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Food & agriculture - July 24

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Canadian Couple's Kitchen Garden Targeted By Authorities

Huffington Post
Take a look at Josée Landry and Michel Beauchamp's gorgeous front yard kitchen garden in Drummondville, Quebec. The cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchinis, beets, onions, and brussels sprouts and other vegetables grown by the couple helped Beauchamp lose 75 pounds, and Landry 25.

The only problem? It's illegal.

Boing Boing points us to a petition to save the garden, which authorities insist must be removed. The town code states that a vegetable garden can take up 30 percent of a front yard at most, and Landry and Beauchamp's is in violation. They were given two weeks to comply, which means the garden must be drastically scaled back by this Sunday.

... CBC News reports that if the couple fails to remove a significant enough portion of their garden, they could expect fines of between $100 and $300 each day. The news site also reveals authorities say neighbors have complained about the garden, but Beauchamp is suspicious:

Beauchamp said no one has complained to him. He said he shares his fresh produce with his neighbours.

"They love it. Everybody is surprised by the kind of taste we can have from fresh vegetables," he said.

The couple said they have no intention of complying with the city's request.

CBC also notes that the city plans to make all front lawn vegetable gardens illegal this fall.

(19 July 2012)
Submitted by Larry Desmond.


The world is closer to a food crisis than most people realise

Lester R. Brown, Guardian
Unless we move quickly to adopt new population, energy, and water policies, the goal of eradicating hunger will remain just that
---
In the early spring this year, US farmers were on their way to planting some 96m acres in corn, the most in 75 years. A warm early spring got the crop off to a great start. Analysts were predicting the largest corn harvest on record.

The United States is the leading producer and exporter of corn, the world's feedgrain. At home, corn accounts for four-fifths of the US grain harvest. Internationally, the US corn crop exceeds China's rice and wheat harvests combined. Among the big three grains – corn, wheat, and rice – corn is now the leader, with production well above that of wheat and nearly double that of rice.

The corn plant is as sensitive as it is productive. Thirsty and fast-growing, it is vulnerable to both extreme heat and drought. At elevated temperatures, the corn plant, which is normally so productive, goes into thermal shock.

As spring turned into summer, the thermometer began to rise across the corn belt. In St Louis, Missouri, in the southern corn belt, the temperature in late June and early July climbed to 100F or higher 10 days in a row. For the past several weeks, the corn belt has been blanketed with dehydrating heat.

Weekly drought maps published by the University of Nebraska show the drought-stricken area spreading across more and more of the country until, by mid-July, it engulfed virtually the entire corn belt. Soil moisture readings in the corn belt are now among the lowest ever recorded.

While temperature, rainfall, and drought serve as indirect indicators of crop growing conditions, each week the US Department of Agriculture releases a report on the actual state of the corn crop. This year the early reports were promising. On 21 May, 77% of the US corn crop was rated as good to excellent. The following week the share of the crop in this category dropped to 72%. Over the next eight weeks, it dropped to 26%, one of the lowest ratings on record. The other 74% is rated very poor to fair. And the crop is still deteriorating.

... Not only is the current food situation deteriorating, but so is the global food
system itself. We saw early signs of the unraveling in 2008 following an abrupt
doubling of world grain prices. As world food prices climbed, exporting countries
began restricting grain exports to keep their domestic food prices down. In
response, governments of importing countries panicked. Some of them turned to buying
or leasing land in other countries on which to produce food for themselves.

Welcome to the new geopolitics of food scarcity. As food supplies tighten, we are
moving into a new food era, one in which it is every country for itself
(24 July 2012)
Suggested by EB contributor Jeffrey Brown who writes:

Regarding consumers in food and/or (net) energy exporting countries, versus consumers in food and/or energy (net) importing countries, and regarding consumers in developed versus developing countries, as I have occasionally opined, some consumers, to borrow a phrase from "Animal Farm," are more equal than others.

On the energy side, I estimate that there are about 157 (net) oil importing countries in the world. I estimate that about one-half of the total post-2005 supply of Available CNE (Cumulative Net Exports) may have already been consumed. I define Available CNE as the total estimated post-2005 supply of Global CNE that will be available to importers other than China & India.



Small Farmers Creating a New Business Model as Agriculture Goes Local

Kirk Johnson, New York Times
SEATTLE — The cultivated rusticity of a farmers’ market, where dirt-dusted beets are status symbols and earnest entrepreneurs preside over chunks of cheese, is a part of weekend life in cities across the nation as the high days of the summer harvest approach.

But beyond the familiar mantras about nutrition or reduced fossil fuel use, the movement toward local food is creating a vibrant new economic laboratory for American agriculture. The result, with its growing army of small-scale local farmers, is as much about dollars as dinner: a reworking of old models about how food gets sold and farms get financed, and who gets dirt under their fingernails doing the work.
(1 July 2012)



Online Solution for Home Gardeners to Profit from Bumper Crop

Jessica Vernabe, Seedstock
Can too much of a good thing be bad? It can be if the good stuff is going to waste.

A “bumper crop” is defined as an unusually large crop growth and harvest. That’s great news for the farmer who has customers to sell to, but maybe not for the home gardener who’s growing more tomatoes than he can eat.

Tampa Bay, Fla.-based startup company BumperCrop is pitching a hyper-local solution to that problem. The company plans to launch a website where its users will be able to connect with home food gardeners right in their own neighborhoods and purchase their excess produce. The site will available to those who want to do trades or for gardeners who want to give away their excess harvest for free, said Shane Needham, one of the company’s founders.

The business concept was created earlier this year through StartupBus, a competition that puts strangers together on buses (driving from various cities to Austin, Texas) to create startup business plans in just a few days. The idea is to have solid enough plans by the time they reach their destination, the South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference, that they can pitch their ideas to a panel of high-profile Austin investors.
(24 July 2012)
Suggested by Peter R. of Transition Palo Alto.

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