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Food & agriculture - Dec 10

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Cultivating Resilience: The Shelburne Falls Food Security Plan
(report)
Fiona Dunbar, Alex Hoffmeier & Suzanne Rhodes, Conway School of Landscape Design
This document, the initial phase of the Shelburne Falls Food Security Plan, incorporating recommendations of the residents, offers strategies for localizing the food system by providing a viable vision for meeting food needs locally. This report presents pertinent baseline data on nutrition and crop-growing requirements; analyzes village development and social patterns; evaluates natural conditions that affect food-producing potential; offers case studies and existing models of localized food production; and creates conceptual designs for food production in Shelburne Falls. Prepared for The Central Connecticut River Valley Institute and The Apios Institute.
(March 2009)


think global : eat local

Seed International
A new short film (15 mins) about local food was be premiered at the Australian Film Festival in Maleny on the Australia Day weekend - 25 January 2008. The film, Think Global : Eat Local - a diet for a sustainable society, was filmed, directed and edited by Morag Gamble and Evan Raymond.

Think Global : Eat Local is a celebration of local food systems in communities around the world - farmers markets, food box systems, food coops, community farms, community gardens and school gardens. The film touches on many of the issues caused by and impacting our current unsustainable food system and points to the relocalisation of food systems as a key strategy for working toward sustainability, social justice and well-being.

Morag and Evan have spent the past few months pulling together footage of local food projects that they have filmed and photographed both locally and internationally since 1992. Locations include: Cuba, Ladakh, Indonesia, Turkey, South Korea, Spain, The Bahamas, USA, Scotland, Denmark, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Germany, Hong Kong, and in Australia - Northey Street City Farm, Maleny and Crystal Waters.

The film shows interviews with world-renowned scientist and author, Fritjof Capra, and well-know Brisbane-based food activist and academic, Kristen Lyons. Other interviews include Northey Street City Farm’s Organic Market coordinator - Anaheke Metua, CSA Farmer - Les Nichols, a local food chef, a naturopath, alongside input from Morag and Evan.

The film was produced by Morag and Evan’s organisation, SEED International (www.SEEDinternational.com.au), with the help of a small grant from the Maleny Film Commission (through Festivals Australia). The Maleny Film Commission is an arm of the Maleny Film Society, one of the largest film societies in Australia...
(2008)
This excellent resource was brought to my attention by the recently launched Australian food issues website, www.communityharvest.org.au. -ks


The Local Price Premium

Jason Bradford, Farmland LP Blog
The organic price premium is well documented. Less well understood but equally significant is the local price premium. I’ll explain this with some examples in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

Trusting the Source
In most cases, buying local is even more attractive than organic, especially if you indicate that the farming practices are “pesticide free” or in organic transition. People aren’t purists, but they do want food they can trust, and that often means knowing that it came from clean fields they can see, and farmers they can look in the eye.

The Big Advantage of Being Small
The organic transition process usually takes three years. A major barrier to organic conversion is not being able to immediately capture organic price premiums. Organic certification is necessary if you are selling to a large food processor which sells to large a retail outlet. However, the small-scale processors, distributors and retailers around here have much more flexibility and can offer price premiums to us right away...
(7 Dec 2009)
Jason Bradford, former host of the Reality Report, Post Carbon Institute Board Member and Advisor, and now leader of the farmland management program for Farmland LP, including sustainability planning and organic certification and management, should not be a stranger to EB readers. -KS


Nitrous oxide concerns cloud future of biofuels

Alok Jha, The Guardian
Scientists at the European commission have cast doubt on whether biofuels could ever be produced sustainably in significant quantities, dealing a blow to the aviation industry, which sees such fuel as a key way to reduce its emissions.

The researchers argue that the greenhouse gases emitted in making biofuel may well negate most of the carbon dioxide savings made by replacing fossil fuels. Of particular concern is the uncertainty over emissions of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.

...Heinz Ossenbrink, of the EC's Institute of Energy (IoE), said research carried out by EU-funded scientists increasingly pointed to a long-term problem for large-scale biofuels use, namely the emissions of nitrous oxide. This is about 270 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and is released through use of fertilisers to grow biofuel crops. "Some of the older studies don't take that into account," he said. "We have now come to less positive values for biofuels."..
(8 Dec 2009)


Regreening Africa

Mark Herstgaard, The Nation
The sun is setting on another scorching hot day in the western African nation of Burkina Faso. But here on the farm of Yacouba Sawadogo, the air is noticeably cooler. A hatchet slung over his shoulder, the gray-bearded farmer strides through his woods and fields with the easy grace of a much younger man. "Climate change is a subject I feel I have something to say about," he says in his tribal language, Moré, which he delivers in a deep, unhurried rumble. Though he cannot read or write, Sawadogo is a pioneer of a tree-based approach to farming that has transformed the western Sahel in recent years, while providing one of the most hopeful examples on earth of how even very poor people can adapt to the ravages of climate change.

