Food & agriculture - Oct 15
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Tulare couple grows a garden by the foot
Hillary S. Meeks, Visalia Times-Delta
Though they live in a suburban Tulare house with a small backyard, Beverly and Peter Servadio are getting the most out of their garden, one foot at a time.
Although their winter garden has more than a dozen fruits and vegetables germinating, it takes up exactly 16 square feet of their backyard. That's because they use a method called square-foot gardening, which was established hundreds of years ago in Europe and revived by author and gardener Mel Bartholomew in the 1960s.
The method involves cordoning off square footage and inserting one kind of plant per square-foot plot. It works particularly well for the Servadios because Peter is blind.
Peter can memorize what is planted in each square foot, and the raised beds that he built to contain the garden have a ledge that he can sit on to tend the garden easily.
Each raised 3-foot-by-5-foot bed has 8 square feet of garden and also a canopy of garden wire that extends from one 3-foot side over the top to the other side. This accommodates plants that climb, such as tomatoes.
With this method, Beverly said the ground's soil doesn't matter because the gardener adds his or her own mixture of compost and good planting soil to the bed. Not all square-foot gardens are raised, but all use a soil that doesn't occur naturally.
(8 Oct 2009)
Thanks to Kalpa again for this article and several of the other articles in this post.
Robin Shulman, The Standard
Like many a farmer, Ben Flanner rises with the sun. Like most crops, his need water and weeding - bright tomatoes and fragrant basil, delicate nasturtiums, melons and eggplants, mustard greens, puntarelle, peas, beets, beans, kale - about 30 fruits and vegetables in all, and then there are the herbs.
But his farm is not like most farms. It is three stories off the ground. The 6,000-square-foot farm is on a rooftop in the industrial Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, New York. He hopes it can become a model for others who want to grow food but lack space.
The problem in cities such as New York is always land. It's expensive and valuable. But, from a bird's-eye view, much of the city is rooftops. Most roofs are flat. They get direct sunlight, a rare commodity in a densely built place.
In recent years, enthusiasm has grown for green roofs, hailed for harnessing rainwater that can overwhelm urban sewage systems, and keeping buildings warmer in winter and cooler in summer, lowering electricity use. But amid increasing interest in fresh, local food, this season seems to herald the era of the rooftop farm.
...Certain cities have led the way to the roof. In San Francisco, mayor Gavin Newsom has required all departments to audit their land, seeking places suitable for urban agriculture.
Chicago, where the mayor's office has a green roof, also has the country's first organic-certified rooftop farm, 2,500 square feet over a restaurant. Toronto just passed a law requiring green roofs on new buildings above a certain size, and many could include food...
(8 Oct 2009)
Richard Wiswall on the business of organic farming
Makenna Goodman, grist
With the economic downturn and increase in the desire for a relationship with our food, farming has become a popular lifestyle among young people opting out of the corporate world. And while these people are new to life on the land, others have made a life of it for generations. But either way, growing food is rife with politics and economic stresses. Look at the dairy farms in Vermont filing for bankruptcy, the family businesses going under in the midwest, and the monopoly of small farms by corporate agriculture! It sort of looks dismal out there. And while sure, it may be satisfying in the short term, can farming actually pay the bills?
Contrary to popular belief, a good living can be made on an organic farm. What’s required is farming smarter, not harder. I talked to farmer Richard Wiswall, author of newly released The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide to Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff—and Making a Profit, about how he manages an organic farm, and what aspiring farmers can do to make some dough.
(8 Oct 2009)
You can read about the book on the Chelsea Green website here
On World Food Day: Crunching the Numbers
Roger Doiron, common dreams
Tomorrow is World Food Day and since I can't invite you all over for dinner, I thought I'd serve up a smorgasbord of facts and figures about the way the US and the world eat or don't eat, as the case may be.
The menu isn't all bad, but I'll warn you that too much of it could lead to mental and emotional indigestion. The good news is that if you live in the developed world and you don't like what you're served, another option is only a few steps away or, in the case of online food-for-thought, mouse-clicks away. That said, I'd urge you to finish your plate and consider sharing a bite with others.
If I sound like a parent, it's because I am which is one of the reasons I feel compelled to mix these eclectic issues together in one big pot. If we can all start seeing the connections between food, health, and the environment and teaching our children to do the same, perhaps we can serve up a more palatable offering of food statistics in their lifetime.
So, let's dig in:...
