provided enough shapes for all to fit into.

There is much to like about this book. Each chapter is dedicated to different approaches to local food, from garden shares to food coops to food directories – many complementary. Each chapter follows a similar comprehensive format – an overview of the method, guest commentary, several case studies, then tips and further resources. It doesn’t tell you precisely what to do, but it tells you what you can do and gives you the metaphorical seed and (organic) fertiliser to find out for yourself how to do it. As a handbook for anyone wanting to get a local food project off the ground, this is a valuable resource, providing many ideas and inspiration. It is also heartening to see examples of projects up and running, filled with people who love food, and love it local. The numerous benefits of locally sourced food are also covered in the book and don’t need repeating by me here.

The Transition movement has been about collaboration and also collection/distribution of information and this feels like a report on the collected learning of the Transition movement so far. Yes, much of what is in here could be found through research, but why do that when it is all in one place already? This book knows what it wants to achieve, and it achieves it admirably. It does not, for example, try to address agricultural policy. It does not ask too many questions about land ownership, which I think is going to be a very interesting aspect of the future dynamic between food production and employment (or neo-serfdom as it may be!). Nor does the book try to be too speculative – it deals with what you can do here and now to deal with the very foreseeable impacts of declining fossil fuel supplies. Having said that, there is a missing piece that I’d like to see discussed further – local energy sources for cooking and storing food. Clean water supplies are also something that are taken very much for granted and although possibly out of the remit of this book for now, water is integral to the whole process.

‘Local Food’ by Tamzin Pinkerton will be enjoyed by Transition groups and anyone looking to start a local food project. I would also hope that it is read by many beyond that constituency, perhaps by people in various levels of officialdom who may help rather than hinder the essential and speedy transition to local food. There are many recipe books out there and Local Food is a recipe book, not of food, but of local food solutions. Let’s get cooking!
(5 Oct 2009)

Eat Locally Grown Food All Year

Mary Lou Shaw, Mother Earth News
It just makes sense to eat locally grown food as much as possible. Not only is less petroleum used to transport it, but best of all, local produce is picked ripe — when it’s at its peak of flavor and nutrition. Unfortunately, though, believing in the merits of locally grown food won’t help many of us in the cold months. Community supported agriculture (CSA) subscriptions end and farmers markets close down as our own gardens die with the first frosts.

I know that people survived with only local produce all year before we started buying food from all over the world. Rediscovering some of the methods our ancestors used has been an annual challenge for my husband, Tom, and me. We are gradually learning how to eat all year from our 13-acre homestead in Ohio. To do this, we preserve the summer harvest and extend the growing season.

Saving Summer Produce for the Cold Months
Canning is still basic. For years, I’ve used a water-bath canner to preserve tomatoes, pickles and some orchard fruits. High-acid foods can be safely preserved this way, but when in doubt, the Ball Blue Book of Preserving gives guidance in all aspects of canning. This past year was our first growing celery, and there was such a bumper crop that I dug the pressure cooker out of the corner of the garage and put it to work. That allowed me to can a concoction of the extra tomatoes, sweet onions, celery, bell peppers, basil and parsley in quart jars labeled “veggies.” This highly nutritious potion is finding its way into stews, spaghetti sauce, soups and chili. No one has yet commented on the uniqueness of having celery in spaghetti sauce! Canning does take time during the high-yield months of August and September, but lining the jars up on the shelves gives me the same visual pleasure as piecing together a quilt — and the same satisfaction that I imagine a squirrel enjoys. (For more detailed information on canning, read Home Canning Basics.)
(10 Sept 2009)
Huge article on food preserving techniques. Related: Sharon Astyk’s Independence Days, a copy of which I am eagerly awaiting. -KS

Rethinking the Front Yard: Cities Make Room For Urban Farms

Deena Princep, OBP News
Michelle Obama isn’t the only one turning her family’s front yard into a garden.

Throughout the Northwest, people are looking at ways to farm inside city limits.

These small-scale operations aren’t likely to put grocery stores out of business. But they are bringing neighbors together, and changing the way we think about urban agriculture. Deena Prichep reports.

