the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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young farmer writers & artists

Here is another place for your work! The West Marin Review is seeking submissions for its next issue.

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Submission Deadline: September 1, 2014
For publication in 2015

West Marin Review, a literary and arts journal published by Point Reyes Books and Neighbors & Friends, is now accepting submissions of literary works, poetry, and visual art for Volume 6.

Submit only unpublished work in all categories (excerpts from blogs are okay).

Prose and poetry may be submitted online or through U.S. Mail. Visual art may only be submitted through U.S. Mail. To submit prose or poetry online, click here. Continue reading


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factories into farms

In Japan, Idled Electronics Factories Find New Life in Farming
Struggling to Compete with Rivals in South Korea or China, Fujitsu, Toshiba and Others Try Selling Vegetables, Too
By Eric Pfanner and Kana Inagaki, July 6, 2014

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AIZU-WAKAMATSU, Japan—Haruyasu Miyabe used to oversee a computer-chip production line at a Fujitsu Ltd. plant here. One day last year, the plant manager told Mr. Miyabe to prepare for a career change.

“Starting tomorrow, you are going to make lettuce,” he recalls being told.

Amid troubled times in the Japanese electronics industry, Fujitsu shut one of the three chip-making lines at the plant in 2009. Now, in a sterile, dust-free clean room that once built the brains of high-tech gadgets, Mr. Miyabe and a staff of about 30 tend heads of lettuce.


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the shape of crisis, a historical perspective

via the Sustainability Research Institute (SRI)

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Economic Crises, Land Use Vulnerabilities, Climate Variability, Food Security and Population Declines: Will History Repeat Itself or Will Our Society Adapt to Climate Change?
by Evan D. G. Fraser, March, 2009

Abstract
Although many of today’s ecological, climatic and socio-economic problems seem unprecedented, similar events have occurred in the past. Western Europe’s “middle ages” (circa 11-14th century) may be one such case. By the 12th century, medieval Europe had shifted from the subsistence agrarian economy that emerged following the collapse of the Roman Empire to one where spatially dispersed trade in
agricultural commodities helped support a complex society that devoted considerable resources to cultural works. Continue reading


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As part of our effort to report more on issues shared by immigrant as well as citizen farmers

this story about indignities suffered by Basque, Maori and other herders.

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Federal Appeals Court Invalidates Department of Labor Rules That Set Unfair Employment Standards for Sheep and Cattle Herders

Government Must Undertake New Rulemaking to Set Herders’ Wages and Housing Conditions

June 13, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. and foreign herders will benefit from a decision today by the D.C. Circuit to invalidate U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rules that permit employers to pay herders far less than other agricultural workers and allow lower standards for employer-provided housing, Public Citizen said.

“Today’s decision will force the DOL to reconsider the unjust employment standards that it set for sheep and cattle herders,” said Julie Murray, an attorney at Public Citizen and counsel for the plaintiffs. “It is a victory for U.S. and foreign herders alike, who toil for unconscionably low pay and are often forced to live in abysmal housing conditions.” Continue reading


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young farmers in the news

Organic agriculture attracts a new generation of farmers
by Ricardo Lopez for the LA Times
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By 9 a.m., Jack Motter had been planting peas for hours.

He pushed a two-wheeled contraption that deposited a seed every few inches along neat rows at Ellwood Canyon Farms, just outside Santa Barbara. As clouds gathered overhead, he picked up the pace to avoid losing days of work to the fall rain.

Timing can mean the difference between profit and loss for the 4-year-old farm.

Motter and his business partner, Jeff Kramer, are part of a growing crop of farmers — many of them young — choosing to produce food without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. As consumers demand more fresh and local food grown with minimal environmental effects, a new generation has taken up organic farming.

The two Brawley, Calif., natives, both 30, have learned that small-scale agriculture is neither easy nor lucrative. Their days on the 15-acre farm start at dawn and end with exhaustion.

“There’s nothing romantic about it,” Kramer said. “It’s hard work and long hours for little pay.”

Agriculture officials are hoping more young people heed the call to till the land, whether organically or conventionally, as the average age of California farmers continues to climb. It hit 58 in 2012, up by nearly two years from 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent census.

read the full text here & watch a great video that accompanies the piece.


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china’s new agrarians

How China’s young idealists are turning to the soil
by Carrie Gracie for the BBC

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In June 1989, on the orders of China’s ruling Communist Party, the army crushed pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds of people. Twenty-five years on, a different type of protest against the values of modern China has emerged.

