the irresistible fleet of bicycles


Leave a comment

how does change happen on the land?

1_o7XdGDBY8XQjLJb8oKvXmw.jpeg

The Edmund Hillary Fellowship just published this great article about Severine! 

There is a question we need to ask when talking about food production. The question is, “Who is telling what story, and on whose behalf?” Is it a story that goes with dinner? Or does it perhaps focus on the “We feed the world” narrative so dominant in the agricultural and general press these days? That story goes something like this: We (Read: developed world) need to grow food as quickly, cheaply, and efficiently as possible in order to be able to feed a growing (Read under-developed world) population that is growing at a rate of change faster than we can keep up with. Crops are necessarily bred for maximum size, yield, speed to harvest, and disease-resistance, while taste, diversity and nutritional value considered somewhat irrelevant. We are told this is the only way to keep up with our growing population.

If we are to believe the predominant narrative, there is no other way to feed a rapidly growing global population.

Simultaneously, there is a crisis looming across much of the developed world. Bluntly put, farmers are becoming a dying breed. The older generation is retiring, while their children and grandchildren now have alternative options available to them — they’re moving to the cities, they’re chasing a multitude of new career opportunities, they are no longer opting for a hard day’s labour in the dirt. They’re not taking on the family farm, the way that generations before have done since the dawn of the agricultural age.

I wrote about the future of farming a couple of years ago, and New Zealand’s golden opportunity to leverage our natural advantages to become a premium producer of sustainably-produced agricultural products, that regenerate the land. Now, we can look to the far northeast at a number of growing movements that can offer a potential pathway for New Zealand’s agricultural transformation. Across the Pacific, there is a seed of hoping springing forth. There are radical new green shoots breaking through the endless monocultures that sprawl across the midwestern United States. There is a new movement of young farmers, who recognise that short term thinking and the ecological damage inherent in the industrial food system, is leading us rapidly towards the edge of the proverbial cliff.

At the coal face of this movement is Severine von Tscharner Fleming, based in Champlain Valley, New York.

In the past few years, members of Edmund Hillary Fellowship team have been connecting with communities who are leading global work around building a robust, sustainable and healthy food system. In conversation with diverse groups from Bioneers to the Near Future Summit and EAT Forum, people everywhere have told us “You’ve got to connect with Severine”. It seems that within both new and ancient holistic farming circles, all roads lead to Severine.

Speaking in the video below at New Frontiers festival in New Zealand earlier this year, Severine describes farming in America today as both a privilege and a service. She has co-founded, led and been involved in a number of different initiatives to bring young people back to the land, and stands as a dedicated voice for regenerative agriculture and land reform. And there is a growing chorus of voices behind her, walking the talk and providing the collective roadmap to feed the planet in a healthy, sustainable way.

Her talk at New Frontiers was entitled “The Project is Land Repair”. This title alone provides an insight into how a generation of young farmers are thinking about what they do. Natural ecosystems are very good at repairing themselves. Plants and trees provide organic matter to the soil below, which composts alongside waste matter from passing animals and birds. This provides the land with the right nutrients that it needs to thrive. The protective canopy of plants drip feeds water to the land, while providing a root system that keeps the soil in place, and shade that keeps moisture in and provides a home for countless helpful bugs and microorganisms. Dozens of other symbiotic exchanges occur to keep the ecosystem in balance.

Monoculture farming strips all of this away. We have placed value on only some parts of the ecological system, devaluing others, removing some crucial parts altogether, and resulting in degraded land. Decades of abuse at the hands of the “produce-as-much-as-you-can-at-all-costs-with-as-little-land-as-possible” mentality, has left millions of acres of agricultural land in dire need of repair.

The young farmers at the spearhead of this land repair movement have a name — the Greenhorns — and they are bringing the “human” back into farming. Greenhorns is a grassroots organisation founded by Severine, with the mission to recruit, promote and support the rising generation of new farmers in America. Or as Severine put it, “it’s about the recruitment of bodies back onto the land.” An identity as well as an organisation, the people who call themselves Greenhorns are those that are embracing farming as a calling and a way of life.

