the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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greenhorns feature: resillient farming in a changing new england

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Organic Farming in Concord
By Bonnie Rubrecht

Concord, Massachusetts might be known primarily for its ties to the Revolutionary War, but today it’s a thriving and affluent Boston suburb of a population of nearly 20,000. In the midst of historic mansions and some of the most valuable property outside of Boston, Hutchins Farm has been cultivating 65 acres of organic fruit and vegetables since the early 1970s. Greenhorns had the opportunity to talk to Liza Bemis, the great-great granddaughter of Charles Hutchins, who originally purchased the land that became Hutchins Farm in 1895 for his New England dairy. Liza didn’t envision herself working on the farm she grew up on, but after six years working in an office, she was ready for a change.

“The bigger question,” Liza explained, “is how do we deal with more severe weather events? Whether it’s plant breeding, cover cropping to keep the soil in place … just this past year we had a tornado [in Concord]. What does that mean for us?”

When Liza returned to Hutchins, she began helping out with farmer’s markets and now manages all of the farm’s sales, overseeing select wholesale accounts with local restaurants, dealing with their accounting and managing their farm stand on Monument Street. Family-owned for five generations, Hutchins was originally a dairy called Punkatasset Farm. “But in our grandparents’ era, dairy in New England was dying,” Liza explained. “More than half of the land was sold off, leaving just the original homestead—about 65 acres.” The remaining land was leased out to other farmers, or used for growing hay.

Despite his parents prodding to go into a different career, Liza’s father, Gordon Bemis, was smitten with farming.
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before you throw rocks, read this book

To many activists in the Bay Area and other cities in the US, “tech” has become a dirty word. It can feel like large tech companies are steamrolling through cities and neighborhoods, destroying traditional jobs, ushering in gentrification, raising rents, and obliviously pushing the little guy around.

As a result, there’s been justifiable anger, protests, and blow back against these companies. In his book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Douglas Rushkoff suggests a more measured approach. Yes, these tech companies have done wrong, but Rushkoff believes the digital economy doesn’t have to be all bad:

This isn’t the fault of digital technology at all, but the way we are deploying it: instead of building the distributed digital economy these new networks could foster, we are doubling down on the industrial age mandate for growth above all. As Rushkoff shows, this is more the legacy of early corporatism and central currency than a feature of digital technology. In his words, “we are running a 21st century digital economy on a 13th Century printing-press era operating system.”

Protest however you see fit, but give this thoughtful book a read to expand the discussion and hear another point of view. You can buy it HERE or head on over to your local library to find a copy.


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be a delegate at slow food nations

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Delegate Registration for Slow Food Nations is now open. Before the Slow Food Festival opens to the general public on July 15 in Denver, CO, 400 delegates from around the world will meet for a summit of delegates on July 14. Delegates meet with each other, connect, discuss the needs in their countries, and “shape the future of Slow Food.” Delegate tickets are $200 for Slow Food members and $25o for others, but scholarships might be available based on need.

Conference leaders write, “We are currently seeking funds for scholarships to assist limited resource individuals to attend as delegates who represent youth, First Nations, advocates of color, and the Ark of Taste. For more information, please email sfninfo@slowfoodusa.org.”


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the death of the russian peasant

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My great grandparents immigrated from czarist Russia in the early years of the twentieth century, worked five years in the coal mines to save money, and bought a small farm in an agricultural community in New England on which they raised a diary herd, tobacco, and four children who had no interest in farming. The rural town in which they lived, like so many rural communities in this country, has had less farms every year since they died in the middle of the twentieth century.

I assume that this story is familiar to you: that I do not need to outline the history of increasing mechanization of agriculture, the consolidation of farms, the suburbanization of the countryside and the slow crawling deterioration of the remaining rural places.

What I do want to suggest is that when we think of this story, we often tend to centralize the American experience in the narrative of industrialized agriculture. My mental landscapes, at the least, still imagine pastoral countryside in less developed regions of the world– places where subsistence farming and rural fabrics continue to thrive.

But, as this piece in Al Jazeera brings to light, the reaches of industrialized agriculture far exceed the boarders of North America. were I to visit the homeland of my ancestors today, the plight of its villages would resemble the plight of my own. As Moscow-based journalist Mansur Mirovalev bleakly demonstrates, a coalition of forces– rapid urbanization, industrialization of agriculture, and the decline of the Russian economy– have created a situation in which half of Russia’s 13,000 villages have populations of 10 or fewer. As one elderly woman explained of her town, “Only old people are left here. And what do we, old people, do? We die,”

It’s worth reading the full article here.

But! It is also worth noting, as this 2014 NY Times article argues, that just like in the United States, small farm-to-table movements and organizations are present, vibrant, and might have something to gain from more stringent trade borders.

 

 


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talkin healthcare for farmers

Farmer Taylor Hutchinson photo credit: Kathleen Masterson/VPR

Taylor Hutchinson – photo credit: Kathleen Masterson/VPR

Folks, this is a pretty important conversation!

Already on the margins of income, new farmers face an especially challenging prospect when it comes to budgeting for health insurance.

The good people over at Vermont Public Radio recently did a show on the difficulties of trying to navigate the world of health care for farmer businesses.

UVM rural sociologist and researcher Shoshanah Inwood says when they asked farmers about issues they faced she expected to hear about cost of land, inputs, neighbors, but was surprised to learn that health care was on all the participants minds.

“The number one issue facing farmers was the cost of health insurance. They identified that as the biggest threat to their farm,” she said.

“Well, how many people know a farmer that has an injury? Or a farm family that has a chronic health issue? Or a mental health issue?’ And everybody’s hand goes up,” Inwood said. “And that’s the one issue we really never talk about, are some of those social needs that farm families have.”

Let’s just say this now: health care as a right not a privilege!

You can hear the VPR interview with farmer Taylor Hutchinson (Footprint Farm) and read the full article here 

 


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“ditching NAFTA” may hurt american farmers, but which ones?

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/515380213/515638250

NPR’s The Salt spoke to American farmers growing products (strawberries) in and outsourcing their products (milk, powdered) to Mexico. And no doubt, these industrial farmers will either pay more to import and export their crops and could lose potential markets. Given, however, that NAFTA’s effect on small and medium farms in this country– which we rarely mentioned in the discussion– has been largely detrimental, and NAFTA’s effect on small farmers in Mexico has been unequivocally disastrous, we wonder how this conversation could be extended to address small-scale sustainable agriculture.  Greenhorns, policy buffs, what do you think? Surely, it is not always true that what is bad for industrialized ag is good for sustainable ag, but….

What do you think, Greenhorns, specifically our economics buffs out there, what will it mean for young agrarians and small farms if the US “ditches NAFTA?”


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urban farming fellowships in berkeley, california

If you’re between the ages of 21 and 31 and looking for an incredible opportunity to learn about urban farming, listen up! Urban Adamah in Berkeley, CA is now accepting applications for its three-month fellowship program. Not only do you learn the ins and outs of growing delicious organic food in the city, but the program also incorporates social justice training, mindfulness, and progressive Jewish learning and living. No prior experience is needed.

Entering its 5th year of educating young farmers, the fellowship has a fee on a sliding scale between $600 and $3000, which includes housing, food, and all program-related expenses. There are opportunities in the spring, summer, and fall, but apply soon as spots fill up quickly.

Learn more by watching the video above and clicking HERE.