Wearing a brown cotton robe and white skullcap, Sawadogo sits beneath acacia and zizyphus trees that shade a pen holding about twenty guinea fowl. Two cows doze at his feet; bleats of goats float through the still evening air. His farm is large by local standards--fifty acres--and much of it has been in his family for generations. The rest of his family abandoned it after the terrible drought of 1972-84, when a 20 percent decline in average annual rainfall slashed food production throughout the Sahel, turned vast stretches of savanna into desert and caused hundreds of thousands of deaths from hunger.

For Sawadogo, leaving the farm was unthinkable. "My father is buried here," he says simply. In his mind, the droughts of the 1980s marked the beginning of climate change, a term most people here do not recognize. Sawadogo, however, says he has been adapting to a hotter, drier climate for the past twenty years.

"In the drought years, people found themselves in such a terrible situation they had to think in new ways," says Sawadogo, who prides himself on being an innovator. In this case, he revived a technique local farmers had used for centuries, but he adapted it to the new climate conditions he faced. It had long been the practice among Sahelian farmers to dig zai--shallow pits--that concentrate scarce rainfall onto the roots of crops. Sawadogo increased the size of his zai to capture more rainfall. But his most important innovation, he says, was to add manure to the zai during the dry season, a practice his peers derided as wasteful.

Sawadogo's experiments worked: by concentrating water and fertility in pits, he increased crop yields. But the most significant result was one he hadn't anticipated: tiny trees began to sprout amid his rows of millet and sorghum, thanks to seeds contained in the manure. As one growing season followed another, it became apparent that the trees--now a few feet high--were further increasing crop yields while also restoring soil fertility. "Since I began this technique of rehabilitating degraded land, my family has enjoyed food security in good years and bad," Sawadogo says.

..."This is probably the largest positive environmental transformation in the Sahel and perhaps in all of Africa," says Chris Reij, a Dutch geographer who has worked in the region for thirty years. Technically, these methods are known as "agro-forestry" or "farmer managed natural regeneration" (FMNR). Scientific studies confirm what Sawadogo already knows: mixing trees and food crops brings a range of significant benefits. The trees shade crops from overwhelming heat, act as windbreaks that protect young crops and help the soil retain moisture. When their leaves fall to the ground, they act as mulch, boosting soil fertility and providing fodder for livestock. In emergencies, people can even eat the leaves to avoid starvation. "In the past, farmers sometimes had to sow their fields four or five times because winds would blow the seeds away," says Reij, who advocates for FMNR with the zeal of a missionary. "With trees to buffer the wind and anchor the soil, farmers need sow only once."

Equally important, the zai and other water-harvesting techniques have helped recharge underground water tables. "In the 1980s water tables were falling by an average of one meter a year," Reij says. "Since FMNR and the water-harvesting techniques began to take hold, water tables have risen by five meters, despite a growing population." In some areas, the water table has risen by as much as seventeen meters. Some analysts have credited increased rainfall beginning in 1994. Reij says that can't explain it: "The water tables began rising well before that. The effect is felt within one or two years' time." Studies have documented the same replenishing effects in Niger.

What makes FMNR so empowering, and sustainable, is that Africans themselves own the technology, which is simply the knowledge that growing trees amid crops brings many benefits. What's more, this knowledge is free. It's hard to overstate how important that is to poor farmers--and nations. It means they can use the technology now, without waiting or relying on capital infusions from foreign governments or humanitarian organizations.
This makes FMNR very different, says Reij, from the Millennium Villages model of development promoted by Jeffrey Sachs, the high-profile director of Columbia University's Earth Institute. Millennium Villages provides villages, free of charge, with what are considered the building blocks of development: modern seeds and fertilizer, boreholes for clean water, clinics. "It's beautiful, their vision of ending hunger in Africa," says Reij. "The problem is, it doesn't work. Millennium Villages require a heavy investment per village, as well as a flow of external support for some years, and that is not a sustainable solution. It's hard to believe the outside world will provide the billions of dollars necessary to create tens of thousands of Millennium Villages in Africa." Indeed, foreign aid flows collapsed after the financial crash of 2008...
(19 Nov 2009)
Long, but incredibly hopeful article! -ks


Community Food Enterprise: Local Success in a Global Marketplace
(report)
Michael Shuman, Alissa Barron and Wendy Wasserman, Wallace Center, Winrock International
Community Food Enterprise: Local Success in a Global Marketplace, is a project of the Wallace Center at Winrock International, in partnership with the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and the Training and Development Corporation. Community Food Enterprise (CFE) is jointly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Community Food Enterprise is pleased to announce to release of its complete report, including 24 case studies and detailed findings and analysis. You can read the complete report and browse the case studies at www.communityfoodenterprise.org.

