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Food & agriculture - Feb 6

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Solar development absorbing Calif. farmland

Tracie Cone, Associated Press via SF Gate
There's a land rush of sorts going on across the nation's most productive farming region, but these buyers don't want to grow crops. They want to plant solar farms...

(2 February 2013)

A Free, Pick-Your-Own Orchard Takes Root in Los Angeles

Willy Blackmore, TakePart
Before Seattle developed plans for its one-of-a-kind food forest, before Guerilla Grafters took their pruning knives to the flowering trees on the sidewalks of San Francisco, there was Fallen Fruit.

The Los Angeles-based artist collective has been exploring the interrelationship of public space, urban planning and food through various fruit-related performances, installations and actions since 2004. And now, members David Burns, Matias Viegener, and Austin Young are bringing California’s first-ever publically funded community orchard to Los Angeles County. 

Twenty-seven trees have been planted in Del Aire park, which sits in an unincorporated area of L.A.'s South Bay, each chosen to be “fruitful and abundant” in the particular climate that exists west of Interstate 405 (it’s more than a cultural divider, apparently). Burns tells TakePart that they tended predominately toward “things that you don’t typically buy,” like persimmons and pomegranates...

(12 December 2012)

New Report Shows Inextricable Link Between Food, Water and Energy

Staff, EcoWatch

Food, water and energy systems are inextricably linked, and as recent events like droughts, oil spills and increasing food prices make clear, the U.S. can no longer view these systems in isolation. A new paper from the GRACE Communications Foundation explains that when the food, water and energy nexus becomes unbalanced, there are clear consequences for public health, our economy and the environment. The paper, Food, Water and Energy: Know the Nexus, describes how and where these systems intersect, how they rely upon each other to function and how they can have a significant impact on each other.

For example:
Nearly half of all water withdrawals—both freshwater and ocean water—in the U.S. are used for cooling at thermoelectric power plants.
Water-related energy use in California consumes approximately 20 percent of the state’s electricity.
25 percent of all freshwater consumed in the U.S. is associated with discarded food; about as much as the volume of Lake Erie.
In 2010 nearly 40 percent of U.S. corn was converted into ethanol...

“Know the Nexus” provides three case studies that illustrate these interdependencies:
Food Waste in the U.S.: Discarding food means squandering the water and energy required to grow crops and raise livestock.
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta: The competing demands for food, water and energy are growing, and the complex mix of agencies and regulations that govern them need to be better coordinated.
Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant: The current energy system is overly dependent upon water resources and vulnerable to extreme weather shifts and climate change.

The paper, which also touches upon hydraulic fracturing, the farm bill and energy subsidies, urges individuals, businesses and government to take a “nexus approach,” which requires a strong understanding of the relationships among these three systems and how to ensure food, water and energy security for an ever-growing population... (January 14, 2013)

'Progaganda Gardening' at Incredible Edible Todmorden

Mary Clear, Permaculture Magazine

This is a fantastic, funny, inspiring talk given by Mary Clear from Incredible Edible Todmoren, a small town in Yorkshire whose people decided they were worried about climate change, food security in Africa and their children's future

Mary and her friends, sitting in a kitchen with no money, asked themselves, "What can we do to create a kinder world?" They decided to make their 'community stronger, educate their children in a different way, create jobs and have fun'. They got together their neighbours, local doctors, firemen, teachers, school children, even the police, and have turned their town into an edible landscape where the produce is freely available to anyone who wants it.

These are ordinary people, not rich, or famous or influential, just ordinary... They practise the art of 'propaganda gardening', planting up every available public space in their town, and from their efforts have sprung businesses, social enterprises, school gardens, a permaculture training centre, even 'vegetable tourism'! Their work has envigorated the town's economy and made them famous. Communities throughout the world have taken Todmorden's model and replicated it....

No one gave them permission. When asked what Mary's one word of advice was Mary said: "Just do it! The prisons in England are full. I checked. The prisons in Poland are full too. I checked. Just do it."
(January 31, 2013)

Dairy farms suffer in US shale gas fracking boom
Dmiter Kenarov, the ecologist

When Sheila Russell decided to move back to her ancestral home in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, she wanted to start a new life. A seventh-generation Russell, whose family had settled the land in 1796, the last year of George Washington’s presidency, she left her corporate job at a catalogue company to do what she loved best: farming.

There was only one problem: shale gas. As luck would have it, the Russell farm happened to sit on top of the Marcellus shale, a large underground formation rich in natural gas. In 2010, just as Ms. Russell was embarking on her new career in organic farming, Chesapeake Energy drilled two shale-gas wells across the road, less a thousand feet from the farm.

Although not worried at first and even hopeful that future royalties from the gas may help her expand her business, Ms. Russell soon found herself in a nightmare, when she discovered that one of the wells on her property had been leaking methane gas into the ground, due to a faulty casing, for over a year.

Today, Sheila Russell has stopped drinking the water from her private well and even refuses to water her produce with it, preferring instead a nearby spring-fed pond. Water tests have shown elevated levels of methane and metals, still within state norms, but she does not want to take any chances.

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