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Food & agriculture - Nov 27

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The Coming Green Wave: Ocean Farming to Fight Climate Change

Brendan Smith, The Atlantic
For decades environmentalists have fought to save our oceans from the perils of overfishing, climate change, and pollution. All noble efforts -- but what if environmentalists have it backwards? What if the question is not how to save the oceans, but how the oceans can save us?

That is what a growing network of scientists, ocean farmers, and environmentalists around the world is trying to figure out. With nearly 90 percent of large fish stocks threatened by over-fishing and 3.5 billion people dependent on the seas as their primary food source, these ocean farming advocates have concluded that aquaculture is here to stay.

But rather than monolithic factory fish farms, they see the oceans as the home of small-scale farms where complementary species are cultivated to provide food and fuel -- and to clean up the environment and fight climate change. Governed by an ethic of sustainability, they are re-imagining our oceans with the hope of saving us from the grip of the ever-escalating climate, energy, and food crises.

The Death and Rebirth of the Ocean Farm

Ocean farming is not a modern innovation. For thousands of years cultures as diverse as the ancient Egyptians, Romans, Aztecs, and Chinese have farmed finfish, shellfish, and aquatic plants. Atlantic salmon have been farmed in Scotland since the early 1600s; seaweed was a staple food for American settlers.

Unfortunately, what was once a sustainable fishery has been modernized into large-scale industrial-style farming. Modeled on land-based factory livestock farms, aquaculture operations are infamous for their low-quality, tasteless fish pumped full of antibiotics and polluting local waterways. According to a recent New York Times editorial, aquaculture "has repeated too many of the mistakes of industrial farming -- including the shrinking of genetic diversity, a disregard for conservation, and the global spread of intensive farming methods before their consequences are completely understood."

Unsurprisingly, once information got out among the general public, "aquaculture" quickly became a dirty word. Industry responded with a strategy of mislabeling seafood and upping their marketing budgets, rather than investing in more sustainable and environmentally benign farming techniques.

But a small group of ocean farmers and scientists decided to chart a different course. Rather than relying on mono-aquaculture operations, these new ocean farms are pioneering muti-tropic and sea-vegetable aquaculture, whereby ocean farmers grow abundant, high-quality seafood while improving, rather than damaging, the environment.

One example is Ocean Approved in Maine, which cultivates seaweed that doubles as a nutrient-rich food source and a sponge for organic pollutants.
(23 November 2011)



A Quiet Push to Grow Crops Under Cover of Trees

Jim Robbins, New York Times
HELENA, Mont. — On a forested hill in the mountains north of Montana’s capital, beneath a canopy of pine and spruce, Marc and Gloria Flora have planted more than 300 smaller trees, from apple and pear to black walnut and chestnut

Beneath the trees are layers of crops: shrubs like buffalo berries and raspberries, edible flowers like day lilies, vines like grapes and hops, and medicinal plants, including yarrow and arnica.

Turkeys and chickens wander the two-acre plot, gobbling hackberries and bird cherries that have fallen from trees planted in their pen, and leaving manure to nourish the plants.

For the Floras, the garden is more than a source of food for personal use and sale. Ms. Flora, an environmental consultant and former supervisor for the United States Forest Service, is hoping it serves as a demonstration project to spur the growth of agroforestry — the science of incorporating trees into traditional agriculture.

The extensive tree canopy and the use of native plants, she says, make the garden more resilient in the face of a changing climate, needing less water, no chemical fertilizers and few, if any, pesticides. “It’s far more sustainable” than conventional agriculture, she said.
(21 November 2011)
Gloria Floria is a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute. -BA




That’s Not Trash, That’s Dinner

Julia Moskin, New York Times
... If home cooks reconsidered what should go into the pot, and what into the trash, what would they find? What new flavors might emerge, what old techniques? Pre-industrial cooks, for whom thrift was a necessity as well as a virtue, once knew many ways to put the entire garden to work. Fried green tomatoes and pickled watermelon rind are examples of dishes that preserved a bumper crop before rot set in.

“Some people these days are so unfamiliar with vegetables in their natural state, they don’t even know that a broccoli stalk is just as edible as the florets,” said Julia Wylie, an organic farmer in Watsonville, Calif. The produce she grows at Mariquita Farm is served at Bay Area restaurants like Delfina, Zuni Cafe and Chez Panisse.
(26 July 2011)
Recommended by Sarah R. -BA

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