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Food & agriculture - July 12

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Sow Sew

Staff, Merci.org.uk
The Sow Sew project has used a brownfield site in Manchester to grow flax, to create an organic local sustainable material and from this learning we aim to develop flax growing in the North West.

Now that we have safely stored our 2011 flax harvest, for use in early 2012 Sow Sew is currently looking for more more 'Meanwhile' plots of land around Manchester. We would like to make more use of redundant space, making Manchester greener and more bio-diverse whilst allowing the local community to get their hands dirty if they'd like!

Sow Sew continues to spread our enthusiasm for all things flax by holding workshops on the practicalities of growing flax, its uses and benefits. So far we've worked with local school children, growers, fabric enthusiasts and even run a workshop at the Permaculture Association's AGM.

If you are interested in working with a portion of the flax harvest please fill in our expression of interest form. The flax will be available in both its raw format and also made into thread or material. We aim to exhibit the best pieces in 2012. With all the multitude of uses of flax the only limit is your imagination...

Why grow flax?

  • You can grow flax organically in the North West.
  • Flax grows on land that isn't overly fertile, much like wild flowers, so it is a great way to use land you'd otherwise not know what do with.
  • Flax is a viable alternative to cotton. It's estimated cotton accounts for 16-24% of the world use of insecticides, but cotton is only grown on 2.5% of the world's cultivated land. Flax as an organic local alternative is much less environmentally detrimental.
  • Locally grown flax will decrease in Co2 emissions due to decreased transportation.
  • Flax is is strong enough to be used as a natural alternative to fibreglass.
  • Flax is versatile and all of the plant can be used.
  • Flax can be made into: clothing; lace; bed linen; tennis rackets; bike frames; bank notes; rolling papers; writing paper; building insulation; fishing nets; rope; boats; cat litter; compost; Omega 3&6 rich supplement; resin; oil for wood treatment.... the list goes on.

(2011-2012)



How a garden can add 5-7% to the value of your home and save you $530 a year

John Robb, resilient communities
Find out why adding a garden can both increase the value of your home by 5-7% and save you $530 a year in expenses?

Onto the numbers…

Here’s an unsettling fact: Americans spend $44 billion a YEAR on ornamental landscaping and only $2.5 billion on food gardening.

Why? Lots of reasons, but the one that seems to lock it in is that ornamental landscaping is considered vital to the resale value of a home. A garden isn’t.

That’s likely an outdated concept. Anecdotal evidence suggests that gardens as well as chicken coops (many of the high-end homes I’ve been to recently either already have one or thinking about putting one in) are increasingly being seen as essential amenities for upscale homes. The data seem to agree:

-Nearly a third of all American households have food gardens and that number is growing quickly.
-More than half of the people who are growing food at home (or in a community garden) are doing it because they want better tasting/safer/higher quality food.
-Nearly half the people who garden have a college education (who knew?) and gardening is spread equally across the country and income groups. So, this isn’t isolated.
-Additionally, everything I can find on the impact of gardens on home resales shows that a home near to a high quality food garden is worth much more than one without one. How much? One rigorous study I read found that the impact of even a nearby community food garden is 5-7%!
(21 June 2012)



Can cheap food be produced sustainably?

Leo Hickman, Guardian environment blog
Jim Paice, the farming minister, has today launched a new report called The Green Food Project. It was commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and investigates "how Britain's entire food system must change to keep food affordable without destroying nature, at a time of soaring world population growth".

A diverse range of voices and organisations - from farming groups and food retailers through to environmental charities and academics - contributed to the report. It stresses that it views its role as triggering further debate and collaboration, rather than hard solutions. However, it does identify eight key areas that need attention:

What the Green Food Project has done for the first time, is to bring together a group of interested organisations to jointly scope out the challenges, then have a fully open debate about the food system. We have done this with the aim of reaching consensus, wherever possible, about where there is a clear way forward and where we need to do much more work. Building on a number of existing, valuable initiatives, we have focussed in this report on areas where we need to, and think we can, most make a difference.

Our conclusions address a range of topics, primarily: research and technology, knowledge exchange, our future workforce, investment, building effective structures, valuing ecosystem services, land management, consumption and waste.

But what are your views? Should more food be produced "organically"? Should genetic modification be considered? Are food subsidies a help or a hindrance?

If quoting figures to support your points, please provide a link to the source. I will also be inviting various interested parties to join the debate, too. And later on today, I will return with my own verdict...
(10 July 2012)



Generation Food Project

Raj Patel and Steve James, indiegogo
The Best Kept Secret About The Way We Eat Today

Everyone knows we live with a broken food system, but often it is easier to focus on the bad news rather than the good. In fact, we are surrounded by communities that already know how to feed the world for our generation, and for generations to come.

From Malawi to Michigan, people and organizations are building better ways to eat today so that all of us can eat well tomorrow. This knowledge demands to be shared and spread.

Our Dream

Changing the food system couldn’t be more urgent. All signs point to that conclusion, whether you consider the droughts, floods and fires caused by climate change, the rise in global food prices, or that the health effects of our current food system is predicted to shorten children’s lives. Better, SMARTER ways of growing food, and feeding the world are needed, now.