It started with a film project of the same name in 2011, after Severine spent three years travelling across America interviewing young farmers. Originally a platform to broadcast the voices and visions of young farmers, it has now grown to a thriving nationwide community that produces literary journals, almanacs, a popular blog, a weekly radio show, a short film series, and a national OPEN GIS farmer database, while also hosting a variety of social and political events. On a broad level, the work of the Greenhorns is to provide the cultural infrastructure required to inspire an agrarian revolution.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

chasing coral – run to see this!

A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling adventure to document the disappearance of the world’s coral reefs, this documentary is the result of 3 years work and hundreds of hours of underwater footage. Corals are a fundamental part of the planetary and oceanic ecosystem (supporting 25% of marine life) as well as being exceptionally beautiful. A temperature increase of just 2 degrees Celsius may not seem like a lot in the air, but for marine life this is like living with a constant fever. The damage done to the corals in the oceans due to climate change is scary, profoundly moving and motivating. Coral reefs are dying at an unprecedented rate, but it’s not too late to save them. Do do so however we need to act right now  to lower our ocean’s temperature by reducing carbon emissions in the air and working towards clean energy solutions. This is something that each and every one of us has a responsibility to undertake in any way that we can. Continue reading


Leave a comment

two rivers tells the tale of indigenous tribes defending america’s most important rivers from industry

a1628d87f7a2d97e7d5d30c7aaaebb66_original.jpg

credit: Todd Darling

1,500 miles apart, two rivers flow. One alongside rolling hills and blue skies of the North Dakota high plains, the other tumbles past volcanoes, down narrow gorges, and through rugged mountain terrain. Beyond the distance and difference that separates these rivers is a similar story that begins over 500 hundred years ago, with their shared outcomes projecting us into our collective fate in the next century.

From the maker of “Occupy the Farm”, which premiered premiered two years ago this week at the United Artists Berkeley 7 Theater, comes a new documentary “Two Rivers” which tells the tale of the Missouri and Klamath Rivers and the indigenous tribes who fight to defend their waters from outside industries. Director and producer Todd Darling spent ten weeks camped out at Standing Rock near the Missouri River, and nearly as long traveling up and down the gorges of the Klamath River to make this film. A lot has been accomplished, but he and his team still have some production to complete and editing to move forward. Continue reading


Leave a comment

citizen science vs. dicamba

10204741904_0f0433d616.jpg

credit: 지우 황/flickr 

This citizen science group at PublicLab is starting to corral expertise, team-craft and discover potential scientific inquiry methodologies to look at this terrifying trend of toxic and ever more toxic agrichemicals. Conventional farmers, as well as organic farmers, are profoundly concerned by this militarization of agronomy, it becoming a situation of “Spray or be Sprayed”. How tragic for rural communities that those who spray are likely to be those who also take over the operations of those drifted upon. Low commodities prices, high input costs, and precarious farm viability means that consolidation is only one bad year away—equipment for auction, land for sale, its the brutal contraction and internal colonization of rural America.
 Meanwhile there is no regulatory protection offered as the EPA has approved the new “less volatile” Monsanto-formulated Dicamba. The mass-spraying of these chemicals, particularly now that EU has opted to phase out Roundup, seems like a powerful leverage point to mobilize citizens, and citizen scientists working on behalf of the public good, the public trust, the public body which is our watershed, our watercycle, our drinking water and our farmlands.
If you know people near soybeans who can test, if you know toxicologists or environmental scientists who might be interested to coordinate DIY testing kits, or others whose teamwork could form part of a solidarity action, please send them along to this Public Lab page – it’s a group that helps pull together the teams needed to take on large scale data collection projects.  If enough people are willing to show up, we may have the chance to demonstrate our solidarity with coming generations, and engage in a meaningful resistance!
Spread the word to scientists you know, and ask for insights from farmers you know, the future is in OUR hands.


Leave a comment

watch: keep the soil in organic

Since last July there have been 15 Rallies to Protect Organic. Some of these Rallies were big, and some were small. They happened from California to Maine. The central theme of the Rallies has been to honor healthy soil as the essential foundation of organic farming.

