the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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plowed under

Plowed Under

Across the northern plains, native grassland is being turned into farmland at a rate not seen since the 1920s. The environmental consequences could be disastrous. 

Article by Jocelyn C. Zuckerman

On a rainy Monday in mid-October, six middle-aged men in denim and camouflage sat bent over coffee mugs at the Java River Café, in Montevideo, Minnesota. With its home-baked muffins and free Wi-Fi, the Main Street establishment serves as communal living room for the town of 5,000, but the mood on that gray morning wasn’t particularly convivial. The state’s pheasant season had opened two days earlier, and the hunters gathered at the café for what should have been a brag fest were mostly shaking their heads. “You didn’t see anybody out there who was over the limit, did you?” a guy in a baseball cap asked with obvious sarcasm, to sad chuckles all around.

The region’s game birds are in serious trouble. Driving across South Dakota the following afternoon with the radio on, I learned that Governor Dennis Daugaard had just announced an emergency pheasant-habitat summit. Last summer, the state’s Department of Game, Fish and Parks recorded a 64 percent decline in the number of pheasant broods from the already record low levels of 2012. Though a rainy nesting season and an early fall blizzard hadn’t helped matters, the region’s problems involve more than inclement weather—and extend far beyond the birds.

While few seem to be aware of it, a massive shift is under way in the northern plains, with ramifications for the quality of our water and food, and, more fundamentally, the long-term viability of our farms. A study published in February 2013 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that between 2006 and 2011, farmers in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa—the Western Corn Belt—had plowed up 1.3 million acres of native grassland in order to plant corn and soybeans. “People had been talking about the land conversion,” says Chris Wright, an assistant research professor at South Dakota State University and a co-author of the report, “but there weren’t any recent numbers.”

Click HERE to continue reading.

 


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is there atrazine in your drinking water?

An important article. Screen shot 2014-04-09 at 2.58.01 PM

Is there Atrazine in your drinking water?

By Allison Vuchnich and Gil Shochat

For more than 50 years farmers across North America have been spraying atrazine, a pesticide, on crops, mainly corn, applying millions of pounds a year.

That widespread use of the weed killer has also led to runoff. Atrazine can end up in lakes, streams and sometimes in drinking water.

“Atrazine is the number one contaminant found in drinking water in the U.S. and probably globally probably in the world”, says University of California Berkeley, scientist Tyrone Hayes.

read the full text here


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justified paranoia of scientists

A VALUABLE REPUTATION
After Tyrone Hayes said that a chemical was harmful, its maker pursued him.
By Rachel Aviv for The New Yorker; February 10, 2014140210_r24613_p465

In 2001, seven years after joining the biology faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, Tyrone Hayes stopped talking about his research with people he didn’t trust. He instructed the students in his lab, where he was raising three thousand frogs, to hang up the phone if they heard a click, a signal that a third party might be on the line. Other scientists seemed to remember events differently, he noticed, so he started carrying an audio recorder to meetings. “The secret to a happy, successful life of paranoia,” he liked to say, “is to keep careful track of your persecutors.”

read the full text HERE

 


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tiny house communities

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How tiny house communities can work for both the haves and the have nots
By Eve Andrews

Ryan Mitchell lives and breathes tiny houses. He has been running the popular website The Tiny Life for the past five years; is currently planning a tiny house conference for approximately 120 people in Charlotte, N.C., where he lives; and has written a book on tiny living that’s due to be published in July. To top it off, he recently finished construction on a tiny house of his very own.

Mitchell’s dream, however, is a community of tiny houses. When asked what that would look like, he describes a grouping of mini-cottages around a large communal structure, which would include space to have shared meals, shows, and workshops. “The community aspect is actually a big part of what we [tiny house enthusiasts] like,” says Mitchell. With The Tiny Life, Mitchell has created an online forum of sorts for tiny house enthusiasts from all over the world. He wants to bring that community out of the virtual sphere and into the physical one.

continue reading HERE

 


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article by a dairyman

Rainton Herdsharecow-content_1
David Finlay – 11 March 2014

I’m afraid this isn’t an article about how our broken food system is driving climate change, biodiversity loss, diffuse pollution, resource depletion, anti-biotic resistance, animal and social welfare degradation, ill health and food insecurity. And it’s not about how someone (else)should do something about it. I assume you know all that, and many, like me, have stopped reading these articles because, well, because they’re really quite depressing. Especially so, as there is little we can do about it….

No, this is a good news story. It’s about how we are going to have a damn-good go at coming up with an alternative food system that, to a large extent, addresses all those issues we worry about.

And when I say ‘we’ I mean exactly that – me and YOU.

Don’t worry, I’m not expecting you to get up at 4.30am to milk the cows. Nor get up at 2am to calve that awkward heifer – though you could if you want. No, I’d be happier to do that bit. But I DO want you to be involved.

