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France’s small-scale organic farmers celebrate 10 years of boxing clever

Pauline Curtet and Laurence Girard, The Guardian Weekly
Vivien Lamouret, 30-ish, is only too happy to explain his work as a market-gardener. Based at Mareil-sur-Mauldre, a village 40km west of Paris, he sells all the organic vegetables he grows direct to consumers, thanks to the system invented by the Associations for the Preservation of Peasant Farming (Amap).

By joining an Amap, consumers deal directly with growers, committing themselves several months ahead of the harvest to buy a selection of fruit and vegetables from a particular farmer. Lamouret works with two groups, in which consumers pay in advance for 20 boxes. “It makes things so much easier. I can plan my earnings over several months before starting to sell the goods,” he explains. He joined the scheme in 2005…

The first Amap groups started in 2001 and now there are almost 1,600, with regular deliveries of 66,000 boxes to some 270,000 consumers.

The buyers, referred to as Amapiens, prefer fairly small groups. “We distribute 60 boxes a week. To maintain a local spirit we don’t want to get any bigger. It’s hard enough as it is to know everybody,” says Charles Brossolet, head of Les Lapereaux des Thermopyles, an Amap operating in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. To cope with demand other groups have been set up in the neighbourhood, he says…
(10 April 2012)

‘Food Forward’ PBS Series Debuts With ‘Urban Agriculture Across America’ Episode

Laurel Miller,
In less than a century, the United States has gone from being a mostly agrarian society to an urbanized one. Most of us live in cities and, despite our growing cultural fascination with food, most Americans have no idea where the ingredients on their plate (or in that wrapper) are actually coming from.

That’s where “Food Forward” comes in. After a three-year effort, the premiere episode of this innovative new PBS series, as first reported by the Huffington Post, is airing nationally throughout April (see schedule after the jump). In “Urban Agriculture Across America,” the “Food Forward” crew travel from the Bay Area to Milwaukee, Detroit and New York City, talking to urban farming innovators such as Abeni Ramsey, a single mother in West Oakland…

On April 22, the pilot will air on WTTW in Chicago at 5:30 p.m. and WLIW in New York at 2:30 p.m. On April 28, it will air on Washington DC’s WETA at 5:30 p.m. For future episodes, check your local PBS listings, visit the “Food Forward” website or
(16 April 2012)

Motown hopes food will spur rebirth, growth

Lisa Baertlein, Reuters
When Slows Bar-B-Q opened in Detroit’s Corktown district seven years ago, the neighborhood was so neglected that the street lamps no longer worked.

The restaurant sits in the shadow of Detroit’s abandoned central train station, a few blocks from the vacant lot where Tiger Stadium once stood. “People said we were nuts,” recalled co-owner Phillip Cooley. Today, Slows has two Detroit locations that pull in a healthy $6 million in sales annually…

Lack of national supermarket chains causes residents to shop outside the city limits, where they spend an estimated $1.5 billion. Restaurateurs, “guerrilla” gardeners who plant wherever they find space and local grocers are determined to bring that money back to Detroit. “There’s far more demand than supply in Detroit,” said Cooley, a former model who — along with his partners — is planning to open a restaurant that uses locally grown and raised food…
(4 April 2012)

Move over cotton, hello hemp

Matthew Horne, Guardian Professional
Cotton has high maintenance costs, requires pesticides to thrive, dominates agricultural systems that include it, and leaves soil depleted of nutrients, so why is such a damaging crop seen to be the only natural fibre in the textile market? Despite the negative effects, cotton continues to dominate the natural fibre market, accounting for 78%. Over the past century there has been so much research around the cotton plant that it still remains the first choice in fibre production. However, with the risk of demand outweighing supply, the cracks are beginning to show.

No other natural fibre has ever been seen as an alternative to the ‘white gold’ that is cotton. It is a trusted source of income and with recent increases in yields, farmers around the world continue to grow the crop.

However, new research and development is raising the awareness of alternatives that offer both sustainable and economic appeal…

A leading fabric manufacturer, Camira Fabrics, has introduced a new fabric made from hemp fibre and wool to meet the demand in the contract market for sustainable and cheaper products available in the UK.

Examples like these show that businesses are seeking cheaper alternatives as increases in the oil price and rising transport charges start to amplify the economic importance of UK sourcing…

Dr Matthew Horne is a lecturer in agricultural crop production and works a fibre researcher, examining and developing the agricultural production of stinging nettles, hemp and flax in the UK for the production of fibre for the textile industry.
(17 April 2012)

‘No-till farming’ revolution grows in Indiana

Ivan Couronne – Reuters, Mother Nature Network
Indiana farmer Mike Starkey does not plow his fields and uses fertilizer only sparingly, but he is on the cutting edge of a growing trend in American agriculture.

Advocates of his “no-till farming” technique say it could provide the low-cost, environmentally-friendly crops the agricultural industry has sought for many years.

Starkey’s cropland looks like a tangle of corn stalks, crimson clover and ryegrass, far different from the impeccably-plowed fields of most farms.

“Over a period of 12 years, we’re now 100 percent no-till,” said the corn and soybean farmer, who also is a supervisor with the Hendricks County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The biggest departure from traditional farming involves the plowing, also known as tilling. Plowing aerates the soil, eliminates weeds and helps with nutrient recovery.However, plowing also erodes the soil and kills part of the organic life that grows in it…
(17 April 2012)