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Surge of investment in farming threatens £5trn catastrophe
Tom Bawden, The Guardian
The threat posed to agriculture by environmental hazards such as climate change and water scarcity is now so great that it could wipe as much as £5 trillion off the value of the world’s farm land, equipment and stock in any one year, a heavyweight study is warning.

Agriculture in the UK and worldwide is under huge financial and physical stress. A surge of investment on the back of a boom in the global food commodities market meets an increasingly precarious physical environment for farming – creating a dangerous asset bubble that threatens to burst, according to the Oxford University research.

As a result, the total value of the world’s estimated $14trn worth of “farmland assets and agricultural capital stock” could see trillions of dollars wiped off its value in a single year – with a one in 20 chance that the figure could hit $8trn (£5.2trn) the report said…

(9 August 2013)

Tokyo’s "unmanned stores" – honor-system sheds where farmers sell their surplus produce

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
In Japan, farmers sell their blemished, surplus and otherwise unmarketable vegetables in unstaffed, honor-system roadside stalls called "Unmanned stores" ("mujin hanbai"). Produce is set out in trays with an anchored cashbox and a note inviting passers-by to take what they please and leave payment in the box. Farmers sometimes add recipes and other serving suggestions. Here’s a map of 120+ mujin hanbais, in Nerima ward — part of greater Tokyo (a city whose sprawl encompasses a surprising amount of farmland). A fascinating, lavishly illustrated article on PingMag explores the use and practice of these stores, including the growing trend to coin-operated lockers.

After selling their crops to the market, farmers might then here sell the leftovers from their own personal supply. This means that the vegetables sometimes have markings or otherwise is not in the “perfect” condition demanded for sale on the regular market. But while the food may not always look wonderful, the taste will be just fine. Farmers, of course, don’t want to throw things away so by selling leftovers like this they can earn a bit of extra cash — two birds with one stone!…

(7 August 2013)

Community kitchens and connectors developing to foster new food businesses

Kim Bayer, Ann
There are lots of dimensions to growing a strong local food economy, and preserving farmland, getting new farmers going, and strengthening existing farms are only part of the equation. The entrepreneurs and food businesses who depend on that food production are another aspect.

In a recent report sponsored by the Fair Food Network called "The Economic Benefits of Food Localization for Michigan and The Capital Required to Realize Them," author Michael Shuman examines how a 20 percent shift to local food would affect 52 sectors of the Michigan food economy.

He says, "A 20-percent shift could create as many as 42,519 new jobs — 18,412 directly in new food businesses."…

(30 July 2013)

You can download the full report here.

4-acre urban farm is made up of multiple residents’ gardens
R. Steinberg,
While the Netherland’s Dakboerin has helped urban gardeners to build new growing spaces on city rooftops, Green City Acres in Canada is making use of existing greenery, taking over residents’ gardens to create a decentralized farm.

Operating in Kelowna, British Columbia, the farm currently consists of four acres of land separated across six different plots that are privately owned by residents as part of their property. The land is used to grow vegetables which are then available for sale to the local community. Those who give up their gardens for the project are reimbursed with a weekly box of produce, although all of the growing is done by the five members of Green City Acres staff. The team use no chemical fertilizers, sprays, or pesticides and aim to provide an alternative to the long-distance transport of groceries by encouraging residents to involve themselves in the local production of essential goods. The video below explains more about the project:

(18 July 2013)


Too many urban beehives may do more harm than good, experts say
Staff, yale environment 360
A surge in urban beekeeping may be doing more harm than good to honeybee populations, according to UK scientists. As the number of rooftop hives increases in cities worldwide — including London, where there are now 10 hives per square kilometer — two researchers from the University of Sussex warn that too many hives can be a dangerous thing. Writing in The Biologist, the magazine of the Society of Biology, they suggest that inexperienced beekeepers can create conditions in which there isn’t enough food for their insects. “If there are too many colonies in an area, then the food supply will be insufficient,” Francis Ratnieks, a professor at the university’s Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, told the BBC. “This will mean that colonies do not thrive, and may also affect other species that also visit flowers.” In addition, the presence of too many colonies managed by novice beekeepers can promote the spread of contagious diseases. More than 33 percent of Britain’s honeybee colonies were lost last winter, although the exact causes are not known.

(13 August 2013)