(15 Oct 2009)
A rather impressive (and depressing) list of statistics follows. -KS
Daniel Pauly, The New Republic
Our oceans have been the victims of a giant Ponzi scheme, waged with Bernie Madoff–like callousness by the world’s fisheries. Beginning in the 1950s, as their operations became increasingly industrialized--with onboard refrigeration, acoustic fish-finders, and, later, GPS--they first depleted stocks of cod, hake, flounder, sole, and halibut in the Northern Hemisphere. As those stocks disappeared, the fleets moved southward, to the coasts of developing nations and, ultimately, all the way to the shores of Antarctica, searching for icefishes and rockcods, and, more recently, for small, shrimplike krill. As the bounty of coastal waters dropped, fisheries moved further offshore, to deeper waters. And, finally, as the larger fish began to disappear, boats began to catch fish that were smaller and uglier--fish never before considered fit for human consumption. Many were renamed so that they could be marketed: The suspicious slimehead became the delicious orange roughy, while the worrisome Patagonian toothfish became the wholesome Chilean seabass. Others, like the homely hoki, were cut up so they could be sold sight-unseen as fish sticks and filets in fast-food restaurants and the frozen-food aisle.
The scheme was carried out by nothing less than a fishing-industrial complex--an alliance of corporate fishing fleets, lobbyists, parliamentary representatives, and fisheries economists. By hiding behind the romantic image of the small-scale, independent fisherman, they secured political influence and government subsidies far in excess of what would be expected, given their minuscule contribution to the GDP of advanced economies--in the United States, even less than that of the hair salon industry. In Japan, for example, huge, vertically integrated conglomerates, such as Taiyo or the better-known Mitsubishi, lobby their friends in the Japanese Fisheries Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help them gain access to the few remaining plentiful stocks of tuna, like those in the waters surrounding South Pacific countries. Beginning in the early 1980s, the United States, which had not traditionally been much of a fishing country, began heavily subsidizing U.S. fleets, producing its own fishing-industrial complex, dominated by large processors and retail chains. Today, governments provide nearly $30 billion in subsidies each year--about one-third of the value of the global catch--that keep fisheries going, even when they have overexploited their resource base. As a result, there are between two and four times as many boats as the annual catch requires, and yet, the funds to “build capacity” keep coming.
The jig, however, is nearly up. In 1950, the newly constituted Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimated that, globally, we were catching about 20 million metric tons of fish (cod, mackerel, tuna, etc.) and invertebrates (lobster, squid, clams, etc.). That catch peaked at 90 million tons per year in the late 1980s, and it has been declining ever since. Much like Madoff’s infamous operation, which required a constant influx of new investments to generate “revenue” for past investors, the global fishing-industrial complex has required a constant influx of new stocks to continue operation. Instead of restricting its catches so that fish can reproduce and maintain their populations, the industry has simply fished until a stock is depleted and then moved on to new or deeper waters, and to smaller and stranger fish. And, just as a Ponzi scheme will collapse once the pool of potential investors has been drained, so too will the fishing industry collapse as the oceans are drained of life...
(28 Sept 2009)
Culinary Ecotourists Turn Wilderness Foraging into Dinner
Jim Cornfield, Scientific American
Strolling through an equatorial rain forest or a northern pine forest can be thrilling enough, if only for the lavish scenery. But when you learn that you can eat a lot of what you see, a picturesque landscape takes on added intrigue. That’s the fun behind a burgeoning form of responsible leisure travel called culinary ecotourism--a new breed of gastronomic vacation, different from the languid style of those château-and-bistro foodie tours. The goal is to experience food not just as a diner, but as a gatherer, gardener and member of the kitchen staff.
Regardless of the destination, the mantra of culinary ecotourism remains simple: the food you prepare and eat should be always grown locally, and always be in season. These low carbon-impact rules can apply even at home, combining the harvest of your backyard garden with seasonal products from local farmers markets. But when you’re itching to travel, a small yet growing network of eco-friendly tour operators and inns can stir a little edgy romance and adventure into the idea of responsible gastronomy.
Eating from the Forest Primeval: Playa Nicuesa Rain Forest Lodge
In the sultry air beneath the Corcovado rain forest canopy in Costa Rica, I amble over a leaf-strewn trail with my companions, some energetic soccer moms from suburban Washington, D.C. The soundtrack is bird chatter, insect buzzes and the scrambling of Capuchin monkeys through the branches above. We wander past possum wood and ceiba trees, hanging cacao pods and an occasional overhead arch of banana leaves the size of queen-size beds. The jungle is a steamy brew of alien sensations, but this morning our mission isn’t just sightseeing. We’re experiencing the flora in a way none of us has thought of before: as a place for sourcing food. Our trek is a favorite outing called the Edible Landscape Tour, conducted by Playa Nicuesa Rain Forest Lodge in Piedras Blancas National Park, a remote, pristine corner of Central America...
(9 Oct 2009)
If only there was a sustainable way to get to these places...-KS