OK, let’s just imagine that we could come up with a system of dairy farming (relative to your average dairy) that:

  • Cuts green-house gas emissions by more than half
  • Reduces energy use by more than half
  • Cuts the use of anti-biotic by 90% Continue reading


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blanket recall: why you should support your local slaughterhouse

A recent NYTimes opinion article begs the public to support your local slaughterhouse. Why? Costs and regulations have caused a sharp decline in slaughterhouse facilities across the state. As a result, small producers in California are being included in a blanket recall for 8.7 million pounds of beef.

Rancho Feeding Corporation Slaughterhouse

 

“Our beef comes from grass-fed cattle. We never use hormones; we feed no drugs. We know the complete history of each animal, from the identity of its mother to where it spent each day of its life. And we knew that all our own cattle received full federal inspections at the slaughterhouse, both ante- and post-mortem.”

Read on for more information

 

 

 

 


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technology criticism from the beef world

 

 

Here’s an excerpt from a recent post in the Ranching for profit blog. The whole post can be found HERE

“According to one cattle industry leader quoted in a prominent publication, Those who are not willing to take advantage of the new technology may not be able to survive. He isn’t alone in believing that technology is good for ranching.  It is good for business. It just isn’t very good for the cattle business.”

Ranching for profit blog


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mainstream on farm bill

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Farm Bill Reflects Shifting American Menu and a Senator’s Persistent Tilling
By Jennifer Steinhauer, MARCH 8, 2014

WASHINGTON — The farm bill signed by President Obama last month was at first glance the usual boon for soybean growers, catfish farmers and their ilk. But closer examination reveals that the nation’s agriculture policy is increasingly more whole grain than white bread.

Within the bill is a significant shift in the types of farmers who are now benefiting from taxpayer dollars, reflecting a decade of changing eating habits and cultural dispositions among American consumers. Organic farmers, fruit growers and hemp producers all did well in the new bill. An emphasis on locally grown, healthful foods appeals to a broad base of their constituents, members of both major parties said.

read the full article HERE


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one outcome of drought in california

…would be incentives for other regions  to begin and expand vegetable production. Indeed here they are, stepping high!
Imagine the job creation potential…OH WAIT, you don’t have to: Leopold Center did an Iowa jobs report.

veg

The Seeds of a New Generation
by Michael Moss for the New York Times

John D. Jackson lives in the heart of the Corn Belt, where most of the corn has nothing to do with sweet kernels on the cob. His farm in Southern Illinois typically grows field corn, the high-starch variety that is turned into ethanol and cattle feed. He also works as a logistics manager for Archer Daniels Midland, the agricultural giant that produces the other big artifact of this crop: high fructose corn syrup.

But on 10 of his 700 acres, Mr. Jackson broke from this culture of corn last fall by planting something people can sink their teeth into. With a tractor and an auger, he drilled four-foot holes in his soil, added fertilizer and put in 48 apple trees bearing Gold Rush, Jonagold, Enterprise and the sweet-tart blushing globe called the Crimson Crisp. This year he plans to add more apple trees, blackberry bushes and possibly some vegetables.

Mr. Jackson is part of a small but eager cadre of corn farmers who are starting to switch sides, as it were, lured by a little-appreciated fact of farm economics: There is vastly more money to be made in growing other vegetables and fruits. While an acre of corn is projected to net average farmers $284 this year after expenses, and just $34 if they rent the land, as is common, an apple orchard on that same acre will make $2,000 or more, according to crop analysts. A sophisticated vegetable operation using the popular plastic covers called high tunnels, which increase yields and extend the growing season, can push that figure as high as $100,000.

read the full article

 


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grassroots seed network

Maine farmer, seed curator forms new grass-roots group
By Mary Pols for the Portland Press Herald, February 16
After a rift in the community of seed-savers, Will Bonsall takes matters into his own hands to continue protecting hundreds of varieties of potatoes and other plants.

bonsall

 

Read the full article HERE
and check out the Grassroots Seed Network!


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useful context on the why and wherefore of industry science

Following up from this GRIST article on how pesticide companies went after a frog-loving scientist, this recent article helps to shine some light on what “Good Laboratory Practices” are and how regulators favor fancy labs over small-scale research.
BunsonBurnerBummer

Check out the article HERE


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cows save the planet

Interview, photos and video by Erik Hoffner, World Ark contributor

Think for a moment about the pressing challenges the world faces: poverty, hunger, political instability, war and climate change. Loss of topsoil is seldom included in that list, even though it plays a lead role in all of them. Some experts estimate that this thin life-giving layer of the planet is in danger of disappearing within 60 years due to erosion and desertification, and with it, our ability to grow food. Statistics like this drove author Judith Schwartz to write Cows Save the Planet, and Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth.

read the full Q & A HERE

 

 


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study finds roundup, a monsanto product, may be linked to negative health issues

Roundup

Heavy use of the world’s most popular herbicide, Roundup, could be linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson’s, infertility and cancers, according to a new study.

The peer-reviewed report, published last week in the scientific journal Entropy, said evidence indicates that residues of “glyphosate,” the chief ingredient in Roundup weed killer, which is sprayed over millions of acres of crops, has been found in food. Read more here…

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