That’s why we’re developing a new documentary, book and multimedia project, called Generation Food.

We want to show how ordinary women and men around the world are overcoming obstacles and “setting the table” for themselves, their communities, and generations to come. Generation Food is our way of sharing the resilience and wisdom of these communities with you, and yours with them online, on screen, on paper and in person.

Our Dream Team

Led by documentary-making legend and award-winning director, Steve James, of Hoop Dreams and The Interrupters, and best-selling author Raj Patel, of The Value of Nothing and Stuffed and Starved, our team of fourteen researchers has worked for over a year to find some of the most inspiring stories from across the world.

From a climate-change-ready farming system in Cuba, to a way of cooking and eating that transforms women’s lives in Malawi, there are amazing experiences to share across the table, and across the world.

Stories that Matter

In the Peruvian highlands, for instance, indigenous farmers have lost a quarter of their growing season to climate change. In response, communities haven’t just invented better ways to farm the 700 native varieties of potato at 11,000 feet, but also have markets with sliding-scale prices, to make sure that no one goes hungry for lack of money.

It is through sharing surprising ideas and deep knowledge that we can build the foundation for global food stability for generations to come. We are eager to launch Generation Food’s online content platform to share peoples’ ideas for action. We want to start filming a documentary. We want to work with communities around the world, including yours. But all of this takes money. You’ve heard of fair trade food? Well, we want to practice fair trade film making, making sure everyone from our researchers to hired hands are paid properly.

Get Involved

But we can’t do it without you.

We are giving ourselves 6 weeks to achieve our fundraising goal of $50,000, today through August 17th.

Can you help us? Here’s how!

Support Us - Watch our amazing campaign video, and check out our great ‘thank you’ gifts, which include lunch with Alice Waters, exclusive music, limited edition laser discs and– for the first week of the campaign only! - postcards from Cuba.

Join Us - become part of Generation Food. Connect with us online, let us know about your story, what you are working to change, and inspire more people.

Forward Us – Help us by sharing Generation Food with your friends to help us reach as many people as possible. Post our campaign link: http://www.indiegogo.com/GenerationFoodProject, on Facebook, Twitter, or just share ideas over a dining room table. Spreading the news will help us raise awareness about our campaigns aims, catch the attention of more change-makers, and attract more money to get the project on the road. And, best of all, it'll help spark the conversations we need to address the way we eat today.

Follow Us - Keep in touch with the project and the campaign. Steve and Raj will be sending updates from Japan, Cuba, Peru and the United States.

Thank you!

(11 July 2012)



To Find Fields to Farm in New York City, Just Look Up

Lisa W. Foderaro, The New York Times
Back in the 1960s, Lisa Douglas, the Manhattan socialite played by Eva Gabor in the television sitcom “Green Acres,” had to give up her “penthouse view” to indulge her husband’s desire for “farm livin’.”
Connect with NYTMetro

Today, she could have had both. New York City (the stores!) is suddenly a farming kind of town (the chores!). Almost a decade after the last family farm within the city’s boundaries closed, basil and bok choy are growing in Brooklyn, and tomatoes, leeks and cucumbers in Queens. Commercial agriculture is bound for the South Bronx, where the city recently solicited proposals for what would be the largest rooftop farm in the United States, and possibly the world.

Fed by the interest in locally grown produce, the new farm operations in New York are selling greens and other vegetables by the boxful to organically inclined residents, and by the bushel to supermarket chains like Whole Foods. The main difference between this century and previous ones is location: whether soil-based or hydroponic, in which vegetables are grown in water rather than soil, the new farms are spreading on rooftops, perhaps the last slice of untapped real estate in the city.

“In terms of rooftop commercial agriculture, New York is definitely a leader at this moment,” said Joe Nasr, co-author of “Carrot City: Creating Places for Urban Agriculture” and a researcher at the Centre for Studies in Food Security at Ryerson University in Toronto. “I expect it will continue to expand, and much more rapidly, in the near future.”...
(11 July 2012)


Food security index: why does the UK have the worst record of Western European countries?

Lisa Evans, Guardian datablog
Today a food security index that ranks individual countries on food affordability, accessibility, availability, nutritional value and safety was published for the first time.

A food security index is becoming increasingly important given the growing world population (expected to swell from 7 billion to 9 billion people by 2050) and the potential limits on our ability to provide food in coming years. Another important factor is the milenium development goal - to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger between 1990 and 2015. So any additional and long-term measures of food security are seemingly useful.

The methodology behind the report is explained here. Essentially security is measured under three criteria: quality and safty, affordability and availability. The different measures for each criteria are weighted first to neutralise them and then weighted according to the expert panel deciding the significants of each of the measures.

The results show that the U.S., Denmark, Norway, France and the Netherlands are the most food-secure countries in the world.

The five most impoverished nations at the bottom of the Index, indicating they are have extensive food security problems, are Madagascar, Haiti, Burundi, Chad, and Congo.

Interestingly the United Kingdom ranks the lowest among the Western European countries assessed in the study. The U.K. ranked behind Germany, France, Italy and others.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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