My hunt for China’s young idealists, the inheritors of the Tiananmen spirit, started with a three hour drive through snarled traffic. Ironically the route took me first across the north end of Tiananmen Square, under the gaze of Chairman Mao’s portrait on the gate of heavenly peace.

Then west along the avenue of eternal tranquillity, the very same route the tanks took in the opposite direction 25 years ago, rumbling into the heart of Beijing to kill both an untold number of young people and the idealism of a generation.

These public spaces haven’t changed much, but the Beijing beyond is unrecognisable from the one the students marched through a quarter of a century ago. No more mule carts, markets and teeming brick alleys. Beijing has supersized – it’s now all six-lane ring roads, high rise glass and concrete.

The young idealists I was hunting had renounced city life and decamped to the countryside. After much to-ing and fro-ing on bumpy tracks, we finally stumbled upon a flaking sign proclaiming the Righteous Path farm.

continue reading HERE

 


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urban ag in baltimore

URBAN GREEN: HOOP HOUSES REPLACE ROW HOUSES IN BALTIMORE’S SANDTOWN
by Alia Malek

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BALTIMORE, Md. — In Sandtown, Douglas Wheeler looks out with satisfaction over the abandoned city-block-turned-farm where he works growing all sorts of greens and lettuce — “but never iceberg” — and remembers how it used to be.

“This lot was a garden of trash,” he says. “With rats all over the place.”

Before they were demolished in 2005, the block had 27 row houses, most of them long boarded up and abandoned, transformed from icons of Baltimore pride to casualties of the blight brought on the city by deindustrialization, unemployment, addiction and the war on drugs.

Until the 1960s, Sandtown was part of the vibrant 72 square blocks that made up a family-based, African-American community where laborers, professionals and artists all lived together across socioeconomic lines. The quarter took its name from the horse-drawn wagons that would trail sand through its streets after filling up at the local sand and gravel quarry. Thurgood Marshall graduated from Sandtown’s Frederick Douglass High School, locals Cab Calloway and Billie Holiday sang in the legendary jazz clubs on Pennsylvania Avenue, and any kid could get some wood, build a box and make a few bucks on that main drag shining shoes.

continue reading


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is it in the gluten or is it the glyphosate (round-up)?

 

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From Examiner.com, February 18, 2014

New evidence points to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, as the culprit in the rise of gluten intolerance, celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome. A study just published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Toxicology (Vol. 6(4): 159–184 ) by Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff explains how the nearly ubiquitous use of glyphosate as a crop desiccant is entering our food chain and making us ill.

Pre-harvest application of glyphosate to wheat and barley as a desiccant was suggested as early as 1980 and its use as a drying agent 7-10 days before harvest has since become routine. It is now used on all grain crops, rice, seeds, dried beans and peas, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, and sugar beets. According to thePulse Growers Association in Canada (legume growers), “Desiccants are used worldwide by growers who are producing crops that require ‘drying down’ to create uniformity of plant material at harvest. These products may also assist in pre-harvest weed control. In Canada, products such as diquat (Reglone) and glyphosate (Roundup) have been used as desiccants in pulse crops in the past, and there are new products on the way. ” To read more, click HERE


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important article

Realities of Shifting to a Sustainable Economy
by John Fullerton

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“The true nature of the international system under which we were living was not realized until it failed.”  —Karl Polanyi

A transition to a sustainable economy requires not only population stabilization, breakthroughs in resource productivity and checks on material consumption, but also constraints on aggregate investment. Built into the DNA of finance is the goal of optimizing relatively short-term returns on investment, which, when successful, induces exponential growth in the aggregate stock of financial capital. When that expanding stock of financial capital is then reinvested, it spurs ever-increasing demands for natural resources and pressure on waste sinks. The contradiction between the finite scale of the biosphere and the endless growth of finance capital will be resolved either through crisis or, as advocated here, through foresight and remedial action. Shifting the economic system demands a fundamental transformation of finance, at least for the real investment decisions of the largest actors in the economy. We must view this profound shift as a critical national and global security priority that will require unprecedented intervention by governing institutions on the public’s behalf. 


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nice thinking!

The Leap to Biosphere Consciousness and Collaboration: An Interview With Author Jeremy Rifkinrifkin

Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, The Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism, describes a world where privatized monopolies yield to collaborative Commons.