There is one more Rally still to come; the final Rally at the Jacksonville Florida NOSB meeting on October 31. Please join us at the Jacksonville Rally.

Over 54 people have gotten up and spoken at these Rallies. These people represent a broad coalition of organic advocates, from eaters to policy advocates to farmers. These Rallies demonstrate the growing and widespread discontent with the failures of the National Organic Program.

It is becoming clear that the organic movement will not just silently march along wherever the NOP leads. The NOP was created to serve, not to reinvent.  But the NOP mission seems to be changing from serving the organic community to serving corporate agriculture. The organic movement is based on developing a saner agriculture than radical capitalism will lead us to. The NOP has lost track of this fact. They have lost sight of organic farming.

This November the NOSB will vote on the most important recommendation in organic standards in the last twenty years. The recommendation addresses the basic question of what the National Organic Program stands for. Will they continue to permit hydroponic to be certified organic? Or will they insist that organic farming is based on healthy soil?

Why is soil important to all of us? As global citizens, this is a very important question. This film was made to reach out and inform the NOSB. Please check it out. In this time of social media, anything over 3 minutes long seems daunting, so just watch the first 3 minutes! If you are still interested, watch the next 3 minutes, and so on.


Leave a comment

join the climate justice movement.

30449764332_0762112a30_b

credit: Fibonacci Blue

As part of Food Week of Action, the Presbyterian mission, sponsors of the week, bring us a message of climate justice today.

God created the earth, and it is sacred. As Psalm 24:1 proclaims, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it.” Therefore we are called to stewardship of the earth. When we work to protect creation, we are answering God’s call to till and keep the garden (Genesis 2:15). In the face of deepening ecological crises caused by the earth’s warming, our call to act as earth’s caretakers takes on more meaning. Our efforts will curtail the shrinking of sacred waters, the endangerment of living creatures of every kind, and the vulnerability of our brothers and sisters in developing countries.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has identified food, transportation, and energy as the three key personal areas that need action to help stem climate change. The Presbyterian mission have created a resource to educate the public about the actions that they can take personally to protect against the worst effects of climate change.

The advice given is simple and has an aspect of theological reflection, and if undertaken on a large scale has the potential to affect great change. They include measures such as eating local food, organic or sustainable food, eating less meat, and a reduction in personal consumption. If  you want to get more involved in the climate justice movement and take part in the creation of resilient communities that support people and the environment check out Our Power campaign to see what is happening in your area and how you can get involved.


Leave a comment

happy international day of rural women!

featured-image-index.jpg

credit: UN Women/Narendra Shrestha

The UN designated October 15th as international day of rural women in recognition of the crucial role that women and girls play in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing. Rural women play an invaluable and significant role in food security, resource stewardship and and environmental sustainability. Although women account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labour force, in addition to the bulk to unpaid domestic and care work, women and girls in rural areas suffer more extreme levels of poverty. They also face gender related barriers to exiting poverty due to difficulties accessing credit, land and other essentials.

“Globally, with few exceptions, every gender and development indicator for which data are available reveals that rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women, and that they disproportionately experience poverty, exclusion and the effects of climate change.” – .un.org

The focus of International Day for Rural Women 2017 is: “Challenges and opportunities in climate-resilient agriculture for gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.” Rural women and girls are disproportionately affected by by climate change events and conditions including access to natural resources and the consequences of climate change can often reinforce and intensify existing gender inequalities.

When women succeed, all aspects of society improve as a result. They play a key role in building community resilience and responding to climate-related disasters. They tend to make decisions about resource use and investments in the interest and welfare of their children, families and communities. When women are empowered to act as both economic and political actors, they influence policy decisions in the direction of provision of a public good and access to social infrastructure. All of these are crucial for  peaceful societies that be resilient in the face of disaster.

Today also marks the beginning of Food Week of Action, presented by the Presbyterian Hunger Programme – this year we are proud co-sponsors! Every day this week has a theme or action that you can take to make a real change in the world.

To read more about this year’s celebration at UN Women click HERE.