Rather than growing a lawn, this homeowner’s front yard is being prepared to farm, as part of the Sellwood Garden Club.
Two women are running a rototiller, breaking up the dirt to plant fall crops. But this isn’t a field in the country – it’s a front yard in Southeast Portland.

The Sellwood Garden Club grows more than 200 varieties of crops, and sells to several local restaurants, using just a few dozen front lawns.
(29 Sept 2009)
related: Food Among the Ruins Long, in-depth article about Detroit’s current and potential urban agriculture renaissance. -KS

Growing a Revolution

Stett Holbrook, Growing a Revolution
SUNNYVALE’S Full Circle Farm is a-bloom in late-summer glory. Just about everything in the ground is heavy with fruit and vegetables—tomatoes, pole beans, eggplant, artichokes, carrots, sunflowers and cucumbers. A midweek produce stand attracts some neighbors who snack on samples of tomatoes and green beans while a pair of falcons swoop and dive for ground squirrels scurrying for their burrows.

As I lift my eyes from the leafy farm and look toward the east, I have no trouble imagining what the Santa Clara Valley looked like 75 years ago when plums and cherries, not microchips and software, were the main cash crops. No buildings or freeways obscure the view, just green trees and then the tawny hills rolling to the horizon. The view is serene—idyllic, even.

The land is classic “Valley of the Heart’s Delight,” what the fertile Santa Clara Valley was called before it became Silicon Valley. But this farm isn’t a history project or nostalgia trip. The 11-acre organic farm is on the cutting-edge of a national urban agriculture movement. By planting small plots of land in and around cities to create a closer link between farmers and consumers, this movement is challenging the way we grow food. In some cases, consumers are becoming farmers and eating the food they grow, and relocalizing the food system in the process. Boosters call the movement a revolution, and it’s taking root in Silicon Valley…
(30 Sept 2009)

Smaller cities seen leading the way in urban agriculture

Paul Edward Parker, Rhode Island News
As agriculture becomes an urban undertaking, smaller cities in the Northeast and Midwest will lead the way in developing city farms to feed city residents.

That’s one vision of the future shared at the Providence Sustainability Festival on Saturday, the first of what organizers hope will be an annual event.

Smaller cities have many advantages over larger ones in developing agriculture, either within their limits or in their suburbs, Catherine Tumber told a workshop audience at the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Tumber, a historian and journalist and former editor at the Boston Phoenix, is currently researching a book to be published by the MIT Press about how small cities can lead the way to a “sustainable” future, one in which human needs can be met without harming the environment…
(27 Sept 2009)
related: Flint, Mich.: Growing Stronger By Growing Smaller?.

Planting The Seeds For Sustainability

Melinda Peer, Forbes
Problems like population growth, climate change and nutritionally-compromised food have inspired sustainable agriculture entrepreneurs to improve traditional farming methods. It’s an uphill battle but Janine Yorio of NewSeed Advisors sees sustainability as the best way to meet the world’s growing food and energy needs.

As global populations increase, resources will become increasingly constricted and farms will be expected to churn out more food on less land to meet the rapidly expanding needs of humans, livestock and the biofuels industry. That creates some openings for sustainable enterprises.

According to a recent report from Francisco Blanch, head of global commodities research at Bank of America, the world, relative to 1970, is using just 26% more farmland to feed 80% more people. Furthermore, most of the remaining available arable land is largely limited to inland Brazil and sub-Saharan Africa, where infrastructure constraints make market access difficult. According to Blanch, the world’s agriculture supply will completely depend on the increased productivity of farmland…

…”I began noticing that no one was paying attention to these urban farmers,” Yorio said. “And it was through them that I began noticing that there really wasn’t a lot of overlap between agriculture and Wall Street.”

…”Since sustainable practices are generally more cost-effective when they’re done in scale, the rising cost of oil in the long-term will necessitate a change,” Yorio said.
(25 Sept 2009)
Catch the slideshow with this here. And thanks to kalpa again for most of these. -KS