RATIONALE
Evidence is mounting worldwide that a powerful path to prosperity for communities across the globe may be local ownership of enterprises that meet food needs. Various meta trends, such as rising oil prices and new models of small-scale organization, are changing the economics of food. These changes are fostering a new generation of community-based enterprises as farmers and other local entrepreneurs begin to take greater ownership roles.

OBJECTIVES
Research into how community food enterprises operate and what they may accomplish is needed to both understand and expand this sector. Community Food Enterprise is a project to undertake that research and share knowledge gained with community leaders and practitioners around the world.

ACTIVITIES
The initiative is led by John Fisk, Director of the Wallace Center, and Michael Shuman, author and Director of Research and Public Policy at the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (www.livingeconomies.org/). Anthony Garrett of Anthony Garrett & Associates (www.anthonygarrett.com/) will provide strategic communications expertise for the initiative and launch.

Community Food Enterprise will:

Produce a practitioner’s guide consisting of case studies from the United States, Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. Each case study will paint a full picture of a distinct local food enterprise – its origins, operations, successes and failures, tradeoffs, economic and social outcomes, and aspects in need of further development.

Conduct an outreach and communications campaign that engages opinion leaders, community groups, planners and entrepreneurs worldwide and builds a global brain trust for advancing the design and application of community food enterprise models.

Build a dynamic, online resource to inform and link practitioners worldwide, including an open-source system for collecting and sharing examples of community food enterprises.

Formally showcase research and case studies in a fall 2009 DC-area publication launch event...
(Nov 2009)

The report can be downloaded here

Thanks to kalpa again for the articles below:


Grow $700 of Food in 100 Square Feet!

Rosalind Creasy with Cathy Wilkinson Barash, Mother Earth News
In 2007, I began to get lots of questions about growing food to help save money. Then, while working on my new book, Edible Landscaping, I had an aha! moment. As I was assembling statistics to show the wastefulness of the American obsession with turf, I wondered what the productivity of just a small part of American lawns would be if they were planted with edibles instead of grass.

We're ready to prove, once again, that energy-efficient housing doesn't have to be expensive. Is it...
I wanted to pull together some figures to share with everyone, but calls to seed companies and online searches didn’t turn up any data for home harvest amounts — only figures for commercial agriculture. From experience, I knew those commercial numbers were much too low compared with what home gardeners can get. For example, home gardeners don’t toss out misshapen cucumbers and sunburned tomatoes. They pick greens by the leaf rather than the head, and harvests aren’t limited to two or three times a season.

For years, I’ve known that my California garden produces a lot. By late summer, my kitchen table overflows with tomatoes, peppers and squash; in spring and fall, it’s broccoli, lettuces and beets. But I’d never thought to quantify it. So I decided to grow a trial garden and tally up the harvests to get a rough idea of what some popular vegetables can produce...
(X Nov 2009)


N.J.'s food pantries and politics: Hungry people need food-- end of discussion

Star-Ledger Editorial Board, nj.com
Quietly, a truce has been declared in the Great New Jersey Food Fight. Gov.-elect Chris Christie has agreed to work with Gov. Jon Corzine to find more money to funnel into the state’s beleaguered food pantries – but only if they carve fat from another part of the budget. Their pre-Thanksgiving tiff is over.

That’s good, because mashed potatoes for the hungry aren’t part of the gravy train that has put the state in its economic bind. New Jersey’s downtrodden aren’t public employees gorging themselves at the taxpayer trough. And they’re not shiftless con-men scamming the system.

For the most part, they are the unemployed who can’t find a job because there is none available. They are working parents who are clinging to a job but have had their hours or pay cut, which means they can’t keep a roof over their heads, pay the electric bill and always put a nutritious meal on the table for their children. They are former accountants and real estate agents, responsible taxpayers, many of whom have never been on the dole and are humiliated to ask for a handout. They are not freeloaders.

And any pantry volunteer knows two things: The state’s hungry are multiplying rapidly. And it’s only going to get worse...
(4 Dec 2009)

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