Over the last two hundred and fifty years, various social thinkers have envisioned the fall of capitalism either by revolution or through the system’s own internal contradictions. The latest one to do so is Jeremy Rifkin. In his recently published book titled The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, The Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism, Rifkin claims to have uncovered a new paradox at the heart of contemporary capitalism – the end of profit-making through the impact of the new technologies on the market exchange economy. In this exclusive interview to C. J. Polychroniou, Jeremy Rifkin, one of the most popular social thinkers of our time, shares his views on the new economic paradigm for Truthout readers. Rifkin is a bestselling author whose 20 books have been translated into 35 languages. He is an advisor to the European Union and to heads of state around the world and a lecturer at the Wharton School’s Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania.


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the quinoa quarrel

Lisa Hamilton has written an excellent article, The Quinoa Quarrel – as of a collaboration between FERN and Harper’s Magazine. You must be a Harper’s subscriber to read the article online, but FERN has published a beautiful photo essay by Hamilton:
Native Lands: The Birthplace Of Quinoa
by Lisa Hamilton

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Many people consider quinoa to be a vital tool for food security in the era of climate change. But in order to be grown outside its native climate, this crop must be adapted by plant breeders. The challenge is that quinoa’s seed is tightly controlled by Bolivia and other Andean nations. FERN reporter and photographer Lisa M. Hamilton has investigated the worldwide fight over the genetic resources behind this miracle grain. “The Quinoa Quarrel,” in the May 2014 issue of Harper’s Magazine, is available on newsstands and online (subscription required). In this photo essay, Hamilton shows us the unique land from which quinoa originates. Continue reading


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where are the cider apples?

heirloom apples diane hands

Do any of you annual farmers ever get tired of bending over all day and dream of growing food whilst standing? There is a solution- you can grow food (and drink) on trees! The US is currently witnessing a booming growth in hard cider production that shows no chance of slowing anytime soon. The demand for cider apples is at an all time high and few farmers out there are growing them. Outfits like NPR and Modern Farmer have picked up on this apple shortage and produced articles in the past week.

NPR interviewed Steve Wood, co-owner of Farnum Hill Cider, who says: “Few farmers in the U.S. grow the “bittersweet” and “bittersharp” varieties historically favored in Europe, which has a much richer tradition of cider-making than America. As a result, many U.S. craft cider producers are making do with apples meant for eating — like Golden Delicious, Fuji, Pink Lady and Gala. These apples, while sweet and crunchy, make poor cider — dull in flavor and bite, with little structure behind the alcohol, cider makers say. Per pound, [these] inedible cider apple varieties sell for almost 10 times the price of table apples.” 

Check out the entire article HERE!

(If anyone out there is interested in growing cider apples/heirlooms and doesn’t know where to start, there aren’t many sources out there to help you. For general inspiration and help in identifying a network of growers (young and old), email the Foggy Ridge Cider orchardist, she’ll help you out. trees@foggyridgecider.com.)

 

 


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great words from raj

Thoughts on Land Reform Summits in San Francisco
By Raj Patel, 04/19/2014

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In San Francisco, from April 25-28, 400 people from across the country and around the world gathered to discuss an awkward problem – land reform in America. Land reform is a loaded term, one that reeled conference participants’ imaginations toward the antics of Third World dictators and communist zealots. It’s hard to conceive a more un-American activity than thinking about an alternative to private property. Yet here were the Friends of the Earth next to the NAACP west coast region, alongside the Archdiocese of Kansas doing exactly that.

That was in 1973.

Forty-one years later to the day, a similar group is gathering in San Francisco, to discuss Our Land. I wish I were able to be there, but here’s a little of what I’d have liked to have said.

If the efforts of the conference planners are successful, then the majority of 2014 conference attendees won’t have been born when the last one happened. It’s a good thing that there’s a great deal of youthful energy around messing with private property. The young are less enamoured of capitalism than the old, and less horrified by socialism. It might even be that the participants at the Our Land summit identify as more politically radical than the summit before them. After all, the Archdiocese of Kansas isn’t famed for its scorn of capital.

But the 1973 summit has much to teach the young contrarian. Have a look at the documents produced through the conference. They’ve been tended by Peter Barnes formerly of The New Republic and are available here and in the excellent The People’s Land. Reading them, the historical continuities are striking.

continue reading HERE

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